Weekly Anime Round-Up

Weekly Anime Round-Up (May 17th – May 23th): Nami remains weak, The Dystopian Deca-Dence, and an Interview with studio Tonton

Kid saves Nami from Big Mom

In One Piece, Nami has always been weak. Oda seems to have deemed the comic relief or fanservice. It not that One Piece doesn’t have strong females characters either (Big Mom, Hancock), so I just don’t get why he kept her so weak. Redgeek in his post, “Welp, At Least She Tried [One Piece 1013],” seems to agree with me, ” Yep, I’ve given up on Nami. She’s gonna stay a weak fighter forever. …Hmm?” He believes that Zeus is going to make a comeback. I thought that Zeus was gone for good. However, considering that Oda gave him some backstory I think that Redgeek might be right. I also agree that Ulti and Page One are uninteresting villains and I don’t care about them either. As Redgeek puts it:

On the bright side, Ulti’s down for the count! Yay!!!!! I’m sure I haven’t mentioned it at all on this blog, but I don’t care about either Ulti or Page One. So glad they’re KO’d.

Redgeek

Deca-Dence the dystopia

Irina reviews the anime series, Deca-Dence, a surprising anime I reviewed last year. Irina loved the animation from Studio NUT, ” the actual animation of DECA-DENCE is just wonderful . . . In any case, it’s a well-done anime that looks good in just about any episode.” Like most people I was surprised by the twist and Irina thought it was helpful to the narrative:

I do think the surprises it injects into the narrative actually serve to flesh out the themes and messages it’s going for rather than to simply be a cool thing for the audience. And as such, it works best as an integral part of the viewing experience.

Irina

Fan animators create Naruto OP

Studio Tonton has created an OP to pay homage to Naruto. Despite its quality, the video is made by amateur animators. The Sakuga Blog interviewed the producer, Blou, to discuss how the video came to be. Sakuga Blog has praise for the video:

I wouldn’t fault you for assuming that they’re a professional animation production company with quite a lot of talent at their disposal. Now, a trained eye will quickly tell you that the sequence actually has a distinct indie flavor, but that only makes their technical and creative achievements all the more impressive.

Sakuga Blog

Top 10

Top Ten Anime, Manga, and Movies of 2020

Jujutsu Kaisen

I’ve heard about Jujutsu Kaisen, but I thought it was just another demon manga/anime series. Considering my history with anime (Yu Yu Hakusho and Demon Slayer), I should have known not to prejudge based on tropes. Regardless, I Iove this series. It’s still in the middle but I like the world building, characters, and animation so far.

Jujutsu Kaisen Episode 1: Recap and Review


Tower of God

Manhwa (Korean comics) has become an important source for anime adaptation. Tower of God was my first exposure to the series by Lee Jong-hui. The story centers on Twenty-Fifth Bam. Trapped with his friend Rachel underneath the mysterious Tower, he follows her into the Tower. Bam encounters challenges on each floor of the Tower as he searches for Rachel. The first season is phenomenal, ending in a shocking cliffhanger.

Is Tower of God Good?


Deca-Dence

Deca-Dence is a series set in the distant future, insect-like creatures called Gadoll have forced humanity towards extinction. I had no expectation for this series, so it was a surprise when Deca-Dence turned out to be far more sophisticated. The series was full of twists and turns, while making a critique of capitalism. Its themes are topically for 2020, and it was one of the most original anime of the year.

Deca-Dence Episode 1: Recap and Review


Pokemon: Twilight Wings

One of the biggest surprises of this year was Pokemon: Twilight Wings. A seven episode limited animated series, set in the Galar Region, the short anime series follows the citizens of Galar. Despite the short length of the series and each episode, Pokemon: Twilight Wings was impactful. All seven focused on side characters expanding the Pokemon universe through the eyes of Galar citizens. Pokemon: Twilight Wings was an emotional series with great animation.

Pokemon: Twilight Wings, a short anime series based on Sword and Shield games


The God of High School

I was excited about The God of High School from the moment they announced it. I wasn’t disappointed. Like Tower of God, it based on the series created by Yongje Park. While the series doesn’t reinvent the wheel, there are enough surprises to keep you interested. The God of High School balances humor with high octane action.

