Well, hell. Here I am late getting a review posted, once again. I dunno what it is lately, but I seem to be a couple steps behind, all the time. It’s getting kind of frustrating, ya know?
Of course, it’d help if I hadn’t finished watching this anime this morning, then promptly got sucked into the one I plan to review for next week. Time management has always been my big weakness. Especially when it comes to anime. I have a bad habit of watching ‘Just one more”, for like, ten episodes.
Originally, I had planned to review a different show today, but then I got pulled into ACCA, and that was that. I knew I wanted to talk about this one. Probably would have helped if I’d started it sooner, or rather, stuck to my original plan, and written the other review, when I still had three days to get it done.
Again, time management, and also, I’m a bit too impulsive sometimes. I see a thing that’s neat, I run with the thing that’s neat, I end up being behind schedule. It’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to escape.
Anyway, all that aside, there’s another reason I’m running behind today. One of my cats, Abby, was suffering from an upper respiratory infection last week. She’s older, so it’s even more dangerous. While she’s recovered, and is doing fine now, I was pretty stressed out last week. Abby’s been with me for a long time, and now that’s she’s feeling better, she won’t stay out of my lap. I’m trying to write, right now, with her trying to get back in my lap.
A week of twice a day medication, pulling her through a rough time, and now, she won’t stay away from me. Yeah. They know. Anyone who says cats don’t appreciate what you do for them is an idiot. They absolutely know.
Abby’s all better, but she’s making getting any work done tough. Writing around a lap cat is hard, guys. Pardon any typos you spot from here on. Lap cat.
Alright, then. Here we go, with what’s going to be, of necessity, a somewhat shorter than usual review. By necessity, I don’t mean my lack of time, either. Rather, it’s because this show has so many little plot twists and turns, there’s a high risk of spoiling for those who haven’t seen it, and this one, I really don’t want to ruin. It’s neat, clever, and fun.
ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Department is a 12 episode, 2017 series from Madhouse, the godfather of Japan, and probably, the studio that knocked up all our mom’s while dad was out.
What? They made Supernatural: The Anime. We know how skeevy they can get.
The series is set in a fictional world, where thirteen formerly warring nations have unified, sort of, into a single nation. Brought together by the Dowo Kingdom, the royalty of that country remains the figurehead leadership, while the country itself is actually overseen by an organization known as ACCA, named for a bird species that went extinct 100 years ago when ACCA was founded.
Now, ACCA isn’t so much running the country, as they are keeping the country running. They oversee pretty much everything, from health care to transportation. ACCA is basically the government, but is set up in such a way as it allows the thirteen districts of the country to operate autonomously, much as they do under Dowo rule. Each branch of ACCA, in each district, also operates autonomously of the main branch, with only the Inspection Department really having any kind of oversight on everything.
Well, that’s the brief version, anyway. The world building done in ACCA is pretty heavy. We’ll stick with the short version for now, though, because it’s way to complicated to really explain properly, even if I tried.
The story follows Jean Otus, the deputy chief for the Inspection Department, as he travels around, conducting audits of the different head branches of each district. As he does so, he slowly becomes aware of a coup being planned, to overthrow the incoming Prince, who is an utter idiot and has vowed to disband ACCA.
Even more startling to Jean, is that somehow, everyone thinks he’s at the heart of this coup. As each district pledges their support to him to take the throne after the coup, he struggles to uncover the truth, who he can trust, who is actually behind it all, and how he’s involved.
Which is where we pretty much have to stop with the actual review of the plot, as everything after this becomes spoilers of the highest order. Because ACCA, at it’s heart, is a political thriller, with heavy shades of The Sting thrown in. All set to a snazzy jazz inspired soundtrack, that gives the whole thing this fun and quirky quality that really lets it stand out.
While political thrillers are rare in anime, the few that do exist, such as Eden of the East, tend to be really well done shows, and ACCA is no different. Like those others, it also doesn’t rely on the political thriller aspect alone, mixing it up as Eden did with the death game subgenre. Here, we get a really fun game of cat and mouse as Jean tries to outsmart whoever is setting him up, while figuring out why he’s the target for the set up, and how to foil their plans with a set up of his own.
If you’ve ever seen any movie about grifters or con artists, then you’ll see the influence it had on ACCA, as Jean plays a long game against unseen adversaries, always trying to stay one step ahead of whatever plot he’s found himself caught up in. Making it even more difficult, he has no idea who he can trust, and in light of the will of the people being that ACCA stand as an institution, begins to wonder how he might turn all of this to ACCA”s advantage, and through it, the good of the people.
What differentiates ACCA from other series like it, is that Jean is actually a really, genuinely, good person, who honestly believes in the good of the people of the nation. Even when there’s parts of the country that aren’t ideal, he realizes that things like tradition, and how people choose to live, must be a priority for the people tasked with safeguarding their way of life. The people must be put first, and their well being is the top concern of ACCA, so as an agent of ACCA, he suddenly finds himself in a position where he can ensure that nothing happens to the very institution the people love, and looks out for them.
It’s enough to make anyone consider going along with the intricate plot they are caught in. However, Jean also believes that every person, himself included, should be able to follow their dreams, and his do not lead to power, or the throne. Which puts him in a tough spot. To protect the people, he may have to sacrifice his own dream.
The guys pretty damn noble, despite coming off as sort of lazy and apathetic at the start. It’s when you start seeing his keen mind at work that you realize Jean is just one of those people who looks like he isn’t putting out any effort, but in reality, is doing a ton of heavy lifting with his brain. Makes him seem like the perfect protagonist for this sort of scenario, but the various plot twists all keep even him jumping, and the resolution of the story is never a clear cut thing, which keeps us, the viewers, guessing as well.
