This recap contains spoilers for the Deca-Dence episodes “Engine” and “Decadence.”
Deca-Dence‘s final two episodes, “Engine” and the same-titled “Decadence,” explore one theme consistently. It is that united, we can take on anything. Deca-Dence has never been shy about its political leanings, but in a world that feels more fractious by the day, that’s a message that hits hard. It’s in hindsight now, so we can certainly say that the series had a few problems, but Deca-Dence was committed through and through to the power of the human spirit. (Or cyborg spirit, as the case may be.) And that shines brighter in “Engine” and “Decadence” than it does anywhere else in the series.
Going over all the minutiae seems a little pointless. The Cliff’s Notes is this: “Engine” kicks off with Natsume facing off against Hugin. She nearly bites it here, but is saved in the nick of time by Kaburagi. (If I can levy a single complaint against “Engine” and “Decadence,” it’s that they do continue the pattern of Deca-Dence being more Kaburagi’s story than Natsume’s).
From there, “Engine’s” story swerves wildly as The System takes direct control over the situation with the “Bug Gadoll,” as it’s termed in-story. Jill, who plays a surprisingly large role in both “Engine” and “Decadence,” conjures a harebrained scheme to have Kaburagi take direct control of the Deca-Dence fortress. In out-of-story terms, Kaburagi becomes a mecha pilot, and the Deca-Dence fortress his mecha in the final minutes of “Engine.”
The combined final 40-or-so minutes of Deca-Dence (the last half of “Engine” and almost all of “Decadence”) are something of a blur, but not in a bad way. Kaburagi’s final confrontation with The System itself inside the Deca-Dence in “Decadence” is maybe the show’s single strongest thematic moment. The System attempts to talk him down, arguing that it’s planned for this, that this cycle has happened before and will happen again, and even Kaburagi’s own resistance is just another part of The System. He doesn’t buy it. He accuses The System of simply being scared, in maybe his single strongest character moment of the whole series. It can only squint in vague offense as a response, and we never directly hear from it again.
Forgive the cliche, but “Decadence’s” finale is almost just a bonus. Deca-Dence started with a massive hammer strike from the title fortress in its first episode. In “Decadence,” its last, it ends with a gigantic spear. One that Natsume and her fellow Tankers do, importantly, help build. Unable to resist one of the most wonderful finale tropes in all of storytelling, “Decadence” ends with a timeskip. Three years in the future we see the ruins of the Deca-Dence fortress rebuilt as a place for the Tankers and Gears to live in harmony. (Though importantly the presence of things like farms seems to imply that it’s not all fun and games, which is a fair caveat.)
There’s lots of other wonderful little details scattered up and down “Engine” and “Decadence.” Things like Natsume meeting the Gears in their original forms for the first time and having no idea what to make of them. Not to mention, it’s small compensation for her marginalization in the story, but she does at least get one final round of exceptionally fun facial expressions.
All in all, it’s may be hard to call Deca-Dence perfect. But conversely, its flaws are only as evident as they are because of its wild ambition. It’s hard to fault it too much for its problems when it tosses out so many ideas, is so loudly political and is just so much fun to watch. In a year that has been positively overflowing with great anime, Deca-Dence stands out as one of the most interesting. One of the wildest. And, yes, in spite of its problems, one of the best. What can you ask for, if not that?