‘The God of High School,’: An instant hit


Burn the Witch (Manga/Movie)

The most expected manga for me was Tite Kubo’s Burn the Witch. The series also released a movie of the same name. Both cover the same material, but I preferred the anime. We’re introduced to the principal characters, “Noel and Ninny, the world of Reverse London, and it all ends with a battle with an ancient dragon, Cinderella.” With the addition of music, sound effects, and explosions, Burn the Witch is a unique experience when animated.

Burn the Witch Episode 1–3: Recap and Review


Kimetsu no Yaiba : The Movie – Mugen Train

Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie–Mugen Train is the first film from the Demon Slayer series. A direct sequel from the anime series, the film retells the Mugen Train arc. Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke join the Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku in investigating disappearances on the Infinity Train. The movie centers on the themes of humanity and accepting death. Once again, Tanjiro emotional intelligence stands out.

Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie–Mugen Train Review


Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep

I can’t wait for the Made in Abyss series returns. In the meantime, Abyss has produced three movies. The first two were recap movies, with Dawn of the Deep telling the Ido Front Arc. Made in Abyss continues to flush out the harsh universe, as Nanachi, Reg, and Riko head down towards the center of the Abyss. Like the Demon Slayer movie, using a film to tell an arc is proving to be a wonderful decision.

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul, Recap and Review


Dorohedoro

Dorohedoro follows Kaiman, a man with a lizard head, as he tries to find the one magic user that cursed him. Kaiman also has amnesia, making his search even more difficult. Dorohedoro is an odd series with a strange world. Each character has unique designs and powers to match. Dorohedoro is a stylised violent series with a intriguing mystery at its center.

Dorohedoro Episode 1 Recap & Review


Haikyuu!! To the Top

I wasn’t into anime sports series until Yuri on Ice. I was so impressed with the series I wanted to give another popular sports anime a chance. Haikyuu!! To the Top is the fourth season of the volleyball anime. It separates Hinata and rival Kageyama as they develop apart. Hinata learns more about volleyball without playing and Kageyama sharpens his skills with Japans best. Once reunited, Hinata, Kageyama and the rest of Karasuno battle in the Spring Tournament.

Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, Episode 1: Recap and Review

Anime

Deca-Dence Episode 12: Recap and Review

Kaburagi returns from the dead in episode 12 of Deca-dence.
Kaburagi returns from the dead

Episode 12 – ‘Decadence’

The final episode of Deca-dence Kaburagi connects with the Deca-dence but is incapable of moving. Minato announces the final mission for the players, gather the parts of the Deca-dence. Excited by the mission a lot of cyborgs log in to participate. Kaburagi engages with the control system, claiming that he will change the world outside of the system. The system calls Hugin and Munin are “puppets that carry out the orders of the system.” The system claims that opposition is futile. As morning breaks, Kaburagi gains full control over the Deca-dence. 

The Tankers refuel the old parts and form a new cannon. The mutated Gadoll prepares to fire its High-density oxyone energy, Kaburagi panics as Donatello flies towards the Gadoll, sacrificing his avatar. Kaburagi releases the limiters of the Deca-dence, firing the cannon destroying the Gadoll. The power released by the Deca-dence causes it to collapse, and Kaburagi shuts down. Natsume finds his body and tearfully thanks him for everything. The sight of a broken “dead” Kaburagi was shocking and sad. I thought it was important to see what Kaburagi’s sacrificed. 

The future is bright

The episode flashforwards three years. Minato has become the new system administrator with Jill as his secretary. Deca-dence City is built from the ruins of the old one. Cyborgs, humans, and Gadoll live together in harmony, farming, and growing crops together. The core of the Deca-dence has been made into an “attraction area,” where they play the zero-gravity sport of “Core Ball.” Meanwhile, Donatello and Kurenai compete against each other in the Battle Arena. The most interesting development is that Gadoll has become friendly towards humanity. They’re now in a type of petting zoo, giving children rides. Natsume becomes a tour guide. Jill reveals that she reserved some of Kaburagi’s data, and she revives Kaburagi. 

