Cop Craft – 03 – Tilting at Windmills

We soon find out where Tirana went—to O’Neill in order to get her into the Pioneer Club run by Elbaji. O’Neill makes sure she looks the part with a skimpy cocktail dress, hose and heels, and attempts to walk like an Earth Girl are unsuccessful. But it doesn’t take long for her to find Elbaji, because he comes right up to her at the bar to make a pass.

Once they’re alone in Elbaji’s office (with two of his guards) and he learns who she is and what she’s after, the chatting is replaced with fighting. Tirana pulls a sword out of her purse and relieves the guards of their hands in the blink of an eye, but Elbaji has a sword too, and soon overpowers her (she left her good sword with Kei, after all).

As Kei learns though Wikipedia (natch), a Knight of Mirvor leaves their sword behind when they are taking a temporary step away from their chivalric code, be it temporary or permanent. But it isn’t long before Kei is on Tirana’s trail as she’s captured and brought to some abandoned temple ruins in an undeveloped district of the island.

Chief Roth tells him to hold his position and wait, but things down at the temple are moving very fast. After Elbaji gives Tirana to Zelada for questioning, Zelada, a supposedly otherwise venerable wizard, leaves her alone with disposible guards, which she quickly dispatches and follows Zelada to his horrifying workshop, where she finds thousands of jars containing fairies in various stages of dismemberment.

Elbaji confronts her there, and as before, he shows off some of the noble background he shed in order to find his own fortune in America: the Land of Opportunity where Money is God. Tirana looks like she’s in trouble again with nothing but a stick to fight with, but Kei arrives in the nick and tosses her her knightly sword.

In a wonderfully-drawn fight full of bold flourishes, Tirana shows what a Knight of Mirvor can do, particularly one who was taught swordsmanship from Lord Verada Vreideni. And just like that, a bad guy I thought she and Kei would have to deal with for some time dies right there on the ground in a pool of his blood.

Unfortunately, the “psychic bomb” Elbaji had on him is a dummy; the “fairy” inside is just a doll. Now reunited, Kei and Tirana find a passage out of the temple and track down Zelada, but the arrest is interrupted by the arrival of Chief Roth, which is very confusing for Kei, considering Zelada sure looks like the guy who killed his whole unit in The War.

Roth shoots Tirana and orders Kei to let Zelada go. Turns out he’s a hardcore xenophobe who wants to use the threat of the psychic bomb to re-separate the two worlds, politically and culturally. Never mind if many humans have adapted; he doesn’t want coexistence, period.

But like Elbaji, Chief Roth doesn’t last long, as Tirana’s sword caught the bullet, and her getting back up is enough distraction for Kei to pull a second gun from his ankle holster to kill Roth, who up until tonight had been like a father to him. Roth’s grand plot also seemed a bit too sprawling and ambitious for a man of his relatively humble station. We’ll see if anyone else in his unit or the department harbors similar positions and goals.

The chase for Zelada continues, leading to the tallest building in the city, Forest Tower. The results would be disastrous if a psychic bomb were detonated there. While on their way to the roof, Tirana notices that Kei’s sidearm has a faint hint of latena, created from feelings put into an object or weapon. Thus, he might not be entirely useless in the impending fight with the red wizard.

This was another strong entry from the great-looking and sounding Cop Craft, which really gets its world-building, little details, and combat right. It’s villains have a tendency to drop pretty quick, but its not like Elbaji or Roth were particularly compelling (though Elbaji’s forsaken noble past wasn’t nothing). More than anything, it’s fleet, fast-paced, and fun, and the central partnership is starting to gel nicely.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 13 – Malty Escalation

When one of Melty’s escorts suddenly rushes her, Naofumi acts instinctively and blocks his strike, but then the knights all suddenly adopt the notion that the Shield Hero has kidnapped the Second Princess, and they attack him in order to “rescue” her. Naofumi shields Melty while Raphtalia and Filo deal (non-lethal) blows to the other knights, but two of them aren’t fighting; they’re recording.

They magically alter that recording to make it look like the “Devil of the Shield’s” vicious slaves are massacring the knights, then present that fake footage all across the lands, making it much harder for Naofumi’s party to move about freely, keeping his reputation in the shitter (even after all the people he’s saved), and preventing him from acquiring the means to level up past 40.

It’s a dastardly plot that has Malty written all over it. While Naofumi considers the king to be involved as well, Melty vouches for her father, in whom she doesn’t want to lose hope of reconciling with the Shield Hero. When Naofumi decides his party will leave the country and head to Siltvelt, Melty offers to return home, but Naofumi, knowing Malty, warns her that will only get her killed.

