ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department (ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka) pushes forward this week by thickening its plot and introducing new characters. And despite some less focussed plot lines that close the episode, its great directing maintains the distinct mystery tone its already established.
Seeing Jean smitten in the beginning seems curious given the militaristic context of his interactions so far, but the very personal diner invitation Mauve extends sets him a flutter and incites him to curl up into a ball of embarrassment. He can’t believe he has the chance to see Mauve in an evening gown. At least, that’s the front he’s presenting. Even if Mauve’s outward motivations are to get help with the coup investigation that her bosses suspended.
Nino’s ribbing suggests that Jean may honestly have a thing for Mauve, and in conversation with Jean’s sister, Lotta, he frames it as the reason for Jeans refusal to leave the job he dislikes. But here, just like last week, Nino’s lines are delivered with glasses-removal and CSI-Horatio decorum. It suggests he know’s the real reason Jean won’t quit, assuming such a reason — like staging a coup, for example — exists.
It’s easy to believe. Nino is proving quite the spy. Operating undercover as Crow when he’s being directed by ACCA’s top dogs, he reports that Jean will probably receive another pair of sequential cigarettes soon. While it was easy to overlook the brown-coloured smoke as a friendly business gift in episode two, the recurrence of the white envelope and red wax seal in this episode solidifies the tobacco handout as a key plot element. It’s never explicit, as the second cigarette is never actually shown inside the envelope that arrives for Jean when he’s out to dinner with Mauve, but the deduction is suggested as Nino takes notice. It’s a great combination of show and tell.
It all starts with the eyes in ACCA suspenseful dialogue
It all starts with the eyes in ACCA. As it’s appeared in every episode so far, I’m going to credit series Director Natsume Shingo with the expert leading. Characters in ACCA plot their emotions and speech with their eyes, often even before their head. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s a big part of why the mystery tone of the show resonates so well, and it often happens mid dialogue too. For all the momentary blubbering that Jean displays in front of Mauve, when she poses her request, he regains his composure and usual ambivalent demeanour almost immediately.
And when all the show’s major players convene in the Kingdom’s capital for the prince’s coming of age ceremony at the Dōwā palace, his flippant indifference is especially distinct. Jean asks to step out for a smoke at the palace, and Prince Schwan (voiced by Miyano Mamoru) ridicules his boldness. The kingdom’s privy council reportedly placed restrictions on tobacco in the past out of “concern” for the King’s smoking habit. With the conspiratorial flair ACCA kicks around, I have to wonder if even that policy was a potential subversion, years in the making, decreed by the privy council’s president, a suspicious righthand man to the King.
Finally meeting the monarchs of ACCA’s world is nice. Considering the sidelong glances every character shoots in this show, suspecting a coup d’etat. It’s a natural time for the introduction. The rumours have spread, and Jean strikes a solitary figure in several palace shots of the party with all eyes leering over shoulders towards him. Word is he’s the one plotting the coup, and the social isolation in these scenes does its damnedest to make us believe that possibility.
ACCA healthily plays with tension here. It doesn’t beat us over the head with possibilities, but it has its character ask the questions that put those possibilities in our mind. Why assemble every major leader of the kingdom in one place? Why do it if the sitting King isn’t abdicating his seat to his heir? For the several minutes following the Schwan’s abrupt coming of age ceremony, the questioning gazes take on dangerous potential. When Jean asks to go outside for a smoke, we wonder if something going to happen to those who stay inside. The quiet suspense is furthered with every scene like this.
If crucial pieces aren’t found the audience will move on
ACCA succeeds at planting pieces of info with its subtle direction, and thanks to the mysterious tone it established over these first three episodes, we feel compelled to pay attention to the little things like what kind of dessert the king prefers, or the standard colour of the cigarette papers in circulation. These items are deliberately tied to multi-part cuts showing the character’s glances and actions towards them.
On that note, I find it a little odd that we never actually see or hear Nino’s camera shutter going off. Could that be over analyzing? Absolutely — but thanks to the organic exposition developed in the first two episodes, trying to understand the puzzle pieces we’re presented is a natural response.
It’s difficult to say just how complicated the puzzle is right now, though. Are we grabbing the edge-pieces of a 2D children’s jigsaw in the shape of a cute acca bird, or are we laying the foundation for a 1000-piece 3D foam model castle as grand as the one in Dōwā’s capital? ACCA is trying to fit together the pieces for the latter, and it’s a lot of fun so far.
However, with its intentionally slow pacing and a weaker, wide-open conclusion to this episode, it presents a potential concern. When puzzle model solvers can’t find a crucial piece — the keystone of the castle archway entrance, or a supporting chain that lowers the drawbridge, for example — many will get frustrated, move on, and the castle will crumble to ruin.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department is still brimming with potential, and most importantly right now, it’s doing it with a defined style that’s stringing us along for the ride. There are no diversions in the plot, and every scene feels important, like it has a place within a grander scheme we don’t know the details of.