Well that was… a little bit better. After three episodes of continued disappointment, the Ace Attorney anime series delivers one episode that I think is not only decent, but is generally entertaining when taken on its own. Is it perfect? Nah. Is it rushed as hell? Yep. Does it cut out important stuff and change the context and meaning of certain things? You bet it does. But! But… Taken on its own, independent of the source material, this week’s episode works as a piece of entertainment and that’s a huge improvement, as far as I’m concerned.
The key difference, I believe, between this week’s episode and the last few, is the fact that it dedicates more time to the actual courtroom, and then focuses on at least some of the cross examination and pointing out of contradictions that serves as the backbone of the franchise and its story. Taken on its own, there’s a rhythm, a flow and even a build up towards something this week, and I think for non-game fans, i.e newcomers to the series, this episode would probably work pretty decently.
The problem, however, is the fact that those newcomers, probably checked out either last week, or even earlier. If they hadn’t or haven’t done so, then I’d say there’s a decent amount of stuff to like here. So lets talk about all the things this episode did right, because there was quite a bit that it did do right.
The first, was that there was an obvious back and forth between Naruhodo and Reiji, and it actually felt like each party in the trial was doing what it was supposed to. Reiji introduced the witness, and then the witness gave his testimoney, and then, FINALLY, Naruhodo actually got to cross examine him.
Just introducing or rather, re-introducing that element from the games, Naruhodo’s Cross-Examination, worked wonders for this episode. Having the Witness give a false testimony, and then seeing Naruhodo slowly break down the contradictions within it? THAT is the appeal of Ace Attorney, and it was great to see that the anime got that, and delivered on that (to a degree).
The anime, while definitely changing up things significantly, created a pretty interesting tale for this final trial. Naruhodo ends up backing Konaka into a corner with his pressing and cross examination, and then Reiji turns the tables on Naruhodo’s big deduction, eliminating it from play. Then we see Naruhodo try in vain to find some other kind of slip up, only to fail and reach the end of the ropes.
Then, as all hope seems lost, Mayoi is able to channel her sister Chihiro in the final moments, and give Naruhodo the win. Naruhodo gets pointed towards the Receipt, he presents it, he breaks down the idea that Konaka had been to the Law Offices before the murder, and basically breaks the case wide open. Of course, Reiji motions for another extension, clearly as a way to buy time and perhaps introduce some new element that will throw off Naruhodo’s case.
And then Chihiro/Mayoi seal the deal with the list of client names, and Konaka ends up confessing to his crime. Case shut and done, Everybody gets something monumental to do, and it all seems pretty darn decent. I mean, Naruhodo does well in the start, Reiji corners him, Mayoi goes to finally use her powers, and Chihiro ends up saving the day. Even if its not entirely “Correct” as I see it, being a fan of the games, I can at least see that the whole thing is decently compelling as its doing its own thing.
Plus the final few moments of the episode, with Naruhodo and Co Law Offices forming, and both Mayoi and Naruhodo teaming up at the behest of Chihiro, that moment definitely not only felt great, but as a fan, it was nice to see it happen on screen again. And that little tease of the Steel Samurai? Oh man! I was happy to see that.
So… If you’re an anime only watcher, I’d assume that this episode was pretty good. Even the animation in general got a noticeable upgrade, and everything felt a lot less choppy and well drawn. Its clear that this show doesn’t have a decent budget, because things like the crowd were obviously done via CGI, and pretty bad CGI at that. But, I was willing to let it pass because the primary characters in the trial, all looked and acted generally fine. Compared to last week, it was really night and day.
With all that said, there are some differences between the source material and the show, and I think I’m going to do something different this week. Similar to how FlareKnight has handled adaption versus source material differences, I’m going to start to highlight those in their own section. I think that this at least, enables me to look at the show from two lenses, one of an anime only watcher, and the other as the diehard fan of the games that I am.
Before anything else, I will say that the story for this episode is pretty darn different from that of the game. In essence, the game and the anime are almost telling different stories in a way. The heart and soul of the story changes quite a bit with the additions and subtractions that the anime made this week, and as a fan, I can’t help but lament about that. See, in order to do Ace Attorney justice, and adapt the story properly, this second case would’ve probably had to be done in 4 or 5 episodes, rather than the 3 that it got. Its obvious that time is just not on this show’s side, and that its having to cut corners in order to fit two games into 24 episodes. Now, that 24 episodes is my assumption, and I hope to God that this is a 24 episode series, and NOT a 13 episode one, because tackling all the cases in those two games is simply impossible in 13 episodes.
The only way that could be rectified, is if certain cases are removed entirely and the show just changes up the story as a whole. See, Ace Attorney (the game series) is interesting in that it really does slowly build upon itself. Each game introduces a concept, or an idea, and then the next game or even the next case, takes some elements from the previous events, and builds on top of that, while exploring new ground and doing new things. So with that in mind, the issues I had with the anime removing some key elements, was that it not only created some obvious plot holes in the episode itself, but that it may create issues for the story later down the line.
So… What were the differences? Well the first and arguably the most important one, was the fact that Reiji and Naruhodo did not meet in front of the courtroom in the show. In the games, this conversation is very important because it highlights some key problems that Naruhodo has to face in the courtroom. Remember that phone call from last week? Well it turns out its from the Chief Justice himself, who turns out to be one of Konaka’s blackmail victims. The fact that Konaka has the frigging Chief Justice in his pocket, gives Reiji a serious advantage, in that “anything the witness says, will be the whole truth”, or so its declared.
