Let’s get ready to lose some money!
OP: “Shadow and Truth” by ONE III NOTES
In a season that looks very same-y on the whole, Onihei and ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka definitely stand out. While quite different they look a whole lot more like each other than the rest of the schedule. One is by Madhouse, the other by a studio effectively staffed by Madhouse twice removed, but both bear a strong whiff of Manglobe with them on the wind (and fittingly, of commercial failure). Both were way more interesting than most of the competition, and both seem to be well on their way to being ignored and generally disdained by the bulk of the anime audience.
Having said that, the premiere of ACCA was certainly better than Onihei on the whole. Partly that’s due to the considerably stronger production values, but mostly for me it’s because I prefer ACCA’s thoughtful and deliberate amble to Onihei’s breakneck sprint (here’s hoping it slows down in weeks to come). ACCA is of course the product of seinen mangaka Ono Natsume, and her style is not going to be for everybody. It features a lot of sidelong glances, stylish cigarette smoking and interesting conversation that doesn’t always means what it literally says. And when it works (most notably for me in Manglobe’s Sarai-ya Goyou), it delivers the basis for some of the most interesting anime around.
Natsume is a fascinating writer to say the least, and while her works share a distinct look and vibe, she’s all over the map (literally) in terms of setting and premise. In ACCA she’s taken us to the fictional kingdom of Dowa, which has has a century of peace mostly under its 99 year-old king. In some respects Dowa seems a bit like a Japan (part of the premiere is set in what’s clearly Hokkaido) with a twist of America (the capital is more New York than Tokyo) in the not-too-distant future. Dowa is split into 13 semi-autonomous states, each with their own branch of ACCA – the umbrella of all public safety agencies. And keeping watch over them is the Inspection Division, which has field offices in each of the states.
There are a flood of characters here (most of them with A-list seiyuu) so I’m not even going to try and call them out individually until they become central to the plot. The obvious center is Jean Otus (Shimono Hiro), the vice-chairman of the inspection group. Jean is droll, dry and stone-faced – and while Shimono seems incredibly miscast in a role like that, I have to give him credit – this is as restrained as I’ve ever heard him. Among those orbiting Jean are his sister Lotta (Yuuki Aoi) – who manages the apartment building his family owns – and drinking buddy Niino (Tsuda Kenjirou).
There are also, of course, a passel of agents at the inspection division, all the field offices, and the leadership group at the ACCA home office. What strikes you about Jean’s office is how casual it is with its 10 AM snack rituals and extreme personal familiarity between workers. But Jean is all business when he goes out into the field (with a briefcase full of catalogs). In fact he uncovers some small-time corruption at the
Hokkaido Famasu office. The timing is rather fortuitous, as Groshular (Suwabe Junichi) had just decided that times were so peaceful that the inspection division was no longer needed, but changes his mind (far too easily, seems to me) after the corruption turns up.
I have no doubt bigger things are going to be happening in the plot here – the most logical reason for Groshular to jettison the inspectors is that he’s going to be doing things he doesn’t want them to see, and there are hints that Dowa’s peaceful times may be about to come to an end. But for now, this is a very chill, quirky experience – the pleasures in ACCA’s premiere come from watching the faces (including in the background) and in Natsume’s razor-sharp dialogue (I especially loved the moment when Jean’s subordinate casually mentioned that his wife had “run out on him” and his three kids).
There’s another Natsume at work here – director Natsume Shingo (Space Dandy, One Punch Man), whose presence betrays that Madhouse is putting a lot of care into ACCA. What you get here is a ton of style, atmosphere and subtext, a combination of the two Natsumes’ aesthetic that works very well. There’s plenty here to keep me hooked in, but if this series is to go from good to great the characters in ACCA will have to prove capable of doing the heavy lifting. Early signs are positive, and knowing Natsume Ono it seems pretty likely that optimism will be borne out. Especially given that the manga is complete, I fully expect ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka to develop into one of the best series of the season. Given the competition, it had better.
ED: “Pale Moon ga Yureteru (ペールムーンがゆれてる)” by Aira Yuuki