I find myself in a bind as I watch the drama that unfolds in this anime. I think that ACCA‘s plot and philosophy are told brilliantly, and is very much relevant to the political climate we face today. However, I also have to admit that I am siding with the police, an entity that I strongly distrust. A very fictitious police, but police nonetheless. It’s too bad that I feel that way, because I really like this anime.
Before I get into this review, I need to set some limitations:
- While I believe that this series is relevant to today’s political climate, I will not be referencing any particular event as such. Discussion will be restricted to events in the anime only.
- I will be using the concept of disinterest, which I will loosely define as taking action to fulfill an office or role, detached from selfish concerns.
- This review contains SPOILERS, including a critique on its conclusion. You have been warned.
- Although the series pays homage to liberalism, I believe that it is also relevant to anarchist theory.
So if I haven’t scared you off yet, let’s get into this hot mess.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. (ACCA: Jūsan ku Kansatsu ka) is about the inner works of the fictional Dōwā Kingdom’s highest law enforcement agency, ACCA. ACCA serves as the Sovereign’s eyes and ears of the Kingdom’s 13 territories, directed by a General Council appointed by the king himself, who then appoint a civilian Director-General. All other ACCA agents serve to maintain order in Dōwā.
During the current King’s reign, Dōwā is a relatively peaceful state, as the country has yet to have gone to war, nor has experienced widespread political unrest. But rumor has it that a coup is coming from within ACCA, and when it becomes increasingly harder to trust anyone in this series, our protagonist Jean Otus finds himself caught in the middle.
Unlike all those high officials I mentioned before, Jean Otus is an assistant to the chief of ACCA’s main headquarters. That means he’s part of ACCA’s middle management which inspects each section throughout Dōwā. However, as rumors abound about a possible coup within ACCA, he is given the added task of being the Director-General and the General Council’s middle man.
The surface of this series’ plot is your standard noir anime whodunit, as political tensions reveal themselves with each episode. However, these questions always remain: who can Jean trust, and whose side will he be on?
The State of Dōwā
As you have probably could have guessed by now, there has never been peace in the Dōwā Kingdom. Those 13 “territories” are the language that those at the top, particularly royals and the government, use in their everyday management of the country. However, each territory was once its own nation as part of the Dōwā island that looks a lot like a bird, and not all of them are particularly happy with how things are done.
After all, each territory is a colonized nation of Dōwā.
To be fair, the average citizen of Dōwā thinks nothing of the workings of the government. As long as they are allowed to live their daily lives in peace without intervention, they don’t care! However, not all territories are created equal, and as part of Jean’s position, he gets to witness each one of them firsthand.
The earliest case of something going awry in Dōwā’s supposed “peace” is in Suitsu. Upon Jean’s regular inspection of the territory, he finds that the people have started a rebellion of their own, as citizens storm the governor’s headquarters. This may be shocking to the average citizen who is convinced of the peace within Dōwā, but this was not the first time that Suitsu has had to install a new governor. In fact, this rebellion has been a regular occurrence, as the Kingdom still has yet to have gained respect of Suitsu’s citizens.
Although the rebels of Suitsu abhor the government for their ongoing oppression, the rebel leaders also understand that ACCA is the one government agency that is willing to listen to them, for it is the agency’s role to act disinterested in such matters. But despite a Director-General’s mission to maintain order in Dōwā, a local agent like Warbler knows that said “order” means oppressing the people of Suitsu, and thus will side with them as a resistance against the government.
Other territories experience similar unrest. However, not all of them agree which solution is best to act out of resistance, nor are all of their intentions for the government. The most spiteful territory would be general council Lilium’s Furawau, which is governed by Lilium’s entire clan.
The clan used to rule the former nation as their own kingdom, and Lilium is their prince. Lilium himself is highly invested in the possibility of a coup orchestrated by ACCA, but his interest ultimately lies in taking back power.
Lilium’s plan is a revenge story that runs deep in the Furawau nation’s oppression, and a coup would definitely work in his favor. However, his intentions come with a lot of interest, particularly in his family’s power to restore the fallen kingdom. Or perhaps, Lilium plans to relocate Dōwā’s capital to Furawau, with him serving as king. Who knows?
I think a lot of viewers can sympathize with Lilium’s goal of vengeance, but his plan does not guarantee the stability of the kingdom, namely of Furawau. Jean seems to be aware of this plan, but would he allow it?
Jean’s got to take care of his family too, namely his sister Lotta, and the possibility of losing his job over an inevitably violent coup won’t exactly help matters! And why is that?
The Missing Prince
What sets off all these rumors of a possible coup is none other than the fact that the King’s immediate successor is Prince Schwan. And in the nicest possible way I can describe him, he’s a spoiled prick. All his life he was groomed by the royal family to be a king, so he was isolated from the kingdom he was going to eventually rule, surrounded only by nobles who were close friends to the royal family.
