ACCA – 13 TERRITORY INSPECTION DEPT.
Genre: mystery, drama, espionage, slice of life, fantasy, seinen
Original year of broadcast: 2017
Director: Shingo Natsume
Writer: Natsume Ono (manga) Tomohiro Suzuki (series composition and script writing)
Number of episodes: 12
Runtime per episode: 24 mins
STORY AND CHARACTERS
Long before I got into anime, my first introduction to media, aimed at an older audience, was the detective genre. Shows, generally from the UK, which saw, a usually rather eccentric, copper trying to solve murders most foul. And it gave me a lifelong fondness for mystery series. Series that will keep you guessing from beginning to end about what will happen next and what’s behind it all. In anime, unfortunately, mystery shows are few and far between, which is why I’m always elated when a mystery anime does come along. Of course, not every mystery anime is quite the powerhouse I would like it to be and as much as I love to watch a great mystery anime, bad mystery anime can infuriate me to no end. A good mystery will have you reeling in your seat when the big reveal comes. A bad mystery anime on the other hand just makes you feel like you wasted your time.
And this brings us to today’s review of Acca- 13 Territory Inspection Dept. A mystery anime that only just concluded. And yes, the mystery was solved at the end. But was it a grand reveal, or just a waste of time? Let’s find out.
The series follows a young man named Jean Otus who’s second in command of the Acca inspection agency. So, what is Acca? Well…in short, the fictitious country of Dowa in which the show takes place has been divided into thirteen territories and each territory has its own branch of security forces. These branches together form Acca. It is Otus and the inspection agency’s job to make sure each branch performs their duties and nothing happens in any of the territories that would fall outside Dowa law. Think of it as the internal affairs department of Acca.
One day Otus gets the order to investigate rumors of a possible coup to overthrow the royal family. Little does he realize at that point that he has gotten himself into a heap of trouble. As he quickly finds out, not only are these rumors true but the more he investigates, the more he begins to realize that the conspiracy reaches all the way to the highest echelons of power and right at his own doorstep: Acca itself. And the deeper he digs the more he begins to realize…he himself is at the center of it all.
Acca can be considered a mystery series in the classic mold of a mystery series. It starts with a setup of what the mystery actually is…then there’s a lot of investigating and finally, the big reveal. But much like a classic mystery series, it’s not incredibly intense or edge of your seat suspenseful. This isn’t a show like Monster or Pyscho Pass where you feel the characters are in danger at every step of the way and any moment something terrible might happen to them. Instead it’s more of a character study of its main character Jean Otus as he traverses the world of counter intelligence espionage and high level corruption.
Otus himself makes for a formidable lead. A welcome deviation from the slew of self-destructive, ever brooding sleuths who act like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, Otus is actually surprisingly upbeat and relaxed. Which is especially surprising given the fact that he does in fact carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. But he’s also thoughtful and willing to wait and sit back until it’s the right time to strike. That’s not to say he never makes a mistake though. Over the course of the series he visits all thirteen territories and some of those have a rather complicated political landscape which Otus doesn’t always immediately grasp at first sight. Something that lands him in trouble and occasionally even grave danger more than once.
There to bail him out thankfully is his best friend Nino, a professional photographer who helps out Otus with his work occasionally. Nino has that same upbeat attitude as Otus but with a distinctly more mysterious vibe to it. He’s an easy talker and definitely one of the more sympathetic characters in the show. But at the same time, it always feels like there’s much more to him than meets the eye.
The last main character I wish to specifically mention is Mauve who is the new director general of Acca and the person enlisting Otus’s help in weeding out the conspirators behind the coup. Mauve isn’t quite as sympathetic a character as Otus or Nino, coming across as a bit cold and distant with a tendency to keep things close to her chest. But on the other hand, it quickly becomes apparent that she is a very loyal civil servant with a strict code of morality, which in a story filled with characters with hidden agendas and unclear allegiances makes her a real standout.
Now the part where I feel the show failed to deliver is with its main narrative. The first two episodes clearly put a lot of focus on the coup while also detailing the daily activities of Otus as he goes about his job of checking on various branches of Acca and depicting his private life with his sister. And it works. It gives you a clear idea of who Otus is and what he does while also building the mystery and carefully placing the first clues as to what is really going on.
Then by episode 3 the series begins to shift gears and focus more and more on Otus and his dealings with his job and his sister. The conspiracy is still a prominent thread but takes far more of a backseat while the characters surrounding Otus begin to take a larger role in the story.
And this trend continues to the extent that by episode 5 the show seems to have all but forgotten about it and is just about Otus and his daily life. Now I quite like the slice of life genre myself but the show clearly presented itself as a mystery series and for it to then just throw its mystery element by the wayside seems a little sloppy to me. Thankfully by episode 8 the show gets back on track and as it gets closer to the finale the suspense increases dramatically as huge plot twists suddenly start popping up one after another with a final reveal that completely pulls the rug out from under you.
ANIMATION AND SOUND
Given the show’s niche appeal it had a rather slim budget, and it shows as the animation can be called average at best. But this isn’t the kind of show that really needs cutting edge animation since most of it is just people standing around talking anyway.
What I do quite like though is the artwork. Specifically, its color palette. Despite being set in a shadowy world of intrigue and corruption the show is very brightly colored which does wonders to set the mood for this more laidback and slow burning mystery series.
The soundtrack consists mostly of light jazz, which fits rather well with this kind of old school cloak and dagger story. But otherwise it isn’t very noteworthy. The only part I did find quite memorable was the opening. Which is a really catchy song backed up by some very pretty artwork and livened up by some impressive effects work.
I watched this series in Japanese and I was perfectly happy with that. The entire cast gave solid performances and the subs provided by Crunchyroll were fine. As such I didn’t check the dub but since it is done by Funimation it’s probably quite good. Regardless, there’s nothing particularly Japanese or English about this show so both sub and dub work for this one.
For the most part I really liked this show. It’s got good characters, is well plotted and has a rewarding ending. It does however, without a doubt, experience a significant drop in quality between episodes 5 and 8 and if you’re less of a fan of the slice of life genre then I am you might find those episodes very hard to sit through. But, at the end of the day, I still say: if you’re a fan of these kinds of traditional mystery series than I would definitely recommend checking this one out. It’s not a show that I’ll likely put on any kind of top ten list but I had a good time with it and I’m glad I watched it. It’s a slow burner for sure but certainly not one that fizzles out.
Acca – 13 Territory Inspection Department can be streamed legally on Crunchyroll in sub and Funimation if you prefer dub.. No home video release is announced as of yet but given that it’s licensed by Funimation this probably won’t take long to happen.
Age recommendation: There’s some violence but nothing terribly graphic. Should be fine for anyone above the age of 12. That being said I feel given its slower narrative and larger emphasis on character development this would probably be most enjoyed by older teenagers and up.
First recommendation goes to Erased – Boku Dake ga Inai Machi. This is another traditional mystery series with an even slower pace and even more emphasis on character development. Its plot does go a bit down the drain later on but it’s worth watching for the gripping character drama and moving storyline alone.
My second recommendation would be Terror in Resonance, which is a much more modern kind of thriller that’s a lot more intense and violent. What the two have in common though is that they both focus on a complicated political landscape and the grey moral zones that these characters often find themselves in. Though admittedly Terror in Resonance takes it far further.
Until next time!
Special thanks to @Kuze and @Tonto-banchou for editing and feedback.
Anime Review: Acca - 13 Territory Inspection Dept.
A review of the 2017 mystery anime directed by Shingo Natsume, animated by studio Madhouse and based on the manga by Natsume One: ACCA - 13...
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