acca 13 box art

  • Genre : Political thriller
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: Madhouse

Jean is the type of guy who always gets mixed up in things. It’s not his fault. He tries his best to lie low and mind his own business. Sure, as the deputy chief of the territory inspection division of ACCA, his business happens to be everybody’s business but he’s still discreet about it. All he really wants to do is finish this gruelling 13 state inspection, find a suitable replacement and take a nice quiet position somewhere far from all the hustle and bustle. But why are whispers of a coup d’etat constantly cropping up in a peaceful and prosperous country? And why does everyone seem to want to talk to Jean about it? And where does he get all the cigarettes anyways? We never see him buying any.

I’ve mentioned in my 91 days and Tanya the Evil reviews that old fashioned crime, spy and political thrillers seemed to be underserved in anime. All things considered, these might simply be genres that have fallen out of fashion all together. Of course, they happen to be some of my favorites. I can’t just be like everyone else….

ACCA 13 anime review
at least it seems like Jean and I do have some things in common

To be honest, even before I had any idea what ACCA 13 was about, there was something that attracted me about the box art. The designs were unusual and that striking but interesting arrangement and colour composition hinted at a promising artistry. Ok, so the uniform an bird of prey imagery also let me imagine exactly what type of story it would be but that doesn’t make the pretty art thing any less true.

Let me tell you, visually ACCA 13 did not disappoint. For those of you who are fans of animation far and wide, you will see a distinctive European influence in the visuals. Both the designs and background technics have that middle European look to them which I adored. Colors are carefully and thematically chosen, especially hair color which is used to blatantly telegraph main character traits non verbally. Again I absolutely loved this.

acca 13 Mauve_anime
Mauve is indeed quite regal

There isn’t that much in the way of heart pounding action but subtle animation is sustained throughout to make this a rich watching experience. For instance a character will brush back his hair in the middle of a sentence. A small unpretentious movement that’s easy to miss and is not repeated but adds a huge amount of presence. Occasionally a lighter won’t light on the first try. Someone will stumble just a tiny bit while walking. All these subtle animation touches scattered throughout go a long way to making you believe you are watching real events unfold.

This naturalistic style is upheld across the board. Lighting is soft and consistent. Voice acting is even keeled, and delivery tends to be casual. You will not hear a character cry or even raise their voice in the entire series. There’s this calm almost fatalistic tone that permeates the entire series. Which again, works in line with the overall message ACCA 13 is putting out.

I was stumped as to why I hadn’t heard everyone singing the technical praises of this show. For my money it’s just as expertly crafted and stylishly put together as this season’s Megalo Box but with much more attention to detail. Every single element is deliberate and plays into the narrative rather than just adding stylish flare, yet it all seems effortless. And that may be why it flew under the radar for some people. It may be polished but it’s also unpretentious. Like a really expensive pair of jeans and t-shirt. Once you notice you’ll see the perfect fit but from a distance, it’s just jeans and a t-shirt…

ACCA-02-38
you’re welcome

And the story may suffer from a similar obstacle to overcome. As I mentioned above, the political thriller genre, under which ACCA 13 clearly falls, doesn’t exactly seem to be the genre of choice at the moment. And even within its category, ACCA 13 is particularly tranquil. I kept thinking of Our Man in Havana (the book, not the movie – side note: great book!) but even more bloodless.

Although there are many layers of political intrigue intertwined, the story is actually rather straightforward and easy to follow. It is a talkative series, much of it being dedicated to Jean visiting the different states and the obstacles and strengths of having a nation composed of such unique district, each having its own individual feel, economy and people. Representation here was great compared to your standard anime. I can’t remember the last time first nations were featured in an anime, and all representations are recognizable but not exaggerated or caricatural. The underlying call for unity was skillfully done.

ACCA 13 anime review
you know it’s fiction because this man goes on the hold considerable political power

The story plays it generally coy when it comes to moral judgement. ACCA itself is presented in a seemingly positive light as all the protagonists are loyally dedicated to the organisation. However, the uniform is rather reminiscent of  militaristic dictatorships and we see signs of despotism creeping in. Some territories have been neglected or even held down by the organization. There’s a point about choosing the lesser evil when a perfect system is impossible. Compromises are absolutely necessary in any society and ACCA aims to highlight that.

This duality is somewhat extended in Jean’s smoking. Several characters comments about how expensive the habit is and Jean is continuously ushered outdoors or looked down upon for his constant smoking but it simultaneously gives him some cachet. It isolates him while allowing him to get to know people. The series never really tells us how to feel about it, whether we should perceive it as cool or interesting, making Jean a striking classic bad*ss figure, or as bothersome and silly with Jean being weak and foolish for being bound by it. The fact that both interpretations are viable is what makes the ACCA so interesting once you apply it to the much larger question of individual liberties vs order and safety.

acca 13 jean kid
the last time we saw Jean not smoking

However, it remains a reserved plot all the way to the end. Personally, I found the surprisingly bloodless resolution absolutely brilliant, but I can see how someone would feel starved for dramatic action. This series will not be for everyone. If seeing characters discuss politics, economic incentives and regional policies sounds dreadful to you, you may have a tough time getting into it. But this is a rather unique anime experience that’s obviously been put together by a very talented team, as such if the above didn’t scare you off, give it a try.

