The Power of Games | Deca-Dence

The girls return to talk about one of their favorite anime to grace the screen last year, and what it says about how games impact us. Stay Toon’d!

DECA-DENCE is a lot of things.
Weird, for example.
True that. But it’s also a great story about making advantages for yourself out of disadvantages.
Then there’s everything it says about the business of gaming. And entertainment, in general – shady corporate schemes and all.
But this season is all about the games, themselves. So today we’re gonna focus on how games can become something… well… more than that. Hope you guys are ready to Toon In.
I’m Rila!
I’m Riley!
And you’re watching Bulletoon!
Games are a staple of life, at this point. Sports, Card Games, Board Games, Word Games, Mind Games, take your pick. Of course, today we’re talking about my favorite kind – videogames.
Videogames are in a pretty unique position to leave an impact on people in ways that other types of games just can’t. At least not without really good marketing and little bit of journalistic manipulation.
Yeah. What she means is that videogames can have stories. Obviously not all of ‘em do. But it’s becoming more and more the standard for videogames to be like interactive movies or shows. Storylines don’t naturally exist in most other games. It’s why the concept of “storylines” is so important in professional sports.
Casters, journalists, and marketing teams will bend over backwards to find potential storylines within huge sports organizations just to get us more invested.
Rivalries between teams, the records of specific players, all stuff that doesn’t actually matter, but makes it a lot more fun to get into the sport you’re watching. And even with videogames, they do it all the time with e-sports because even if the game has a narrative, the actual game’s story is irrelevant to the competition.
Just look at professional wrestling. At the end of the day, the whole point of that is the storylines. And they know that.
But the point of all this is to say that videogames don’t have to do the extra legwork outside of competitive contexts exactly because that experience can be built in. Which means games can have a truly profound impact on a person. And that is exactly the point that DECA-DENCE is making. Well… one of ‘em.
It’s all over the place and woven pretty seamlessly throughout the story.
Beat-for-beat, everything in the story facilitates this point. Kaburagi’s fall from grace and his dissatisfaction with where he is in life now sets everything up.
Natsume’s determination to become her ideal self is the catalyst that gets everything moving.
And meeting more of the… “cyborgs” – yeah, sure – to see how each of them thinks about the game just drives it all home.

I know a lot of people got mad when the show first aired because – for some stupid reason – they were under the impression that the show would be Attack on Titan Lite. Don’t see why you’d want another Attack on Titan when the one you already have is perfectly fine, but… whatever, I guess.
We did a written post on the whole thing a while back. We’ll link it below for you so my sister doesn’t burst a blood vessel thinking about it again.
Gee, Thanks…
Anything to keep my adorable little sis happy and healthy!
You wanna keep me happy, you can start by not calling me “little sis.”
Eh. Details.
Whatever. Anyway, people were mad about that twist, even though the show gives you some pretty apt teases of where it’s going before it even happens. But after the twist settled in and those of us who decided not to whine about it kept watching, we were made familiar with a really intriguing world. One where a huge part of society revolves around a “game” called Deca-Dence, which is clearly modeled after modern JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Tales.
That’s where we meet Kaburagi. We’re pretty quickly brought up to speed on his past as one of the ace players of the game.
So it makes sense that now he’s so disillusioned with his current place, basically becoming the equivalent of a wage slave in their weird little “cyborg” – seriously, what? – society.
He’s a salaryman, more or less. And setting all that up is kinda like giving us a profile of the type of person who might lose themself in a game like this.
Unfortunately, here the game is actually just as much the cause of his problem. Or at least it’s a big part of it. That is until he meets the one character who can turn it all around.
In the world of DECA-DENCE, the humans are basically all NPCs.
They have no idea, of course. They just think this big moving city is their world – or all that’s left of it – and they have to fight creatures called Gadoll in order to survive. Naturally, they have people whose designated job it is to do this. And in true Shounen Protagonist fashion, our hero is Natsume – a girl who lost her father and part of her arm to the Gadoll as a child, so now she wants to fight the creatures.
The series does a pretty good job, in the first episode, of making you think she’s the main character. But she isn’t!
Natsume and Kaburagi are deuteragonists. They share top billing. And while I could maybe see an argument that Kaburagi is the main character, I think they both do fill that role.

But, uh, if I could nerd out for a sec? Natsume is a perfect example of how you don’t need the characters in your story to only fulfill one type of character arc. Because Natsume is both a Positive Change character and a Flat Arc character. Her perseverance is what ultimately inspires Kaburagi to keep pushing on and fight against the system, even though she has no idea that’s what she’s doing. Meanwhile, though, she has to deal with a lot of the insecurities that come with her unique situation as her disability clashes with her aspirations. Even after Kaburagi gives her that upgrade.
Oh! That might seem unrelated, but it isn’t! See, at least initially Kaburagi only sees Natsume as an NPC. And a bug, at that. But he gradually becomes attached to her as he teaches her and he sees something in her that reminds him of another younger player from his heyday.

Getting invested in a character like that – in the story of an NPC – that’s one of the powers that a game has. Even more so than a movie or a show or whatever. Because you’re actually interacting with those characters. They become real to you, in a way. And that’s exactly what happens here.
It’s even kinda hammered home by the training segments, early on. Segments which, by the way, are hilariously tongue-in-cheek references to classic videogame tutorials. Just look at the way Kaburagi is explaining everything to her and you’ll get it.
But another part of what can make games so impactful is that you don’t have to experience all of them alone. DECA-DENCE is modeled around MMOs, after all. And that means other players.
The event that Kaburagi experiences, early on, sours him to the game and leaves him in a position of just waiting out the clock until the time of his ultimate deactivation. Other players are important.
And DECA-DENCE knows that. Because being able to experience a game with others, whether you’re against them or – in this case – working with them, is a huge part of what makes games so impactful.
So when Kaburagi reconnects with an old game rival in prison – long story – and they wind up working together to take down the whole system, it’s just the final piece in the puzzle. In essence, the game has made its impression on him. And right when real life decides to test him, he happily obliges. He teams up with his old rival and a few other… “cyborgs,” and goes through with tearing down the entire system.
At this point the analogy kinda stops working, but, hey, stories need an ending. What can ya do?
And there ya have it. DECA-DENCE has a ton of different interpretations and stories and all that, but this is the one was really wanted to focus on today. Maybe next time we’ll talk about the whole shady corporate side of gaming that the show deeefinitely touches on.
Ehehe. I have a feeling my sister’s going to have some very… choice words whenever we get around to that.
Ohoho, you have no idea.
So what did you all think of DECA-DENCE?
Let us know, down below. And give that like button a zap while you’re down there.
Subscribe and ring the bell! That way you’ll know when the final episode of Season 5 officially drops!
Yeah. Because with that one we get to talk about our mutual favorite game anime. Oh. And just once, for old time’s sake… Hey. Sis.
Hm? What’s-?
Heh. Earplugs. One of mankind’s greatest inventions. Stay Toon’d.

DECA-DENCE & Audience Expectation

Rila – Mocha Vampire

Riley – AxusX
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2 thoughts on “The Power of Games | Deca-Dence

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