Posted on 31 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario

Imagine my utmost amazement when a show that I wasn’t that confident on taking in the beginning turned out to be one of the most solid offering this season had to offer. ACCA is the most recent anime adaptation from mangaka Natsume Omo, which despite isn’t a household name, many of her works (6 titles of them) have been translated to English, a privilege that rarely seen among this industry. Watching ACCA though, it’s easy to see her appeals: attractive and recognizable character designs, detailed world settings, complex yet laid-back themes and featuring characters that always in the move. ACCA embodies all those traits with slow but confident pacing that have an ending that perfectly tied up all the plot threads- for me one of the best ending I have seen in years. ACCA isn’t perfect by any mean, after all, adapting full 6 volumes into one cour of 12 episodes mean that they have to cut LOTS of extra details. Although I would’ve preferred more if the show has more time to focus on these 13 Districts and their ACCA’s representatives, the mere fact that they manage to make the plot points flows seamlessly, while still engage (or rather, enhance) viewers’ interest by each passing episode isn’t an easy feat at all; so a special shout out for Madhouse for this wonderful adaptation.

At first, what really makes ACCA compelling to watch is its rich world setting; as the show’s diverse settings is one of its identity itself. The 13 districts all have their own distinctive traits and are vastly different in wealth and their sub-cultures; which remind me a bit of the worlds in Kino’s Journeys. In fact, it’s too different from each other that the only thing that they all SHARE is its autonomy. I should remind you, the demand for putting background details for this show is insane, as they have to show the characteristics of all 13 districts in the little time they had without obstruct the pacing, but Studio Pablo (you might need to remember that name- They are an anime background company, the team who also handled the gorgeous visual backgrounds in Flip Flappers) did a marvelous job in putting as much details as possible from those districts. The two poorest districts were given more development than the rest with their own stories and struggles and as a whole, Dowa Kingdom is a place that I’m more than happy to spend more time to. The ACCA’s representative member in each district, likewise, all given just about enough personality to both inform us their own characters, and how the uniqueness in the district they work in starts to influent them. Regrettably, I still feel the show doesn’t have much screen time to flesh out those ACCA members but that is the sacrifice I’m willing to take…

… Because ACCA is masterclass at its storytelling and pacing. Even now when I’m looking back at the series, I don’t see any wasted segments, any meaningless conversations or any useless developments. Everything the show puts in, they are there for a reason, either to advance the plot, or to flesh out the characters, or give the show more identity. All the plot developments were hinted subtly way ahead, so when the BIG ANOUNCEMENTS take place, we don’t feel like them pulling the rug under our feet, but instead we’re well prepared to take such twists in. Secondly, all the character’s usual habits like Jean’s constantly smoking, Nino taking pictures, or Lotta eating cakes all the times not only tell us their personality, but also those details suggest a deeper plot meaning (see the relevance of cigarettes here? Or the reason why Nino taking pictures all the time?). Moreover, for a show that mainly about the scheming, plan within a plan within a plan about the coup, there are surprising overloaded with breads, cakes and deserts. Characters in this show fall in love with breads, buying cakes when scheming about a plan, making friends through the love of toasts (which ultimately saved Lotta’s life), and to be fair, the love of bread is what give birth to Jean and Lotta to begin with (guess where their Mom met their father? A bakery of course), but strangely, those moments of cake-porn never feel out of place in this ACCA world. For me personally, cakes and toasts will be what I miss the most about this show. And then the pacing. While many would argue the ACCA is snail-moving slow, and they’re mostly right, this is one of the most confident pacing that I’ve seen this season. It’s slow, but it never drags. It’s slow, but it keeps getting more intense as it goes on; steadily to its final showdown.

Another attribute; however, that really sets ACCA well apart from other political thrillers, or any thrillers in that extend; lies in its almost non-existence of violence and dark intentions. ACCA is an idealistic show; characters in ACCA think and behave for the benefit of the kingdom, where sacrifice of individuals can be necessary to keep peace for the nation (That make the backstory of princess Schnee even more tragic). Even the show’s main villain’s thrust to destroy the throne wouldn’t necessary qualified as evil either; after all, all he wanted is the “rightful” power and control for his own district, one of the richest and most influential district. If shows like Berserk or Death Parade keeps addressing the dark and ugliness of human’s nature, show like ACCA is the opposite. It’s almost too bright, too optimistic about human, which is be no mean these characters aren’t complex. The characters are plotting plans within plans, and sometimes their actions are already manipulated by other’s, but more or less their objectives always aim for the better of the people, with little to no gain for themselves. While personally I don’t have much of an issue with it, I do feel portraying the world that devoid of violence or ill-will might split the audience on being unrealistic, and that ending where too much of good things happened (look, Pranetta hits gold) could turn some viewers off for being over-cheerfulness.