Deca-Dence Episode 11: Recap and Review


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Deca-Dence Episode 11: Recap and Review

Episode 11 – ‘Engine’

One of the central themes of Deca-Dence is “freedom from the system.” The series focuses on the humans and cyborgs being free in episode 11 of Deca-Dence a “free” Gadoll makes an appearance. The mutated crablike Gadoll lacks a “control chip” or “identification number,” and therefore isn’t within the system. Jill explains that the Gadoll “were not designed” to have “free will.” Hugin attempts to kill Natsume, but Karubagi kills him in his second avatar. The crew of the Deca-dence identifies the Gadoll as an “omega type,” and fire cannons at it. They have little effect bouncing off. The damage suffered by the tank has made a full charge impossible. Minato believes that they are running out of time. He orders that the cannon be ignited at 60%. 

The Deca-dence launches the arm cannon but the Gadoll catches it. They’re unable to retract the arm before the Gadoll rips half of it off. The Gadoll then sends the Deca-dence flying back, damaging the movement systems. Meanwhile, the Gadoll evolves. While the defense team fires a Solid Cannon the Gadoll shoot its high-density oxyone energy blasts. The cyborgs begin to panic, as the Gadoll appears to fall asleep. Munin contacts Minato and the crew and thanks them for their hard work. They have decided to shut down the Deca-dence. The Deca-dence will be “reverted” with the omega Gadoll with spatial compression. Munin states that “only the system need be preserved to make recovery possible.” Minato accepts their fate, telling Kaburagi that “it’s over.” 

Kaburagi takes over Deca-dence

However, Jill claims that someone can log in and use the Deca-dence as an avatar. As a former developer, Jill says that “their bodies are under the control of the system but their “cores” or minds are independent. If someone connects their core to the Deca-dence’s then they can gain control. Unsurprisingly, Kaburagi offers to do it, even though the Deca-dence is in terrible shape. Small Gadoll hatch from eggs and begin to crawl towards the Deca-dence. The Tankers including Natsume face off against the new Gadoll. Kaburagi enters the core room of the Deca-dence where Minato tries to stop him. Meanwhile, Natsume meets the cyborgs and is greeted by Jill. Minato ends up helping Kaburagi connect to the Deca-dence. Despite the potential failure and the threat, the new Gadoll creates, episode 11 of Deca-dence was hopeful. 

This episode made the case against attempting to control everything or at least what that will likely cost. It has already been established how little regard the system has for the humans that populate Deca-dence, but Munin’s decision to “restart” shows that the system will always put itself first. The series seems to suggest with the introduction of the mutated Gadoll that those outside the system will not have a perfect existence. Deca-dence episode 11 does have a lot of new things to say, the series continues to maintain its strong storytelling. 

Deca-Dence Episode 10: Recap and Review


Anime

Deca-Dence Episode 10: Recap and Review

Natsume becomes enraged in episode 10 of Deca-Dence
Natsume becomes enraged

Deca-Dence episode 10 begins with Kaburagi explaining the world to Natsume however, she collapses. The cyborgs panic as all the Gadoll disintegrate. They manage to transfer the information before they log out. Elsewhere, Kaburagi and Natsume discuss the ramifications of telling the other humans. Kaburagi drops a bombshell on Natsume, her father was killed because he knew too much. Realizing that Kaburagi was lying all along, she regrets learning the truth. Her response makes sense, her life was easier when she was ignorant. However, it’s too late now. The rest of humanity celebrate their newfound freedom. Meanwhile, Kaburagi is informed by Jill that the “system has handed down another elimination order.”

The Gadoll evolve

The cyborgs set a trap for the game police. Running a recording of Donatello’s voice and making the floor slippery, they successfully escape. Natsume struggles with what she’s learned but decides that she trust Kaburagi and she wants to help him fight. Suddenly, Hugin stabs Kaburagi’s avatar through the chest, leaving Natsume at his mercy. At the cyborg’s new hideout, a massive Gadoll appears. Most of the episode went the way I expected (except the ending), however, the most interesting part was the Gadoll that “infected” on of the cyborg. After the researchers die in the elevator shaft, a Gadoll burst out of his stomach. It reminded me of Aliens but less graphic. After it escaped its womb, the Gadoll then ate the corpses. 

