ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka is the sort of series for which the phrase “the plot thickens” was invented. There’s an association to that expression which anyone who’s read and seen enough fiction in their life immediately grasps, one which goes beyond the literal definition. It calls to mind a dish being prepared ingredient by ingredient, slowly and patiently, with each addition bringing complexity to the recipe. And recipes as complicated as ACCA take an awfully long time to prepare.
The cooking analogy fits, because I’m hard-pressed to think of an anime as obsessed with food without literally being about food since- well, maybe ever? A long time anyway. Seriously, food is a constant presence in ACCA – pastries, fruits, breads (oh, Natsume-sensei must love bread). Sometimes the food is giant, sometimes it’s fancy, sometimes casual take-out – but it’s omnipresent. And there’s plenty of wine, too, and cigarettes – of course, cigarettes, since they clearly seem to be relevant to the actual plot.
As I mentioned last week, part of the fun with ACCA is trying to figure which bits of atmospherics (like the food) do matter to the plot, and which ones are just there to add texture and color. The ingredient Natsume-tachi added this week was definitely a roux, of perhaps some cornstarch – things are definitely beginning to firm up and, er, thicken in a big way. The surface of ACCA is as calm and placid as any slice-of-life series, but underneath it’s churning furiously – and our main character is caught up in the whirlpool now, whatever his true circumstances are.
Superficially at least, Jean Otus seems like an amiable naif (though a capable and intelligent one) caught up in the midst of treachery and secrecy. His best friend since schoolboy days is secretly spying on him for Grossular. Grossular is apparently setting him up as a fall guy for a coup d’etat, to cover his own involvement in a coup. Mauve (Tanaka Atsuko) wants him to become a double-agent to assist in her bid to keep order (her favorite word). Lilium (Yusa Kouji) professes to believe Jean innocent of any wrongdoing, and recruits him to help in his plan to stop Grossular’s coup to grap absolute power for ACCA. Really – it’s complicated.
Still, I just can’t bring myself to believe it’s all that simple. Jean is clearly smart, yet he thinks nothing of flaunting his access to tobacco (which the country’s prime minster – more or less – has clamped down on because they posed a danger to the king’s health) and drawing suspicion onto himself. He always seems to be at the center of things – big things. Maybe he really is what he appears to be, or maybe he knows more than he’s letting on. Maybe he even really is planning a coup – I wouldn’t summarily dismiss it. Jean is an enigmatic fellow and the evidence is that characters in ACCA don’t tend to be what they initially appear to be.
Whatever Jean’s role, the spider web is broad and tangled in Douwa. The king’s grandson Schwan (Miyano Mamoru) is the heir to the throne as the king sired no sons, and apparently is widely considered an idiot. He’s scheming to take over (he expected the King [Nakao Rysusei] to resign at his 100th birthday celebration in fact, and was sorely disappointed) and effectively turn Douwa into a dictatorship, abolishing ACCA. Meanwhile the king and the Prime Minister are scheming to keep Schwan out of power.
This is indeed quite a mess. Complicating matters further, Niino has brought Lotta with him ostensibly to “cover” the celebration – though in truth to shadow Jean – and Schwan has caught a glimpse of her and become infatuated. And everyone at the party can’t take their eyes off Jean, because they’ve all heard the rumors – which makes it that much harder to believe a whip-smart guy like Jean hasn’t heard them too. As much plot as ACCA throws at you, it wisely takes its sweet time in doing so, and never forgets that it’s way that the story is presented that tells the tales as much or more than the plot itself. It’s a quirky, bemusing, odd and and fascinating goulash of a series – and I suspect it’s going to taster even better after it’s cooked for a few more episodes (never at more than a slow simmer, of course).