So Melty joins the party, not as a hostage, but a willing companion. She learns what her father had done to Naofumi to make him hate him so, while Naofumi learns that Melromarc is a matrilineal monarchy, which means her mother the Queen is higher in rank than the King.

Those small moments of exposition aside, a good chunk of the episode is comprised of lovely sprawling vistas that dwarf the party as they trudge onward, all while Kevin Penkin’s lush, sublime score washes over it all. But they’re not alone out there in the wilderness: they’re being followed…and pursued.

Eventually Naofumi, Raphtalia, Filo and Melty are cornered at the edge of a sheer cliff, and the three heroes, all of them either willing or unwitting puppets of Malty’s treachery, descend upon Naofumi, ordering her to release Melty. Naofumi tries to talk sense to them, and even Melty makes a little headroom in calling for an end to “needless conflicts.”

But all of that progress is lost when Malty makes the supremely insidious suggestion that Naofumi has in his possession a shield that brainwashes anyone he talks to. That means not only Melty can’t be taken at her word, but Raphtalia (and more importantly for Motoyasu, Filo) are brainwashed too. Ren still has his doubts, but gives in to the inertia or Malty’s incessant scheming.

Naofumi decides retreat to be the best option, and he, Raphtalia and Melty jump onto Filo and start to fly away, but Filo is brought down and her strength sealed by a magical bangle prepared by the alchemists for Motoyasu to capture her. Melty finally whips out her own (water-based) magic in an attempt to get Filo freed, but Malty fires back with fire, ignoring Ren’s suggestion she maybe stop attacking the Crown Princess?

Malty dispenses with any pretense and unilaterally states that if Melty is brainwashed, she must die. Alright, then! I have to say, if Melty was chosen over her to be Crown Princess, you’d think the King and Queen would have done more to limit her powers and freedom of movement, because she has single-handedly really gummed up the works. Raphtalia manages to deliver some revenge when she slips in from behind stabs her with the magic sword she was gifted.

Filo regains her strength (and then some) with the gloves she got as a gift as well, while Naofumi splits the rock  formations with his Rage Shield, leaving Ren, Malty, Motoyasu and Itsuki on one side, unable to pursue for now.

They flee into the woods, where they’re approached by one of the Queen’s Shadows. The Queen summons Naofumi to her location at once, which just happens to be in the opposite direction of their original destination of Siltvelt. It also means backtracking to where they left Malty and the heroes.

With Malty burning through the forest, it’s clear that she’s not going to give up hunting for Naofumi or her sister that easily. Who knows if anyone will be able to rein her in now, as she’s really turned the villainy up to 11. As for Melty, she considers herself an official member of the party, and demands that Naofumi call her by her first name from now on, irking Raphtalia.

There was some great action, adventure, and above all music this week, but man alive does that First Princess steam my beans! My frustration might have knocked this down to an 8 if there wasn’t still hope she’ll get her just righteous comeuppance at some point.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 12 – The True Battle Of The Wave

Glass dismisses three of the four heroes as nothing but “servants”, and her appraisal isn’t off-base, as their best meteor attacks fail to put a scratch on her, and all three go down with one strike, no doubt wounding their egos as well as their bodies.

That leaves Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo to deal with her, and while she’s somewhat impressed by his stout defense (as befits the Shield Hero), nothing offensive he can throw at her is any more effective than his beaten fellow heroes.

She breaks out of the Shield Prison immediately. Filo’s kicks are fast but still can’t touch her. Poor Raph’s swordsmanship isn’t even “worth mentioning.” She even calmly basks in the enveloping flames of Naofumi’s Rage Shield like it’s a sauna; “too cold” to burn her. This Glass lady is tough, and if the first Wave seemed to easy, it’s clear the difficulty level has risen exponentially.

That brings us to Naofumi’s final trump card, the Iron Maiden, so effective against the soul eater. Turns out it’s just as useless on Glass as Shield Prison. Glass’ withering criticism of her opponents’ attacks almost grows tiresome—we get it, Naofumi can’t beat you at his present level—but just as she’s ready to take him out, a countdown starts on his HUD, which indicates the Wave “period” is about to end.

Rather than give Glass the last word, Naofumi has Raph cast Fast Light, and the two of them jump on Filo who gets them the hell out of there. She doesn’t chase, and her attacks aren’t effective at long range, so she calls it a draw, this time. But when the next Wave arrives, she promises to kill them unless they grow stronger. Much stronger.

The second Wave disperses, and Naofumi is quickly summoned back to King Melromarc’s court for some backhanded thanks and demand that he explain how he gained so much power—more than “befits a Shield Hero.” Naofumi, no longer having any more shit from this royal family, tells the king he’ll talk…if he bows down and grovels.

