[King] “Do you like sweets?”
[King] “Have as much as you’d like.”
“The Swirling Smoke of Rumors in the Castle,” ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
Viewers of ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. rave about the series while also wondering about the significance of bread in the narrative. Among the cigarette smoking, district inspections, and political intrigue sits breads of all kinds–sweet bread, earthy bread, herb bread, the list goes on. Their imagery and descriptions cause the mouth to water, but also beg the question about why bread is so prominently featured. This is a story about a struggling kingdom swarming with rumors of a coup, not some light-hearted comedy set in a cafe.
I want you to consider this: diet is one of the quickest ways to determine a given location’s culture and class situation. Wealthy nations tend to overflow with a variety of meats, vegetables, and grains, much of which is imported from outside; poor and isolated countries that cannot afford the many costs of trade often pull from limited, local sources. We see this reflected in the different districts of Dowa, a monarchy comprised of semi-independent states that are encouraged to emphasize their cultural differences. As ACCA inspector Jean Otus conducts his interior reviews throughout the districts, we are presented with all kinds of foodstuffs, most of which are baked goods.
Bread has a long and symbolic history, with phrases like “breadwinner”, “let them eat cake”, and “break bread”. “Breadwinner” refers to the family unit and its main income member. “Let them eat cake” is a quote mis-attributed to the infamous Marie Antoinette, who was condemned for her frivolous spending despite a large divide between the wealthy and the poor. The suggestion misconstrues the people’s hunger as a lack of supplies instead of funds. To “break bread” began with the biblical Eucharist symbolizing Christ’s body, but now also refers to the general act of spending time with people.
With all this in mind, ACCA’s food takes on more significance. Most conversations occur at a meal, snack break, or bakery, such as the meetings between Jean and Director-General Mauve. In the reigning district of Dowa, there is no end to the variety and quantity of bread. The king is known for his sweet tooth, and surrounds himself with apple cakes, cream puffs, and other pastries. In Badon, the capital and home of our protagonist and his sister, people are still well off enough to indulge in different cuisines. Each time Jean visits his workplace, his co-workers share a new box of confections. Jean picks up bread from a local hole-in-the-wall bakery in a manner that reminds me of my own Yelp explorations for hidden culinary gems. Both his office and sister expect him to return from his district inspections with edible souvenirs.
Then there are places like Suitsu, where citizens are isolated from outsiders and required to maintain a society reminiscent of our pre-Industrial Age. The Dowa government prevents them from speaking with foreigners or owning any modern technology. Visitors are only allowed to dine and stay in specified areas separate from Suitsu’s main population. In terms of food, this episode features the least amount of eating than any other week. We see Jean eating stew at a cafe, then scolded by officials for eating outside of the designated area. Shortly before the coup while Jean is held hostage, he is fed a simple loaf of bread without any butter, jam, or charcuterie. Given that this episode circles on a district’s struggle with trade and social class, the lack of food stands out from the show’s otherwise heavy table of dishes.
The winter season finishes in around three weeks, and ACCA closes with it. The eighth episode revealed a truth long suspected regarding Jean and Lotta Otus. As we spiral towards the end, try to pay attention to the way food is used in conjunction with the story’s political conflict. Please also let me know how or if the many baked goods of ACCA have impacted you as a viewer. And if you are not watching the anime, I beg you to give it a try. Jean as a protagonist exudes a cool confidence that you cannot help but want to follow. The ending credits also features one of my favorite songs of the winter season.
For a nice overview of breads and other foods in ACCA, visit: https://rabujoi.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/everyone-eats-and-drinks-almost-constantly-in-acca/