Madhouse’s execution to this series is overall top-notch. The use of strong color pallete, for example, gives the show so much texture and more impressively, they fit in with the tones so well that those color palletes don’t stick out like sore thumb. Episode 8, for example, detailing the one big flashback of princess Schnee through Nino and his father’s eyes is textbook example on how to use those colors the most effective. The music, likewise, is really on point most of the time and the shot compositions have great flairs, cinematic, and sometimes they convey the mood and tension just by showing one character’s position to another (like when Mauve informed Jean about his royal heritage) or putting the characters in the soft, blurred background (most prominently through the climax of the last episode). In one word, exceptional. But there is one minor issue, though. For a show that have high caliber of crafting like ACCA, the animation, the actual motions, is lacking. Characters stay at static positions most of the time, and even their expressions don’t change much. Which for me is fair, because ACCA has always been about the calm, about what beneath the surface so it’s only appropriate that we don’t get to see much actions on the surface, both in term of actual movement, or the plot itself.

ACCA also is extremely well-grounded in terms of underlining characters’ chemistry. Although I would argue that those characters don’t change/grow much in terms of character’s development (see, in the end, Jean is still the same guy we saw at the beginning, so is Lotta, or… gasp, Owl), but the show delivers such natural chemistry between the cast, especially the trio Jean – Nino – Lotta that it’s such a nice time to see them hanging around together. Each of the pair give off a different chemistry to boost, and they always feel so effortlessly to each other that when Jean and Lotta find out the truth about Nino, it’s bitter and sweet at the same time. For a show that is more about the detachment (everything flows underneath the surface), they understand that the underlying emotions of the show is the buddy relationship between Nino and Jean (and well, Schnee’s tragic past) so rightfully ACCA gives their final moments on those two as a sweet farewell to us.

But like I mentioned earlier, ACCA is not without its issues. One of it is that the show has to compress its source material to only 12 episodes, as a result in the last third of the show the sweet cakes and deserts just evaporated (but I can understand, we wouldn’t take the coup seriously with all those cakes and breads so they have to go), and like I said, more time to flesh out the uniqueness of each districts and their ACCA representatives would benefit the show greater. Secondly, by giving much attentions to the royal and the members in power, we don’t get to see the Dowa Kingdom in ordinary citizen’s point of view. I mean, we hardly know anything about Jean and Lotta’s father, a commoner, for example. Moreover, being slow and static and diplomatic-centric also means that when the show has to raise up its tempo; most notably during the Lotta assassination; they are clumsy in both storytelling and execution to the point of near-ridiculousness. And lastly, show with this deliberate pacing won’t attract much of the mainstream audience, in which if that is the case, the only think I can say is that they have missed out one of the best well written gem this year had to provide and trust me, this show will hold up well with time. I will definitely check out more of Natsume Omo’s works.

Posted on 29 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

Boy, what an impressing ending to this great show. In a way, I should’ve thought about that, keeping in tradition which what ACCA has been established so far: a coup d’état without any chaos, or violence; an actual coup d’etat but not aiming to exclude the Prince and the royal, but to Furawau district. The coup that was just… too polite, like it was the calm during the storm itself, but it swept all my concerns for a conclusion that tied up ALL the loose ends. First, it’s none other than Qualms who leaked about the royal blood rumors (this guy’s impressive!), but the main players in this game are none other than Jean and Mauve. Jean apparently learned about Lilium’s plan from Mauve back when she informed him about his royal heritage (don’t underestimate the power of the opening sequence, when she literally whispered to his ear), then it was Jean who proposed a counterplan that run right beneath Lilium’s evil plan. All the districts want the continuation of ACCA, Lilium wants the power into his Furawau’s district. Mauve takes up the stage and delivers a kick-ass speech, in which not only “forced” the Prince to accept the continued existence of ACCA, but also negated Lilium’s own plan. He left the game, as did his district from the Dowa kingdom. Jean settled the game without having to step in for the throne and his identity is kept secret from the public. I can’t possibly think of any better way to resolve it as satisfying as we have here.

After that, everything else falls on positive notes (if a bit overly so), the Prince turns out to be much nicer than everyone thought. The 5-heads dragon, now with Lilium gone, decides to disband, each of them (save Grossular) returns back to their district to become a chief district and seem to be much happier with it. Mauve becomes the leader of ACCA (so deserving), and while it’s a bit sad that Mauve and Jean don’t become a couple, I believe they’re better off that way. The two poorest districts are now growing to be much better (I can see that the author really care about those two districts), with Pranetta hits gold and become a new “American Dream” – or should I say, “new Furawau Dream”; Suitsu opens its borders and now citizens can vote freely. Lotta has a whole lotta more opportunity to meet her new cousin and beloved grandpa and eat cakes and breads. Abend is indeed, Owl, and this guy was the one who pulled the strings from behind so that everything can fall according to this outcome. Like Nino said, an impressive feat.

Finally, Nino seems to be so relaxed and peaceful. I think all of his load was taken off from his talk with Jean last episode, now he’s truly free to do what he wants. I was actually smiling when he stands behind Lotta in that crucial moments to protect her. He can’t change, huh? Kudos for the show to focus squarely on Jean and Nino’s relationship in ACCA’s final moments. In the end, no matter what happen, they will always stay beside and trust each other. I’m in particular impressed again with the use of jazzy music during the coup scene and the use of strong color pallete everywhere in this episode. This episode indeed ends the show in a high note, and I’m sure this show will hold up very well, and rewatching it to pick up all the subtle details would be very rewarding. In retrospect, people might complain about its slow and deliberate pacing, but for me this is one of the most confident and well-balance pacing that I’ve seen in recent years. Every detail they put in counts and I don’t really see any unnecessary fat so far. I really have a blast blogging this one, and believe it or not ACCA becomes one of my favorite titles this season (not a slight judgement with a season that has Rakugo, Little Witch Academia, and Hand Shakers… I kid, I kid). Well, full review will be up soon, all I can say is I am satisfied with the whole experience. Well done ACCA.