This act of disrespect leads the king to call in his guards, but Naofumi is quite right when he says he can take them all out and walk out the front door without any difficulty, and the guards waver. When the king says he’ll punish Naofumi’s “slaves” in his stead, that really rankles him, and he promises him if anything happens to his underlings on account of more dirty tricks, the king will “wish he had never been born,” then stalks out unopposed, like a boss.

Princess Melty later hears of the “hostile” exchange between her daddy and Naofumi, and tells her father that their country will be put at risk until they reconcile. Her older sister Malty intervenes and tries to make a stink of matters, but Melty shuts her down almost immediately, and with good reason: she’s the one who was trusted with the title of crown princess.

Naofumi shakes off his unpleasant experience at the palace and gets re-outfitted by Elhart, who fills the wagon back up and throws in some gifts for good measure: a new sword for Raphtalia, along with a bladeless mana sword, a shield scanner thingy for Naofumi, and gloves that will increase Filo’s strength.

Naofumi is looking forward to being nowhere near the royal city, royal family, or the other hero jerks. Unfortunately, the peace doesn’t last long, as Melty and her retinue track his party down and urges him to return and make peace with her father. Naofumi is as stubborn as the king, and his strong passes ignite Melty’s secret weapon: the Entitled Person’s Tantrum.

But as she protests his obstinance, Naofumi senses something’s UP—set-up to be precise. Of what kind, he soon finds out: one of the knights who escorted Melty rushes at her, sword drawn, and Naofumi draws her back and shields her…with his shield.

Obviously, these knights are in Malty’s pocket (I doubt the king is awful enough to off his own heir). Honestly, it kinda just makes her look foolish and pathetic—why try to assassinate her sister in front of the Shield Hero, who could easily protect her? In any case, if Melty doesn’t re-join the party next week (or whenever the next episode airs), I’ll be shocked.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 10 – Next Time, Just Use Tsuchimikado’s Quinjet

As Itsuwa searches the internet for a sexy outfit to counter Kaori’s maid assault, Knight Leader stands ready to instruct Kaori on how to act like “a proper English lady” (and presumably dress like one, neither of which appeal to her), while a chance encounter between Touma and Misaka results in the latter getting “overcharged” at the vending machine.

Touma comes home to Index with instant yakisoba, but their meager repast is interrupted by a call from Tsuchimikado, whom Touma demands to keep it short, and he does: “Get your ass to Britain.” A moment later a knockout gas grenade is thrown into the apartment, and Touma and Index pass out.

At some point between then and when we next see the pair, they were given a choice to board Tsuchimikado’s supersonic jet for travel to Britain, but Touma chose the more comfortable alternative of commercial air travel aboard “Air Bus 365” (which sounds more like a make and model of plane than a flight number).

This would be fine, with the biggest problem keeping Index fed and quiet, but due to Touma’s boundless misfortune, the airliner they happen to board has been infiltrated by anti-Britain terrorists with agendas related to heightening tensions between the magical forces of Britain and France.

When Touma discovers something is amiss when searching for (what else) Index’s meal (we’ll never know—beef or fish?!) the flight crew arrests him lest a panic brew in the cabin. One of the terrorists then captures Index and tries to kill her, but Touma manages to rescue her. It’s a tense, claustrophobic situation and the flight crew seems ill-equipped to stop the terrorists, leaving it up to Touma.

On the ground in Britain, Laura Stuart and her logistics nuns represent at least one of the groups trying to bring the plane down (in her case, allowing it to land safely on a closed-off country highway). But their magical manipulation of the plane’s fuel gauges are overridden and the terrorist gets the pilot to regain altitude, so Laura has to switch to Plan S…for Stiyl Magnus, making his first appearance in the trequel.

Touma manages to track down the first terrorist and punches him out, but it isn’t long before he realizes there’s definitely a second, armed terrorist in the cargo hold. He uses hot tea to expand the ductwork so he can slip into the hold undetected, just like they do in the movies! Unfortunately the second terrorist is less of a pushover and has a grenade in his hand.

That’s when Stiyl arrives, perched atop a second plane below Air Bus 365. He uses his cards to neutralize the second terrorist, scolds Touma for not doing the bare minimum to protect Index, then departs as quickly as he arrived. Hi Stiyl, Bye Stiyl!

Air Bus 365 lands safely at Edinburgh; this is reported on the radio being listened to by what looks like another new group of magical users who are about to initiate a plan that will “break up the paradigm that is Britain,” suggesting they’ll be a key part of the complex magical conflict to unfold in this new arc, with Touma right in the middle of it.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 04 – Items, Groups and Schools, Oh My!