Oh, and he makes it very clear in his numerous pouts that he intends to dissolve ACCA once he becomes King.
Needless to say, even territories that are relatively indifferent about being ruled by the Kingdom hate this guy, and they are worried about the state of the kingdom once he is given power. But as the current King is getting ready to pass down his crown, another rumor has circulated that the royal family’s missing prince (and princess) has returned! Now who could that be?
Not to go into gritty details, but Jean and Lotta Otus’s mother was the King’s first princess, and therefore comes first in the line of succession. However, she voluntarily left the kingdom and changed her name, living the rest of her life as a commoner. Jean and Lotta lived a normal life up into their adulthood, never knowing that they were direct successors of the throne. And although Lotta never seemed to have gotten this memo, Jean did.
Even when Jean visited each territory, people had thought that he was the missing prince, because his face closely resembled his mother’s. And given how much the average citizen hates Prince Schwan, the possibility of Prince Jean ascending to the throne sounds so much better!
The only problem in that scenario is that Jean has zero interest in being King. That’s definitely not acting out of disinterest. That’s straight up saying “I’m not doing it.” Jean is a part of the proletariat who takes his office seriously, and would rather enjoy a cigarette over making tough decisions.
While his sister Lotta would make an awesome Queen, I’m not sure how she would take it. Lotta appears to be very naive, acting starstruck in the presence of the royal family, yet also treats them like regular people. I personally wouldn’t have any problems with her being Queen, except that I don’t think anyone else in ACCA would be particularly thrilled about that. Her ability to rule the Kingdom wouldn’t be any better than Jean at this point! But even though Jean’s interests ultimately lie in Dōwā’s people and not the Sovereign, he too doesn’t want a tyrannical Prince Schwan come to power.
So the decision of a coup is at hand. But even though every territory, ACCA council member, and Jean Otus agrees that Prince Schwan needs to be ousted, no one can agree on a single solution, because of so many conflicting interests and values that come into play. Who’s going to make the final decision? Enter my favorite character from the ACCA series: Director-General Mauve.
The Coup de Grace
Although Mauve acts entirely out of disinterest throughout the drama, she makes her intentions very clear early on. Her role as Director-General of ACCA is to maintain order in the Dōwā Kingdom, and she plans to keep it that way. She uses Jean Otus as a medium to get information out of every territory, but also keeps a watchful eye on her supervisors, the General Council. Given all the information that is placed before her, no single decision could possibly make everyone happy.
But even so, a succession of power is coming, ACCA’s entire existence is threatened, and the possibility of a violent revolution comes knocking at any moment. Mauve is in a crucial position to ensure that Dōwā remains in relative peace with Prince Schwan’s succession. But one truth that she has withheld from literally everyone in this series is one that even I wouldn’t agree with: she still supports the Sovereign.
And what does she do?
Mauve stages the coup, merely to threaten Prince Schwan’s life, with an added bonus of revealing Lilium’s treason against the Sovereign, and Jean Otus was in on the entire plan. Given the information that Mauve had to sort through herself, as well as fulfill her primary role as Director-General, this would have been the best solution. And to top it all off, the King’s own General Council had been testing her–a civilian–all this time, to see if ACCA would be left in good hands as a separate power from the Sovereign. In all optimism, she passed with flying colors.
I would say that ACCA‘s animation ends on a positive note. However, it also needs to be clear exactly how this coup de grace was pulled off.
First, I don’t think that Mauve was playing around. Although she claims to have staged the entire thing to teach Prince Schwan a lesson about how the Kingdom operates, she had every intention of killing him right there on the spot if he refused to make a deal. Mauve may respect Prince Schwan’s humanity better than the average citizen, but she wouldn’t back down.
Second, Dōwā is not a democracy, so problematic concerns like populism (which allow for the persuasion of and sympathy for totalitarian rule) aren’t a huge issue that democracies face. ACCA is rather unique in that it has designed a system that polices itself and everyone seems to be on board with that.
And third, Mauve may not respond to conflicting information that she is given, but she still evaluates every bit on her own reasoning. She may not act like she cares about any particular individual or group’s concerns, but she still chooses her sides. This is a feature of disinterest that a lot of you may have forgotten is important to the decision making process. I do not envy her position to make such tough decisions at all.
That said, ACCA presents a very different approach to the political climate we face today, and I do think it is worth the watch just to think about it. By no means do I think that this is a probable solution, as the challenges we face are far more complex. But at the end of it all, there is a glimmer of hope that those with power may still use that power to resist, something that I take seriously with what little power I have, given that I have the consciousness of both the oppressed, and the oppressor.
By no means do I think that somehow makes me a perfect decision maker. Far from it actually. But perhaps, Jean Otus and I might have that in common. I hope that you might recognize that double consciousness in you as well.
So if you are looking for a noir anime that offers a different approach to political philosophy, watch ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.