Posted on 22 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

Really ACCA? Only one episode left and you’re still in set-up stage, with the coup is lingering in the air, but never comes in real form. In fact, ACCA is a series about setting up. Its deliberate pacing can really test the viewer’s’ patience, and I totally understand if most of you have fallen out with it; but really, ACCA’s getting better by each passing episode. Many plot threads start to come together, and this week we have a major plot development: Jean decided to go along with the Lilium’s plan, which is the worst decision ever. Lilium, in a very definition of true villain archetype, already behaves in a victory-mode for a successful coup, although there isn’t any coup yet (sorry honey, I have to see it first to know if it exists) and starts mapping out his evil plan OUT LOUD for the one person who is capable of changing the situation. I guess this is more of overconfident issue but boy, when you do that I know immediately that the plan is going to fail, hard. And does he really think he can control and manipulate Jean, of all people? Bull. I don’t even think Jean will take the reign. Heck, I don’t even think the coup is going to happen at all. But I do think he plans to put certain someone to the spot instead of himself. He raises that argument when he meets up with Lilium, saying that as long as the next throne isn’t the Prince, he doesn’t really interested to take control the kingdom. So logically, who is the person that Jean would place his bet on knowing that the person can take good care for both ACCA, the people and the kingdom? Of course, it’s Grossular.

But Grossular still has some issues with Lilium. I still wonder why Lilium holds much control over Grossular. I still think Lilium holds a certain secret that Grossular doesn’t want to spread out, but what secret would that be? How is this centenary going to play out next week? I originally thought Qualms the Privy Council President is involved, but based on how limited time he had (if at all), I think the main players for this centenary is going to be Jean, Lilium and the Prince. But then, how’s about Abend? Will he has any role at all in the end? Damn ACCA, you better tie up all loose ends next week.

Nino is finally back and is immediately got shot down, literally. But this is where I find the plot pretty much implausible, for you see it would be much easier (and less dramatic) to just follow those assassins and knock them down before they were going to shoot. Why following them and then run all the way to Jean to shield the bullets? And really, the way the show handles the thriller part is very uneven. Apart from that, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Jean and Nino and I could feel Jean’s emotion stirring up when he talks about Nino’s objective in life. He deeply cares for his friend Nino. Another interesting fact is that Nino’s supervisor doesn’t allow Nino to come to Furawau, and for now my guess is that the supervisor doesn’t want Nino to pry into Lilium’s family, maybe for the sake of Jean and Lotte’s safety. (or just simply because he doesn’t want Nino to catch hay fever. A nasty sickness).

It’s otherwise great to see all the ACC representatives from each district come all over in one place. We saw all of them but many of them don’t have much screentime or that memorable before, but you can sense a very natural easy-going chemistry between them (they obviously know each other well before) and how they can still carry the characteristics of the district they’re currently in. I don’t get why the show spend so much time for Eider’s romance but it’s certainly fun to watch. One thing I find the most interesting was the two ACCA representatives from 2 poorest districts, Warbler and Rocksterra (from Suitsu and Pranetta, respectively) are the ones who actually sense something wrong about following up the coup. They come from the poorest and hardest districts, meaning that they, of all people, should be happy for a wind of change. But quite the contrary, they know that each district has their own voices, and they see far greater benefits under the Dowa Kingdom; even the Prince will be unlikely to break much rules, and those are all valid arguments but they must be very dissatisfied with the Prince (or current Royal system) to the extent that all the 13 districts vote for Jean. Jean did mention that everything need a final push now, what would that be? With only a finale of 20 minutes left and plenty of possibilities next week, I really hope the show can wrap things up in a most satisfying way. You won’t disappoint me, will you, ACCA?

Posted on 15 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

So suddenly, the King gets serious health issues huh? I’m sure Qualms has something to do with it too. But now I do feel the storm’s coming right in front of me (no, not that sandstorm), as many important events keep piling up: the last audition of Jean in Furawau (flower) district, which “happened” to be the homebase of Lilium, our current biggest threats. Now I can see that Lilium is a sneaky guy, using home advantage to pursue Jean to lead the coup. His whole ground for starting the coup is for the unity and order of the kingdom, but this episode slips it up that he might not think that way at all. He wants his district Furawau, and his family in charge of course, getting the power, possibly become a new capital city. Well, with the glimpse on what we see from the district, they are wealthy, like a Dubai city with skyscraper and mosque-like buildings; so they’re more than capable of becoming one. Things fall according his plan as well, except for the two obvious obstacles:

