Episodes 1-3 – Yurei Deco

How would you rate episode 1 of
Yurei Deco ? Community score: 3.5

How would you rate episode 2 of
Yurei Deco ? Community score: 3.8

How would you rate episode 3 of
Yurei Deco ? Community score: 4.0

I never thought I’d see Science SARU produce a Day-Glo cyberpunk “adaptation” of Mark Twin‘s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that works to criticize the hyper-stimulated, social media-saturated layers of augmented and virtual reality that society is already beginning to drown itself in, but after the last couple of years, maybe I should just stop being surprised and accept the wonderful surprises that this otherwise horrifying timeline occasionally throws our way. If you read Yurei Deco‘s coverage in the Summer Preview Guide, then you know that I got to check out all three of these opening episodes in one big batch, and I absolutely loved it. There’s almost no combination of qualities that works better in an anime than “vision” and “confidence”, and Yurei Deco has vision and confidence to spare. While it hasn’t quite hit the absolutely bonkers levels of style and craftsmanship that we got from Masaki Yuasa masterpieces like DEVILMAN crybaby or Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!it’s clear that director Tomohisa Shimoyama and writer Dai Sato are putting in the work.

Though, if Yurei Deco has any major hurdle to overcome, its that the show has had a lot to unpack in just these opening episodes, and at least for me, it wasn’t until the end of “Sham Trial” that I felt like I had a solid grasp of what this story is trying to say, and where it might take us in order to say it. Heck, for the first episode or two, I had a hard time figuring out just how in the hell this society of Tom Sawyer Island even works. The way that social media likes (or “Loves”) have replaced currency is a clear enough point of satire, as blunt as it is, but when it comes to the finer details of Decos, not to mention their function and effect in the world , things are harder to pin down at first. I wasn’t even sure where the “real” world ended and the virtual world began until the function of Berry’s eye implant is fully explained in Episode 2.

The first episode begins with a breezy opening montage set to a recitation of the myth of Panoptes, the 100-eyed giant whose all-seeing nature is reflected in the concept of the Panopticon, a kind of sociological experiment that has been used to inform the design of very real institutions—specifically prisons. The idea is that the powers-that-be establish a social order in which the “inmates” are exposed to the possibility of observation at all times, which is theoretically supposed to create a system of order based on the fact that everyone is constantly aware that everything they could do could be seen and judged at any time. This dystopian hellscape of perpetual privacy violations is definitely relevant given the way that Yurei Deco is tackling the ubiquity of social media in these modern times, but the show takes its sweet time to pull back the veil on what seems at first to be a bona fide utopia.

Even when the plot starts to kick into gear in Episode 2, it’s difficult at first to get a read on what the story is “about”. to be clear, Yurei Deco‘s lofty world-building and complicated themes are not outright “flaws”. Sato is such an experienced writer that I’d never accuse him of flying blind without a plan, and it becomes exactly clear that the messy ambiguity of life on Tom Sawyer Island is the point. For kids like Berry, where online hype and meme hunting is literally the only thing to actively pursue in their free time, there isn’t really a discernable difference between the life they live in their social media games and the heavily augmented world they occupy in meat space. Crime and corruption are ostensibly a thing of the past, so when Hack shows up to throw some real chaos into Berry’s life by getting her involved in the fight against Zero, it’s only natural that it would still feel like some kind of augmented reality game.

It isn’t until Berry dives further down the rabbit hole that we start to understand where this story is headed. The government requires citizens to be plugged into Deco, and Berry eventually learns that her parents are a part of a large operation that works to actively censor the data that gets filtered through the system. Tom Sawyer Island doesn’t just dull its citizens into oblivious ignorance with algorithms and junk media; it outright manipulates their bodies and senses to maintain a tight control over the truth that they can see and understand. Berry’s glitchy eye is what allows her to learn that the Yurei exist at all, that there is a whole class of people who live beyond the boundaries of her world.

clearly, Yurei Deco has a lot on its mind, and now that we’ve gotten the necessary exposition dumps out of the way, I’m eager to see if the story can live up to its own grand ambitions. Berry is a charming and spunky gal, but she’ll need to develop some real emotional connections with the other characters for the plot to have the substance to go along with all of its style. Hack is a lot of fun, too, but she’s not been able to grow much beyond her schemes and wacky dialogue quirks. Time will tell if Yurei Deco ends up being a bold work of pop-satire that would make Mark Twin proud, but it’s been a blast to watch so far, and I think Twain would appreciate that too.

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Yurei Deco is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitterhis blog, and his podcast.

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