First Impression: YUREI DECO

Once upon a time, a narrator shares an obscure fable about a many-eyed giant, a just society turned murderous, and peacock feathers while a psychedelic world unfolds on the screen, offering a glimpse of the many characters (and possibly time periods or dimensions) that will doubtless feature in the upcoming 12 episodes, before focusing in on one young person in particular. This character, whose identity is obscured and who may or may not be Phantom Zero, is skilled in both the contemporary and traditional arts: that is, in parkour and origami. They also have a wicked grin. After this kaleidoscopic introductory two minutes, the episode settles into a more familiar pattern, following Berry, a disengaged high school student, as she first dozes off in, and then dodges out of virtual class, gives her Mom the slip, and goes off in search of adventure under the guise of visiting the ophthalmologist. Berry’s not just slacking off though. She’s on a mission! She is determined to track down Phantom Zero, the mysterious figure who is said to absorb Love until there is nothing left and whom she’s certain is real, though her friends doubt it. She gets her chance when her eye implant malfunctions, enabling her to see the actual world rather than the VR world that everyone in her day and age is plugged into (complete with animalistic avatars and skins for the cityscape). What she sees in that moment of glitching is someone who otherwise is invisible, and who just may be stealing Love. (Did I mention that Love is the currency in this wacky neon future?) Can she catch them up, or will they slip away, using their mad parkour and VR-shattering, snap-activated superpower? 

Phantom Zero, is that you?

If there’s one thing studio Science SARU can be counted on for, it’s creativity. In its early days, it was hailed as a risk-taking experimental studio—a reputation that some have questioned in recent years. Well, YUREI DECO is nothing if not creative! At first, the art style may come across as overly simplistic and flat, cartoony even, with its eye-popping FLCL-style color design and practically non-existent lighting. It takes a little getting used to, I’ll admit. But if you give it time to sink in, you may realize that there is potentially hidden significance to these design choices for the depiction of a world where the artificial manipulation of photons determines the shape and weft of things—even people. Last year, Science SARU dug deep into Japanese ukiyo-e or traditional prints in developing the aesthetics of its adaptation of 12th century The Heike Story; this year, it is channeling the neon lights of Shinjuku and the sanitized brightness and fluorescent lighting of the Stockroom in The Matrix, fleshing it out with character designs reminiscent of that other futuristic gamified series, DECA-DENCE. In other words, there is a depth to the cartoony-ness here.

Added to these striking visuals is an intriguing detail in the world-building, namely, that the Love that makes this world go round is seemingly a hybrid of actual love (in terms of the official ideology as to its role as the basic building block of human society and happiness, as espoused by Berry’s teacher), and the far more superficial concept of social media ‘likes’ (the transactional aspect of Love as currency). Whether this means that Berry’s world is a step further down the path of self-destruction and alienation taken in that episode of Black Mirror though, remains to be seen. In short, this could be a seriously thought-provoking series! Or, it could just be completely bonkers, much like the opening fable and the fact that this is supposedly an adaptation of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. (Huh?!) Either way, I’ll be tuning in to this trippy ride next week, to see what I can see…


YUREI DECO is streaming on Crunchyroll.


4 thoughts on “First Impression: YUREI DECO

  1. It sounds a bit too wacky for me, and the visuals don’t help. I’ll be skipping this one.

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