First, it’s Grossular. As we see throughout the episode, Lilium clearly controls and manipulates Grossular from behind, but I never once think Grossular is that stupid. He must knows what going on behind Lilium’s head, and if it wasn’t Lilium taking advantages of Grossular’s weakness like I assumed last week, Grossular would never fall into his scheme for just “unifying the nation”. I believe this guy still has something up his sleeves, but for some reasons he’s still waiting for Jean to make a move first. He’s pretty much in a stand-by mode for now. Muave, likewise, pretty much stands by his side because she trusts him (and to be frank, maintaining orders for the kingdom, plus her favorite Jean might take the throne are too good to refuse). They might play as an assistant role for Jean later on whenever he decides on which road he takes, only that…

…Jean still hasn’t make a goddamn move except for carrying his audits like usual. The later districts have been really opened about his royal blood and their opinions/ the cigarettes as well. Lithium might come from a wealthy district, but the last district that Jean visited in his current round, Pranetta (Planet) is the totally opposite and for my money this is one of the most interesting district that we have witnessed. The district is dirt poor, swallowed by a vast desert and holed themselves under the ground. The district remains with an extremely limited resource, without the sunlight for daily necessity and only have TV as the one entertainment source, an extreme opposite to casino-filled Yakkara last week (and I did notice based on the Dowa Kingdom map, Yakkara is located within Pranetta, interesting). But the residents there have a dream of mining, of one day finding something invaluable and they keep following the dream and being happy despite their harsh environment. They don’t care much about the coming coup, because they know it doesn’t make much different for them whoever take the throne (no wonder with that attitude, Jean feels himself really comfortable here). They simply don’t have anything to keep, or anything to even offer. That little scene between Jean and the branch chief, where the old man asks Jean’s cigar for a smoke, but then offers him the cigar back as an upvote really sums up the spirit of residents of Pranetta. Cigarettes are even something so luxury that out of their reach, but he trusts Jean (not the coup) to make a rightful decision.

And that is precisely why that perfect scheme of Lilium is going to be broken apart. Putting Jean as a mediator, a person who represents both ACCA and the rightful heir is a smart move. But by giving him time to explore every single districts, Jean gets to see the kingdom in multiple perspectives, from the riches to the poors, from the allies to the extremists, from what works and what fails and thus he no longer has the same outlooks with the men in power here, moreover he holds the key (his royal blood) to make it different, now it’s just the timing. For instance, Lilium would never get the appeal of Pranetta district. It might not be the class between ACCA and the royal, but the fight between the rich and the poor here.

And it’s freaking time now. The plot will get busy next week, now that the first princess second-attempts to murder Jean and Lotta, the King is dying; Jean visiting his final audit; the centennial ceremony is approaching and Nino still wanders somewhere, I know we will have a busy week with heaps of fun next week. Speaking of Nino, Lotta sure really fonds of him and the sequence when they’re talking about Nino and their “secret” feel so warm. But damn Nino, you missed your chance of becoming a prince Charming. Rejecting a princess even when she proposed to you? No wonder why he’s spirited away now.

ps: I’m tempted to spend some time to pick out the uniforms of each district, now that we encounter every single one of them. The show really knows how to scratch my itch. Diversity rules!

Posted on 8 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

We have another solid slow-burning episode this week, which is… Goddamnit ACCA, you just can’t do that at this late in the game, especially when the last two episodes had raised the stakes extremely well. This is the stage where the climax starts to kick in, but instead we still stuck in the building-up stage of Jean continuing to audit other districts and the coming coup is… well, still coming. It feels like you’re having a second course dish and then revert back to have an entree again. No, I’m not settled for only this. The main development of this episode is of course the (near) assassination of Lotta, which actually pull lots of supporting characters into the motion now, and all of them shine in their own ways. First, Prince Schwan proves everyone (including us) that he’s far more ruthless and calculated than us credit him for. He actually manipulated the first princess to send assassins to kill the siblings without touching his hands in any of this. Quite impressive I must say. But Magie, in even more-awesome move, decides to seek help from his sandwich bread buddy (further demonstrate that friends who share the same enthusiasm will go a long way, in this case, bread and blonde girl).

Rail, takes this rare chance to be with Lotta and acts like her bodyguard, which failed miserably. But never mind. Not only he’s able to share many heart-throbbing moments with Lotta (those moments to die for), but also now they share a secret together. Lotta, in the meantime, being wide eyes from the entirety of the chase and still wondering what the hell is going on (what big eyes she got), but when she hears the secret, she takes the news surprisingly well just like her brother (must run in their blood, huh?). I am completely taken aback by how incompetent bunch the assassins are, not only they spilled cheap “exposition”, which they have no right to know to begin with; they made the chase as obvious to the public eyes as ever; and moreover couldn’t do their goddamn job right. But this strange turn of events of Chief Owl suddenly appear to save Lotta a day further reaffirm my suspicion of him being Abend (like hell he just happened to run into that car). Put aside the practical fact that his age suited Abend’s actual age the most, his position as chief of ACCA allow him to be close enough to watch over Jean and Lotta, and his conditions that make him just stay in one place is so convenient for both him to stay within the shadow, and for Jean to go by himself to the districts for auditing. Now, he’s gotten more active roles into this story so it’s interesting to see if he’s truly the one pulling Nino from behind the scene.

