ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 06

If ACCA were music, I think it’d be the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

ACCA - 06 -1I continue to find ACCA-13 to be an interesting and very peculiar piece of anime.  Over and over watching this episode, I kept getting an image of Brubeck in my head – which might seem odd, but really clicks for me.  I love Brubeck, but even the name of the genre he more or less invented – “Cool Jazz” – reflects the somewhat aloof nature of his genius.  And that fits ACCA to a “T”, especially given the rambling and improvisational nature of the narrative.  It certainly isn’t hard to guess that Nastume Ono is a jazz fan based on the soundtracks her anime adaptations have received (and her series’ general tenor) but it by no means surprised me to learn she’s designed album covers for Japanese jazz artists.

ACCA - 06 -2Music and anime are very different mediums of course, and I must confess I think Brubeck achieves greatness in jazz (though there are a few artists I’m more stylistically in synch with) to a degree ACCA does not in anime (or at least has yet to).  I think the “West Coast Jazz” approach simply engages more with improvisational music than with anime – in this arena, there’s something missing with ACCA that prevents it from completely winning me over.  I want more warmth and emotional commitment than Natsume-tachi have been willing to give me – I need a little Parker or Bill Evans mixed in with the Brubeck.

ACCA - 06 -3But that’s me – your mileage, as ever, may vary.  And there’s no denying that there are moments of sublime cleverness scattered like Easter eggs throughout the narrative with this show.  I do enjoy quirkiness and ACCA has that in spades.  The commitment to the mundane is really something special here – while the tone of the series is strictly dry martini, all of the little details definitely add a dash of color and texture that would otherwise be missing.  Natsume, I think, is genuinely interested in stuff like sandwich bread and hotels – and frankly, so am I.  There’s a part of me that wonders why she’d think anyone would be interested enough to stick with her through an entire series of that, but another part of me is very glad she is.

ACCA - 06 -4Mind you, there’s certainly stuff happening here – there’s lots of plot, even if it sometimes plays as if it’s been written by Rick Steves.  Development-wise, we have the revelation that Jean and Lotta’s parents died in a train accident on the border between Rokkusu and Peshi thirteen years earlier.  At that time Peshi denied all responsibility for the accident, while Rokkusu (under the influence of Grossular) declared that it would be unfair to the victims’ families to niggle over such things and accepted responsibility.  They also pushed for Douwa’s transit to be nationalized under ACCA – which it was, resulting in a dramatic improvement in safety.

ACCA - 06 -5Now, all that is interesting for a number of reasons.  There’s some political commentary here – the nationalization of Japan’s rail system was a turning point for the country and likewise resulted in huge safety improvements, though there are still right-wingers who wish to undo it.  On a more personal level this incident inspired admiration from Jean towards Grossular for the way he handled the tragedy – and that admiration has led to Jean’s stated belief that Grossular couldn’t be involved in the rumored coup.  This is one of the m0re overtly emotional developments in the series.  It’s also the source of a problem for Jean, since Mauve has clearly expected him to deliver some juicy coup info on Grossular and is very disappointed when she doesn’t get it.

ACCA - 06 -6The question of loyalties continues to be central to the spiderweb of intrigue driving the plot.  Mauve has her own agenda, but so do the five members of the leadership – and at the very least, Ilium and Grossular seem directly at odds with each other.  How many of these people genuinely suspect others of being involved in the coup, and how many are just playing a role for show?  During a visit to the Hare district (quite transparently Okinawa, right down to the life expectancy) Jean realizes what role Mauve has chosen for him – as the supposed intermediary of the coup-plotters, he’s the one the locals he visits will be sizing up for information about the coup.  Jean wants to please Mauve (both for personal and professional reasons, I think) but he seems to genuinely dislike being thrust into the role of entrapper.

ACCA - 06 -7We’re halfway through now, but we still seem barely to have scratched the surface of the mystery.  Prince Schwan continues to brazenly plan for his ascension to the throne, and makes reference to a “tragedy of 33 years ago” which caused the royals to forbid their families from leaving Douwa.  That makes a trip to Badon problematic, and Schwan’s love rival Rail continues to stumble closer to Lotta.  And there’s definitely far more to the story of the Otus family and their ownership of the luxury apartment building than we’ve been told – my suspicion that their position as its managers might have been a gift from the king to his lover is growing with each hint that’s dropped.

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9 comments

  1. Z

    I’m still liking this series, but not loving it. I mean, I’m enjoying it, but I find my attention wandering.

