Let’s talk about ACCA some more now that the initial hype has died down before the anime ends up forgotten over time.
While I have no problem with people praising the storytelling of a product, especially when you consider how much I rail on visual novel anime consisting of nothing but bad storytelling, one big problem I have with the anime fanbase’s usage of the term is that they never seem to indicate what said storytelling is for. It’s not quite on the same level as world-building in terms of “on its own, it sucks”, but I think people forget that there are guys like me who don’t care about the overall goals of stuff like FX’s Fargo and thus don’t care about how good the storytelling in it is. What can I say? I’m a very opinionated guy and make no effort to hide that fact because objectivity on the Internet is just too much of a pain to deal with. However, what I do know is that I have to stamp my foot down when people consider ACCA to be the pinnacle of good storytelling without giving me a substantial reason why.
I’ve recently been having people who don’t care about Scum’s Wish telling me why it’s bad storytelling – obviously people who don’t watch or like Shameless if they think this is exploitative trash that breaks the realism barrier. To which I always respond with “it has a guy trying to change a woman to his own liking, even knowing it’s futile, and when someone else convinces her to change, he realizes that he would have never been happy if he achieved his goal. How is that not interesting to you?” If they don’t find that interesting, fine, but few people would deny that it’s an understandable reason.
Whenever I see someone praise ACCA, you know what they say? Mauve wears both men’s clothing and women’s clothing, showing she can be badass without discarding her femininity. Fine, but what does that have to do with the plot? The direction given by Natsume Ono and whoever did the soundtrack really puts me in the mood. First off, don’t research who makes an anime ahead of time, and second, what’s that mood directed towards? There’s a difference between Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond you know. The discussions regarding bread are so kawaii. Need I remind you that this is not Lucky Star? This is a show trying to have a plot, and NONE of these praises have anything to do with the story! It’s all superficial elements that would be nice in real life, but in fiction, it’s nothing but junk food!
And like I said in the review, it all comes down to the dialogue in ACCA and how godawful it is. Don’t believe people when they say this “saying one thing but meaning another” style of writing is what most dialogue should strive to be. I could buy that if the “another” meant something besides foreshadowing that has nothing to do with the present, but it always does, and when you’re going that vague, being a blunt environmentalist nut can only be considered an improvement. Whenever the characters open their mouths, they’re always delivering exposition about the setting or preparing for potentially interesting conversations that we don’t get to see.
There was one conversation in the last third of the show where the antagonist was flat-out asked why he took so long to reveal his plans and he said it was so he could familiarize himself with the setting. That is a fucking awful reason to put off the plot for that long. That’s world-building for the sake of world-building, one of the many banal storytelling devices bad writers use just to get a decent length out of something. Or JK Rowling when she realized writing movie scripts is different from writing novels.
I’ve talked before in one of my old Euphonium posts regarding what I consider good dialogue, and while the rules are a little flexible, I still stand by you have to follow most of them. Euphonium itself is a prime example of how far dialogue can carry a story when it’s good, especially since there were noticeable moments when said dialogue wasn’t really all that, like in both seasons’ respective sixth episodes. I’ve been rewatching Aku no Hana as of late and pretty much every time the characters opened their mouth, their frustration with their own selves dripped onto the screen in order to give substance to the uncomfortable yet expressive rotoscoping. Yes it had a lot of quiet scenes where characters did nothing but walk, but that was so the animation could convey the emptiness of a boring repetitive life, which is a core part of the story. ACCA doesn’t have that excuse with its portrayal of “boring office life” because the plot doesn’t have anything to do with that.
I’m not sure if I’d call ACCA pretentious, because it feels more like the author just wanted to write what he thought was cool without caring about important things like what happens in it, what the major themes are, and what context it wanted to impart to the audience. Even Angel Beats, the anime that tried to do way too much in regards to cramming in a bunch of concert scenes and fishing in the same scene as a heart-tugging story about people dying due to the unfairness of life, had a goal at the start: a bunch of highschool students angry with the world fighting God, only to discover that said anger was misdirected due to their self-inflicted blindness. What does ACCA have to match that? A less offensive tone at the expense of anything resembling direction? You do realize that just makes your dialogue, and consequently your story and characters, worse right?
Dialogue sounding naturalistic is so goddamn overrated in the writing business. Sure no one wants to sit through the clunky exposition from Marvel’s Iron Fist, but if you’re still going to be dealing out exposition regardless of how you make it sound, then you might as well make it the Tokyo Tribe style where the main bad guy describes all the gangs through a rap song whilst sexually harassing a topless female cop. Dialogue sounding good is not the same thing as dialogue “being” good. It has to be “about” something interesting, and ACCA never talks about anything I give a damn about.
Because the show literally tells me nothing about the ACCA government besides how it helps to bring peace to the world, with no clarification on how it actually does that beyond saying their are thirteen districts and royalty. The only thing we see of these jobs are inspections, and the most I ever got from them was when Jean went to that mining colony and realized that although they are poor, they’re still happy. Imagine if the mining episode from the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime pulled that shit. Most fans would have thought said episode was a waste of space.
And the characters are never given anything interesting to do either. They may be mature and “well-rounded”, but that means shit if you don’t make use of them. In fact, what are their personal flaws? What are their character arcs? What about their individual philosophies? Jean is a guy who was born into high social status and is put as a centerpiece of the revolution despite not really caring or doing anything about it. That’s not inherently bad, but you need more ingredients than that, because that sort of characterization is something a twelve-year could write. And he always reacts like he’s a character in a Bioware game with all the unconvincing voice acting and bad facial expressions that zone me out every time I see a character in one of those games speak.
There was one moment when I laughed at the dialogue to this show. It wasn’t an intentional one though. It was during the coup in the final episode where the prince is surrounded by guys with spears, about to be overthrown, only for Mauve to talk him down and making him change his ways whilst making sure the bad guys don’t get theirs by literally saying “ACCA is important and helps people”. That’s obviously paraphrased, but it’s basically what she says due to how no one in this show wants to talk about the specifics of what ACCA actually does. And when said speech actually works and there’s still half the episode to go, I broke down and laughed. Whilst spouting obscenities that Madhouse probably heard from across the globe. I laughed and cursed because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was one of the biggest “fuck yous” I’ve seen until Chaos;Child one-upped it the next day.
Do you guys remember No Man’s Sky? That really hyped space exploration video game from last year that got backlashed so hard when it was discovered that there was no end goal in regards to all the planetary activities, the locations were all the same only with minor differences, and the gameplay was repetitively tedious? Basically a bunch of C-minus elements thrown in hoping they’d all make an A? That’s what ACCA is. Absolutely nothing can stand on its own, so it tries to rely on the novelty of its combination of elements to make something interesting. I’m afraid that’s not how quality works, Madhouse. You have to have an A-level backbone, because otherwise you’re a resistance army without a general launching an invasion against the enemy country’s next-door neighbor.
- What exactly is the point of Jean’s existence in the plot anyways? You could have replaced him with a plushie and it would have made just as much difference.
- Nothing dies faster than hype, so I’m curious how well this anime will hold up a few weeks from now.