And talking about pulling behind the scene, we got a twist that none of us see coming, which change the tides of the situation considerably. Yep, I’m talking about Grossular is being manipulated Lilium, which my guess for now it has to do with the train wreck that killed Jean’s parents. Before that though, Grossular put his cards on the table in his 5 ACCA chiefs meeting- he created the rumors, put Jean into the middle of it to see the reactions of each district towards the creating the coup and now deciding that it’s time for the freaking coup. Now we have an idea of the significance of the cigarettes Jean received from each district, it’s the unofficial “vote” to support Jean as the coup leader. But how much of what he said is true? The direction Lilium and Grossular want the others to head in is the battle between ACCA and the coming royal authority (after all the Prince make himself crystal clear to destroy ACCA as soon as he’s in charge). Those conflicts really put Jean into an interesting position now. He knows exactly the situation he’s currently in; but which ship will he be on and what decision will he make remain a fascinating question. Will he be a leader of the expected coup and take the reign? Will he put behind all the nonsense to do his own thing? Where will Mauve fit in in this big picture? One thing we know for sure though, no matter which road he make, it will be a game-changer.

On last notes, the two districts Jean visited this time are again brimming with personalities and unique details. The port district Peshi was also responsible for the train accidents along with Rokkosu, and it was the place where Jean’s mother “supposedly” drowned here. Looking at the second princess statue that look over the port, I can really feel the sadness from Jean now that he knows the story behind it all. Yakkara, the most healthy district, is Las Vegas-inspired with casino in sight and neon-lighting and night life. I still wish the show have some time to explore more about each district. But to rub salt into the wound, the show temporarily abandoned many of its better variations in service for the plot. I mean, where the hell are the hot breads and desserts this week? Where the heck is Nino? I know he goes hiding from Jean but that doesn’t mean he needs to go hiding from us too. All the events move up quite steady and the big picture starts to form now, but I am still a bit disappointed, especially after the extravaganza from the last two weeks I won’t settle for this slow burn anymore.

Posted on 1 March 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

Damn this show making me feel sad and melancholic all over again. When Nino told Jean last week that this is going to be a long story, I wouldn’t dare to think that he really means it. This week, the show takes us back 33 years ago and tells the story from royal observer’s point of view, resulted in the show’s most emotional resonate episode so far. This episode is just bittersweet and beautiful. Now, there are two things about ACCA writing that set it apart from other anime. The first aspect is its attention to details and confident storytelling, which I mentioned last week and psgels pretty much nailed it in his monthly review. The second aspect is… well, remember at first we initially thought ACCA might be similar to Ghost in the Shell in nature? Turned out we were completely off the mark because ACCA never at once goes heavy-handed. There’s a lot of backstaged planning, behind-the-scenes scheming but there’s no real dark intention in that world. Everyone’s actions so far have been for the benefit of the kingdom, even the coming coup arisen from the fear of the incompetence of the expected king. No selfish reasons whatsoever, at least not yet, just conflicted ideas on protecting the kingdom’s order I guess. The “accident” 33 years ago happened in that same vein. It was the scheme organized by Qualms (the head of Council Privy), the King, his daughter and her guard in order to protect the harmony of the royal and the kingdom and give Schnee the freedom she always desired. Everyone got out of it with what they think was necessary, even if it resulted in the second princess removed her name from the Dowa family register- become a commoner. That would be a fairly same-old same-old, cliche story if not by the fact that her life was chronologized secretly by the person who give up his own life to report her life, so in a sense, her family’s life has become the man’s; and his son’s, lives, and that hold lots of weight.

Nino, in particular, has been given a lot of weight-lifting this week but he shines through. When his father decided to follow his master’s quest, meaning that he had to give up his current life and his child for an unforeseeable future; he wanted to go with him no matter what. And Schnee and then the Otus family suddenly become their lives, but the father and Nino took pride and passion to their jobs. Every picture they took, every news regarding the princess they gathered, every bread the princess took interest to; they treasured them all. For Nino’s father, at least he had his own life before taking this job, but for Nino, it’s sad to realize that the life revolving the Otus family is the only life he knows. Makes me wonder what his purpose gonna be if Jean and Lotta were all gone. He took up the job pretty nicely too, attended college (despite huge age-gap) in order to stay closer to Jean. But then that train-wreck incident happened that not only took Jean’s parents lives, but his father’s as well. He then realized that he has been set up all along to be the next royal observant reporter in line. The best moment of his character development has to be after he received the news on TV, sadden by the the death of his father, bitter by the cold decision of the master, taken up the job he knows had no exit, he was still sensitive enough to offer a shoulder for Jean to rely on. This guy totally deserved a gold medal guys, he might become my favorite character of the show now.

