Yurei Deco will premiere on Crunchyroll on July 3, 2022.
Science SARU’s latest anime, Yurei Deco, is a vibrant and colorful take on augmented reality, as well as a gripping loose adaptation of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Still, clumsy technical talk and flimsy characters hold back the show’s otherwise solid promise in the first three episodes.
The latest show from the studio behind Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, The Heike Story and Devilman Crybaby takes place on Tom Sawyer Island, an augmented reality world where characters go to school from their room and have a virtual video call with their peers – you you know, the distant future. Meanwhile, they have a small device on their eyes that allows them to decorate the surrounding world (from billboards, to shop signs, to facades of buildings and houses) however they want.
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Of course, they have to pay for it, with “love” serving as the local currency, earned by doing things that others approve and value. With no crime, no hate, no accident, everything seems perfect on Tom Sawyer Island, except where the mysterious Phantom Zero strikes and sucks all the love around them.
The plot follows an average girl named Berry who, thanks to her broken deco device, can see an otherwise invisible girl named Hack and the two stumble upon one of Phantom Zero’s attacks. When Hack is blamed for the attack, the two unravel a web of lies at the heart of their entire society.
Translating a piece of literature as strongly tied to Americana as Mark Twain’s work into an entirely different culture is no small task, but it’s not surprising that writer Dai Satō, who wrote Cowboy Bebop, Stand Alone Complex and Wolf’s Rain managed to find universal themes in the novel and bring it to a futuristic setting. Sure, there are more obvious references, like splitting the name Huckleberry Finn between the main characters, but where the show shines is its exploration of societal hypocrisy. Berry may live in a utopia where no one is ever unhappy, but that’s because there’s extreme censorship where everything “unwanted” is quickly eliminated in secret – where anything that goes against the norm or the mainstream goes unseen.
That’s why it’s so poignant that – just like in Twain’s novel – it’s the Yurei (literally “ghosts” in Japanese), those who are socially dead or invisible, who are the only ones who can really see what’s going on. is. How this plot thread resolves remains to be seen, but it makes for a promising start to the show.
Unsurprisingly, given this is a Science SARU anime, Yurei Deco is vibrant, colorful, and visually imaginative. To bring the possibilities of augmented and virtual reality to life, the show changes its art style and aesthetic depending on whose point of view we experience, as deco allows one to virtually change their environment. A dull and drab building will look 3D and elaborate in one scene, or minimalist and 2D the next. Even more than Belle of Summer Wars, Yurei Deco shows how malleable a virtual world can be for the user.
Where Yurei Deco falters is when it comes to actually making his technique clear. For a show about how technology blends into our daily lives, with a story about a system that is not what it seems at first glance, the distinction between the fully virtual world and the augmented reality deco system, and how the deco even functions, is not clear enough. It could be better explained as the story progresses, but outside the gate it leaves a lot to be desired. Likewise, Berry and Huck’s characters in the first three episodes are quite thin and underdefined, more than just “the crazy one with the funny speech pattern” and the “normal”.
Masaaki Yuasa, who created the original concept of Yurei Deco with Dai Satō, may have retired, but his influence can still be clearly seen here. Despite some concerns, the show holds a lot of promise and is already a visually distinctive and narratively weird show that deserves more attention this summer.