Index shifts from Avignon to Academy City, and the only character from that previous mini-arc who appears here is Tsuchimikado, carrying out his duties as a member of the anti-underworld group, er…GROUP. Other members include the teleporter Musujime, the skin-changing Unabara (at least I think he’s aligned with them), and Accelerator, who still thinks everything’s a big drag but still does his job when told. For all you Index junkies out there we also get cameos from Heaven Canceller and Last Order.

 

GROUP’s latest mission is to follow a series of actions by another group that calls itself SCHOOL, led by 2nd-ranked Level 5 Kakine Teitoku. They carry out an attempted assassination on Oyafune (the woman Tsuchimikado himself shot a couple episodes back; woman can’t catch a break) but Accelerator and Musujime create a diversionary explosion that foils the hit.

However, even the attempt helps SCHOOL, as it throws citywide security preparations into disarray, which is what they really wanted (Oyafune is a little fish in a big pond). GROUP isn’t the only group after SCHOOL; Mugino Shizuri’s ITEM is following their movements as well.

When SCHOOL and ITEM come together, Mugino ends up having to leave behind half her crew, while her errand boy Hamazura barely escapes from a heavily-armed girl in a pink cocktail dress; Kakine gets away with the “nanoparticle object interference absorption manipulator”, AKA “The Tweezers.”

SCHOOL then proceed to crack a school district computer virus archive, then gain access to the satellite control center…which would enable them to use the orbital lasers. Not good! Kakine mentions his ultimate goal is to get to (Academy City administrator) Aleister Crowley. GROUP and the wounded ITEM seem always at least a step behind, but Accelerator hijacks a passing car to head to the center and…take care of business.

There’s a lot of names, groups and terms to remember, but most of them were in previous iterations of Raildex, so there’s still a thread of familiarity running through the episode. It’s also neat to see the very active Academy City underworld in action, and to see how relatively clueless an official law enforcement officer like Yomikawa Aiho is to what’s going on.

Grand Blue – 03 – Stepping into a New World

Diving involves a lot of equipment in good order, which means it’s quite a costly activity for a college club to be involved in; far costlier than, say, the tiddly winks club or the pogo stick club. Iori and Kouhei are informed of this in a matter-of-fact way, meaning they will have to help contribute to club funds.

They already have a way for them to contribute right away: by participating in the Izu Spring Festival’s Inter-Club Men’s Beauty Pageant. But before that, Ryuu takes Iori out for his very first scuba-diving lesson. Before he departs, he gets words from encouragement from Chisa.

Chisa is clearly excited that her old friend is about to experience something she’s already familiar with—and which she loves. Things start out a bit rough, as Iori isn’t used to the kind of breathing one does in scuba gear, and when his mask floods he panics.

But once everything is readjusted, he remembers what Chisa showed him at the aquarium, and it’s like stepping through the doorway into a new world. You can see the switch flip in Iori’s head from panic to nirvana, and the look of joy and wonder on his face is plain to see—and something that delights Chisa. “Good, he gets it now,” she seems to be thinking.

The wonder and joy lead to excessive celebration, which is nothing new to Iori and Kouhei, but what is new is the manner in which Iori finds himself waking up: beside a buxom half-naked woman a couple years her senior. This is how he meets third-year student and fellow diving club member Hamaoka Azusa.

Azusa is the kind of girl who doesn’t mind sleeping in the same room with a bunch of guys, but she’s also a good cook, and teaches Iori, Kouhei and Chisa how to make okonomiyaki to raise more funds for the club at the festival. The festival where, in exchange for not having to compete in the boy’s pageant, the boys must convince Chisa to compete in the girls’ pageant.

The lads, likely still hungover, decide the best way to convince Chisa is to liquor her up so she’ll be more open to the pageant. However, each time they try to slip her a spiked drink, she either already has one, politely declines, it’s taken by Azusa, or one or both of them have to take the drink. Before long, they’re drunk as skunks.

Azusa also reveals she knows what they’re up to—to the heretofore unaware but now horrified Chisa—and forces them to confess their true goal. They ask Chisa to enter the pageant; she refuses; and they reveal that they’re trying to get her to enter so they don’t have to.

That night, the lads play naked rock-paper-scissors, which Azusa joins in but doesn’t have to shed a single article of clothing as she whoops everyone. She gets Chisa to admit that it’s not that she doesn’t want to enter, but more that she doesn’t want to bear the embarrassment of the pageant all alone. Azusa also points out that the only reason they asked her at all is because they were supremely confident all she’d have to do is enter and her victory would be assured.

So Chisa agrees to enter…but only if Iori and Kouhei enter too. Thus the embarrassment is shared, if one loses one of the other two could still win, and if all three win, the club funds are tripled, so everyone wins. When the means with which to enter a new world are so expensive, sometimes you just gotta shake what your mama gave ya…proverbially!

