Ace Attorney – Season 1

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Adapted from the popular video game franchise, Ace Attorney follows rookie lawyer Naruhodo Ryuuichi (Phoenix Wright) and his assistant Mayoi (Maya) as he defends his clients in a court of law. With limited evidence and logic as his only weapon, can Naruhodo turn the case around when all the odds are stacked against him?

When I heard that there was going to be a Phoenix Wright anime I was super excited. I remember being absolutely consumed by the first game when it came out: the characters, the puzzles, the humour, the intricacies… It was a game that made me think and one that I could really invest my time in, so when I heard it was being animated… well. Cue fangirl squees much akin to when I was waiting for Persona 4: The Golden Animation.

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Things started to play out just as I expected with many of the elements being so similar to the original game, which made it difficult to separate my love for the games from the anime to give a truly unbiased review. The nostalgia and satisfaction I felt was immediate as the first episode brought back memories of dramatic stills and courtroom locales and that splendidly catchy music. It was like someone had imported the game straight into my iPad. And this is both the anime’s strength and weakness.

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It’s a strength because of the hype it gives the fans, but at the same time this means that there’s nothing more on offer here. At their best, the familiar camera shots, character design and plot elements are a blast from the past. For me, the new stuff doesn’t really matter. I’m here very much for the nostalgia, seeing if the characters sound like they did in my head, if the jokes are still funny and how they change the dialogue and interactions to fit the media. In the game, you had to select objects for evidence and the screen would just dim and reappear if there was going to be a scene change. I wanted to see if the transition from game to animation was a smooth and enjoyable one.

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The voice work is good and the interpretations weren’t too far from what I imagined in my head (all the with exception of Edgeworth – not too sure of that one), with the voice actor of Eren from Attack on Titan playing Phoenix and the voice of Madoka from Puella Magi Madoka Magica playing the part of Maya. Designs for the characters remain true to the source with Phoenix’s tell-tale hair spikes and the crisp colours of Edgeworth’s suit. Even the judge’s surprised expressions are on point.

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The anime takes pains to call back to its game roots, with little scene and time” descriptions in green text on a black background with that familiar typewriting sound. There’s even ‘Witness Testimony’ and ‘Cross-Examination’ text slapped dramatically on screen at the appropriate time, same as in the game (which I’m not even going to bother to deny that I love. Melodrama sometimes keeps things interesting). Even the camera angles of defence and prosecution at their stands are the same. It has that interesting and slightly goofy mood that never fails to put a smile on my face yet has those brief moments of court-case breakdown in case anyone was unable to follow the twists and turns that inevitably keep the drama level. Speaking of drama, who could forget to mention when Phoenix shouts “Objection!” in court? Cue the huge text, the music change, the pointed finger and the look of justice prevailing. Full fangirl satisfaction.
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However, if you’re not a fan of the games it might be hard to instantly like the content. By judging the anime solely on its own merits, it might seem a bit contrived, flat or even annoying. Capcom haven’t gone for the angle whereby they draw out greater depth in the anime than what was offered in the games – which is a great thing if you love the games, but a bit confusing if you’re going into this blind. What is up with the characters? Why do they pose like that? Why does confetti rain down into the courtroom after a defendant is proclaimed not guilty? You need to experience the source material.
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Personally, I think the adaptation is faithful and fun. I can’t name an aspect that I believe to have been skimped on and that this anime is just to bring back to life some of the buzz about the franchise – it’s more in homage to a well-received game. A definite must for Phoenix fans. I would even go so far to recommend it to people who haven’t played the game. In fact, just play the Phoenix Wright games. You won’t regret it.
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Posted in Anime, Drama, Mystery