ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Episodes 1-2

by Anne Lauenroth,

How would you rate episode 1 of
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. ?

Jean Otus is the vice-chairman of ACCA's inspection department. He excels at a job he himself considers obsolete and looks really good lounging around, casually leaning against walls in his coat or scratching his neck in bored bemusement. He's also on his way to being framed for a plot to overthrow the government by his best and oldest friend, which is likely going to make his life a lot more interesting than he could have hoped for.

Last season, we got a wonderful little human love story in The Great Passage (although most people unfortunately couldn't watch it), which doubled as a passionate declaration of love for words and proved that even the most mundane setting can give birth to good anime. When ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. came along as "that show about old people doing boring bureaucracy stuff", it probably needed 100% of its promising staff pedigree to generate curiosity. Based on a manga by Natsume Ono, ACCA's style is immediately unique, with Ono's trademark droopy-eyed character designs (albeit more streamlined and slightly less droopy than they were in the House of Five Leaves anime) that allow for wonderfully subtle and powerful facial expressions. The characters' expressiveness makes up for an animation effort that can feel limited at times, but even more so, it's the world they inhabit that tells the story.

Every place in ACCA feels lived in, every store and restaurant (of which there are plenty) like a spot you could simply walk into on a whim, joining the characters for a quick bite, smelling the goods and running a hand over the furniture. This tangibility comes partly from the beautiful lighting and colors, as well as a jazzy soundtrack whose rich instrumentation paints distinct pictures for different moods and venues. But mostly, it's thanks to the time dedicated to seemingly minor things in an almost bureaucratic way. Who shops where for lunch, what are the local culinary specialties of any given ward, all these little details create a fantastic sense of place, enabling us to take part in Jean's everyday experiences, feel the wind with him on the rooftop of his building or the soft evening breeze on a hill overlooking the rural district of Famasu. It's an unusually tangible world, and the plot has also become more tangible with the second episode. At least we have an inkling of its possible general direction now.

After a first episode that mostly served to ease us into the mechanisms and atmosphere of this world via its aforementioned strengths and some very on-the-nose expository monologuing, episode two opens up a bureaucrat's lifetime supply of conflicting and nebulous loyalties, with future betrayals and coup d'états both suspected and unexpected waiting in the wings. Between chief officer Grossular, whose name and character design scream sketchy at first sight, director-general Mauve, who might or might not become an ally of Jean's over shared bread, and Nino, Jean's reporter-by-day, undercover-agent-by-night "friend", there are already three powerful candidates in place to shake Jean's peaceful life as well as the world at large. That's not to mention the possible consequences of the distrust and competition among the five chief officers, the loose cannon that is rookie officer Rail, the recent series of arson incidents, or the intriguing enigma of Jean himself. And we haven't even met the royal family yet! Judging by their presence in the (wonderfully stylish) OP as well as the crown prince's casting, we're far from having met all the major players in what might turn into more of a political thriller than all this cake eating would suggest. Of all these future conflicts, the personal one between Jean and Nino is easily the most promising, even though there are too many open questions for me to speculate on Nino's agenda or true loyalties at this point.

ACCA's plot continues to move at a very slow pace that will hopefully not alienate all of its potential viewers when it's not even halfway through the set-up. With the manga already completed, I'm just going to place my optimistic trust in Tomohiro Suzuki and Shingo Natsume having a clear road map of when this lovely setup period will transition into whatever intrigue will unravel the false peace of the Dowa kingdom. At 99 years of age, the current king will not be around forever to hold his great-grandfather's legacy together, and every power vacuum is bound to be filled by several competing actors, from wannabe revolutionaries to the nation's own intelligence agency. ACCA could either die along with its kingdom's monarch or turn into the full-blown police state it seems to have avoided being seen as out in the open - until now.

One thing's for certain: something is about to happen in this peaceful world, and I'm very intrigued to find out what and why.

Rating: B+

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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