What is ACCA about? It’s a question to which my answer changed throughout my watch time. Initially I thought it was about the failures of political systems and how complacency develops in nations over time. Then I thought perhaps it was a show about human connection and trying to understand others. Then I finally got it: ACCA is about everything. It’s about life.
ACCA is an ode to human existence unlike any other I have seen, it puts other shows that try to capture a similar feeling to shame. To call ACCA a slice of life show would be a disservice because it’s not just a slice, it’s the whole damn apple flavoured cake of life.
It does comment on politics, it does comment on human connection, it has something to say about life as a whole. And it’s comment is: “This is just the way things are”. It’s beautiful really, the show roots out the good things about life and also unearths the awful side of it and just sort of presents it to you.
I’d like to talk about a few main things the show covers and how I think it presents and comments on them, for if I don’t constrain myself I will end up writing about and rewatching this show on an endless loop without ever completing my article.
Let’s get into it then shall we?
Life as we see it: Inequality, Nationalism and How it Divides us
ACCA’s basis on the real world is not all that subtle, Badon is New York (yellow taxis, 7th avenue, subway systems) , Pranetta is Australia (unbearable heat, sandstorms, big rock in the middle along with it’s general aesthetic), Hare is Japan (island district with great food and the highest average life expectancy in Dowa) , Furawau is the Middle East ( controls 90% of oil output in Dowa). Those are but some of the examples that I was able to decipher myself.
Each of the 13 places in the show has it’s own unique culture, as their real life counterparts do, but the difference being of course they are all under the nominal dominion of the Dowa royal family. It seems to be similar to the UK, a union of autonomous regions with a monarch that has no real political power but a reputation that gives them influence.
(Edit: I forgot to mention that one of the districts, Yakkara, was meant to be Las Vegas which reinforces the theme of divisions within one country by having both Vegas and New York in there, which are in the same country in real life but are hugely different places. We’re all so similar yet so different.)
So why does it have this real life basis?
Autonomy = Inequality
“Separate is inherently unequal”. A paraphrasing of something I’m sure your aware is to do with racism in America. It applies in the world of ACCA for different reasons.
We see that due to various factors, from culture to distribution of resources, that not all districts can provide an equal quality of life for it’s citizens, despite that being the idea behind their autonomy. Furawau is shown to be an incredibly wealthy nation due to it’s oil reserves, with massive structures and beautiful flowers traversing it’s borders whereas Pranetta is shown to not to be able to offer it’s citizens much due to a lack of natural resources and (intentional) directing of funding to a seemingly fruitless mining industry.
It shows us however that all of these places have their own unique charm and beauty regardless of this inequality. The citizens are all for the most part happy. Life is a roll of the cosmic dice, complaining about inherent unfairness won’t help you enjoy it.
The only place we see this to not be true is in Suitsu, where the people are denied their freedom and are constantly uprising to try to attain it. Despite this they are all proud of where they are from and really they just want what’s best for their district. We don’t like being made to do things or not being allowed to do things, much more than we dislike not being able to do them.
The show takes global inequality and shows there is only so much we can do about it but that if we do what we can people will be happy with it.
Nationalism: Artificially dividing man since the dawn of time
Well not quite, but you get the point.
Nationalism furthers the divisions among people in the show. In an attempt to preserve culture and tradition many people in Suitsu have never even seen a phone before. Furawau eventually breaks away from the kingdom at the end of the show after it fails to gain control of it. National pride can estrange us from foreigners, despite the fact that, you know, we’re all humans.
Lilium suggests to Grossular at one point that whilst cultural identities are somewhat important, one should not place to much importance on them when trying to create a peaceful and equal country for all of it’s citizens. He of course was just saying this to get his way but what he was saying was true, to be equal people must try and break down these cultural barriers that divide us whilst also being mindful to not lose that identity entirely, it’s a fine balance that must be struck. (I do not say this with absolute certainty but this could be a comment on Japan’s insular culture and how it treats foreigners)
The show shows us these inequalities and merely informs us that there’s really not much anyone can do about it, that it doesn’t really matter to the individual but fixing it is in the interests of society as a whole.
Life as we don’t see it: Politics, Corruption and the Status Quo
The problems that came before are pretty apparent to the public, both in the world of ACCA and within our own. We see poverty, we see inequality, we know of the world’s problems whether or not we act to change them.
ACCA is all encompassing, so of course it shows us all that is going on around us, even the bits we don’t see. The politics, the corruption, the people holding the whole thing together. The unsung heroes and the unknown villains. ACCA shows us life behind the scenes.
The Myth of the Honest Politician
Politics is, for the most part, a farce. Once a nation gets to a certain place in it’s development it doesn’t really matter who’s in charge, not much will change. Again we look at Suitsu where a politician who promises changes in the district gets elected and never once returns. Politicians don’t make change, revolutionaries do. Politicians, mostly, work for personal gain, ACCA gets this across with the Suitsu situation. They don’t really do all that much, the people with the power work behind the scenes like the 5 chiefs.
ACCA seems to have this notion that as long as politicians and/or rulers don’t get in the way of the people who really do the work, they’re not a problem. I could go into examples of this in real life but I won’t, I don’t wish to bring personal opinions into this, I just wish to explain what I thought the show was saying and it would also be disingenuous in regards to the shows message.
