What They Say:
For nearly a century, Dowa Kingdom has known only peace thanks to the independent organization known as ACCA. But as the king grows older with no named heir, rumors of a coup are spreading from the top brass down to the notorious smoker, Jean Otus. Tasked with auditing all thirteen states, he soon finds himself the target of his higher-ups while a mysterious person keeps tabs on his every move.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language track gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded by the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show is one that is essentially all about the dialogue with little in the way of action or larger moments as a whole so there’s not a lot of stretching going on here. Placement makes some decent use in a few scenes here and there depending on the layout of the characters interacting but a lot of it is just center channel based when you get down to it. The movement as needed works well and both tracks have a clean and problem free approach that makes regular playback enjoyable as you get to just immerse yourself into the world.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by Madhouse, the production is one that adapts the original work well with its character designs and the sense of structure in the various cities and locations in a really good way. It’s not soft per se in color design but it avoids a lot of the flashier and more vibrant pieces while still having areas that stand out well, particularly the red in the uniforms and some of the hair colors. The show isn’t high-motion so the bit rate gives it a very solid feeling throughout that makes for a clean and enjoyable encoding that lets the details and designs stand out even more here during playback.
The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case with an o-card that has different artwork than the case itself. The o-card uses the key visual from the series with the bird symbol as the background where we get a look at a lot of the personalities within its feathers while the foreground has our lead character of Jean looking all serious. It’s an eye-catching piece that doesn’t go with some of the usual layout designs and it catches your attention. The back covers for both are the same with a clean breakdown of images and tagline material along the top while the bottom half breaks out the summary of the premises, what extras are included, and the technical grid all alongside a character visual for Jean. This visual is what makes up half of the case cover itself from the Japanese release side where he’s paired with Nino in the darker side of it, making for a good contrast. While there are no show related inserts here we do get two full-color panels of artwork on the reverse side that shows off more great material.
The static menu for this release kind of amuses me a bit as some elements of the instrumental music that plays along reminds me of the Seinfeld theme music, which is kind of disconcerting in the right way. The main visual here is of Jean and Nino together having a little tea and food at a small table which the music adds to nicely. It’s all done in illustration style with a neat approach to the blues within it that makes it eye-catching. The navigation is kept to a strip along the bottom that’s simple but effective and it works well as both the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release comes with the familiar and always welcome clean opening and closing sequences, which definitely delivers what I like to see. But it also includes six special featurettes that clocks in at just over thirty minutes as a whole. These are bilingual pieces that run a little over five minutes each and essentially present small bonus OVAs that flesh out the characters and the world well, from the ACCA meeting rooms to Jean just doing things around the house. They’re a nice way to kind of unwind after the main series itself ends.
Based on the manga Akka: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka by Natsume Ono, this anime adaptation landed in the winter 2017 season for a twelve episode run as animated by Madhouse. The manga kicked off in 2013 and finished up in late 2016 which made it easier for the animation team to give us a complete show, something that definitely makes me happy. The manga only ran for six volumes and that’s also a big plus as it kept it from overstaying its welcome. I’ve enjoyed a number of Natsume Ono works over the years in both forms but I’ve also found them to be works that end up best with shorter runs as it explores more moody and smaller moments rather than orchestrating truly big events. This one changes that up but just a touch.
The premise behind this is that we’re introduced to the Kingdom of Dowa where there are thirteen districts that work together as a unified kingdom. Each district provides something fairly distinct to the others and they’re all very much bonded together with about a hundred years of peace at this point. While each district is distinct there’s the overall organization called ACCA that works to keep it all running. Members from the higher side have singular uniforms but in-district they’re all fairly unique which gives it something neat in how they carve out their own identity while still being a part of the larger whole. The problem is that while ACCA does a lot of good in overseeing things and rooting out corruption, there’s not a lot in general and there’s a push to eliminate it. A lot of this is coming from the prince that’s just about to come of age and is expecting his elderly father to abdicate. His intent is to eliminate and consolidate power, not being aware or caring much of the events that drove the kingdom to this position in the first place and how key it is.
Within this setting our main view is through Jean, a man who works as the second-in-command of the ACCA inspection agency that keeps tabs on all the other district branches. He’s a bit of an oddity in general since he smokes, something that’s largely banned due to one of the royals suffering from it years ago, and he’s not terribly interested in the ACCA itself. When the show starts in talking about how it’s being dissolved by the Chief Officers, a group of five that oversees its existence, he’s fairly content with that and figures he’ll just move on to something else. That doesn’t actually happen and instead the ACCA is kept functioning, albeit with a sense that something is different now. Jean, for his part, is assigned to visit all of the districts and assess them over the next six months, particularly to see what feeling he gets in regards to their being a coup or some sort of unrest.
While the show does serve as a kind of travelogue of the districts as seen through Jean’s eyes, which is interesting enough in itself and as a kind of analytical piece since he’s looking big picture, there’s a lot more to it. A series like this could easily have just been a travel and meet and greet kind of piece but it’s layering a couple of good stories here about the potential coup and who may be orchestrating it and why. With the sides being explored along the way there’s enough in most of them to be reasonable enough to understand, especially as fortunes change and pasts are dug into more. It’s the kind of piece that I’m hesitant to say too much about in a review simply because the discovery side of it is a large part of the appeal. There are things you can suss out relatively early and easily enough but it weaves it all together really well and it actually hits some neat notes toward the end because it doesn’t play out as you’d expect and works in some good twists that causes you to reevaluate most of the characters.
A lot of the appeal with Natsume Ono’s works is the design and style of it. The characters certainly aren’t traditional in their design and it really works well for this kind of story. The lanky look of them definitely hits a sweet spot, especially with the uniforms, but it’s also the variety of deadpan expressions that wins me over. Madhouse really excelled with this show in what it was attempting to do here. It may not be a high-motion show but they create this kingdom and all its districts really well in this form and the color palette brings it to life all the more. But the heart and soul comes from the characters and I just adore the way Ono’s works are adapted here.
The ACCA 13 Territory Inspection Dept hits a certain sweet spot for me with it dealing with politics, intrigue, and the structure of a kingdom in interesting ways. It’s not overdone or even overly dramatic as it plays a bit more to a form of realism than anything else. It populates it world well with the characters while keeping its focus on our lead and those in his orbit – but also spending time with others to let their machinations come to life. Funimation’s release is definitely good here with a good inclusion of extras, a solid package with the o-card and cover designs, and a solid dub along with a solid encode. It looks great and is definitely the kind of series that stands out against a sea of more traditional projects.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Special Featurette 1-6, Textless Opening & Closing songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.