What does this mean? Are the Gadoll evolving? It seems that the Gadoll or at least this particular one is different from the rest. I don’t think that Natsume has what it takes to stop Hugin. My best guess is that Kurenai comes to the rescue. Finally, will the cyborg be strong enough to stop the massive Gadoll? I don’t think things are going to get better for everyone.

Deca-Dence Episode 9: Recap and Review


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Deca-Dence Episode 8: Recap and Review

Turkey, Jill, Kaburagi, Donatello, and Sarkozy
Turkey, Jill, Kaburagi, Donatello, and Sarkozy

Episode 8 – ‘Turbine’

In episode 7, Kaburagi decided that the system must be destroyed. The cyborgs decided that they will destroy the Gadoll factory. If they succeed, the game will fall apart as it requires the Gadoll. The factory is protected by a barrier that kills Tankers and instantly logs out Gears. The only way to get in is to be undetectable by the system. Natsume and Kaburagi are the only two that can accomplish this mission. First, they need to retrieve Kaburagi’s old avatar. Jill, Kaburagi, Donatello, Turkey, and Sarkozy trick Minato into revealing the location of the avatar.

So far Natsume has remained ignorant of the larger world that surrounds her. It thought it would take some convincing but I was certain that Kaburagi would be persuasive. I did not doubt that once Natsume realizes the danger Solid Quake possesses to humanity she will be willing to risk her life to stop them. With his old avatar back, Kaburagi gets Natsume on board. Meanwhile, Turkey tries to get Sarkozy to betray Donatello and Kaburagi. 

Deca-Dence asks the question: Is order even necessary to prevent chaos? To some it is. However, others see “order” as oppression. Preventing them from being free. Order must dictate most aspects of their lives. From their perspective, chaos isn’t the likely outcome freedom is. The system is unjust, if it were then rebellion wouldn’t be necessary. The destruction of the system was always the logical conclusion of this series. However, Deca-Dence has already proven that the series isn’t predictable. I don’t expect that Natsume or Kaburagi will get what they’re hoping for. 

Deca-Dence Episode 7: Recap and Review

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Deca-Dence Episode 7: Recap and Review

Episode 7 of Deca-Dence begins with Kaburagi realizing that the fighting hasn’t stopped. The Gadoll has managed to breach the walls of Deca-Dence. Despite the best efforts of the Gears, five Gadoll enter and begin attacking civilians. With a new avatar, Kaburagi springs into action. However, one Gadoll slips past him, leaving Natsume to come to the rescue. Natsume and the rest of her team head outside to prevent more Gadoll from entering. Kaburagi meets with Minato and questions why there’s a hole in the tank. Minato tells him that the Tankers population has become to large and must be “culled.” He warns Kaburagi not to make to much noise, later Jill warns him not to stay logged in for too long. 

Kaburagi wants to destroy all Gadoll

The tankers want to close the hole in the wall but they need the help of the civilians. With the amount of work required and the threat of Gadoll attacking they don’t seem to be willing to help. Determined Natsume manages to convince them to aid her. Kaburagi and Natsume finally meet. However, she doesn’t recognize him in his new avatar. She does notice some “similarities” between Kaburagi’s new avatar and his old one. Natsume cries as she concludes that Kaburagi will “never return” and the fighting will never stop. Angered, Kaburagi decides that he will “tear it all down.” During the credits, Kaburagi, back in the prison, tells Donatello that he’s going to “wipe out the Gadoll,” by destroying the factory.

I like Natsume’s character development. She hasn’t become the infallible hero that dominates the Gadoll single handily. She is determined and works hard but it costs her emotionally. Natsume isn’t sure of herself yet and she may never be. She has hopes but doubts. She has courage but fears the worst. As for Kaburagi now that he’s been deemed a “bug” he now fully accepted that role. The system attempted to destroy him, instead, they have created the means of their destruction. 

Deca-Dence Episode 6: Recap and Review


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Deca-Dence Episode 6: Recap and Review

Kaburagi is sent to prison in episode 6 of Deca-Dence.
Kaburagi is sent to prison

Kaburagi is sent to the correctional facility

In Deca-Dence episode 6, Kaburagi’s punishment is handed out. Kaburagi is to be scrapped by Hugin. He is unrepentant and willing to accept his punishment. However, before Hugin can scrap Kaburagi, the company intervenes, instead choosing to send Kaburagi to a “correctional facility.” The corrupted “bugs” are injected with special oxyone and examined, by being electrocuted, then left to “chop up Gadoll feces.” The Gadoll feces is a source of energy for the facility. If Kaburagi and the other “bugs” are supposed to be re-educated here, I’m not sure how chopping up feces will do that. Furthermore, the environment is so dangerous that it’s implausible that change is possible. 

