ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. Episode 5
by Anne Lauenroth,
How would you rate episode 5 of
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. ?
ACCA has been called slow, and while the show is still far from having one plot point chase the next, it's so rich in interesting themes and interactions that I find myself on the edge of my seat listening to Jean's preferences (or lack thereof) in bread, especially since we can now confidently identify these as code for much bigger things to come. It's the small, subtle things that made episode 5 such a delight to watch.
With all the clumsy exposition out of the way, scenes are allowed to unfold naturally, leading to some of the funniest and most melancholic moments ACCA has yet presented us with. Thanks to the excellent direction and effective buildup, the episode's emotional climax – Jean and Nino's confrontation in the snowy woods of Birra – feels dramatic in the absence of anything that usually passes for drama. It only takes one look at Nino's empty eyes (and listening to the lonely piano) after learning of the end to his stint as a spy and bodyguard to convey what his role as Jean's friend and confidant really meant to him. The glasses are off, and it's clear that Nino's intentions were never malicious. It's interesting to see him opting against the full disclosure option his boss explicitly endorses him with – even with his cover blown, he's still trying to protect Jean from having to assume the role that Nino has been tasked with guiding him toward, at least for as long as he can.
The roles people assume in exterior spaces and how these might conflict with their interior worlds are a recurring theme in Natsume Ono's works. By pretending to be a friend, Nino has gained access to Jean's personal life, and in becoming part of this space, he has formed a desire to protect this treasure from the external forces pulling at Jean. Nino might not lose Jean's friendship, but what he does lose is the ability to control and protect him, something Jean wastes no time making clear in all his ostensible indifference.
Nino's fears, Jean's resolve, and the dynamics of their relationship are all present in those three quiet but thrilling minutes in the woods. When Jean walks into the snowy night to confront the friend he spent the previous evening musing about, Nino is waiting for him in the shadows, his glasses hiding his eyes. Identified as an ACCA agent, Nino – still on guard – confirms by showing one eye, the other still obscured. It's only when Jean reaffirms their friendship that tension breaks and, laughing with relief, Nino looks up, both eyes now reflecting the light, before stepping down and out of the shadow to finally meet his friend at eye level. Jean accepts both the drink and Nino's friendship, knowing full well that both of them have not always been genuine and only come in a package with secrets and lies attached. If you write and block a scene like this, you don't have to worry about creating drama; the drama creates itself.
Until now, Jean has spent his time meandering through both the outside world and his own life. He's a spectator, untouchable in his impossibility to read, which in turn has made everyone want to turn him into their agent. Of all the forces pulling at Jean, Lilium has slowly replaced Grossular as the most intriguing (and possibly most dangerous) mover and shaker. It's likely this realization that lets Grossular (who seems less like a bad guy each week) reach out to Jean on their visit to Rokkusu. With Nino trapped at home, we might be in for some exciting revelations, once these two equally unreadable guys start talking to each other. To my great concern, Nino's preview commentary sounded a bit too much like a farewell, curbing my anticipation.
With not one, but two new districts this week, we get to see lovely new background art and color palettes. But something else becomes more obvious than ever; these districts are so vastly different that unification under central rule couldn't possibly work without force, something Birra's more independent-minded officials are just as aware of as Suitsu's coupists. While Jean is still pondering over his transfer prospects once his current audit series is over, the question he should be asking is if there will be anywhere left to transfer within ACCA after accepting a cigarette from each district. The most important aspect of his job has never been reporting back to Mauve or uncovering local corruption and unrest, but seeing the kingdom and its people for what and who they are. This brings us to the place where every path in ACCA leads: bread and pastries.
Lotta's obsession with pastries is just as pronounced as Jean's smoking habit, and the orphaned siblings' preferences matching the king's will surely not be a coincidence. But the importance of food (and bread specifically) goes beyond such conspiracy theories. Omiyage, in particular tasting and bringing home local culinary specialties, are an indispensable part of travelling in Japan, just like in Dōwā. The prince not knowing any types of bread beyond what's available in his little corner of the world shows not only his disinterest in other varieties of his kingdom's national dish, but also in its people. What prompts him to try the bread Magie brings home is his interest in someone he desires for himself, not in the people he longs to rule. Jean, on the other hand, is exposed to all kinds of bread and, through the process of sharing it with others, different views, cultures and desires. His own desire to try a simple local dish is enough to let him break protocol and mingle with the locals in Suitsu. Birra's branch chief has it all wrong when he serves Jean imported beer and bread, incidentally using their meal (and different dishes) to make a political statement of independence and separation, emphasizing how no one would want a cigarette in Birra. Jean wants to try each region's bread, and they all taste equally good to him – a stark contrast to the prince and the episode's most important line of dialogue.
Sharing or not sharing a passion for food is also used to humorous effect – Jean comments on Nino not inviting him to dinner in Birra (where Nino probably wondered if they would ever share a meal again), then uses a fancy dinner with Lotta to trap Nino by forcing him to commit to even more shared meals. The funniest bonding over food, however, is the surprising alliance between Lotta's two stalkers, Rail and Magie. It's their shared appreciation for sandwich bread that makes the truly interesting facts about Lotta available to Magie, a door that would never have opened for the prince in his ignorant little cocoon of hard bread.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Anne is a translator and fiction addict who writes about anime at Floating Words.
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