“To win her heart, you will need to set up a bakery for sandwich bread in Dowa.”
–Maggie, ACCA, Episode 5
I’ve always been the competitive type. When I was much younger, this drive manifested in sports and other outdoorsy activities (much to the surprise of people that know me now, I was actually somewhat of an extrovert back then). During the 5th grade, I’d often be one of the last people tagged out during gym class as I viciously hurled myself at the other kids’ flags during capture the flag. I remember one time in particular I swear I was flying — I did a belly flop on the hard gym floor and knocked the wind out of myself — all for the sake of sweet, sweet victory.
As a young kid, my whole world thrived on gym and recess. There was no better fulfillment than clumsily and successfully maneuvering the army of kids trying to take me down, whether it was football, dodgeball, or whatever else. I was the (self-proclaimed) recess king.
And that’s precisely why when my homeroom teacher took my recess away I cried long streams of crocodile tears begging her to put me back out there. I looked up from behind my desk and stared out the window to see my friends all out there laughing and having a good time. I begged her: “Please, I’ll do anything!” She just looked at me for a bit before walking up to hand me the first novel of the Harry Potter series. I looked back disgruntled: “Why would I read when I could be doing something fun outside?,” my dumb 5th grade self thought. Never in my life had I read one of those books and I sure as heck wasn’t going to spend my recess doing that. I had a ‘cool’ image to uphold to my peers.
I caved out of sheer boredom and hesitantly read a few pages.
Those few pages turned into a few chapters, and before I knew it, recess was already over but I hadn’t bothered to look up; I was completely entrenched in a world I dismissed as boring not even thirty minutes prior. I hadn’t even noticed until the teacher called my name.
ACCA is a story that says to hell with expectations and preconceived notions on what makes anime good, throwing the staples of anime tradition to the wayside in favor of a more subtle, nuanced approach to storytelling.
As such, It should come to no surprise to know that this winter season’s ACCA has dissenting opinions among the anime community. Some people have cited it as ‘People talking, the anime.’
After all, the show doesn’t aim to dazzle us in the way we’ve come to expect from traditional series— there are no explosive visuals, no internal monologue, no signature moves or battles, nor is there any trademark fanservice to feast on— there’s just our protagonist Jean Otus and his day-to-day dialogues with people as he does his job. The show’s lowkey vibes will fool the more passive viewers – the ones used to anime that panders to their senses – into believing there’s nothing there. Much of the action and excitement of ACCA comes from deciphering the dialogue to find the hidden meanings behind character’s intents.
ACCA asks us to work for it — to think about what lies beneath the exterior — informing us that we need to tread carefully, lest we become victims to false expectations. This should be alarming to the army of anime viewers that have been spoiled with the rush of instant gratification and exposition. To fully enjoy ACCA, we need to drop all assertions of the medium and have patience. In a series subtlety unveiling key plot points through character interactions and nuance of expressions, the responsibility lies with us, the viewer, to avoid being entangled in the web of deceit woven by dialogue.
“I don’t care about that right now. This is what I care about right now, this “toast” object, crispy on the outside, yet fluffy and chewy inside!”
-Maggie, ACCA, Episode 5
In Episode 5 of ACCA, the series highlights the hypocritical nature of people, suggesting that we consider all perspectives before we make sweeping judgements. Maggie, who asks a subordinate of his to spy on Lotta, is upset about their incompetence and failure to complete the mission after being distracted by food. To him, his subordinate had violated the sanctity of work by entertaining their own simple delights.
Nevertheless, Maggie takes matters into his own hand, thinking that if he wants to have something done right he’ll have to do it himself, so he heads off to spy on Lotta at the restaurant she’s eating at. Once there, he orders from the menu. Agent Rail catches onto him and approaches, only to be brushed off by a Maggie that’s in disbelief of the richness and flavor of the food. Furthermore, not only did Maggie ignore Agent Rail, he had completely forgotten about where he was and why he was there. He had done what he had just ridiculed.
ACCA tells us that the very notion of expectations is the enemy. The scenes with food aren’t there as simple filler, as one may think, but rather to showcase the contradictory nature of people and the allure of simple delights.
Prince Schwan is the representation of the average otaku that sifts through the anime season searching for a new hit, but is often quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t fit his expectations. When Prince Schwan catches up with Maggie, he’s disappointed with the information he receives about Lotta. Maggie explains that the key to Lotta’s heart is through bread, but Prince Schwan isn’t buying it: “This isn’t what I wanted!” He’s unbelievably tough and rigid, much like the bread that he’s come to like.
“I heard you like wheat bread, so I made some special arrangements for today. The beer and wheat is from out of town”
-Birra District Supervisor, ACCA, Episode 5
Unlike Prince Schwan, Jean has shown a carefulness about himself and how he approaches the world. He exudes a calm and collected demeanor that permeates the atmosphere of the narrative at surface level. Armed with astute observations and skepticism, he is aware that everyone is attempting to appeal to his simple pleasures. He plays characters attempts at manipulation with a cool, enigmatic indifference.
Notice, whenever he’s meeting up with someone to exchange information, the conversations always take place somewhere that the other person believes would appeal to Jean — Mauve had taken him to a fancy dinner in the past when she attempted to recruit him as an ally, Nino gets him drunk constantly, and the Birra District Supervisor presents him with all sorts of delicious food.
The thing is, we can’t really tell what anyone is thinking — there’s no way to know because we can’t see into the character’s thoughts. ACCA gradually and intricately weaves a plot entangled in mystery. We’re forced to follow the breadcrumbs given to us through exploring what is said and seen. ACCA’s allure thus, lies in its ability to engage the audience, telling you that truth is somewhere just beyond the lies. The series calls upon us to be active participants of the medium to get more out of it.
Which comes back to why ACCA isn’t as popular as some of the other series of the winter. Those idly sitting by, waiting for their usual visual feasts simply won’t get it. They’re not accustomed to being active participants — to the intricacies and delights of subtle narration ACCA thrives under. The series is deceptively lowkey, and many have fallen prey to its subtleties. But if you take a closer look, approaching with an open mind, a rich and flavorful world is out there, ripe and ready, waiting to be sampled. Don’t be a fool like my 5th grade self and dismiss the possibilities of a brilliant world because of false perceptions.
– Palpable ღゝ◡╹)ノ♡