Anime-original works are tricky for audiences to anticipate, since we can never be entirely sure of what to expect. Adaptations from manga or light novels generate plenty of excitement drummed up by existing fans, but brand new titles have to work a little harder to capture our attention. One such original anime is DECA-DENCE, which became an unexpected highlight of the Summer 2020 anime season and established itself on Anime Trending’s charts in the later weeks of the season. In only 12 episodes, the anime told a thrilling narrative filled with twists and turns, all supported by beautiful visuals and music to really complete the package.
In a recent interview with Mipon Anime Tourism, Writer and Director Yuzuru Tachikawa shared some insight on how he crafted this unique anime. The following are some major takeaways and how they relate to DECA-DENCE.
Tachikawa first started work on DECA-DENCE after the conclusion of Death Parade, which he also directed. Death Parade’s producer, Mr. Tsunoki from KADOKAWA, was impressed by Tachikawa’s work and suggested they work together again, which initiated the creation of DECA-DENCE. Tachikawa noted that while directing an adaptation required “capturing and reproducing what makes the source material great… with an original work, there’s no pre-set direction or anything, in which case, you’re responsible for making every single decision about what happens.”
Tachikawa describes the premise as “more or less a classic sci-fi kind of scenario at least at its score,” but the writing process for this original story was not very linear. The director and several producers originally met to construct the general plot, which writers converted to an actual script. After the final episode was written, though, they chose to go back to the beginning and rearrange the story in several places. This was crucial in the pacing of the episodes, especially for setting up the many cliffhangers to create suspense.
Tachikawa’s biggest worry while working on the series was apparently the idea of juggling two very different worlds, referring to the cyborgs in contrast to the humans living on DECA-DENCE. This provided a challenge both in terms of visuals and tone in general. As for designing the cyborgs themselves, Tachikawa said their design came from a very vague idea of the Minions from Despicable Me (yes, really). In fact, the story is said to have been inspired somewhat by some western works in general, and Tachikawa specifically mentioned Pixar’s Wreck-it Ralph. As another possible Pixar connection, some fans were quick to point out similarities between a scene in episode 7 as something similar to one out of Monsters Inc.
DECA-DENCE’s unique setting is carefully crafted, even more than the anime itself would lead us to believe. Tachikawa shared some ideas that he had written about the world, even though they were never directly relevant to the anime’s plot. For example, there are cyborgs who do not play the “DECA-DENCE” game. Those cyborgs were all created by various different corporations, and they serve all kinds of purposes according to the company that created them. The DECA-DENCE fortress was first built hundreds of years before the anime’s story begins, and the integration of Gears living alongside humans and fighting Gaddoll was something that happened gradually over time. He compared this kind of assimilation to how foreigners living in Japan was once a new and strange concept, but today, it is completely normal.
The idea of “bugs” was a major theme of the story, on which Tachikawa had this to say:
“I think ‘bugs’ are simply defined by rules someone else made. They’re considered problematic from someone else’s viewpoint. So this series is somewhat about rejecting that idea and living by what you think is right. And also that change is a natural part of life. That’s a theme of the story but I think you can also apply that to the real world.”
This lines up well with his favorite scene in episode 7, the first time Natsume opens up to anyone and pours out her feelings. Upon hearing this, Kaburagi resolves to take action and really kicks off the turning point of the series. Tachikawa said upfront that his favorite character is Kaburagi, as he personally relates to his hard-to-read expressions.
Perhaps most importantly, Tachikawa stated that he does pay a great deal of attention to the fans online. He always looked online to see reactions to episodes and to see if audiences responded the way he expected them to. For example, the OP was carefully planned so that you could watch it and anticipate the overall story arc, but Tachikawa wanted the fans to enjoy analyzing it regardless of whether or not their predictions were accurate.
While it is difficult for overseas fans to directly support anime in the current industry, Tachikawa emphasizes that even simple gestures like creating fanart can go a long way to show them that they are gaining fans. While a second season isn’t currently planned, it sounds like the idea isn’t completely off the table either.
All 12 episodes of DECA-DENCE are currently available on Funimation.
Source: Mipon and KADOKAWA