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 12 (Fin)

Leave it to ACCA to save its best episode for last. And why not? Each of the eleven preceding episodes perfectly prepared us for this finale. Everything pointed towards a smooth, peaceful, and efficient coup, and that’s what we got—only it wasn’t a coup to unseat Schwan, but a coup to secure ACCA’s future and thwart the Liliums and Furawau’s plans to snatch hegemony from the Dowa Royal Family. That, my friends, is one surprising yet completely logical and satisfying twist.

At first, things seem to be going according to Lilium’s plan: Once it’s Schwan’s turn to take to the podium and speak, he and his outnumbered guards are surrounded by ACCA officers in riot gear, and Schwan’s plans to dissolve ACCA are exposed to the throng, which quickly sides with ACCA in the matter, as expected.

But then Schwan calls Jean out, knowing exactly why he’s on the dais with the Chief Officers. Just then, Lotta (and I for that matter) are relieved to find Niino by her side. This is the moment when Director-General Mauve completely flips the script and reveals that beneath ACCA’s plan was another plan that Lilium was not made aware of.

In this plan, Mauve, rather than Jean, steps forward. She explains the theatrics were only meant to demonstrate Schwan’s need for greater then very loudly and publicly proclaims Schwan as the one and only Crown Prince of Dowa, thanks Schwan for his continued support of ACCA once he ascends to the throne and into the future, then bends the knee. Knowing how unpopular dissolving ACCA would be (and would make him), Schwan can only affirm Mauve’s words and commit to preserving ACCA.

Mauve’s speech is one of, if not the most badass moments of the series, if not the Winter season as a whole, because of how much it changes, all of the careful preparation that gives it so much power, and the jazzy soundtrack that adds a cool gravitas.

Suddenly, Lilium finds himself on the wrong side of the river with a very weak hand. He was so focused on his own machinations he failed to realize there were counter-machinations going on behind his back. Jean had been strategizing with Mauve since he learned of his lineage, and informed Grossular of what would go down the night before.

Mauve and Jean arranged things so ACCA would win before Furawau would, making the continuation of “the game” pointless. Sure enough, Lilium folds, but he also takes his ball (being Furawau) and goes home (meaning secession). I will now cease the sports metaphors.

After all the drama subsides, Jean and Lotta encounter Prince Schwan and Magie, who reveals it was the prince himself who ordered him to warn her of the attack. Between agreeing not to kill ACCA and this, Schwan turned out to be not-such-a-bad-guy after all, which is more interesting than a petulant, one-dimensional villain. And since there’s no usurping going on, Jean and Lotta’s lineage can remain secret, even as they’re allowed to meet with Schwan and King Falke.

With Lilium and Furawau leaving the Dowa Kingdom to start their own, Grossular dissolves the remaining three of the anachronistic Five Chief officers, who then go home and become chiefs of their respective districts, and seem all the happier for it, while Grossular stays on in an advisory role for the new single leader of ACCA, Mauve. She certainly earned it.

In other good (if a bit convenient) news: Just as Furawau seceded, Pranetta finally hit paydirt, and a resource (presumably oil) rush leads to the district’s revitalization, Suitsu is finally allowed to develop to the level of the other districts and its people allowed to vote.

We even find out who Niino’s secret other contact was, and it’s who I expected: Abend, the ever-loyal servant of the Dowa Family, who had colored his hair and taken on the identity of Owl to watch Jean that much closer. With the family members reunited, Niino is formally relieved of his photographing duties. Mauve and Grossular seem to be spending a lot more time together, while Jean assumes the feelings he has for Mauve are unrequited.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and Jean are best mates, something that hasn’t changed since they met in high school (the post credits flashback to their prom, which Niino won but gave Jean the crown, was a nice touch), and won’t change now. Jean takes comfort in knowing he’s not alone. And, no doubt, in being able to stay in his old job. For all that’s changed around them, Jean, Niino, and Lotta really haven’t, and that’s for the best, as they’re perfectly happy with the lives they have.

So ends one of the most thoughtful, detailed, and elegantly beautiful looking and sounding series in recent memory, which came completely out of nowhere. Those are my favorite kind of shows: ones about which neither I nor anyone else have any potentially corrupting preconceptions.

It’s also a show with eminent rewatch value; there’s enjoyment to be found in watching the story unfold again whilst knowing its resolution. It’s also a show for which I’d happily embrace a sequel. Until then, I say goodbye to ACCA, a well-crafted and engrossing anime if ever there was one.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 10

If it wasn’t before, it’s become plain that Lilium’s intentions with ACCA’s coup aren’t simply for the unity and good of the nation of Dowa, but for his district, Furawau, in particular. Things might even turn out to be worse with him than if Prince Schwan ascended; who knows?

