It’s not often I watch an anime and think, “Who on Earth is this meant for?” but ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. wins the chocolates for that. I bought the series on a whim – in a sale – because it looked and sounded kind of interesting and different… and wasn’t it just? Even as I sit here, trying to compose this blog, I really, truly, don’t understand who’s meant to be the audience for this series.
Broadly, the piece is about a guy called Jean Otus who’s second-in-command of the ACCA inspection agency. Now, ACCA isn’t the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants as some in the UK might assume, but… well, let’s take a step back. Jean lives in the Kingdom of Dowa. This is subdivided into 13 states, each one granted their own autonomy and, I guess to reinforce this point for the viewer, also have a really different look and feel to each another. One might remind you of Arizona, or similar, while another might seem like a cross between Cold War Czechoslovakia and something from the 19th century. It’s quite a mix. Anyway, the public services in these 13 states are controlled by ACCA. So basically ACCA personnel are everywhere and Jean travels around, checking up on them.
It’s actually quite weird; Jean’s always-on-the-road role makes him seem like a low-level sort of functionary, rather than second-in-command of the agency, but I guess it would be even less of a story if he was desk-bound. So let’s stop here for a moment and ask again, who is this for? Are 13 year old girls really into a public servant travelling around, checking up on other public servants? Are 18 year old guys, fresh from watching the latest mecha anime, tuning into this with wonder at what Jean might do this week? Even at my age, I wondered what was keeping me watching, to be honest.
There is, of course, a broader storyline – that a coup might be in the process of being plotted and Jean is suspected of raising support for it because he gets to travel around all the states of Dowa. But frankly it’s so low-key, and Jean’s own disinterested persona and style of speech, leaves you not wondering if he is, or isn’t, planning something… but more why a guy who’s job it is to be on top of things doesn’t seem too worried that, (a) a coup is being planned and, (b) he’s the main suspect.
I think what pulled me through each episode was the art style and the music. The slightly jazzy soundtrack follows the on-screen stuff really well and the art is bright and fresh.
To go back to the characters, I mentioned that Jean talks in a very dull way and seems totally disengaged with the world around him, but is also shown as being smart and able to see through the public servants he’s sent to investigate. That’s kind of interesting… although it’s very hard to root for such a low-energy, bored kind of leading man. Thankfully, the characters around him add some colour – whether it’s his sister (typical, almost slightly hyper anime fare), his co-workers (including a trio of women who wonder what gifts he’ll bring from each road trip), or his best friend… a photographer who’s always mysteriously nearby, even when he’s on the road. Why? That would be telling.
The biggest surprise about ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. is that by the end of the 12 episodes, I still couldn’t tell where I sat with the series. Was it a nice, chill, laid-back sort of story where not much really happens, but that’s OK because it wasn’t trying to be anything more (even though it’s ultimately about a coup)? Or was it a bewildering story where a smart guy walks blindly through state after state which want to overthrow his King and, even when given a massive revelation about it all, he just smokes another cigarette and seems genuinely quite bored at being in his own story?
I guess it was both of those things and thus sits somewhere between the two. It’s a really hard thing to describe and even after writing all of this, no, I still have no idea who the target audience is, which is just gob-smacking to me as most anime is very easy to pick, in terms of audience. This one, not so much. The 12 episodes are easy enough to zip through, so try it if you’re curious to see a bored leading man wander through a fictional Kingdom while a bigger story might, or might not, entirely play out.