So the main question the episode trying to raise is whether Abend is in fact Grossular. Looking at appearances, Grossular does share a lot of similarities with Abend, most notably his long hair and the fact that he isn’t Jean and Lotte’s father who died during the train wreck. Speaking of which, there is a minor twist that Schnee and Abend weren’t lover, which actually raise a compelling relationship between those two. It’s a duty for Abend to keep track with Schnee, but is there other feeling involved from Abend to the princess? For now though, I think Grossular is a red herring; yes all the details pointed towards him being Abend, but it makes no sense for me that Nino would report to him twice with different manners of speaking, and the show actually mentioned that everyone in that Rokkosu district having the same look regardless. In fact, I suspect that the real Abend is closer to Jean and Lotta than you might think, in fact I’m thinking of a certain character that the show keeps mentioning despite not appearing that much in the series, and he does eat a lot of desserts together with Lotta lately (Yes. You know who! Oh, and the child Lotta might be the sweetest thing ever). In any case, I strongly suspect that guy Abend to be the one who set Jean up for the upcoming coup d’etat (in other words, he’s important!), so the fun remains to see who this guy is and what exactly he plans to use Jean for the coup.

Lastly, allow me to give extra recognition to the impressive color palette in this episode, as it conveys effectively the mood of each sequence. In the sequence between the King and the young princess for example, the scene is bathed with light blue of sadness and longing. The sequences involved Abend, in contrast, was all in red/brown background of calculated plan and the strong sense of duty. Move over to the scenes involving young Nino and his father and we have a slightly washed-out color of memories that feel like an old picture. And lastly, when Nino received the devastated news on TV, it was dark blue with bold strokes and dark shading. The music, likewise, is totally impressive. Head ups for the sequence of Nino meeting Jean for the first time when an actual song kicked in. Even more stunningly, all the framing, the color and the music never distract the mood of the story or stand out too much, but fit the stories very, very well. This week, as a result, is the most impressive ACCA episode both in terms of technical quality, and emotional strengths. While the main storyline might focuses on the upcoming coup, the show’s main catch has always been establishing the ambiguous relationships between the cast. This backstory episode might not progress the plot very much, but it builds a solid foundation that exploring many intriguing relationships with confident executions. I said last week I was sure the show going to get better, right? Well, it does get better, but for reasons that completely against my expectation and for that I am really grateful. And boy how the show know how to pull an emotional punch, that piece of apple pie at the end (the apple pie that marked the sharp turn in Nino’s life) seriously melt my brain and make my head spinning around in circle. Damn this show making me feel sad and melancholic all over again.

Posted on 22 February 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

The plot sure thickens a lot after this episode. Well, last week I mentioned about the possible spoiler of ACCA plot, but the truth turns out that it didn’t really qualified as a spoiler at all. All the hints were there and viewers picked up pretty quickly (or just that I’m a slow picker, yare yare). All that just to say that I really admire ACCA’s storytelling; the way they don’t spoonfeed us with obvious details, but trust viewers to pick up hints and then move the plot forward. This week the show decides to drop that bomb out front: Jean is a royal blood and he’s the first line in succession. His mother was the second princess, but she eloped with a beautiful white hair guard some 33 years ago after the Titanic accident. The couple then had Jean and Lotta, living a normal happy life until that train accident that really took their life 13 years ago. Now it raises 2 questions. First, was the train accident really an accident? And second, how much does Grossular know? I would say 90% sure that he knew about Jean and Lotta’s true origin, but how much did he know about the real cause of the accident? And about this upcoming coup?

It’s not hard to pin down the real boss of Nino though. It’s pretty obvious that he set Jean up to that cake store so Jean could have some time with the King alone, so we can rule out that only the King or that Privy Council was his boss. And with that phone talk at the end I can pretty much say the King was the one assigned him to follow Jean. But is it that simple? I appreciate ACCA’s storytelling so far but this week, at episode 7, we still come up with new characters, namely the first princess/ Prince Schwann’s aunt. I know she’s a minor character but this actually gets me questioning: where the hell is Prince Schwann’s mother, the third princess? Seems like she gained the most after the disappearance of the second princess and it might be that she had some kind of role in that ship sank? How about monitoring Jean now through Nino? Is she going to appear in this story at all? Man, there is a lot of questions, but I do love that for the first time since forever Nino was shown in some kind of emotional state, having received praise from his “supervisor”. Well, just looked at him when he was in the cake shop, you can sense he was overwhelmed as well. And isn’t that rare that he admitted that he was too close to Jean as dear friend that his supervisor isn’t happy at all about that. Jean and Nino share such great chemistry together and the next time they talk gonna be a life-changer one.

But my favorite sequence was when Maude takes up the stage and take Jean by storms. She accurately figured out lots of things happening around Jean without his help, and despite Jean hiding things from her she still trusts him dearly. If they join forces together they would make a really dangerous pair. Still, I really love that deadpan matter-of-fact delivery of Mauve, and Jean’s cool detachment when hearing that he’s the first in line for the throne. Elsewhere, Prince Schwann proves to be much smarter than everyone assumed him to be, figuring out by himself the true identity of Lotta, and now aiming to gun Jean down. As of now, how many people actually know about Jean’s true identity? I can safely say right now there’s the King, Mauve, Nino, 90% Grossular and now the Prince and those I believe will be all main ace cards for the upcoming coup. But with the revelation, the current situation has changed considerably. The main questions are no more “Who setting up the coup?” or “When will the King die” (because as far as I see he’s freaking healthy) but “Who gonna be the next in throne and who would be benefited the most with the outcomes?” Now we have Jean and the Prince for the throne, with that Privy Council President as a dark horse (because he can still manipulate the King). Jean has been set up to be an intermediary so far, so it’s mean there’s still someone behind the curtain who know about his true identity and pull all the strings.