Lilium seems like the kind of guy who wants more power, and being one of five head officers isn’t nearly enough. He’s already used Grossular as a pawn in his grander scheme, and installing Jean on the throne seems like more piece-moving. All I know is, the show wants me to think he’s being nefarious.

Jean, for his part, continues his auditing work. After Yakkara throws their lot in with Jean, noting they’ve always been a district of…ahem…gambling. Jean’s next stop is one of the more striking ones: Pranetta district, which is a hot and unforgiving desert on the surface, but whose population lives underground, working in the mines and kept entertained by a vibrant television industry.

This district doesn’t have much, however. They’re mining doesn’t seem to be the most fruitful, but the people seem to be living for their as-yet-unrealized dreams rather than a present rich in material things. Jean definitely seems to like the place.

These aren’t mole people, after all, and when it finally is cool enough to emerge from the caverns, it makes the evening sky seem that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. And like Yakkara and Peshi, Pranetta wants a Dowa in which ACCA is still around, so they’re with him. The chief formalizes his support by bumming a cigarette off of Jean, then giving it right back to him, in a really neat little moment that says a lot about Pranetta.

When he returns home, Jean has a chat with Lotta about her crazy day with Rail and the fact their mother was a princess, but before they can head out to eat, a special report comes in on the news: King Falke has taken a turn for the worse.

Suddenly everyone is scrambling to get their ducks in a row for what’s to come. Grossular manages to convince Mauve that the coup is what’s best for the nation and for ACCA, while the First Princess accelerates her plans to get rid of Jean and Lotta, who are nothing but usurpers in her eyes.

As for Jean, he sticks to his audit schedule, apparently unconcerned whether the king dies while he’s away. We only catch an establishing glimpse of Lilium’s home district of Furawau, but we can already discern many things from it. With gleaming skyscrapers among the sandy dunes, Furawau clearly has money, probably due to to fossil fuels. It looks like Dowa’s Dubai, so perhaps they’re also a big financial power.

In any case, Furawau is big and rich and impressive enough to be an alternate capital of the nation, should, say, the monarchy be done away with altogether or reduced in stature and importance. It also looks like a district that could take on any other district head-to-head and have the resources to come out on top (unlike poor Pranetta).

Will this be Jean’s ‘final audit’? Has he entered another friendly district, or a den of vipers? He may finally know who he truly is and what that means, but he still doesn’t know how he’ll be used…or how he’s already being used. We’re also not quite sure whether he’s actually going to claim the throne. The First Princess succeeding in offing him or Lotta, on the other hand, seems more solidly unlikely.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 09

So far ACCA has proven a success in the school of the classic slow-burn, in which those patient enough to stick around are lushly rewarded, like the high one gets when about to complete a huge, elaborate jigsaw puzzle (don’t judge).

Last week laid out the details of the show’s central mystery of what’s up with Jean and Lotta, and this week deals with the consequences for everyone once the truth is officially out there, and decide on a course of action. It also allows some previous bit players on the margins play significant roles.

Oh yeah, and a shared love of sandwich bread of all things proves absolutely vital in preventing Lotta’s assassination by the First Princess’ goons. The food isn’t just window-dressing.

As soon as Magie hears from the prince that the knives may be out for Lotta, he makes a call to his comrade-in-bread, Rail, who makes Lotta’s protection his top priority. Rail has his suspicions, but doesn’t know the whole picture, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s a decent dude, trusts his fellow bread-lover’s warning.

As for poor Lotta, no one’s told her anything, and with both Jean and Niino away, a part of her already feels vulnerable. So as out-of-the-blue (or blonde) as it seems, she seems happy to have Rail (a sworn ACCA officer) by her side.

Jean is away because he’s on a sprawling three-district trip starting in Peshi (the port district) and moving on to Yakkara (the casino district, and another instance of ACCA imitating Sonic The Hedgehog levels)And Jean is no longer oblivious like Lotta.

He knows what the score is, and even understands what all those cigarettes on his past inspection visits were about. It’s need to see the change in Jean’s overall demeanor. He seems more focused, alert, and suspicious…as he should. Peshi’s chiefs drop the pretense and pledge their support for Jean’s ascension, unaware that Jean himself has no such plans.

I like how ultimately, it’s only a matter of time before Rail, a good kid but not a professional bodyguard, and Lotta finally get surrounded by the ominous goons and shoved into a car. Unfortunately for the goons, the traffic in Badon flares up just when they need to make their getaway.

Also unfortunately for them, pure dumb luck is on Lotta’s side, as Chief Owl (whom Jean asked to keep an eye on her) happens to lean on the open window sill of the goons’ car, sees Lotta, and secures her and Rail’s release.

