In a departure from the mortar-sealed narrative construction we’re used to getting, this week’s ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department (ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka) slows its plot to a sluggish pace. Catching revelations still squeeze out of the text, but the animation doesn’t look particularly good while it happens.
Jean has some time to digest his new position in ACCA’s world. The idea that he’s been rolling through Dowā’s districts, gauging the temperament of each area’s leaders lends itself well to his subdued personality.
His audit in Peshi is probably one of the most tense we’ve seen since his trip to Suitsu, though. This is partially because of the brooding history the district holds over losing a royal princess, but also because at Jean’s prodding, the district chief reveals he knows of and assents to the coup scheme.
Jean’s Peshi audit is one of the most tense we’ve seen
“Peshi district stands with you,” the grey-haired Chief Herring pronounces after Jean probes for his intentions.
When we transition back to the headquarters in Bādon, we learn that the districts supportive of Jean’s succession number in the majority, a fact integral to the success of a potential coup, but at who’s behest? And who will pay the price in the existing power structure?
While this story progression is valuable, it’s brief. Jean’s mellow behaviour isn’t the only thing subdued in this episode.
You’d think that an episode titled “A Graceful Black Adder Bares Its Fangs” that features an assassin getaway plot would be a great opportunity for ACCA to show some more of the action-focussed animation that we saw in the Suitsu revolution episode four. Instead, we’re treated to a whole lot of walking, and a little bit of elevator riding.
Several of the cuts here borrow from the familiar and engaging cinematic tropes of spy movies, but the supporting action for that tension never comes together in a meaningful way. The trench coat-wearing assassins chasing Lotta are mostly out of sight, and Rail’s serendipitous escort of her thanks to a tip from Maggie is practically a leisurely date.
Even when the assassins dispatched from prince Schwann’s aunt finally collide with Lotta, they only apprehend her. If their job is to eliminate a current royal succession threat, their passivity is a massive failing.
The motivations for Schwann’s aunt are also unclear. As a character that was only introduced last week, the show seem to skip a step in explaining her actions. This is one of the first times we’ve seen ACCA cross the line between effective teasing and frustratingly unclear provocation. If the anime hadn’t already posted an excellent record of connecting loose threads, I’d want to dismiss this one entirely.
ACCA crosses the line between effective teasing and frustratingly unclear provocation this week
Several of those good writing elements are still in place this episode. Lotta’s true blonde saviour comes in the form of Oulu. While she’s quietly riding in a car, held hostage by the assassins, he doesn’t appear as deus ex machina here. Jean told Oulu to look out for his sister before he left on the Peshi audit, so we expect him to appear.
He’s no deity appearing out of thin air to save the day. Oulu is a character with knowledge and power that can get the special forces temporarily off Lotta’s case. Perhaps this was yet another wise anticipation from Jean. The smarts are there. It was just far more boring to look at than previous episodes.
Without the active animation, trying to read some of the characters reactions can be fatiguing at times as well. Lotta takes her royal discovery in stride similarly to Jean. The way they both behave still has me thinking that somehow they already knew the truth, but it’s hard to say.
The reactions from almost every character in this show are measured and considered. Most characters know there are political stakes at play, but Lotta perspective until now shouldn’t have had her clued-in to her own significance. As a result, her calm decision to keep her new knowledge a secret surprised me quite a bit.
Lotta’s lightly animated escape is visually disappointing
The bulk of this ACCA episode hinges on Lotta’s lightly animated escape from those royal agents, which does little to clear up the intentions of Schwann’s aunt. We know she has an agenda, but the real moment of clarity comes towards the very end of the episode.
Grossular’s intentions come through in a long talking head sequence with the five chief officers. Like the rest of the episode, this sequence is far from interesting to look at, but the content of their discussion is at least intriguing.
What’s more, the subsequent conspiratorial meeting with Lillium is one that comes as climax that’s at least satisfactory relative to the rest of the episode. The display of control he makes at the very end wasn’t far off the par of other ‘oh shit’ moments in ACCA. A literal and figurative power grab, we learn who really holds the cards in ACCA’s scheme.
One shining stylistic beacon in this episode is the glimpse that we get of another ACCA district, Yakkara. Basically the Vegas equivalent in ACCA, it provides much of the stylistic relief to propel the second half of this episode through to the end.
Jazzy saxophone figures play over a light rhythm section in legato, syncopated lines, and the neon lights emblazoned on every inch of Yakkara signage evoke the direct comparison to our real world counterpart.
A glimpse at another ACCA district is a shining beacon
ACCA still makes things its own, though. The district officer who welcomes Jean happily plays with a gold token with the Dowā crest on one side, and an acca bird engraved on the other.
It really is a testament to the show’s overall production, that an episode with such little visual movement can still be so compelling.