Yes, anime Winter season 2017 has come to its end, so it's time to review some Winter anime now that they've completed. Last Sunday I already gave my review on Koro-Sensei Quest, now we have ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department.
Why these two first? Because the disappointments are easier to vent my frustrations into. Anyway, let's get this show on the road
V Reviews: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Mangaka Natsume Ono is born in 1977 and started off doing her regular job (never told what), while writing some fan-manga as a hobby (*cough*Boys Love doujins*cough*). This under the moniker "basso".
But after a trip to Europe in the early 2000s, she was swayed by the way how European comics are made (especially the Italian comic series Corto Maltese) and wanted to integrate that look-and-feel into her own manga.
Not too long after that trip, she quit her regular job and has been focusing on creating manga. And she's been quite successful at that. Some of her stories are short-lived, while others have become a big success. Previous hits of her were Ristorante Paradiso (2005-2009, anime in 2009), House of Five Leaves (2006-2010, anime in 2010), Futagashira (2011-today, Live Action drama running since 2015) and now also ACCA (2013-2016, anime in 2017).
Most of her manga appear in a monthly form in different monthly magazines. In the case of ACCA, this series was published in Square Enix' Monthly Big Gangan magazine (huh, didn't knew Square had its own manga magazine). And in Winter 2016-2017 Madhouse made sure to give a proper adaptation of the manga.
If you want to follow what Ms. Ono has to say, you can follow her on twitter @ono_n_info
Also, on a side-note: watch this short documentary/interview with her on the creation of ACCA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikN8WxeL3KY
And no, this is not the only YouTube video featuring her. While many mangaka are camera-shy, Natsume apparently has been filmed a few times over the past few years, even while doing her drawings. So search around, you may find a few more video's of her.
The story takes place in the fictional kingdom of Dowa, which is split into 13 different states who have their own level of autonomy and somehow looks like a peace dove giving a shit.
While there is a royal family that "controls" the country in a peaceful matter, it is mostly up to ACCA to uphold the actual peace. ACCA is thus nothing more than a police force of sorts. And FYI: No, ACCA is no abbreviation. It's the name of the species of bird that is the shape of the country, as well as the countries' national bird (who went extinct, sadly enough).
Our main character Jean is part of the inspection division of ACCA, occupied with inspecting all different states. Over the course of the anime, Jean visits each of these states for an inspection. And while we visit each of these states, we also get a glimpse on the daily life of Jean, his best friend Nino and Jean's sister Lotta.
But while Jean goes on his daily job, there's the consistent rumor that a coup d'état is going to happen and Jean is somehow involved in this. And everybody seems to be aware of this, except Jean.
We're lead on a wild goose chase where nothing is as it seems...
Lots of different characters, including the Five Chief officers of ACCA, the Inspection department itself, other ACCA members, the members of the Dowa Kingdom court and obviously also our three main characters.
|Jean Otus: Main character. Chain smoker in a country and time where cigarettes are considered a luxury product. He and his sister are orphaned at a young age, but are able to keep their lives by also maintaining a big apartment complex (though we're never actually shown if he does something about that building). He has a constant look of being uninterested in everything (though that's a recurring thing in Ono's characters), but is intelligent and very much loves peace.|
|Nino: Best friend of Jean who shows himself to be a freelance reporter and photographer. But next to that, he has a lot of shadowy side-jobs which may put him on opposite sides of his friend.|
|Lotta Otus: Jean's sister who loves bread, cake and motherf**king tea. She's innocent and aloof and is mostly either ignorant or just not knowledgeable of everything happening around her. And that may be for the better...|
This is Studio Madhouse. They have a solid track record of animation, thus there's not much you can critique about it. The studio is able to upkeep the specific art-style of Natsume Ono and goes all the way with it. Although...
If I may nitpick a bit. There's a bit of quality loss from time to time, especially in the last episode. While it had been an artistic choice in this anime to not draw eyes when a character is thinking hard about something, or is trying to hide something... there's still a difference to a handful of characters without eyes, and a complete lack of any facial expression whatsoever. Sometimes the characters thus turn into almost unrecognizable blobs. Though again, it's really only noticeable in the final episode.
Best Soundtrack of the Winter season, without a doubt. The opening theme ("Shadow and Truth" by ONE III NOTES) is one of the better opening songs I've heard this year (though that's not saying much considering it's still April). And the entirety of the Soundtrack is jazzy and smooth. It's really chill to listen to.
So what's wrong with it?
Let's get this out of the way. ACCA has INCREDIBLE world building and character designs. For a series of only 12 episodes, this is very exceptional. Heck, even for longer running series it's exceptional for the world to be this detailed. Every single state has its own look-and-feel. Its inhabitants are its own people with its own motivations. And since Jean visits every single state, you get to experience it in some way. And it's all very well done, both with general design and its people.
But... the story that takes place in this amazing environment is boring.
EVERYTHING that this story sets up to do ends with a sizzle. At the end, nothing exciting has happened. And even the few red herrings the show tries to keep in front of us, ends up being nothing too interesting. And that's a crying shame.
Throughout this series there are several plot twists that make you think: "Oh, that suddenly makes this anime more interesting". But each time you got your hopes up that the series will reveal itself to be something amazing, the plot thread ends on a low note, and Jean continues to visit another state instead, bringing some cake or bread home.
And that's all that really happens! They eat bread and cake; they go out to have a drink and visit some people in their state. Anything you assume is going to happen is of 0 importance to the rest of the story. If you have any hopes of this turning into an action series, a political thriller or even a regular drama... you're at the wrong address. Because NOTHING HAPPENS!
And while in some series I wouldn't mind that nothing really happens (see my upcoming review of Dragonmaid for that), in this setting it's really really BAD that nothing happens. Mostly because the world building is so well done, because all the characters are so well developed and because the story is so well started. Because of all this it's so sad that nothing is really done with it.
After watching the last episode I was just yelling out loud: "Can somebody take this story away from its creator and do something good with it?" Everything is there to make a good story! To either make an exciting political thriller, or a character driver drama! Just DO SOMETHING WITH IT! Don't waste it all this amazing potential with this waste of a story!
Yes, I'll admit. The "plot twist" in the last episode (not spoiling it) is something that is normally not done in anime, nor in fiction in general. And this is thus a VERY unique approach in storytelling... But it's with a good reason that nobody does this kind of twist. It's just boring to watch/experience.
Personal Enjoyment and Opinion
As you may have noticed from this "little rant", I have issues with this anime. I wanted to enjoy it. But each time I invested my time in the story, I was let down because nothing really happens in the end. And I've been let down a little too much in this story.
So I give this anime a 6/10. It's not bad, but the story is forgettable and sometimes even infuriating to watch. Too much story potential goes to waste for it to be really good or memorable.
Recommendation: Skip it. Even if you do bother watching it, you're going to forget about it a little too fast.
Until next time, V out.
And yes: Next time will be more positive again.