Like Rail, Owl doesn’t have the whole story, and unlike Rail, he isn’t a sandwich bread fanatic (though we’ve seen him indulge in the office treats du jour) but he does have Jean and Lotta’s bests interests at heart, and it’s gratifying to see how competently (yet without undue violence) Owlmanages to wrest the crazy kids from certain doom.

With Lotta and Rail nicely rescued, Owl suggests they—what else—go to grab a bite with his ACCA staff. Coups and assassination plots be damned—you gotta eat.

With Lotta out of immediate danger and surrounded by friends, we move on, somewhat relieved but still troubled, to the other major storyline of the episode: Grossular coming clean to the other chiefs, which takes such a crazy turn I’d have nearly fell out of my chair, had I not already been sitting on the carpeted floor.

Grossular lays out the plan that’s been in motion since the beginning, with the ultimate goal of instigating an ACCA-led coup d’etat to prevent Schwan from becoming King, thus preserving peace, democracy, an, well, ACCA itself.

Grossular has known about the danger of a King Schwan for some time, but gained a powerful barometer (whom he observed through Crow) for the attitudes (be they pro- or anti-coup) of the districts in Jean, which is why his inspection department was suddenly saved from oblivion.

Once it was clear a majority of districts were in favor of a coup, the time grows near for that coup to commence, but a coup led by ACCA, as an extreme expression of their ‘protect & serve’ credo. The coup will, Grossular promises, “pose no danger” to ordinary people. Allowing Schwan to dissolve ACCA and create an autocracy might.

Grossular asks his four colleagues whether they stand with him or not, and everyone to a man is with him, all thanks to Lilium, who speaks first in response.

Because Lilium and Grossular have never, to the others’ knowledge, ever agreed on anything before, it’s all the proof they need to know the right course (on top of their pride in their roles as leaders of ACCA, along with their existing awareness that, ya know, Schwan is bad news). This is to be an act of patriotism, not treason.

Later, we learn that Lilium and Grossular’s constant disagreements in front of the others masks the fact that Grossular is, in fact, Lilium’s servant. Always a fairly inscrutable guy, we finally see a hint of subservience when Lilium grabs him by the hair and promises him in a threatening tone that “he will manage” in his next objective: do something about Director-General Mauve.

It’s this huge, sudden, surprising, yet still well-supported (by both plot and character) shift in character dynamics, as well as the timely utilization of Rail and Owl, that propelled this episode into the ’10th district.’ It’s also a interesting episode in that many cards have been played, but many choice ones remain in the show’s hand.

It’s that ‘floating potential’, as it were, that makes episode nine feel special. Hopefully it can be properly harnessed in the tenth, which I eagerly await.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 06

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If it were one of many other slow-burn shows, I might be itching for something to happen already near the show’s midpoint (assuming this only gets 13 eps – I may be wrong), even to the point of starting to hand out 7’s for lack of forward momentum.

And yet, ACCA continues to avoid such scrutiny with its unassuming, calm, quiet competence, all but unique this Winter as a show all about stopping to smell the roses…or freshly-baked bread.

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One of the most eventful things to happen happens right at the start, where Jean not only goes up to Grossular, but tells him he knows he’s being followed, denies any involvement in a coup, and expresses his certainty Gross isn’t involved either. Grossular, after all, was the ACCA officer in Rokkusu who made things right when a horrific train accident claimed, among many others, Jean and Lotta’s parents.

Jean meets Mauve at the bakery, but claims to have “nothing of note” to report to her. If he’s trying to stay in the director-general’s good graces, he could have at least told her about the attempted coup in Suitsu. I’d say that was pretty “of note.” Mauve immediately starts to doubt Jean’s usefulness…and loyalty.

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Things largely quiet down from there, as both the show, the nation of Dowa, and most of its inhabitants kick back and enjoy a New Year’s shindig in Jean and Lotta’s apartment building.

We learn about the businessmen Jean seems to help out during his auditing duties, and Lotta receives a cake from Rail, only for Owl to give her another cake minutes later.

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People seem drawn to Lotta, but there’s still no indication she’s anyone super-special…yet (the flashbacks also seem to eliminate some possibilities in that arena).

Officers note that the start of ACCA’s hundredth year in operation isn’t all that different from the start of previous years. Mauve has a pretty standard speech at an all-hands, and that’s pretty much it.

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Something notable does happen: Grossular joins the other four Top 5 officers in their common room, to ask Lilium why he leaked Crow to Jean. Lilium wanted Jean “to do something,” and while Gross may be right that such an action was reckless, Lilium does seem to win the argument by calling for a meeting of the five to discuss what Gross knows and how they’ll proceed together, no longer unilaterally. He gets that meeting; it should be a good one.

