「城にただよう噂の煙」 (Shiro ni Tadayou Uwasa no Kemuri)
“The Swirling Smoke of Rumours in the Castle”
In theory, monarchy isn’t that bad of an idea. Power is centralised for swift decision making. Everybody knows the guy to listen to is the one with the fancy hat. An entrenched royal lineage produces leaders who are groomed from birth to command the nation and can devote all efforts to preparing for that role. Plato envisioned the enlightened rule of philosopher kings. Machiavelli wrote of the brutal effectiveness of the prince. In practice, though, relying on the lottery of birth does not always work out. Every few generations you just know one of the heirs is going to turn out to be an arrogant fop, and then the whole country goes south. Even the best-intentioned of rulers are still mere mortals (as much as some historical monarchs have tried to claim otherwise) and can be swayed by whims and emotions. And what about that royal lineage? Clear heir or not, there’s always those who wish to defy the rules of succession to get the top job. The messy civil wars actually lead to the Ottoman empire adopting a bonus rule: once a clear heir is chosen, all his siblings are promptly murdered. No more fights. Yeah, that’s what it took.
More on the subject of good governance later, I’m sure. It’s just something to think about as we watch the political intrigue unfold in ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka, and rumours of a potential coup swirls.
Three episodes in, I can safely say that ACCA is definitely the kind of show for me. But I love political intrigues. I love watching all the little schemes hatch and eventually collide, I love rooting out the complex motives behind every subtle action, and love the feeling of mystery and suspicion around every corner. Okay, ACCA may not be quite so intense, but it sure is fascinating. Nobody is actually evil or villainous, not even the crown prince who wishes to dismantle ACCA. His buffoonery aside, it is a familiar conflict, of a ‘visionary’ who feels confined by the machinery of government, of leadership against bureaucracy, of the court against the mandarins. As for the rest of the players? Even though there is this rumour of a coup, and nobody seems to want one, they are all fighting for control in their own way, and ironically it’s that fight, in the midst of an invented coup, that may ultimately destabilise the country.
And so the general gist of the story is laid bare. Our protagonist, Jean, is uniquely positioned in the middle of the great web, being the one charged with keeping the country honest, being able to travel everywhere and meet everyone. Sure, he claims to have no interest, and to know nothing, and have no connections, but perhaps we shouldn’t take his word for it. He’s shown himself to be sharp enough, and influential enough, and important enough. And once more: who’s sending him all those cigarettes?