Winter 2017 Anime Preview: Jean the Cigarette Peddler

Welcome once again to the winter anime season preview, where I watch all the worst shows so you don’t have to—and with Hand Shakers airing this season, I really do mean the worst shows. With arguably the most widely anticipated winter show, Trigger’s Little Witch Academia, being held hostage by Netflix until further notice, the list of new anime that is both defendably worthwhile and available to watch instantly this season is rather short (by which I mean I’ve picked only one). On the other hand, we are graced with quite a few highly anticipated sequels, including Blue Exorcist and KonoSuba, which are doing their best to redeem a dismal winter.

So what’s worth a look? Well, there’s this pretty cool show about fantasy politics directed by the guy who did One Punch Man… and you don’t even need an Anime Strike subscription to watch it.

 

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

winter-anime_acca

In the peaceful kingdom of Dowa, an organization called ACCA provides essential services (police, fire, medical) to the kingdom’s thirteen autonomous territories. Keeping watch over this sprawling organization is the inspection department, where our enigmatic protagonist Jean Otus (Hiro Shimono, in a significant departure from his usual type) is second in command. Nearly one hundred years of peace in Dowa have made the kingdom prosperous and ACCA’s agencies complacent, but when rumors begin to stir of a plotted coup d’etat, Jean Otus seems to find himself at the heart of events.

Directed by rising star Shingo Natsume, who gained notoriety for his work on Space Dandy and then the hit One Punch Man, this adaptation of Natsume Ono’s (House of Five Leave, Ristorante Paradiso) fantasy drama is the most high-profile debut of the season. The show so far is a slow burn, displaying little urgency in getting to the meat of the plot, and instead letting the intrigue slowly unfurl in the background as we are introduced to the cast and world through everyday events and interactions. Strangely, while the characters are all believable and subtly drawn—Jean especially is intriguingly ambiguous, and I truly have no idea which, if any, of the suspicions that surround him at this point are true—the world-building is regrettably ham-fisted. The first two episodes contain not one but two instances of clunky “as you know” exposition, and despite all the explanation, I am still not certain I’m sold yet on the world of Dowa as anything more than a stage for the cast to move around on.

That said, the show as a whole is deliciously stylish. Although I have heard some complaints about the character designs by Norifumi Kugai, namely that they are not faithful enough to Natsume Ono’s unique art style, I personally love them, and find it a pleasure just to watch them indolently smoking cigarettes and eating a variety of delicious food as they talk obliquely around the topics of internal corruption and government overthrow. Whether ACCA appeals to you will likely depend on your level of patience with the slow-moving plot and tolerance for meaningful sidelong glances, but, so far, I am very much enjoying the characters, underlying intrigue, and overall ambiance. I look forward to seeing where (if anywhere) the larger plot leads us.

For fans of: House of Five Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso, Joker Game, 91 Days, Psycho-Pass, Death Parade

Watch it now on Crunchyroll.

 

winter-anime_sequels

If I haven’t made it obvious by now with my incessant whining, there’s not much new anime to get excited about this winter. But the season’s really not so bad if you include sequels—and it might be a great time to catch up on some of the more highly anticipated ones out this winter.

Blue Exorcist returns to TV after six years (good lord, has it really been that long) to adapt the Kyoto arc of the manga, picking up right where it left off in 2011. Long-running favorite Gintama returns (again) for another cour or two before it pretends it’s going away forever (again). Cycling anime with a heart of gold Yowamushi Pedal returns this season with a slew of new characters, and alternate-world comedy KonoSuba returns for a second season with the same four morons from season one. If you’re in the mood for something more serious, there’s no better time to pick up historical drama Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, which has just started its second season, or March Comes Like a Lion, a sensitive seinen drama about a young professional shogi player, which begins its second half this winter.

So? What are you watching this season? Let us know what you’re loving (and hating) in the comments!

Kelly Quinn is a children’s librarian and professional anime cynic. You can complain about her taste to her face on Twitter.

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