Deca-Dence #2 – Sprocket!

Episode Recap

Episode 2 continues where the last episode left off with the giant Giland being defeated by Deca-Dence’s large plasma cannon. As Natsume stares on at the sight of wounded soldiers on the battlefield, Kaburagi tells her that this is real battle and asks if she has changed her mind in becoming a soldier. Later, as teams clean up the area, treat their soldiers and bury their dead, Natsume contemplates on Kaburagi’s words.

In Chimney Town, the alien world from Episode 1, a group of aliens are watching an ad. The ad reveals that Deca-Dence is a real-life game set on the continent of Eurasia. The game is run by the Solid Quake Corporation. Where the aliens adopt physical avatars and participate to become top rankers. One of the aliens then asks what happens when a player dies. So the purple alien next to him explains that as the character is a physical object and you have to re-build your character from the start. The alien remarks that that seems strict.  The ad continues by explaining that beneath the level for Gears is a town called Tank where humans reside and encourages players to participate in the real simulation battles. In another part of the city, Kaburagi who is revealed to be one of these alien players is logging out of the game. Heading home, Kaburagi bumps into his friend, Max, who congratulates him for returning to the battlefield after a long hiatus. Nostalgic, the friend recalls when Kaburagi was a top ranker. Feeling awkward, Kaburagi silently walks away from Max and heads home.

Once home, Kaburagi solemnly starts recalling his past. In the flashback, Kaburagi is heading to a battlefield with his team. Along the way,  Mikey, the newbie starts asking about “limiter releasing.” One of the players, Donatello, adamantly advises him against it. But Turkey goes ahead and explains to Mikey that “limiter releasing” is an illegal way to get more power from the avatar. However, doing so carries of risk of taking on more physical pain and the possibility of being “scrapped” if caught by the system. Mikey asks why someone would do that and Kaburagi explains that some players are obsessed with feeling pain. Suddenly, the team is alerted by Minato, one of the administrators, who warns them against discussing it further and tells them that they are almost at their destination. Getting out of the vehicle, the team proceed to demolish the monsters.

Over time, Mikey begins advancing in the ranks. Eventually, he comes close to knocking off Kaburagi from his position as the fifth ranker, making him feel jealous and threatened. One day, Mikey comes to Kaburagi for advice and  discovers him researching limiter release methods. Incensed, Mikey begs Kaburagi to teach him them too. Kaburagi refuses. But is eventually forced to ask why Mikey wants to know. Mikey admits that he is feeling his limits and fears dropping in the ranks. Kaburagi advises him against using limiter release as top rankers are scrapped as bugs fi caught. However, Mikey angrily shouts that he wants to challenge himself and prove to the higher ups that he is not replaceable. Realizing that Mikey is the same as himself when he first started out, Kaburagi reluctantly agrees to teach him on the condition that he doesn’t go beyond 20%.

However, during the next battle, Mikey does not heed Kaburagi’s advice and goes over the 20% leading him to get caught by the system. In the administrator’s office, an alien is being scrapped by Hugin when his partner, Munin warns him of the cheater. The next day, Kaburagi and the rest of team watch as Mikey is electrocuted to death for his crimes. Arguing, the group is stopped by Hugin who knocks them all unconscious.

A short while later, Kaburagi awakens to find himself restrained in the scrapping cell. Apologising, Hugin explains that Kaburagi’s comrades forced him to take such measures. Asking what is going on, Kaburagi is informed that he and his team are being disbanded because of Mikey’s crimes. Angry, Kaburagi asks for the reason his team is punished. Hugin then activates a screen and shows a video of the group’s earlier conversation and explains that he can’t have top rankers discussing subjects like that. Hugin then informs him that he will be working for them as an armor repairer during the day and a recovery agent during the night.

Asking what he means by that, Hugin explains to Kaburagi that he will be recovering chips from “bugs.” Humans / Tankers who are inconvenient to the system because they bring trouble with them. Hugin also informs Kaburagi’s other task is to discover and report them. Noticing the discontent on Kaburagi’s face, Hugin reminds him that they are company property and they cannot refuse the system. Kaburagi bitterly remarks that he has no intention of disobeying the system. Pleased, Hugin informs Kaburagi that his other comrades refused his offer and were sent to a correctional facility before forcing him to repeat, “The world must be rid of bugs.” Back in the present, Kaburagi angrily tosses his Oxyone tube.

