This recap contains extensive spoilers for the Deca-Dence episode “Differential Gear.”

Deca-Dence‘s fifth episode, “Differential Gear,” is two things. It’s a showcase of thrilling combat that we’re unlikely see the likes of again this season, and it’s an absolute gut punch. The two are related. Though how might not be immediately obvious.

The Strength of Your Resolve

“Differential Gear” sees the Gear and Tanker task force confront and, eventually, take down the Alpha Gadoll they’ve been assigned to defeat. Deca-Dence forsakes its usual inside story / outside story dichotomy here. We see the different ways the Gears and Tankers react to the situation in real time. For the Gears, as it’s previously been, this is all a game. For the Tankers, a matter of life and death.

The Alpha Gadoll (Deca-Dence, season 1 episode 5)

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Literally, in fact, as about a third of the way into the episode the eldest of the ‘Ndy Triplets we met last week meets her fate as she saves Natsume from the Alpha Gadoll. The creature; a vicious salamander-shark-ape, is not meant to be beaten. The Solid Quake Corporation, remember, are using this entire mission as an excuse to “progress the storyline” on their end. The plan is for scores of Tankers and Gears alike to die, thus “raising the stakes” for the next phase of whatever they have planned for their horribly screwed-up MMO. “Differential Gear’s” first half comes to a climax when Kaburagi intervenes. Skilled and knowledgeable as he is, he’s able to take down the Alpha Gadoll with relative ease.

This, in and of itself, has unexpected consequences. The death of the Alpha Gadoll clears the heavy fog from the mountain and signals the arrival of a much larger monster. It’s here where Solid Quake’s plans well and truly go off the rails. Kaburagi, of course, knows he will be caught, and if he seems like he spends the rest of “Differential Gear” accepting his fate, there is a good reason for that.


Taller Mountains

Two things, again, dominate “Differential Gear’s” second half. The appearance of the massive kaiju called Stargate is the most immediately striking. We’ve seen big Gadolls already, but few that looked like they’d have a fighting chance against Godzilla. To take a moment just to appreciate the craft here, this CGI monstrosity gives off a pretty distinct “eldritch terror meets giant rubbery monster” vibe that I don’t think I’ve seen since SSSS.GRIDMAN. It’s a lovely thing, if mostly in how utterly horrible it is.

the Stargate monster (Deca-Dence, season 1 episode 5)

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Kaburagi is able to use his skill and expertise to once again prime the monster for destruction; it’s the actual Deca-Dence fortress that takes the final shot. (The cannon-hammer makes a return appearance here after a four episode absence. I was worried they’d forgotten about it!) This causes celebration among the Tankers… until the sky is washed over with a blue plasma effect, and they can suddenly see dozens more massive Gadolls in the distance. The impression of them having won the fight against the Gadolls is brief, and they’re shocked almost to a one. The hardest hit, of course, is Natsume, who tries to ask Kaburagi if he didn’t somehow know this was going to happen. Kaburagi, for his part, offers no response but to tell her to take care of Pipe.

Natsume freaking out (Deca-Dence, season 1 episode 5)

And that is where we get to this episode’s true twist. Kaburagi reports to his Solid Quake boss, knowing full well that he’s expected to redouble his efforts to hunting Bugs and to upholding order or face grave consequences. He does not, and the episode ends with the abrupt, unceremonious death of one of our two leads.

Gears Still Turn

Where does Deca-Dence go from here? I would not be surprised if it takes Natsume an episode– or several– to recover from the effects of losing a comrade, the hope she’d had that this might all be over and yet another father figure all at once. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. The show’s critique of capitalist exploitation is as sharp as ever. “Differential Gear’s” finale is a stark depiction of the consequences such things can have: lives lost and hope ground to dust for the crime of defying the orderly ticking of the system.

Were this any other series I’d say it suddenly seems difficult to imagine this having an at-all-happy ending. However, Deca-Dence has Natsume, and it’s even harder to imagine the sherbet-haired firecracker staying down for good. I suppose time alone will tell.

Until next time, Deca-Dence fans.

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Jane Auman
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