The correction facility is a prison and Kaburagi and the others are displaying the effects of solitary confinement. Kaburagi takes initiative, which gets the attention of a prisoner named Sarkozy. He explains that over time everyone “gets used to imprisonment.” Escaping is impossible and the company just works you until you break. Inspired by Natsume, Kaburagi continues to “push his limits.” Sarkozy reveals that some of the prisoners can still plug into the game and this allows him to gather info regarding the outside world. Deca-Dence episode 6 exposes the company, even more, revealing that the Gadoll are produced. 

Kaburagi verses Donatello

Sarkozy takes Kaburagi to meet with the bugs that have access to the Deca-Dence. Unlike the other bugs that have confused facial expressions, these bugs appear angry or feral. The head bug is Donatello, a massive purple figure with a dog-like face. He asks why Kaburagi is in “a place like this.” Donatello is willing to help Kaburagi if the later is willing to risk his life in a game of Death Dive. The game is simple, armed with a shovel the combatants, Donatello and Kaburagi, must knock the other into the tank below. Despite his large size, Donatello is swift and agile. 

Kaburagi is overwhelmed by the barrage coming from Donatello. After losing his shovel, Kaburagi lunges at Donatello, tearing the blade off his head. Defeated, Donatello grabs Kaburagi by the leg dragging both into the pit below. However, Kaburagi uses his rockets to save them. Proving himself, Kaburagi is permitted to access the Deca-Dence and see Natsume again. Deca-Dence has always made a critique of capitalism. This episode feels like it’s a commentary on both the prison system and the tendencies of capitalism. Going a step further by suggesting that they function the same. Prison is supposed to remove someone from society and rehabilitate them. However, it often dehumanizes them making it harder for the prison to reintegrate into life. This critique isn’t particularly new, but it is told in a new way, especially considering the colorful cyborgs. The question is how the system will fall if it does at all. 

Deca-Dence Episode 4 & 5: Recap and Review

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Deca-Dence Episode 4 & 5: Recap and Review

Kaburagi breaks his limit in Deca-dence
Kaburagi breaks his limit

Deca-Dence Episode 4, Transmission, begins with Kaburagi ordering Natsume to return to Deca-dence. She isn’t ready. However, Natsume is determined to battle and save Pipe. As she enters the fray, she is horrified by the violence. Natsume flees to regain her composure. She takes a deep breath and returns to battle. Natsume springs into battle, flying through the magnetic field, piercing Gadoll with spears. She gets noticed by the Gears in the surrounding area. Kurenai compliments her for the fight, and Natsume is understandably pleased to meet her idol. Kurenai welcomes her to The Power. 

The largest battle in Deca-Dence history

The next “event” is the “Freezing Cold Snow Battle,” Kaburagi is told that the event is actually “impossible to clear.” Defeating an alpha Gadoll is considered impossible even for S-class Gears. Massive casualties are expected, particularly from A-Class and under. The plot of the story of the event features chosen heroes of which Kaburagi is chosen to be one. Mindy, Mundy, and Mendy are introduced to Natsume. At first glance, these three feel like red shirts. Later, Kaburagi warns Natsume that the upcoming battle isn’t for a Gear of her level. He tells her that “it’s won’t succeed, and peace will never come.” Natsume refuses to give up and Kaburagi sabotages her equipment. However, her motivation hasn’t disappeared and she joins the crew.

The battle begins

Natsume and her squad head out into the blizzard. Natsume isn’t taking the upcoming fight seriously. The S Rankers dominate the battle, as they notice that a lot of lower ranked gears are dying. As Natsume’s squad arrives at the location of the alpha, they witness the results of a massacre. The Gadoll alpha spots them and they charge. The squad quickly notice that the alpha is attacking the tanks. Enraged, Natsume rushes in and is saved by one of the tankers. She takes on the alpha alone, she manages to stab it with a needle. However, the alpha removes the needle and heals. Before it can hit Natsume with her needle, Kaburagi arrives. 

