The kingdom of Dowa is comprised of 13 autonomous states, each with their own distinct cultures and identities. In order to monitor each of these states and keep the peace between them, the organization known as ACCA was created. Jean Otus, the second-in-command of ACCA’s inspection agency, is tasked with touring each of the districts in order to conduct audits and interact with their personnel. Though the kingdom is at peace, rumors of a coup d’état have begun to surface. Uncertainty spreads between the 13 districts, Dowa’s royal family, and the five chief officers of ACCA and as tensions mount, Jean discovers that he has become a suspect in the coup himself.
ACCA is cool. It’s delicate, intelligent, and subtle and it manifests these things through its pronounced sense of atmosphere and the slow, methodical nature of its episodes. It’s a show which places a heavy emphasis on world-building and the political intrigue which arises between the various districts of the kingdom and the key players which represent each of them. Each district presents a distinct aesthetic, mood, and context which are explored through the agency of Jean as he travels on behalf of ACCA to each of them in order to conduct his audits.
ACCA does primarily follow an episodic structure with each episode revolving around Jean’s visit to one district or another however there’s a large degree of variance to this focus which prevents ACCA from falling into a strict cycle and becoming predictable. Some episodes might extensively feature Jean’s investigation whereas others might only shallowly touch upon the details of the district before shifting its focus elsewhere in order to further develop the overarching plot of the coup d’état or shed some light on the many enigmatic and captivating personalities present in the show.
The districts themselves are exceedingly charming. Not only do they represent great world-building as exemplified by their distinctive attributes but they each possess a real identity which makes Jean’s visits to each of them one of the most engaging elements of the show. In Jumouku district, the average height of the population has increased significantly because of agricultural advancements. The size of their food is similarly larger than that of the other districts, featuring giant fruit, sweets, and fast food. There’s a remarkable emphasis on food in the show and many of the scenes, while they each progress the story in one way or another, often feature the characters eating or sampling a variety of dishes and deserts.
It’s all about providing each district with a unique kind of character. What they import and export, what food they are known for, and how they contribute to the kingdom are all common bits of information that are divulged through Jean’s auditing. Some districts are far more individualized than others. Suitsu for instance has very little in the way of communication with the outside districts. Its attire resembles that of a different period, horse-drawn carriages remain a means of transport, and objects like Jean’s cellphone appear as a marvel to the residents who have never seen one. The people of Suitsu are relatively happy despite their lack of technology however this district’s lifestyle has bred unrest in some of the citizens who seek to rebel against the district’s senior nobility and aristocrats.
Though the districts are often the focus of each episode for the first half of the show, the plot of the coup d’etat hovers ominously over the proceedings. Despite the bright atmosphere of each district and the lighthearted, relaxed interactions between the characters, there is a tangible unease. Something which stirs beneath the surface of the peaceful kingdom of Dowa. The ACCA chiefs and the members of the royal family each hold their own beliefs and ideologies and this is where the bulk of ACCA’s political intrigue comes from. For what purpose does ACCA exist? It’s a critical question which reflects heavily upon each of those who rise to answer it. Prince Schwan sees ACCA as a relic of a time now past and, upon ascending the throne, would dissolve the organization and seek to unify the districts.
Everyone seems to know more than they let on and with so many of the key characters possessing their own agendas and visions for the future of the kingdom, there’s a pronounced, air of mystery about the show. Jean himself is quite demonstrative of this quality. He’s calm, honest, and reserved. He’s good at his job but doesn’t really care all that much for it either. Rather than stating what he believes in, he observes and reflects upon each character and situation. ACCA opts to show the viewer rather than tell them what Jean thinks and this creates a kind of emotional distance.
He’s honest, exceedingly likable, and relatable yet there’s an enigmatic quality about him that’s hard to justify. Jean’s habit of smoking and his title of ‘cigarette peddler’ further alienate him from the other members of the cast given that cigarettes are a rarity and an expensive indulgence. When rumors begin to spread about his involvement in the coup, it becomes gradually more uncertain whether he knows more than his cordial personality might let on. It’s hard to trust anyone and this does wonder’s for ACCA’s subtle and cool style of suspense.
The other supporting characters are relatively interesting and though they don’t possess much importance beyond their immediate relevance to the story, the cast is fairly entertaining and charming. Jean’s close friend, Nino, is the most notable and frequently appearing of the supporting cast however there’s a good deal of personality and intrigue split between the five ACCA chiefs, the director-general Mauve, Jean’s sister Lotta, and several other members of ACCA. Personalities aside, the show’s character designs are fantastic, both visually distinctive and very emblematic of their personas.
ACCA is what people generally refer to as a slow-burn. In its cool and measured poise, its story steadily unfolds, revealing bits of information and foreshadowing over time but never losing its pronounced, atmospheric composure. ACCA‘s soft and simple color pallets and visual design along with its slow, jazzy soundtrack further emphasize this quality. This atmosphere works really well for the show and closely mirrors its subtle, intelligent dialogue and storytelling however the drawback in never alternating from this style is that each event transpires in the same fixed mood. Significant plot developments and narrative twists come and go yet ACCA never breaks character in order to emphasize these moments. Despite the ubiquitous unease which permeates each of its episodes, it’s not the kind of show which simmers for the bulk of its run before exploding. It’s conclusion arrives, collected and composed like any other scene and this somewhat hamstrings its emotional appeal. It’s consistent but never thrilling. It’s inexorably interesting but rarely exciting.
ACCA has style. It’s smart, intriguing, and quite entertaining to watch. It’s static composure both accentuates the show’s mood but can also take the bite out of some of its developments. Jean, Nino, and the rest of the cast were all great fun to watch and while they didn’t possess intricate personalities or character development, they fit right in with the tone of the show and shared great chemistry with one another. Through its world-building and mystery-laden narrative, ACCA presents an engaging and intelligent presentation that, while it never reaches to become more than it is, remains remarkably enjoyable none the less.