Anime based on the manga of Ono Natsume tend to carry a very subdued mood. In contrast to the racy elegance of Ristorante Paradiso or the eerie hum of House of Five Leaves, ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. feels colorful and energetic while also carrying Ono’s characteristic stylishness.
Living in the kingdom of Dowa, an island nation consisting of 13 districts formerly at war with each other, Jean Otus works for ACCA, an organization underneath the king meant to keep the peace and mitigate corruption. Although daily life for Jean is fairly uneventful, he finds himself slowly learning about a potential conspiracy that might just undo Dowa’s peace.
ACCA is a very sleek, yet indulgent and fun show. Its characters feel like they’re cut from rare and valuable gems, with their colorful hair, fashionable clothes, and sharp silhouettes, further enhanced by the political intrigue that permeates their actions. But for every dramatic and tense moment, there are just as many emphasizing the relaxed and at times goofy attitudes of much of its cast. Seriousness and frivolity dance back and forth, with neither feeling trivialized or unwelcome.
One of the major positives of ACCA is its loving portrayal of food, particularly snacks and sweets. Throughout the series, baked goods are featured in both the background and foreground, acting variably as treats for the viewer to jealously eye, a way to highlight the differences between different regions of the island, and even as symbols of friendships that advance the narrative forward. Cakes, donuts, and even giant strawberries are among the many delectable items whose portrayals keep ACCA consistently fun and refreshing.
Aside from the food, what impresses me most about ACCA is that the series is quite unpredictable without feeling like it’s trying to constantly swerve the audience. Even Jean himself feels like a mystery at the beginning of the series, and the gradual reveal of his personality and goals is actually immensely satisfying. Motivations are kept close to each of the characters’ chests, but just enough information is given from episode to episode to keep igniting imaginations.
Of all the eclectic characters in this series, my favorite is Mauve, the director-general of ACCA who tasks Jean with trying to get to the bottom of coup d’etat rumors. Mauve’s stoic beauty and intelligence carry a kind of alluring yet intimidating air of mystery, and Jean’s own crush on her feels that much more relatable as a result.
In a way, ACCA feels like eating the world’s best strawberry shortcake. It’s smart and complex, yet also light and comforting. Its atmosphere is unique even among Ono’s works, making ACCA a success on nearly all levels.