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Jean then heads to Hare, the tropical district where the ACCA uniforms are short-sleeved and informal and the district inhabitants live the longest lives in the nation, and live life with gusto accordingly.

After striking out with Mauve last time, Jean redoubles his efforts to get something, anything out of Hare’s chiefs. Yet, when he goes to meet Mauve at the bakery, she’s not there. Is it too late?

After Hare (one of Jean’s shorter audits), Jean heads to Dowa again, this time for an audit. Prince Schwan continues to try to force his grandfather’s hand in subtle ways like hanging his portrait in a place he spends lots of sittin’ time. Perhaps Jean will get more juicy info in Dowa.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 05

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Two of Lotta’s stalkers bond over sandwich bread

I continue to be both bemused and delighted by the sheer obsession with food, eating, and dining in ACCA and the culinary minutiae therein. The fact that these characters need their three squares a day, plus the occasional snacks, really anchors them in the land of reality. It also mirrors real life in its lack of traditional “action”, but that lack hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for the show in the slightest.

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One of the most important moments of the episode—and of the show as a whole—surprisingly happens not during a meal, but during a car ride (which is also, in its utilitarian practicality, a tether to reality). In that car, Lilium basically lets slip to Jean that he has a tail, and the reason he can’t detect him is that he’s someone by whom he’s used to being watched.

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Jean’s a sharp guy, so it doesn’t take long for him to narrow it down to his friend the photog. And when he arrives in the wintry, hearty Birra district and Crow is already there with his camera, we finally see a look of shock on his face as Jean stops and turns back to look for…him. It’s not clear whether he sees him or not (Crow seems pretty far away, though he’s wearing black in the snow), but that look back is all Crow needs to know he’s been found out.

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“Could you two young brats flirt somewhere else? I’m trying to run a bakery here.”

Two elements of the episode that are a little more obscure in their intentions were the plotlines of Eidar very unsubtly showing up to see Jean, only to be crushed when he’s not there, and Maggie pursuing Lotta, only to learn where she lives, that her parents are deceased, and that she loves sandwich bread. I’m hoping we’ll find out soon what Lotta’s significance is, if there turns out to be any, of course.

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After a rather stern dinner with Birra’s ACCA supervisor, Jean walks into the tranquil, snow-covered forest to confront his tail, and the resulting confrontation is wonderfully offbeat. Jean doesn’t seem betrayed; on the contrary, he seems like he could care less…though he doesn’t wonder if all those times Niino got him drunk he was pumping him for information.

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Back home, Jean and Niino share a meal with Lotta like nothing happened, and Jean even makes him promise to stay with Lotta and take her out to eat every day he’s off on his next audit, this time of the Western-style Rokkusu District. Niino obeys, likely hoping he doesn’t miss anything good.

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The final scene during sunset in Rokkusu is full of intrigue, as is the little chat between Lilium and Pastice at the airport. Is Jean simply saying hello to a vaunted superior in his hometown, or is something else going on? Something…coup-y?

For the first time it looked like Jean was doing something counter to the person we’d seen up to that point; that he was finally showing us something he’d been hiding. I may be dead-wrong, but I’m having fun guessing as I enjoy the food-filled ride.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 04

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ACCA steps back from the larger national coup plot to let Jean continue his inspection duties, this time to Suitsu, which may be the most isolated district in Dowa, seemingly frozen in time due to a noble class that insists on the preservation of “tradition and formality.” Not only are any outside forms of technology forbidden, those like Jean who come from outside are given a tight leash so as to limit cultural contamination.

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Not surprisingly, there are many in Suitsu who aren’t too happy about that, and have been organizing for some time. Jean happens to get scooped up by a group of them who believe he overheard their talk of a coup. Turns out their coup isn’t the same coup Jean’s mixed up in. These guys simply want to open Suitsu up, allow it the same freedom as the other districts to grow and develop, not simply fester like some dusty diorama.

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But apparently, the coup attempt that occurs when Jean is around isn’t the first of its kind by any means. All such former attempts were squashed and all records of them happening kept secret from the outside districts. Jean, for the record, seems sympathetic to the rebel cause here, even offering potential clients from his home to help Suitsu open up. But he stops short of getting involved, serving more as an observer.

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Unfortunately, all the adventures he witnessed will be subject to a gag order as a condition of his being allowed to leave, and anyone arrested in the coup attempt freed. It’s basically a hard reset, with one important difference: we saw how Jean reacted to being in the middle of a mini-revolution.

Did the cigarette he received in his hotel room and Crow/Niino’s intense surveillance of him indicate he’s involved in the larger coup? Or like his Suitsu excursion, is he merely being moved by forces outside his control, like a leaf in the wind?

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