Slow-paced political machinations have never looked so… animated.
By
6 Mar 2017 - 11:19 AM  UPDATED 6 Mar 2017 - 11:21 AM

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept is the House of Cards of anime.

A slow-burn drama that is centred around the bureaucracy of the kingdom of Dowa – a kingdom divided into 13 states. Each state is granted their own autonomy but ruled by a single monarch, and the political machinations of key figures within the government organisation known as ACCA.

Based on a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, Madhouse began airing an adaptation this year.

If that sounds dry, well… It kind of is. But if you have the patience to stick with this reserved drama – even when it doesn’t feel like much is happening – there is a payoff. You are slowly drawn into the story, and then suddenly you’ve watched six episodes in one night. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

The stoic chain-smoker Jean Otus (voiced by Hiro Shimono) is second-in-command of the ACCA inspection agency; a branch of the government organisation that monitors all the other task-forces.

When the series begins, he is given a mission by the five powerful ACCA Chief Officers to investigate each district in Dowa for evidence of a coup. Although it soon becomes clear that Chief Officer Grossular (voiced by Junichi Suwabe) suspects Otus of being a coup sympathiser himself.

Jean Otus seems to be uninterested in politics, or at least, he feigns indifference. But soon he, his younger sister Lotta (Aoi Yūki) and his childhood friend Nino (Kenjiro Tsuda) are deeply embroiled with the political future of the kingdom. The 13 districts are teetering on the edge between collapse and reformation, and Jean Otus is somehow at the centre of it all.

Each episode moves between the districts, and provides a subplot specific to that location. But it’s the overarching plot and political intrigue that will hook viewers who are prepared to give this show their full attention.  

Perhaps what makes this show so quietly engaging is the ambiguity of the character motivations. Hell, I’m still not entirely convinced that Jean Otus isn’t planning a coup of some description, even though we’re supposed to be on his side. After spending eight episodes with the characters (so far), I can still be surprised by what they do, yet their actions are never out of character.

In a world where all of the characters’ diets seem to subsist entirely of cake and chocolates (with cigarettes thrown in for good measure), it’s hard to see why anyone could be bothered to plan a coup. But the series does show the socio-economic differences between each district.

Each autonomous state is so completely different from the next that it’s a little laughable they belong to the same kingdom or geographical region. Although, as long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you’ll be able to enjoy the novelty of Jean Otus’ visits to the ‘Amish district’ or the ‘Eskimo district’. (Those are my words, not ACCA’s.)

This anime won’t be for everyone. The deliberate pace is likely to put off some viewers, and the art is exceedingly simple and clean. You certainly wouldn’t be watching ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept for its bombastic animation of well-choreographed action sequences. Although it does have a nice, jazzy soundtrack.

But despite its ponderous pace, there is something immensely captivating about this political drama. Hopefully ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept realises its potential before the audience loses interest.

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Follow Melissa Wellham on Twitter and Instagram at @melissawellham. 

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