- 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….
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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