I’m enjoying ACCA, which has more style and more subtlety than any dozen randomly selected anime you might draw out of a hat. But I confess that my enjoyment right now is strictly intellectual – the series is so obviously bemused with itself that it’s hard to muster much emotional connection to it. That’s in contrast with a show like Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu or Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, where the engagement is 100% on both the intellectual and emotional levels.
For myself, I would argue that for a show to be truly great it almost has to be able to do both – that, or be so intellectually astonishing that it’s carried across the line by that aspect alone. I would argue that Production I.G.’s work has often frequented this channel over the years – brilliant but distant – but even a series which some might call cold and intellectual like Ghost Hound achieves greatness (in my view) because it’s able to close the emotional circuit. There’s nothing to say ACCA 13-Ku Kansatsu-Ka won’t do that too in its remaining eight episodes, but at this point I’d consider it a mild upset if it did.
I’m certainly engaged with the story here, that’s for sure – and it continues to prove almost bottomless in its depth of complexity. As we pick up the tale Jean is on an audit in Suitsu, which is unlike all the other districts of Douwa in being a semi-autonomous state. There’s a lot of real-life analogs one could draw here – an isolated nation-state, frozen in time by a nobility determined to maintain an order that sees them as wealthy and privileged while the majority of the populace are somewhere between peasants and serfs. If you imagine a cross between Louis XVI’s France and modern North Korea, you’d come pretty close to Suitsu.
I’ll say this much – in Jean Otus ACCA 13 has the perfect protagonist, because he matches its tone perfectly (or perhaps helps set it). No matter how the whirlpool roils around him Jean remains eerily calm – hands in pockets (when not holding a cigarette), half-smile on his face, blue eyes twinkling. Rarely has a character’s face so epitomised a series as Jean’s does with ACCA – placid, mischievous, always the hint of something simmering beneath the surface. Even as he becomes involved in a coup d’etat (no, not that coup d’etat), even taken prisoner by the plotters, there’s not an ounce of panic.
Suitsu is certainly an interesting place. Its populace is forbidden to travel abroad, technology is virtually non-existent and cell phones are banned, and the people are forbidden even to talk to outsiders. It’s no wonder rebellion simmers here (as it apparently has for a century, through a string of failed coups), though it’s perhaps a surprise that the non-native ACCA vice-chairman, Warbler (Hino Satoshi) is at the heart of it. Jean seems legitimately to be swept along in this unexpectedly, but clearly he has some sympathy for the cause – he even helps to make his case with his captors by declaring that the rich businessmen in his building would love to see Suitsu open up for outside plundering (it doesn’t get any more real-world than that).
As always with ACCA, the larger secrets are never far from mind. Niino is certainly in Suitsu – he saves Jean from being accosted by rebels during their failed uprising (does Jean recognize him? I believe so). Lilium’s older brother (Inoue Kazuhiko) is involved with the corrupt Suitsu district representative in the capital. And Jean’s hands are obviously in places they’re not supposed to be – exchanges are happening with him, one hand washing the other in secret. The only question is just what Jean is involved in and what he isn’t. Meanwhile the Prince has his flunkies stalking Lotta, which is sure to be a major plot thread going forward. Last week I referred to ACCA 13-ku Kansatsu-ka as a placid body of water that was churning underneath; if I were to make an analogy for Douwa, it might be a beautiful piece of fruit whose skin was flawless, but whose inside was rotting from the core outwards.