Random thoughts: – There are some fantastic female characters in this show both stereotypical and not. – Even though it’s not a major element in the show, and not usually my thing, I found that all the romances where superbly handled. I really enjoyed Rail and Lotta slowly getting to know each other and I’m rooting for them. – Although this is completely out of character, I actually ship Jean and his friend Nino. There’s nothing explicitly shown in the series, but their friendship has a definite intimate feel that seems to stray into romantic from time to time. If you guys have seen the show, let me know if I’m crazy here.

ACCA 13-ku Kansatsu-ka - 11 - Large 19
the stills are really not doing the visuals justice

Favorite character: This may be a first but I don’t have one…

What this anime taught me: You can tell a lot about a people from the bread they bake

I haven’t figured out how to go about getting a wine collection, I do however have quite an extensive cork collection.

Suggested drink: Ambassador’s Punch

***There is a LOT of repetitive behavior and visual cues in this show – it’s part of the storytelling, I’ve narrowed them down considerably ***

  • Every time anyone says tobacco – stretch
  • Every time we see a map of the kingdom – take a sip
  • Every time agent Rail is annoyed – take a sip
  • Every time anyone says “coup d’état” – dun dun DUN
  • Every time anyone drinks – raise your glass
  • Every time Jean is hungover – drink some water
  • Every time people eat sweets without Jean – have a snack
  • Every time Jean has a cigarette– breath
  • Every time Nino takes or makes a call – take a sip
  • Every time Lotta is being followed – take a sip
  • Every time anyone mentions bread – plan dinner
    • if they are buying bread – plan your groceries
  • Every time anyone says ACCA – roll credits
ACCA-13-ku-Kansatsu-ka-01-720p.mkv_20170111_180401.929
c’mon…I’m not the only one, right?

 

40 thoughts on “ACCA 13 – Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire”

  1. I liked ACCA to a certain extent but can’t help but feel really underwhelmed with the final episode. I mean, a speech to end a coup de etat? Really?

  2. Watched this while it was simulcasting and…well, because it was up against the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (which I already thought really highly of), something had to give out. I think it was mostly the ending suddenly being full of action and how it almost went into slice-of-life territory at parts that made it not as enjoyable.

      1. Not necessarily. It’s just that ACCA would’ve probably benefitted from being either all action or all SOL – it’s really just consistency I’m after. To be honest though, most of my beef is with the ending because that indicates an ongoing manga and hence the anime failed to stick the landing.

        1. I have to admit – I didn’t have the same takeaway. I quite enjoyed the blend of styles (I often do in fact) and thought the ending was perfectly satisfying as is. But those are personal impression of course. I like the show and would watch another season but don’t feel a need for it or find the story incomplete in any way.

  3. This is not the typical show I go for, but I was pleasantly surprise and became one of my favorite (i,m still debating if I should order the box set). I loved the visual and how every department was different from to the other.

  4. I’m fairly sure we never see Jean buy cigarettes, because you generally can’t buy them. I think they said in one of the earlier episodes that him having them is a priviledge of his position, and him smoking them in public thus goes against etticette. I don’t remember the details, but it was a fairly important characterisation point: laid back and not a stickler for rules. I’d have to re-watch it to remember the details, and it may have been just implied anyway, in which case half of it could have been just an interpretation anyway.

    I loved ACCA. It aired at the same time as Dragon Maid and Demi-chan, so it wasn’t the season’s most high-profile show, but it certainly wasn’t ignored. It’s not the most exciting show, but if you’re not too bored to pay attention, it’s definitely a gripping show. I watched it weekly, but I think the optimal way for me to watch it would have been in bursts of around 3-4 episodes.

    1. Yes that was mentioned by Rail in the first episodes although the particularities seem to vary from district to district as tobacco was much more readily available in certain places.
      I also think this benefits from a thighter watch.

  5. Funny story I was going to watch this after reading a review and then I forgot what it was called except that there was an A and two C’s this lead me to watch the disaster called Accel world. Now I am back on the right path and hopefully this time I will get it right.

  6. Yay! This is such an underrated show just like Joker Game was for me the year before hand. Sometimes you just have to watch a series that is so calm and relaxing despite the fact that the fate of a nation is at stake. It was so fun to put together.

  7. I absolutely loved this while it was airing and I’m almost ready for a rewatch of it to see if it holds up for a second viewing. It was so much fun reading this post as it reminded me how much fun I had while watching it and I think I’m going to move that rewatch up a bit on my priorities because now I just want to see this again.

  8. I remember that Karandi absolutely loved this show (and her review in her book for this one was one that I remember pretty well). Since then it’s been quietly sitting on my to watch list gathering dust….but this post reminded me again of the fact that this is something I need to check out. (But that’s what usually happens…ugh…I need a vacation 😊

        1. Karandi and I live on opposite sides of the world so when one of us is awake, the other is sleeping and vice-versa. If you warched anime with both of us, we could cover the entire day! Youd be caught up in no time

          1. Haha…yeah I guess that’s true. Okay I am just going to stop sleeping, eating and going to work. That means I will now have access to 24 hours in a day…so yeah I can watch anime now with the both of you. I will give notice to my boss tomorrow that I will quit work…and then I’m going to lock myself in a room, so I can’t be disturbed. I guess I can start tomorrow then…sleep is overrated anyway.
            Thanks, now I know what to do 😂😂

  9. I really enjoyed this show, too! I think you mentioned all of my favorite parts except one: the music, especially the OP. Its audio style fit the visual style perfectly!

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