Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here, coming at you with another anime review. I’m going to be trying a new review format today. If you like the way this one is laid out, please let me know. I’m trying to improve upon my standard formula, and want to know your opinion. Today, I’ll be reviewing ACCA 13.
- Anime: ACCA 13
- Genres: Drama, politics, thriller, economics
- Episodes: 12 and an OVA
- Target Demographic: Seinen (18–30 year old audience)
- Studio: Madhouse
- Director: Shingo Natsume
- Other Media: Yes.
- Manga written by Natsume Ono: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept
- Manga written by Natsume Ono: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. P.S.
The anime takes place in Dowa, a kingdom subdivided into 13 states. Each one acts under their own autonomy and influence. To help facilitate the governance of this kingdom, an organization known as ACCA helps to maintain peace.
I neither love nor hate this series, but I do think it stands as a solid viewing experience for the genre and themes the anime presents. If you need something else to watch between your typical seasonal line-up, ACCA 13 is a decent choice. What it lacks in heart pounding action sequences, it more than makes up for that, offering mind-games and political intrigue.
The anime is a technical marvel, made a spectacle for the small and intricate details embedded into every fiber of the series. Instead of large bombastic moments, this anime offers you a much more down-to-earth narrative and satisfying character development.
If you’re looking for something thoughtful to sink your teeth into, you’ll like this anime. If you want action, suspense, and mindlessness, look elsewhere… this is not a shoot-em-up, and victories don’t come at the hand of overpowered lead characters with more ego than good sense.
Mind you, ACCA 13 is a very high-brow anime, suffused with socioeconomic issues, cultural questions, politics and policy at every turn. This is not what I call a “popcorn anime”. You’ll get the most out of the series if you’re willing to take your time and savor the episodes slowly. I do not suggest trying to binge-watch it.
The main protagonist is Jean the “cigarette peddler”, as he’s so often called. This guy always seems to get into trouble despite his best efforts. It’s not usually his fault, either. He tries his best to keep a low profile, going about his day without getting mixed up in problems that he shouldn’t. It’s just that his best laid plans don’t always work the way he might like. For him, another headache is just another day of work.
As the deputy chief of the “territory inspection division”, a subbranch of ACCA, he has his work cut out for him. As the story begins, all he really wants to do is finish the state inspections he’s been saddled with and find a suitable replacement to take his job. He’s tired of the workday grind, and nearly ambivalent about his daily tasks.
All he wants to do is take a quiet position somewhere else, literally almost anywhere else. He’s done with all of the hassle that his position demands of him. Unfortunately, there are murmurs circling around reguarding a coup d’etat, and once again Jean is dragged into countless details he never even wanted to be bothered with in the first place.
By and large, this is your typical cloak and dagger sort of anime. Think big crime and spy syndicates, wrapped up nicely in a political thriller coat of paint. Anime like ACCA 13 can be hard to find, and I think that stands as a very good reason why the hype for this anime was so all-consuming when it was first released.
This is a Madhouse production. You can see that within every detail of the animation. None of the anime feels low quality, and everything looks absolutely gorgeous. With openings and endings that remind me of Burst Angel and Psycho-Pass, there’s just a lot to like here. The entire series carries a sort of European flair, represented in the backdrops surrounding the characters. Meanwhile, the character designs themselves remain striking and distinctive amidst their eye-catching environment.
The sound design and music remains pleasing to the ear, and often fitting for the scenes they’re playing beneath. That being said, I wouldn’t say that the entire soundtrack is memorable, only that it’s entirely serviceable. Really, that’s all we need, so that’s just fine. As long as it remains consistently solid across the series, and it does, that’s all I truly care about.
While the overall tone of ACCA 13 lacks the heart pounding action I might expect, it favors a subdued narrative experience. Honestly, this series doesn’t feel like an anime at all.
For that reason, I’d highly suggest it to anyone looking for a show to offer to a non-anime fan. It’s a lot like Bartender and Space Brothers. You could show it to a complete anime novice, and they probably wouldn’t hate the show based upon the fact it’s animation alone.
There’s a pervasive natural quality to the characters and their actions. A true grounded focus relies upon even the small details. That grounded focus helps to uplift the sometimes dry moments that crop up from time to time. The show would be lost without it.
From the way smoke wafts from around the characters, to the way some characters act, there’s a fully realized weight to the physics in the show. Some of them even stumble on occasion, or fidget where they stand in casual little ways… all of this adds context to the wider show.
I’d go so far as to say almost everything in this series comes from a casual lens. The voice acting is often delivered with a relaxed bent to it, using matter-of-fact bluntness to cut through thematic hypocrisy and droll diatribes like a knife through warm butter.
Characters don’t make obscene noises, cry out, or even raise their voice idiotically in the entire series. So many characters, Jean included, just don’t give a rats ass about propriety beyond a certain point. There’s a near fatalistic overtone and resigned undertone that continually seeps into the entire series. That’s what makes ACCA 13 so interesting to watch, and why many believe it to be so damn good.
I’ll say this, ACCA 13 is best enjoyed by anime fans who crave attention to detail. Nine times out of ten, I found myself much more interested in what the characters themselves were doing, rather than the wider story. That’s due to how wonderful the animation is.
Then again, it all seems natural, these don’t feel like anime characters. They feel like real breathing people. Even at mealtime, something we see in anime all the time, these scenes feel exactly as it should. The characters simply grab a meal, with absolutely no pretense to get in the way.
The real-world feel of the series drifts all the way down to socioeconomic questions. The values and cultures within each of the 13 separate states are distinctive enough to feel believable, same as the issues plaguing them. Sometimes there is no “right” answer, only a “less horrible” answer. Altruism is not closely at hand in the series, even when some of the characters would like it to be.
That being said, you’re free to draw your own conclusions. This isn’t an anime that focuses too heavily on the concept of moral high-ground. Jean typically spits in the fact of that, anyway. He just isn’t the type of character to smack the viewer over the head with any particular message one way or the other… then again, the wider ethos provided by Jean is a simple one.
A good drink in hand, a friend by his side, and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth is his ideal of a “happy place”. Anything beyond that, and he’s going to wonder why he should be brought to care beyond simple surface level concern… and that’s not to say he enjoys watching the world burn around him. Only that he’d rather not mess around with problems that don’t directly concern him.
He can’t simply fix the entire would, after all, why try?
There’s an honesty here, all the way through to the end, and it’s never unbelievable. It never gets taken to the climatic expected conclusion. Rather the subdued anime gives us a subdued ending, no blood spilled, no hands unrelentingly left dirty, all of it handled tactfully. Perfectionism has no place. It’s overrated entirely to everyone viewers have connected with, and these characters go on with their lives displaying that.
All in all, ACCA 13 is by far and away one of the most interesting series I’ve ever seen when it comes to displaying characters upon the screen, cramming them together just to see what they do within the political sphere.
I don’t love it, I don’t hate it. The series has its flaws. It’s witty in many places, but dry wit doesn’t always make for the most compelling story. The characters and stellar animation were the main reasons I enjoyed it. Then again, I meant what I said above.
It’s a solid decision for anyone who wants thoughtful maturity layered within the anime they watch. These characters are adults, they think and act like adults, treating the wider world with the required gravitas when they need to.
This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.
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