This recap contains spoilers for the Deca-Dence episode “Radiator.”

In other deviation from its formula, “Radiator,” this week’s Deca-Dence is a single, contiguous story. The obvious first: Kaburagi is not, as we thought last week, dead. He has instead been sentenced to “bug rehabilitation,” Which, yes, is a fancy term for a prison. At episode’s start, the cube-like system worker seems content to fry him. We do not learn who “intervened” to get him sent to prison instead, or why. That, presumably, is a revelation for a future episode.

Kaburagi (Deca-Dence, season 1, episode 6)

Taskmaster

To lead with some minor criticisms, “Radiator” is guilty of occasionally lapsing into toilet humor. Which, if there is one thing we’ve learned Deca-Dence cannot pull off, it’s that. That caveat aside, it will not surprise longtime viewers that the episode is very good.

the warden (Deca-Dence, season 1, episode 6)

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Deca-Dence‘s depiction of the prison system is, unsurprisingly, pretty harsh. Prisoners are overseen by a cruel warden. (He’s also a purple cube man, but a distinct one.) Their “rehabilitation” consists of being forced to shovel Gadoll manure into a chopper/separator, which eventually converts it into energy. (What that says about the origin of the highly desired oxyone is probably best left unconsidered.) We meet a few new characters here. The most important is Sarkozy, a robot who looks like a busted-up mechanical Popeye. Sarkozy is Kaburagi’s only real friend in the prison, and it’s through him that Kaburagi learns that some of the other prisoners have a method of connecting to Deca-Dence (the game) even here. This is the thrust of our episode, but there’s a lot to think about here.

sarkozy (Deca-Dence, season 1, episode 6)

The depiction of the prison as a literal manure mine is, well, gross, but the metaphor could not be clearer. The prison is depicted as a place wholly uninterested in even the already-questionable goal of genuine rehabilitation. It is, to hear Sarkozy tell it, a place where people are worked until they are broken. Then further, exploited for their labor until they die. It’s not exactly a happy picture! Kaburagi’s rare position as a former loyal dog of the System who has seen the way things could be puts him in a unique position to challenge it. To do that, of course, he has to get back to the Deca-Dence.

Steam Shovel

This brings us to the “dangerous bugs.” A group of, well, dangerous inmates at the prison who control access to the login machine. Two of them, in a fun throwback, are Kaburagi’s former companions. Donatello serves as the obstacle here. After some back and forth, Donatello challenges Kaburagi to a fight to the death.

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The episode’s set piece is the two of them duking it out, armed only with shovels, over the rotating blades of the chopper and the sewer water below that. It’s one of the best fight scenes in a show that’s already had several very good ones. That Kaburagi wins is probably a foregone conclusion. Donatello doesn’t bite it either, with Kaburagi rescuing him by using the jump jets on his back. (Those of you who have spent the show wondering if they’re functional, now you know!) He’s back off to the Deca-Dence, and our episode ends.

The themes here are one thing. I think it’s worth acknowledging Deca-Dence‘s interesting art here, though. “Radiator” takes place almost entirely in the “ship” style. It’s interesting to see this style carry the whole episode. In particular, the more serious scenes are lent a fun contrast by the art style. 

Next week’s episode seems all but certain to set up Deca-Dence‘s second half. But calling “Radiator” a transitional episode is underselling it. Minor flaws aside, it’s another great episode in a great show.

See you next time, Deca-Dence fans.

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