Plus, the fact that the Prosecution can’t just call another witness without justification, is brought up in that conversation as well, i.e that the Judge himself has been instructed to lean a bit in the Prosecution’s direction. Now, as both the Defense and the Defendant, those are some pretty terrible odds stacked against Naruhodo.
Beyond just putting Naruhodo in a precarious situation, however, the conversation does highlight one other thing, and that’s the basis of Reiji’s motivation. When Reiji is asked by Mayoi why he continues to torment and torture an innocent person, Reiji responds with some pretty convincing stuff. He mentions that its impossible to tell who’s guilty and who’s not, so all Reiji can do is get a guilty verdict for every defendant that he comes across. That’s his job, and he basically trusts the fact that if someone is a defendant, then they’re guilty and he has to make it so, by any means necessary.
This whole idea, flawed as it is, of getting the guilty verdict by any means necessary, is a HUGE plot point in the franchise as a whole. It directly tackles a problem in the Japanese Justice system itself, one that the games tackle through various cases and ideas themselves. The second game itself, is based around the idea of whether a defendant is guilty or innocent, and while I won’t spoil the exact twist, its a pretty powerful one. Not to mention that the final case in the first game (discounting that extra one that was created for the DS version), plays very heavily into all of this.
So the fact that this key element of the story, is cut out, will have major ramifications going forward. A big part of what makes this story more than just a surface level court drama is gone. Now the series can’t hope to “say something” beyond just being an entertaining romp of over the top characters going at it in a courtroom. And that’s a real tragedy.
As for the courtroom drama itself? Well, there’s a lot that gets cut out. In the game, Naruhodo ends up breaking down Konaka’s testimony THREE times. The whole thing with the Glass Lamp? That is the last issue that the court addresses, with Naruhodo having expertly proven, twice prior, that Konaka is lying. The problem, however, is that the Judge is obviously being pressured by the higher ups, and gives Reiji a couple of chances to rewrite the narrative.
Naruhodo, however, with his valiant efforts, proves to the crowd in the court, that Konaka isn’t what he seems. So its the crowd that ends up screaming for Justice, and has Naruhodo develop some good momentum. THEN, the Glass lamp comes into play, and Reiji does his big “turn the tables” move, rendering Naruhodo completely unawares.
It actually works and Naruhodo is about ready to lose, and he gives up. THEN, he hears a voice, and you guessed it, its Mayoi chanelling Chihiro. Of course, when he hears the voice and sees his former boss, he passes out. The court literally takes a break, because Naruhodo falls unconscious.
The whole idea of the receipt? That’s brought up outside the courtroom, during the recess, by Chihiro. Plus. the reason Chihiro appears is because the SHOCK of Naruhodo admitting defeat is what awakens Mayoi’s powers, not her trying really hard to save Naruhodo in the nick of time. Is the anime version better because it gives more agency to Mayoi? Perhaps, but I personally find the idea of “shock” kickstarting Mayoi’s awakening a lot more plausible.
Then, there’s the decisive moment, the moment where the list comes into play. In the anime, Chihiro literally throws at Konaka, which makes zero sense, because who in their right mind would allow the defense to throw a paper at The Witness, IN THE MIDDLE OF COURT. That’s witness tampering, with the whole frigging court as a witness to it!
It makes zero sense, and in the games, Chihiro ends up writing the list down for Naruhodo, and he ends up reciting a few names and getting Konaka to crack. Its THEN that Konaka confesses, and again, it at least looks like it was Naruhodo who won the case, and not so much Chihiro.
Chihiro’s role in the case, is that she bails out Naruhodo and supports him at the last few moments, when he’s about to lose. Naruhodo himself does control the pace of the case, and is winning for most of it. The anime changes that whole idea, and has Naruhodo only have a strong start, and then quickly puts him at Reiji’s mercy.
The story fundamentally changes, because its not Naruhodo winning and then suddenly being thrown under the bus by Reiji, but its more like Naruhodo starts at something, and then gets quickly thrown off by one of Reiji’s plans. And then, Naruhodo is lost, only to be bailed out by Chihiro.
What this change does, is it again, makes Naruhodo look like a pretty sad loser, one that really doesn’t have any talent, and that in the end, has to have Chihiro clean up his mess. THAT, is the same issue I had with the last episode, and its one crime that this series continues to commit.
It doesn’t show the good, confident and powerful aspects of its main character, and makes him look meek, confused and reactionary instead. I guess, at the end of it all, the anime is a different version and interpretation of this story and characters. Its also an interpretation that I’m not particularly fond of, even if I can appreciate and be satiated by seeing the definitive moments of the story itself, happen on screen.
In the end, I’d say this was an overall better episode, but if you read the more lengthy part of this post, i.e the differences, there’s a lot that got lost. I had mentioned that this week was probably going to be my last week covering this series, but I think I’m actually going to stick with it till the end. For one, it doesn’t sit right with me to stop covering a series in general, and if I can give Durarara!!x2 three frigging cours, then I can give this series one or two, especially after this week’s episode.
To be honest, if things remain as good as they were this week, then that at least makes the Ace Attorney anime watchable. I’m sure that there will be weeks that this series disappoints immensely, but at the very least, there are things that I’m looking forward to.
That tease of the Steel Samurai, and the preview for next week, highlighting some pretty key characters, has me excited. I want to see the next episode, and part of me is hoping that this improvement from this week, continues as the series moves on.
One of my favorite cases is coming into play, and I’m super curious to see how the anime handles it. See you next week.
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