From the very beginning, ACCA episode 1 is a carefully constructed exercise in style. Every character of note is crisply detailed, contrasting backgrounds that are noticeably washed out in comparison. Jazzy overtones, or the lack thereof, carry the tone of each scene, at times placing the viewer at odds with a feeling that there’s something deeper afoot.
All of these choices go hand-in-hand with what we know about the first episode’s storyline. The anime hints that there may be trouble brewing in the kingdom of Dowa, a federation comprising 13 autonomous regions—both at the highest level and within the districts themselves—but focuses all of your attention on the characters at an individual level, on drama caused by people.
But it’s not just the people, or individuals. The air of mystery and, for lack of a better word, swagger of ACCA are exemplified even further by the anime’s protagonist, Jean the Cigarette Peddler, Vice Chairman of the Inspection Department that oversees the government services of Dowa’s outlying regions. The first episode’s pacing is deliberately and completely set by his movements, his conversations, and his personality. Jean’s wit and reticence contrast greatly with many of the other folks who work with—and/or are secretly envious of—him. Even when the artwork in a scene seems to depict characters as on a level playing field with him, the camera pans back to show his reaction at the end.
For all of its panache, however, ACCA hedges on being overly slow, albeit at a consistent pacing. The first viewing of this 24-minute episode feels almost twice as long. Many details are given out in passing, or simply hinted at through the course of the show, necessitating a second viewing or multiple rewinds to understand what exactly transpired. For example, the theme of tobacco as a commodity comes up repeatedly throughout the episode but is not explicitly commented on. With a main character bearing the epithet “Cigarette Peddler,” this must surely play a central role in the anime (maybe even in the next episode, judging from the last minutes of this one).
Whatever the case may be in the future, this episode has quite a lot going for it. I hope that in the coming weeks, viewers of this show will receive more to chew on, to complement the extremely stylish exterior the anime has already presented.