He pierces the alpha with two needles, forcing the Gadoll to use a smokescreen shrouding its position. Kaburagi pulls Natsume out of the zone and tells her to abandon her squadmates. Kaburagi’s negativity is once again in contrast with Natsume’s hope. After the tankers sacrifice on her behalf, she’s motivated to “push herself to the limits.” Kaburagi battles the alpha while Natsume escapes with her squad. Kaburagi begins to break his limit but is warned that if he kills the Gadoll it will “affect the storyline.” In a stunning show of skill, Kaburagi kills the alpha. As the fog lifts, the nest is revealed. 

The death of Kaburagi

However, a massive Gadoll appears. Kaburagi had made the situation worse by breaking the rules and now must be punished by the system. Meanwhile, the Gadoll displays its powerful pressure beam. Kaburagi notices that the Gadoll is “unfinished.” He charges in and attacks, distracting the Gadoll in the process. The Deca-dence Cannon lands the finishing blow. Just when we expect a peaceful ending, several massive Gadoll arrives. Natsume collapses at the impossible situation they find themselves in. Natsume and Kaburagi switch worldviews, with the former feeling helpless while the later hopes for the future. Finally, Kaburagi meets with Hugin who demands Kaburagi repeat the words “There is no place for bugs in this world.” Instead, Kaburagi says “Bugs are needed.” 

Hugin appears to kill Kaburagi with a laser beam. Deca-dence continues to surprise. Kaburagi’s change of heart was predictable, but his apparent demise wasn’t. However, is it real? His Cyborg body wasn’t destroyed. I predict that he hasn’t officially been killed yet. This episode does highlight the differences between the Gears and Tankers. It would seem reasonable that there would be a sense of comradery among them. However, the Gears seem to look down on them so much so that they don’t even value their lives. This dynamic could become toxic. Finally, Natsume has changed her perspective and has become more negative. I doubt this change will be permanent but what will it cost her short term?

 Deca-Dence Episode 3: Recap and Review

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Deca-Dence Episode 3: Recap and Review

Natsumi struggles to master battling Gadoll in Deca-Dence Episode 3
Natsumi struggles to master battling Gadoll

Let’s begin your training

Deca-Dence Episode 3 opens with Kaburagi reviewing the moment Natsume “dies” and her chip malfunctions. Kaburagi throws her into the deep end. They practice on a Gadoll called Spoonwormer’s. Small and pink, the Spoonwormer is fairly weak. Kaburagi gives a tutorial that both educates Natsume and the audience. He explains that it’s important to force the Gadoll to activate their zone. The Gadoll appears to do this instinctively. Within this zone, a magnetic field is generated, making gravity unstable. The round tank lets he wearer see waves. The goggles permit Gears to see Arteries of the Gadoll, which carries oxyone. 

Oxyone is the main source of energy that powers Deca-dence. It fuels almost everything, including the attacking and riding of the Gears. The tank automatically fills with oxyone. Killing mid-size Gadoll requires bleeding them out. Natsume doesn’t take to battle the way you might expect the main character. However, she has another limitation, her arm. 

It’s not your weakness it’s your strength

Natsume’s arm features only three “fingers” making gripping difficult. This is especially problematic when trying to use the regulator lever, that’s used to adjust oxyone usage. Despite the difficulty, she refuses to give up. Kaburagi takes her to a weapons store. He creates a new artificial arm for her that has five fingers, a hose valve, and a compressor. Natsume will be able to use needles with. While returning home the Gadoll attack, destroying the ground. Natsume and Kaburagi rush after Pipe. Meanwhile, the Gears prepare for battle. 

After episode 2, I wondered what Deca-Dence would focus on. I didn’t expect more surprises but was curious about how they would respond. This episode focused on Natsume’s training while explaining the world more. We learn how humanity lost its way, how difficult battling Gadoll is, and Kaburagi’s tendency to save “bugs (Natsume and Pipe).” This behavior is going to become a problem for him in the future. In the meantime, Natsume will get a chance to fight for real. 

Deca-Dence Episode 2: Recap and Review