ACCA tells the story of Jean Otus, an inspector who travels the 13 districts of the Kingdom of Dowa, who is about to get drawn into a whole lot of political intrigue. With rumours of a coup gathering momentum, what will Jean do? Probably smoke a cigarette.
I reviewed ACCA week to week so if you are interested in my episodic thoughts click here.
Those of you who followed my week to week reviews, or if you’ve read my overviews on Saturday, you already know, I loved this anime. It was a must watch every week and I couldn’t get enough of it. Watching it, talking to others about it, speculating about where it was all going. So, now that it is finished, what are my thoughts.
Unsurprisingly, I still think ACCA is truly an incredible story. I’ll go into detail later but, after getting to the end and thinking about it, I realise that the audience for ACCA is actually kind of small. The opening act moves almost terminally slow, the information is revealed as necessary during the second act but requires a lot of work on the part of the audience to put together, and by the third act the cards are on the table but for the final twist, which I found immensely satisfying but I can understand that many people out there my wonder what on earth the point of watching the show was.
So, I’m going to explain why I loved ACCA and why it is amazing. But I’ll also not be surprised if you tell me in the comments you dropped this early on, or it didn’t do much for you. This one is definitely a matter of whether you get into it or not, or whether you enjoy stories that slowly give out the details and allow you to fit them together numerous ways before it shows its hand.
First and foremost, the opening theme is perfect. While it isn’t the most striking anime theme music in history and nor does it pack much punch outside of the context of the show it perfectly sets the tone for the anime you are about to watch. Heavily influenced by jazz and yet not particularly fast paced the opening hints at a show that is laid back, just a little bit off-beat, but full of hidden intrigue, and that’s more or less exactly what it delivers. I must admit the opening theme was part of what made me so excited to start each episode.
Secondly, the characters really grabbed me. I know some people will disagree, but I found Jean Otus fascinating from start to finish. He is different from your usual anime protagonist being older, non-violent, no shouting of any sort, not a super genius or particularly amazing at anything, not incompetent, not the focus of a harem, etc, etc. While some may dismiss him as bland, I found him to be a highly nuanced character and a lot of my enjoyment in the earlier episodes came from trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. Later in the series we get more of a look at him and there are moments where full and genuine expressions cross his face, and it all just works perfectly at fleshing out a character who feels very real.
However every character in this series, regardless of screen time (and some of them barely appear in two episodes) manage to feel like an individual. A character crafted with care and attention to detail. They fill the role they are given in the narrative but also add some truth to the world being constructed.
And that brings me to the third reason I loved this series. The small details. Everything in this story has purpose. Whether it is creating a distinction between one district and another, foreshadowing a later plot point, giving a character back story, every single detail is there for a reason. Some obviously carry more weight than others, but nothing is wasted. Even the excessive focus on food (do not watch this show hungry) serves the valuable purpose of clearly identifying districts and later creates links between characters who share a love of a particular type of food.
But my number one reason for loving my watch of ACCA is that at no point did I feel I was being talked down to by the narrative. They allow the audience time to process information and to put it together. Even when information is revealed they don’t feel the need to excessively explain how the new information fits in with the old. They just reveal it and move on expecting that the audience can and will make the connection themself. It’s been a long time since I’ve really found something that didn’t make me feel like they expected my memory was jettisoned every twenty seconds.
All that said, I do have to address a few minor criticisms because no matter how much I loved it there are definitely some criticisms that are needed. Spoilers coming.
The big one that actually really rocked me was after they formally acknowledge (by having a character say it) that Jean was royalty, suddenly every character was just talking about his bloodline like it had been common knowledge from the start. While it did help steer the narrative along it felt like a very sharp turn in the narrative that didn’t get quite enough time to develop.
The other criticism I have is Lotta, Jean’s sister. While she is certainly cute and loves her bread, and she does at times progress plot points, I kind of felt like her removal from the story wouldn’t have harmed it in the least at most points. Okay, they would have needed a different portrait to draw the link between the Otus’ and the royals, and the whole attempted assassination plot probably would have needed to be scrapped but it didn’t serve all that much purpose anyway. The Rail being infatuated by her storyline also could have easily been swept away. That said, if they did that, then a lot of the air time of the series vanishes, so I guess they just needed to do more with her character to make her feel a little bit more needed. At the moment she just kind of feels there.
As I said at the start, I fully understand why this anime won’t appeal to everyone so I won’t tell you that you have to watch it or that I don’t understand why you didn’t like it. However, if you haven’t given it a go and you wouldn’t mind an anime that has a fairly clever story and some great writing, then its worth checking out. I had a blast with this during the 2017 Winter season and I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more shows like it.
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