Finally, the two districts we visited this week: Dowa and Kokore, were full of interesting characteristics and tasty breads. Dowa is the capital city with that old-fashioned but elegant city designs, and Kokore is a feminist town that really resembles an European city. I love how they explore a bit of women’s aspect in that Kokore district, and really the strong influx of women’s roles in society at large is always a positive sign for me. The breads and cakes also are equally impressive. With Dowa we have that apple cake and snowball cake (man, looks so tempting) and Kokore has full of delicious chocolate. This is hands out the best episode of ACCA so far, as the plot moves in much tighter now, while simultaneously never betrays what makes the show so appealing and unique in the first place (I’m looking at you, hot breads and cakes); I expect the show getting better from now on, now that they‘re gearing up for the big final showdown.

Posted on 15 February 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

Now we’re clear why Lotte looked so worried last week upon hearing Jean was riding a train, turn out that their parents passed away due to train accident when they were young, 13 years ago. The meeting of Jean and Grossular is rather an unexpected exchange, as instead of questioning Grossular if he’s involved to the coup d’etat, Jean outright confirms that he believed Grossular isn’t. Grossular was the ACCA brand chief back when the rail accident happened and he further helped to reduce border conflict by taking full responsibility and then put “safety first” to the transportation system, resulted in steep decline in number of accidents. The point being Jean put his complete trust to Grossular. But this guy is sharp as tack. When Jean tells him about his tail, he knows exactly who leak the source. Speaking of accident, there appears to be another tragedy that happened 33 years ago. Get that? Underneath this peaceful nation there have been lots of repressed uprising, accidents, tragedies that might or might not come from the same cause. That world IS DANGEROUS. And with the TV announcement that there have been no accidents for 2 years, could it be a foreshadow for the plane, that Jean was in right before the end, will get crashed and burn? Hmmm, it’s likely, very likely indeed.

Jean finally had to report his audits back to Mauve and of course it was a failure as he spilled nothing. He’s hiding details from her about what happened in Suitsu (what happens in Paris, stays in Paris) but she knows it right away. She even summons the other investigation team to check back on the situation. I am actually starting to think that the rumor upcoming coup is actually a combination of several minor coups from each district and from our key members, as the way I see it many of our cast have their own agenda and purpose here. The president of Privy council is obviously the main suspect, as taking down the prince Schwann would be most beneficial to him. Lilium is also very unreliable as well. Each of the district was give autonomy for their land but if the prince Schwann take over he want control over all districts and that of course doesn’t ring well for those districts. All they need is someone who is the center of attention which can push the button to bring all the coup together, and Jean fits the bill quite nicely here.

ACCA sure loves to have party and eating cakes and this episode is no exception, cramming up a New Year party at Jean’s own apartment. As we all know, even Jean or Lotte don’t know the true landlord (but curiously Nini does) but the building is at centre of the town and all the general managers of big department stores live there. As of now I pretty much consider party, cakes and bread as ACCA’s identity so I don’t mind to get bread-porn once in awhile. In his next audit, Jean gets to the island of Hare that looks most similarly to Hawaii. People there are easy-going, have a high life expectancy and know more about the coup than even Jean, but again this district is cut off significantly so there’s not much else to talk about its characteristics. I love the fact that despite being blowed up the cover, Nino always stays exactly one step behind Jean and I really love the moments the three mains Jean, Nino, Lotta staying together. They carry such great chemistry.

Six episodes in, we still have little clue about the storms to come and what exactly is Jean’s position in this coup? Is he the one who find out and stop the coup? Is he the main factor for the coup to gain its threatening force or is he the cause for the coup to happen after all? I’m digging this deliberate pacing. Normally slow pacing with not too much happened means that they stretch the story too thin but for ACCA I’m confident that they know where they go ahead. Even if where they go next might get crashed and burned like a wrecked airplane.

Posted on 9 February 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

Okay, this episode… just ends. Look, I normally don’t mind slow-burned story hinting multiple threads and this episode is clearly a set-up episode for upcoming major events, but at least the episode itself has to be completed. Leaving viewers hanging for incompleteness is just as cruel as terrible cliffhanger. Nevermind though, as long as set-up episode goes this week has a large amount of characters interacting with each other. Let first talk about the bureaucrats, as I still can’t put my finger on whether or not they’re a comic relief for the show, or the fact that they’re crazy about toast will be relevant in future events. While at it, the whole bread culture is running strong this week, as many characters express their blind love for breads. Cheers for Magi for being completely out of character, since he abandoned his spying job for the bread-tasting and making a friend in a process. Rail and Magi make up the most unlikely pair but really hooray the show for being so off the track. Well, I do enjoy the humor for this silliness so even if this side story doesn’t add up much, we will always have this companionship formed by the mutual interest of Lotta and toast. Lotta, likewise, do nothing this week except eating cakes, eating breads and having dinners, but weirdly she fits the story very well so I guess the actual coup d’etat might have something to do with bread and toast??? Cake fight? Then I’m definitely on it.