The lack of governmental politics in this show I think is indicative of what it thinks about life. Sure you can worry about such things but it’s not going to change all that much. Throughout history countries have only really changed in times of revolution, this is paralleled by the fact that ACCA was created after a near coup in the show and how the shows present is occupied with the idea that a coup is the only way to change the leadership and preserve ACCA.
Systemic Corruption at it’s Finest
Most of us don’t see the corruption going on around us, either by way of ignorance or apathy. Any system that has the power to make things equal will be targeted by those who seek to use it in the opposite manner. If it can make things equal it can also make them unequal.
The show presents this corruption as both a good and bad thing and ultimately, as something that’s just going to happen. When this corruption is said to be intent on creating a coup, it’s bad. When we learn that coup is to protect the people, it’s good. When we learn that Lilium wishes to use it as a means to gain power, it’s bad again. And so on and so forth.
Corruption will always happen, we will never quite know (usually) how some of the worst and best things in human history came to be. Bending the rules can be necessary in the interests of upholding the ideals those rules are meant to protect. The ends justify the means, to a certain extent.
This is nicely shown in how Jean’s and Nino’s relationship pans out. Despite the fact their entire relationship was based on the fact Nino had to watch over him, at the end of the day they are friends and that’s all that matters to Jean. Lies are just part of human nature, if we knew everything about one another or more accurately, cared about said things we’d never be able to form meaningful relationships.
This crosses over into the management side of things, sometimes corruption is needed to make things work in practice as opposed to in theory, but that doesn’t mean that it should be allowed to run rampant. This is why the ACCA inspection department exists, and why Jean knows when and when to not exercise his powers as an inspector.
Nothing Ever Changes
At the end of this show we are left in a situation that is nearly the exact same as how we started. ACCA runs under a king who is mostly a figurehead. Suitsu is promised it can have more freedoms (a minor change), and Pranetta finds some natural resources through it’s mining that serves to nullify the absence of Furawau oil. Furawau, of course, leaves the kingdom but Grossular is confident that things will go back to the way they were with the district rejoining, and that’s why the flag remains with a 13 on it and not a 12.
Jean spends the entire show merely doing things in an attempt to maintain the status quo. He meets with and reports to Mauve to make things run smoother in his life, he makes a plan with her to usurp the uprising whilst making sure that it’s intended outcome was still reached (the maintaining of the current system).
It’s shown that while things will never change a whole lot, little tweaks and fixes can be made to everything in life to make it a little better.
But then again……
None of it Really Matters, So Relax a little
This brings us to the shows main point. Life is about living it as you see fit. Through all the politics and problems and whatever else in the world, the basics of life will never change. People will still want the same things, companionship and love being the two most prevalent desires.
Jean’s entire story shows us how we should handle life, just taking as it comes, because that’s really all we can do. Worrying about other things just takes away from the time we have right now.
Life, Cigarettes and Apathy
For a show that is so dense with meaning and information, it never felt that way to me. It was an easy watch (I completed the whole thing in one day) and the reason for that is of course our main character, Jean.
He spends the entire story dealing with things as they come, just trying to live his life and enjoy it. He is never fazed by anything that happens, to him it’s just another thing that life will inevitably throw at him, he just has to deal with it. This is evidenced in particular by a scene in which Nino, after Jean tells him he knows he’s stalking him and doesn’t really care, tells Jean “This involves you but you don’t really give a damn. That’s just like you.”
Jean is central to everything that happens in the show. The districts ACCA branches are under his watchful eye, the coup hinges on his involvement, he could be the most powerful man in the country if he wanted to be. But he doesn’t. That would be too stressful. He takes everything in the show as it comes and attempts to manage them in a way that allows him to return to his peaceful life.
The cigarette motif is one that echoes this sentiment, he gets them for free for doing certain jobs. He wishes to do things that make his life easier, less stressful, more enjoyable. Cigarettes do this, they relax him. They make life a bit easier. Just living is his happiness.
He likes Mauve and is excited at the prospect of a date with her, the only thing he gets really happy about throughout the show. In the end we see that while his sister Lotta goes to the castle to meet her Grandfather, the king, he does not. In the end he cherishes the normalcy of his life, his friendship with Nino and his family. That’s why he always has people be around Lotta so that she is not lonely, this is why he does not care why Nino became his friend. Life isn’t in the details it’s in the living of it.
We are shown that the show’s happiest people are those who don’t worry about all this stuff going on around them. Lotta in particular has no idea what is going on and is shown to be very happy throughout and only ever even slightly upset when she begins to get involved in the things behind the scenes. The residents of Pranetta are noted by Jean as being extremely happy despite their relative lack of, well, everything. The Pranetta district chief says that it’s because they follow their dreams. Instead of spending their budget on developing their district to be more livable they chase the fortune that mining could potentially bring and are much happier for it. They don’t concern themselves with all of the bullshit that Jean has to deal with and are much better for it.
In essence ACCA presents to us what life is and tells us not to worry about it too much. Kick back, pour yourself a drink, light a cigarette and just enjoy the ride that is life.
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