In Defense of the Ace Attorney Anime

The Trial of   Gyakuten Saiban: Sono “Shinjitsu”, Igiari!, more commonly known as Ace Attorney is now in session. The prosecution has been ready since April of last year, cooking up a case for why this anime is a disgrace to the beloved video games.

However I, the defense, am also ready

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I know the image is from Dual Destinies, before anyone says anything

The facts in the case are simple. Our anime on the slab came from a surprise smash hit amongst gamers: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (better known as Gyakuten Saiban in Japan). This puzzle/visual novel DS game told the story of the dorky yet righteous Phoenix Wright (Naruhodo Ryuichi), a rookie lawyer who comes back around and proves the most impossible of clients to be innocent, and finds the real culprit at the same time. The plot may have been banal, but it quickly won over fans with its over-the-top characters, high impact cases, and a game mechanic so famous it spawned its own meme several times over.

After several sequels and spinoffs, Capcom finally got around to making an anime in 2016. However, the reviews were anything but glowing.

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The anger is real

In a beautiful review of why Phoenix’s fans are so devoted, Jacob Chapman describes the fan response as “subdued at best, outraged at worst.”

Fans were, according to a review on Anime News Network, “subdued at best.”  Fans expected their wacky, histrionic video game to be just as it was on the big screen, and did admittedly get the same cases almost line by line. However, they were hit with bottom-shelf animation and a speed-run of the story, and people were absolutely outraged. As such, the anime was labeled a failure.

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After viewing parts of the series myself, I believe that a rash judgement has been made. After a review of the evidence I believe that the series can stand on its own merits not as a direct adaptation of the beloved games, but as a tribute that simply needed a second revision. This puppy isn’t DOA, not yet.

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We aren’t down and out just yet

 

  • Testimony 1: The Rushed Cases

 

The first claim to be tangled with is the cases, trimmed down so far they barely resemble their source material. However, could it be that these cuts were made for the better?

To elaborate, each game in the series usually contains four or five cases which break down to three trials and three days of investigation. The actual story is spread between those six days and the player solves all the adventure game type puzzles in between. You gather evidence, meet some kooky witnesses, tear them apart in court, than start again the next day. Angry viewers claim that the animators, due to a strict budget or to save time, stripped down the cases and rushed through them, taking away their impact.

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I believe the question here is not what they took out, but what they decided to keep. They took out annoying side quests, extraneous gags, and pieces of evidence that had little to nothing to do with the case. They kept the core pieces of damning evidence, most of the characters, and the pieces of testimony that made the trials exciting. This may result in cases feeling rushed, but they feel focused, and provide a great preview of the games  to new fans.

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Cause let’s face it: these leaps in logic didn’t make any more sense here than they do on TV

 

  • Testimony 2: Stiff Animation and Lack of Energy

 

When it comes to the story of Ace Attorney, there were risks aplenty. How many people wanna read about a lawyer making his case in court that isn’t Law & Order?

Plenty, and that’s because of the hyperbolic but beloved cast of characters, and the game’s insane energy. Nothing in this game is very subtle, from it’s melodrama to its parodic characters, and it draws people in with its charming insanity. But this anime lacks the absolute hysteria of the games, feeling far more subdued than it should. The animation is stiff and slow, and the plot itself lacks the punch of excitement the games always delivered.

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Ah, but where the madness has gone, a new challenger has arisen. Where this anime lacks in absolute chaos it has oddly delivered in emotional impact. There are genuine powerful moments between characters that will catch the average viewer off guard, and some delicious cheese at moments of heavy drama. I still prefer the madness in the video games, but I won’t abandon the show simply for going its own direction.

 

  • Final Verdict

 

This particular court finds the defendant not guilty of killing a franchise, or of failing to represent it. It follows the story as faithfully as it can, and only seems to suffer from a lack of budget and poor adoption in places. The choppy cases can get on the nerve of the most adamant fan, but I still recommend giving it a try. Because I found myself smiling and waxing nostalgic the whole time, and I’m sure others will too.

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Did you enjoy Ace Attorney? Or was it so bad you can’t believe how I’m defending it? Whatever your opinion, feel free to share in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and follow below for more content just like this.

 

 

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