In a second consecutive slow-paced episode, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department (ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka) delivers its reveals with little gusto, amid unneeded distractions, and by dodging some of the biggest questions.
Questions like what’s the significance of Jean’s cigarette exchanges? Call me crazy or obsessive, but one of the very first lines of introduction we get about Jean in episode one is Lotta reminding him not to forget his trademark cigarette case. She calls him, “Jean the tobacco peddler.”
Her line is delivered off camera in an aside tone, and it has stuck with me throughout every episode of the show. In all but one flashback episode, cigarettes appear prominently in the subtext of multiple scenes. Jean is far too relaxed a character to need cigarettes to unwind, so I suspect there’s still a giant secret ACCA has left to unveil, and honestly, I hope it leverages its techniques from its past successes to get to the point more quickly than it has in these last two episodes.
Jeans cigarette case remains an enigma in ACCA
ACCA follows up on the final moments from last week with some grayscale flashbacks to supplemental conversations between Lilium and Grossular that occurred just outside of cuts from earlier in the season. They reveal that Lilium has been plotting an orchestrated department wide coup for weeks, if not longer. And as Gorssular droops into the place as a manipulated pawn, it’s explicitly clear that Lillium’s motivations aren’t as noble as they once seemed.
The clever intrigue that defines ACCA makes these moments pleasant, but this episode again struggles to convey any real sense of excitement or urgency to the proceedings with its animation. Lilliums eyes are obscured as he delivers several of his lines — a significant departure from the frontal, side-long gaze we usually see from him — but his cocktail discussions with his brother is static and clear, especially when he declares things like “This nation has begun to move as our family desires.”
The buildup makes these reveals meaningful, but the actual execution might have unfortunately been even more exciting if Lillium just held up a sign that read, “I’m the bad guy, and so is my family.”
The flashback sequences and some further reflections on how Lillium, Grossular, and even Mauve perceived ACCA when they rose to power are dramatically staged, and slightly more telling. They’re delivered well enough visually, but the most effective parts still involve mostly stagnant images. One particular tableau shows rows of ACCA officers in uniform from each district. At least this highlights the breadth of cultural diversity that ACCA has covered.
ACCA tells more than I wish it showed with nuance
Abend’s reappearance as a masked figure working the phones and his agents to keep tabs on Jean is an example of ACCA’s slow-moving style used propperly. In the same way, Nino’s auspicious absence since he revealed his past to Jean is effective because of what we don’t see. When ACCA decides to tell us something plainly, I wish it showed a bit of the exciting nuance it used in the past.
Even its resting moments this week seem a little off. Questions about Nino’s movements are far more engaging than a side character’s crush on a female lead, so it seems odd that ACCA would take time away from what should be its rising action to focus on tangential details like Rail’s affections.
It seems unlikely that his effect on the critical plot will be any more pronounced than his effort to save Lotta last week. Yet, in a coy display of knowledge and social power by side characters Kelly, Moz and Atoli, Rail’s unscrupulous practices as a police officer and his chances at a date with Lotta are explored. Maybe it was an attempt at adding levity into this otherwise stark episode, but if so, it missed the mark and felt like an unneeded distraction.
This is especially true as we see Jean still traipsing between districts with his noncommittal demeanour. As an officer from the Pranetta district pleads for a better, brighter future for her people under Jean’s insurgence, she asks what he’ll do.
“I wonder,” he replies, after taking a drag from his cigarette.
Dangling statement like that still draw you in, but they’ve lost some of their lustre now that we can see where ACCA’s conflict is heading. Maybe Jean really doesn’t know what he’ll do next, and his tour of the hopeful-yet-poor Pranetta mining district offered just as much valuable cultural context as any other episode in the show, but it all feels too slow paced for the course that ACCA has set. If Jean has a card to play, I would have preferred a bigger hint of it here.
That’s because the main players of the show are busily at work. “End them without fail,” the eldest female monarch spits at her agents, coaching them to eliminate Jean and Lotta without error this time. Meanwhile, the King has fallen ill, sending several ACCA agencies into a tizzy. So when Jean travels to Furawau (Lilium’s home district and one of the last he’s likely to audit) and he’s greeted with fulsome and off-putting salutations, it sets the stage for a big clash.
In Nino’s total absence, Jean delivers the preview, and in doing so, the title “Furawau’s flowers smell of malice” takes on a clear meaning that promises ACCA’s superb writing will likely continue to take our minds to exciting places — even when its animation and delivery won’t.