  2. B

    The emotional distance of the narrative and its inscrutable main character don’t bother me all that much. There are series I love for their emotional impact and resonance, and then there are series I love for being a little out of reach. ACCA is firmly in the latter. With this series, Ono Natsume has a tendency to wander off the well-trod track. The lack of focus in the narrative might seem like a big minus to some people. I for one rather like the way the narrative takes detours into hidden alleys and lingers on food and other little details.

    The manga series has just received an additional print run a while ago, and apparently within the manga publishing industry, a non-mainstream manga getting an additional print run is a pretty big deal. So people are interested in the manga, and the anime adaptation probably helps boost manga sales as well.

  3. A

    Loved your jazz analogy — it really fits here. I like Brubeck, but I don’t love him like I love Bill Evans. ACCA feels a little too relaxed and effortless, and I want to see it dig down, struggle a bit, and then pull something up.

  4. Actually, I don’t think the Jean and Lotta being royal family theory has much water-holding powers. Though I wouldn’t discard it just yet, what with us not being showed the portrait of the princess despite it being obvious who she is based on the roster at the opening and the girl at the ending.

    I am much more interested right now in knowing more about the incident of the train and why are Jean and Lotta so seemingly blessed with economic stability, not to mention why Jean is in such good terms with the bunch of industrialists in his building… It’s such a slow-cooking facet of the plot, I really don’t think it’s a red herring. Perhaps the coup against ACCA and the crown is motivated by commerce? Might Jean be unwittingly moving coup info around… inside catalogues?

  5. R

    To be honest, I feel like the bit of aloofness is spot on for this type of series. I’ve compared it to Sherlock Holmes before, though instead of solving logic puzzles it’s navigating increasingly complex and dangerous political and social waters. There certainly are series with a focus on character and emotional arcs that contain political intrigue on the side, but I can’t really think of one where THAT is the main focus, and not any with nearly as many entangling lines all of the place.

    The closest I can think of are actually, ironically, war series like Aslan or Kingdom, but that’s a very different tone and I’d argue focus. ACCA is before war, and specifically it’s before what is arguably civil war and unrest. I feel like this sort of vibe is a fit for that sort of story, but just like you, that’s my own opinion so your mileage may vary.

  6. Y

    I agree that a lot of Ono Natsume’s projects are very much obsessed with things she likes. In Ristorante Paradiso (which unlike her other work, Saraiya Goyou, bored me to death), the focus was very much food, men of a certain age group, and megane.
    I am enjoying ACCA though, and it is the second most interesting anime (after Rakugo Shinjuu) for me in this entire season. That may seem like it’s due to the lack of good titles for this season, but so far I very much enjoy the ambience of the world of ACCA, the characters going about their businesses, and the little bits of mystery each episode. It’s nothing awe-inspiring or masterpiece-worthy, but I like how it’s exploring politics and the idea of a coup d’état without involving bloodshed or immediate violence.

  7. It probably is the second-most interesting anime of the season – though it’s a big gap, I’m actually enjoying Yowapeda more, and the fact that it’s a historically weak season has a lot to do with it. My enjoyment level is good and I’m definitely enjoying it, but it was a show I at least hoped might be truly great so in that sense, I’d hoped for something even better.

  8. C

    I agree with what El Huesedo said about the characters navigating increasingly uncertain and dangerous political waters, and that is probably why the focus on the mundane works so well. Under this kind of regime, where a organization like ACCA works to preserve the status quo and monitor for the slightest change, people who aren’t actively resisting are just trying to live normal lives, whether that means enjoying a smoke or obsessing over food. And it tells us a lot about Jean’s unusual situation that he is able to treat smoking like an everyday activity when, clearly, this is a significant luxury. Sometimes it feels as though Jean is oblivious to the significance of his being able to smoke wherever he wants, whenever he wants. Sure, he’s clueless, but it’s more than stupidity or boredom. It’s as if he has never had to feel unsafe in his life, and maybe that is why he never used to ask questions. Someone seems to have made him feel so secure that even when he discovers that Nino has been watching him, he doesn’t show much concern. He trusts Nino, which is nice and all, but it does seem a bit surprising given the world he lives in.

    Anyway, I don’t know how you guys are keeping so calm between episodes, I am dying to know what happens next!

  9. That calmness for me goes back to not really feeling much emotional connection to what’s happening. I’m interested and curious, but it’s not like I’m on pins and needles between episodes – I’ll find out when I find out.

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