The next day, Natsume begs Kaburagi to train her. However, Kaburagi refuses and tries to convince Natsume to take a lesson from Fennel who has requested inside duties. Natsume replies that she doesn’t want to give up and pulls out a photo of Pipe. Showing it to Kaburagi,  Natsume tries to blackmail Kaburagi into training her, but Kaburagi tells her to do as she pleases. Chasing after him, Natsume apologizes and asks why he won’t train her. Kaburagi informs Natsume that his time is almost up as his screen shows that his battery is almost dead.

That night, Natsume discovers Kaburagi removing a chip from a man. Disturbed, Kaburagi tries to remove Natsume’s chip, but discovers that he is unable to do it. Confronting him, Natsume proclaims it is bad to steal money from other people and offers her money in return. Laughing, Kaburagi understands that Natsume misunderstood what had happened and replies that he won’t from now on.

Later in Chimney Town, Kaburagi accesses a private server and tries to look up why Natsume wasn’t processed like the other humans. Searching, Kaburagi finds no data on her and upon looking further discovers that Natsume has been classified as dead and is not recognized by the system. Stunned, Kaburagi determines that Natsume is a bug and calls out to Mikey. Clenching his fist, Kaburagi makes the decision to live a little longer. The next day, a giggling Natsume asks Kaburagi why he decided to train her. Kaburagi replies that he wants to see how a bug would live in this world. Kaburagi then takes Natsume to the Gear level and contemplates how Natsume saved him. 

Impressions

Sprocket was a very deep episode which definitely left me with more questions and answers. I had to watch it a couple of times to fully understand what was going on. So It appears that Deca-Dence is a mix of Avatar with elements of Sword Art Online. In Avatar, it is the humans who visit the aliens or Na’vi with fake physical bodies. However, Deca-Dence is the reverse scenario of it. After some unknown disaster caused 90% of humans to be killed off. The alien species rounded the remaining humans and placed them in a sort of wildlife sanctuary. They then created a game around them which allowed aliens to take on a physical form (as in Avatar) to fight monsters and interact with the humans.We also know that players can overcome the physical limitations of their avatar via removing their limiters as in Sword Art Online.

We also have the concept of “Bugs” which are chipped humans who don’t belong to the system because their chips might have fried or they might have regained their free will through an program error or something. Now, Natsume is an irregularity as she has been labelled as dead by the system. However, she is very much alive, but might not be recognised due to her prosthetic arm. We also get a glimpse of Kaburagi’s past which is rather dark in contrast to the colourful designs of the aliens. Though it wasn’t entirely his fault, Kaburagi still blames himself for what happened with Mikey and I think Kaburagi sees Natsume as his second chance to make up for what happened. 

So in terms of the animation, I think the alien designs are very colourful and are kind of representative of some of the animation you see in American cartoons. They are also kind of cute looking,  but I think Kaburagi’s new avatar design suits him better. I also like the contrast between the opening and ending animation. The opening animation is edgier, has a lot of visual effects and a lot of fast-paced action sequences added to it. While the ending animation is slower in speed, but provides a gentle feeling with the blue water imagery and landscapes.

Now, the ending theme song, “Kioku no Hakobune” (“Ark of Memories”) is performed by one of my favourite JPOP artists, Kashitarou Itou who is known for his strong, clear, “refreshing”, and earnest-sounding voice. He is also famous for wearing a fox mask whenever he performs. Kind of Huli from Kitsune no Koe. “Kioku no Hakobune” (“Ark of Memories”) definitely does have that earnest gentle feeling to it. But the melody is also really warm and sweet and I think fans will love it. Kashitarou Itou also did the second ending theme song, “Yadoriboshi” and the fourth opening theme song, “Kanadeai” for the Sousei no Onmyouji anime.   

 

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