Which is what a show like this needs to do in order to work.
ACCA also has a really massive supporting cast. From high ranking officers of ACCA, to the royal family, to Jean’s family, and friends, everyone in the story plays a part. All of them are intricate moving parts of the overall plan, and how it all comes to resolution, and the final reveals, are pulled off with wonderful style.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, this show is really hard to explain in sort of brief way. It’s different from any other anime I’ve ever seen, with some truly inspired bits of plot twists, wonderful character work, and my favorite thing of all, the stunning world building that was done.
That’s what I really want you to take from this, too. The world that was built was incredible. The various districts, all with their own individual personality, culture, and style, was inspired heavily by real world counterparts. Cultures such as Native American, India, Polynesian, and Japan butt up against districts that range from modern day New York, to Colonial Era England, and all of them feel like they fit together into a larger picture in a way that actually works.
There’s frequent discussion over trade, both from the benefits, to the disparity, as well as how each district is a place the people who live there love for reasons of their own. The pride everyone has in their heritage, and how despite having become one country, that need to retain cultural identity, and the respect each district has for the others right to that, is so well constructed, it makes the entire nation feel like an actual place that functions, because the people want it to, and through them, ACCA makes it so.
It’s a fascinating world, and one that I would have loved to spend more time with. The original manga creator, Natsume Ono, did a lot of work in figuring out how all of this would come together into a functioning whole, and I have to praise her for the brilliant manner in which she realized it. It always comes down to what people actually want. That’s what makes governments, and ideas, work. People desiring for them to.
Since ACCA is basically the will of the people, it makes sense that as an organization that acts separately from the actual government, it would act according to the will of the people. Granted, at times, it all feels a bit too altruistic, but that’s where the plot comes in. Not everything is sunshine and roses. There’s dark shadows that move in the night, and this whole grand experiment in cultural coexisting is a lot shakier than it seems at first.
The nation is barely held together, and what does the work of keeping it in on piece, is ACCA. With that in mind, upper level corruption is a thing that could, and does, exist. However, the autonomous nature of the various branches allow for it keep from spreading, and hold in check ACCA itself from becoming too powerful, despite all the power they wield.
It’s just crazy clever how it all fits together, and I’m incredibly impressed by the fine details that exist. This whole thing is insanely complex.
It isn’t just the political coup, or the scam, aspects of the story that make it work. It’s these kinds of fine details in how everything works together that brings the whole thing up a notch. It’s just an amazing bit of world building, that enables the characters, and the story, to work in the way they do.
In terms of animation, the show has a neat look to it. It’s different, and that’s good, as ACCA is a different kind of show. The character designs are all really cool, the background work is amazing, and the whole thing has a nice flow and feel to it. Despite the story being about a potential coup, the whole show is really brightly colored, as well, and serves as a great vehicle for showcasing Jean’s inherent goodness.
The only thing that bugged me was how lethargic a lot of the characters looked in the eyes. It’s not a bad thing, it just kind of seemed like it was a little too present, in too many characters. In Jean, I got it, but the more you see with the same sort of look, it distracted from his uniqueness. Other than that, I really liked the quality of the animation.
The series was directed by Shingo Natsume, who is best known for his work directing One Punch Man, and Space Dandy Season 2. So, yeah. I mean, not much else to say after that. One Punch Man and Space Dandy. The guys an insanely talented director, so if you liked either of those shows, you know exactly what you’re in for here.
A fucking treat.
The script is by Tomohiro Suzuki, who also did the series composition and scripts for One Punch Man, bringing he and Natsume together to keep doing what they do best, and that’s make awesome shit look easy. Where with OPM, Suzuki hewed close to the source material, and only deviated when he had to, here he keeps the story laser focused on Jean, and how he copes with things. His dialogue is great, and he really knows how to sell the motivations well.
Granted, I’ve not read the original manga yet, so I don’t know how well he interprets it, but if it’s half as good as what Suzuki crafted, it’d still be amazing. Guys got some serious writing skills, and I look forward to what he does next.
The music was from Ryo Takahashi, who hasn’t done anything else I’m familiar with. Citrus and Princess Principle, which he did the theme song for, as well as a few others. I can’t say if the work here is his typical or not, but damn, I hope it is. He brings a sweet jazz infused soundtrack to this offbeat world, upping that slick sense of The Sting, and giving the whole thing a ton of flair. The music here really does stand out as being almost better than the show itself, and infuses every scene with style, as well as enhancing the entire story, by adding a sense of culture to it that stands as separate thing all on it’s own. Considering the theme of the show, that’s damn clever composition.
Madhouse went through a rough patch for a while, where a lot of the shows they made weren’t as good as they could be. ACCA is another sign they are back in fine form, and are knocking hits out of the park left and right once again. Everything here works incredibly well, but has a unique style that is all it’s own.
Now, before you ask what I mean by rough patch, remember how Supernatural The Anime looked like a Death Note knockoff? Yeah. That’s what I mean. There was a brief period where Madhouse faltered, and we got stuff like High School of the Dead, which while it had good points, was mostly just a ton of over the top fan service that buried any genius the show might have ended up having.
Shows like My Love Story and ACCA are what I expect from Madhouse, and it’s good to see them allowing the series they produce be their own thing. An anime only stands on it’s own, after all, and here, we’ve gotten a really fine example of what a good show can be, when in the hands of a competent studio.
If you’re looking for something that is different, unique, compelling, and engaging, then give ACCA a try. I sucked me in from the go, and while I’m pretty easy to please, this one really hit my happy place as far as being something I’ll go back and watch more than once.