This will come as no surprise to long time readers…. I can’t believe there’s even the possibility of me having long time readers. It sounds so weird… but those of you who are more recent may not know of my weird preoccupation with color in Anime. Since colour palette in animated works is an active choice, much more so than in live action (where it is still important) it is a non-negligible part of the text of the medium. Essentially, colors are chosen for a reason. Often that reason can be simply utilitarian or aesthetic. However, once in a while there’s a deeper story connection behind the palette of chosen works. Those details point to an attention to detail and add to the rich non-verbal aspect of storytelling available to anime that I personally adore. This is what gives the medium so much potential and allows the stories to exist on several levels and therefore be appreciated in so many different ways, if you take the time.

One of the most obvious recent uses of color coding in anime was in the fantastic ACCA-13. I enjoyed this aspect tremendously but didn’t have much time to get into it in my review of the show. This visual subtext is actually present on many different levels in the series, but it’s really the most glaring in the choices of hair color used for the main characters. All of which are very deliberate, in the anime.

Let’s start with the Otus family:

 Both Jean and Lotta share a distinctive coloration. Bright sunny blonde with sharp turquoise eyes. Specifically, in anime, blonde is often used to mark a character as slightly different or important. Since natural blondes are extremely rare in Japan, it’s often associated with foreigners and generally with opulence and status. As members of the royal family, this certainly tracks with the characters background as royals in exile. It should be noted that prince Schwann is also blonde, and blue eyed but has a slightly lighter and cooler shade of hair. Showing him to be a more withdrawn and generally less openly friendly character.

Next we have Grossular

The stoic and respectable head of ACCA. White is always a striking choice in hair color when not used simply to mark age. It also my current hair color and a huge pain to maintain. White is associated with purity and wisdom but also often marks characters with duplicitous intent. Never trust a white-haired anime boy! It fits Grossular to a T. Although not an actual villain as is often the case, in Grossular the color reflects his noble spirit and rigid but very humane morality. This is a man with deep spirituality and great experience, but also a man burden by secrets and a responsibility which he feels the need to shoulder all by himself. This makes him seem suspicious despite his best intentions. The nature of his rank had also embroiled him in some less than upright plots. His duplicity may not have been intentional, and may have come from a good place, but he is still not completely honest.

The second (arguably first) most powerful head of ACCA Lilium

This one is a bit trickier since black is sort of a default hair color in anime and can mean just about anything and nothing at all. However, there are some universal association with the color black that do apply here. It’s menacing and sober but also just plain cool. There’s something commanding and undeniable about its presence. And let’s face it, we all know the bad guys wear black hats.

Friendly and unassuming Pine

How much more on the nose can you get. Pine is the chief of the agricultural ward and his hair is green! He’s also reliable, strong, ernest…you know, salt of the earth sort of fellow. Think Deku. It seems perfectly fitting that he would sport a hue that invokes nature, strength and reliability. 

Occasionally more neon or vivid shades of green are use to mark someone as toxic and dangerous but this nice lush forest shade is most often used for trustworthy and steady characters you want in your corner. I would love to go have a drink with Pine, he seems lovely.

The Fantastically Voiced Spade 

Spade is an older gentleman and as such we could assume his silver hair is simply a mar of his age but it does seem to go a bit beyond that. Silver can be used for angelic figures but the colour is often associated with sly or sneaky characters as well. It’s the colour of thieves and spies. Silver tongues ad all that.

We never quite get to know Spade, he plays it extremely close to the vest and never reveals his hand.

The rarely seen Pastis

Of all the heads of ACCA, Pastis is both the most unassuming and most extravagant. He also has stunning blonde hair which isn’t only dazzling for it’s golden color but also impressive in its style and texture. Basically here, the pale blonde coupled with the cascading loose curls is a mark of opulence.

Everything about Pastis screams luxury starting from that river of gold atop of his head!

 The Great Lady Mauve 

I always saw Mauve’s hair as royal blue but the name means purple. I guess it’s a blend of deep blue and purple. It doesn’t really matter since both colors have the same connotations. The color is meant to be regal and graceful. I would say that’s also totally on point.

In ancient times, the pigment for these colours was extracted from sea snails which was a painstaking and labour intensive process. As such, the dye was extremely expensive and reserved for royalty or hgh aristocracy. Hence the “royal” part of the name. Although Mauve does not start as one of the heads of ACCA her poise and temperament is certainly dignified and she more than lives up to the implications of her hair color.

 Finally, let’s look at fan favourite Nino

His hair color is a much lighter shade of blue with a bit of green worked in. Turquoise I guess. This is a slightly trickier shade. One the one had characters with this hair color are often thought to be intelligent, patient and loyal, but there’s also that magician trait which makes them secretive and independent as well as introverted and quiet. Like Kuroko or Sailor Mercury.

Nino is a bit more outgoing than most, the again, we pretty much only see him in the company of his best friend. It’s easy to be friendly then!

Despite how obvious and on the nose the color coding in ACCA was I still quite enjoyed it. Maybe because it was so obvious and I was able to easily pick up on it. Non verbal storytelling is always great in my book, whe it works and in the choice of hair color we got a lot of information on characters the show did not have time to develop fully. That’s neat. Also I really liked writting this as it gave me a chance to think back on a great series! If you haven’t seen it, I really think you should.


18 thoughts

  1. I love how you interpret the colours and related them to the characters and their traits. It’s brilliant! And I love ACCA. The colour palette of the show is striking and remarkable.

  2. Interesting analysis. The most underrated show at the season. Kind of a bit dropped it for years but keep watching it after two years.

    1. I really loved ACCA and I’m continuously delighted to find that everyone I talk to liked it as well!

      1. THIS ALL LOOKS SOOOO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I NEED TO SEE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I always felt Grossular looked like he was trying his best to hold it together, and felt his haircolour gave me a sense of having become prematurely white. I don’t think that’s an in-world explanation, but I found myself unconsciously rolling with it.

    Also with Jean and Lotta, their hair colours, while both blonde, tend to go in different directions: Jean’s going more towards green, while Lotta has more red mixed in: it’s a bit like a sun/moon symbology, which I thought fit the show pretty well.

    I tend not to think about colour too much, so this was an interesting read. I was also reminded just how great the character designs were in this show. It’s always good to be reminded of this show now and then. It’s one of those shows I tend not to think about all that much but deserves to be remembered a lot more.

    1. The jean and lotta contrast is a great element. Lotta is friendlier more outgoing and a little more “innocent” than Jean who had to bear the brunt of their parents loss and became more withdrawn and “cooler” in his character. It’s such a gentle approach to characterisation.

  4. This was such a great read and made me want to watch the anime all over again because this wasn’t something I paid much attention to the first time (other than the blonde for Jean and Lotta because that connection was fairly important). Really fun post to read and I wish more people talked about ACCA because it was a fun watch.

      1. It was a very nicely written story. And it was a bit different. Okay, I am going to do a rewatch of ACCA. I’ve been thinking about it since I read the post and to be honest it sounds like a great way to waste a few hours this weekend.

  5. Very interesting observations. (Btw, which cell does Mensa lock you into at night?)

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