Kidding aside, the main development in this episode has to be that Jean finally exposes Nino’s spy cover. Lilium’s hint was really obvious here, as if his main objective is to decrease the influence of Grossular rather than assisting Jean. But I’m sure people will agree with me that the best part in this episode was the way both Jean and Nino handle the situation. They considered each other as friends at heart so despite blowing the cover up, they remain as close friend. After all, Nino ensures Jean that his main objective of tailing Jean wasn’t for ACCA anyways, so my guess is that his other boss directly tied to the coming coup d’etat. Jean doesn’t mind that he had been following all this time by Nino though, because he knows for sure that Nino will protect him whenever he’s in trouble, just like last week’s uprising. Nor did he give a damn about the reason why Nino rat out on him in a first place. I’m happy to see that their trust and understanding of each other have been very well fleshed out this episode.

This week alone, Jean has to go through two audits and I am a bit sadden that the show decides to rush through it. After all, the 13 districts in this Dowa kingdom are one of the most interesting settings we have in a while, and I would love to learn more about each district’s distinct traits. The two districts that we visited this week in particular have their own strokes of unique features here and there, Birra district is a self-efficient district, and despite its harsh weather with produce no wheat, beer or cigarette, they have oil as their main industry. Understandably Birra district doesn’t want to stay behind in danger should one of the 13 districts becomes dominant, so they’d use oil as their main weapon: control the oil, so that others can’t overtake them. Rokkusu district, on the other hand, is more mountainous and remind us a bit of the old West, as of now there’s not much details about the district. Seriously, even see the different settings, different customs and bread types is enough to get me satisfied, so I really hope the show spend more time to provide us just that.

In term of the big picture though, what do we have so far? We’re pretty much in dark about the details that Jean got out from Suitsu (damn, they’re keeping their cards too close to their chest), so as much as I want to root for Jean, he’s an unreliable narrator at the moment. He did receive one more cigarette, that “from whom they sent those” and “why” are still unclear. This is clearly a calm before the storm moments, but the problem is that with no clear indication on what’s about to come, it’s hard for us to know how big the storm gonna be, so there is no real threat here. Maybe in that sense it’s not so bad as the harder we figure out the real plot, the more interesting we find ourselves into the story, as with me I found myself liking ACCA more and more. At last, Jean is going to meet Grossular so we…

(to the spirit of the ending of this episode, my post ends here)

Posted on 3 February 2017 with categories: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept., Currently Watching:

We are no stranger with this kind of world in anime: an isolated, conservative world that cut-off from outside communication and ultimately stay behind its times, slowing back 10, 20 even hundred years. Everything there is monitored and controlled by the rules and authority. As ACCA keeps suggesting the chaos within this peaceful façade, the most appropriate way to question this very world is to put its ideas to an extreme spectrum, as a result we have this isolated district of Suitsu. The Dowa kingdom promotes autonomy in its 13 districts, with each of the district bring their own uniqueness to better suit the place; but what happen when the authority started to abuse their power in a negative way? Citizens in Suitsu are prohibited to use phone, even to communicate with outsider in the pretense of “preserving tradition”; they in turns are displeased with how things going and form an angry mob. What sadden me the most is we’re living in this exact same world, where North Korea still cut-off from the rest of the world just like this. Suitsu district, when you look at it, is more like one of those weird countries straight out of Kino’s Journey, but it still manages to add ambiguity to the flaws of the Dowa Kingdom’s systems so in that regards, this episode still has its merits.

But when it comes to the actual plot of this episode, then this week ACCA made one mistake that they managed to avoid so brilliantly before: its delicate pacing. ACCA is slow-burn, at the same time there are many plots and themes going on both underneath and beneath the surface but as far as I concerned they hold everything together extremely well. This week though, we follow Jean as he auditing the district, witness him being kidnapped, then learn about the coup d’état, follow the angry mob, the uprising and their ultimate downfall, both in a runtime of merely 20 minutes. The pacing therefore is much quicker this time, as a result those big events don’t have time to settle down or give much impact. We just know Wabler or Biscuit at the beginning of this week so it’s hard to relate to them or the events around them. I get the message: frustration out of unfairness and strictness is relatable, but I hardly feel any of this. It comes quick and goes quick and leave not much impact.

When you judge this episode through its stance in the big picture, then this show offers too little to the main narrative as well. At the end, those uprising will be hidden and forgotten, only Jean gets away with the knowledge of the actual coup d’état and that’s freaking little development for a complex show like ACCA. Although we do learn that Nino apparently is working as a triple agent and we have a glimpse on another member of the ACCA’s five Pastis and the Suitsu representative Beurre, this still leave a lot to be desired. No, this episode, while certainly is a competent episode in its own ways, serves as my least favorite episode so far of ACCA (the curse of episode 4) both because it runs too quick for its own good, and it adds too little to the main narrative. And where is the glorious cake and tasty bread this time? All we have was a loaf of bread when Jean was all tied up so… um, no, thank you.

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