Not a lot really changed in Ace Attorney adaption land this week. The show continues to adapt content at a break-neck pace, cramming as much as possible into one episode in order to get to whatever arbitrary end point that it deems necessary. And while we see the story and setup for one of the best cases of the first game whizz by, we do at least, see the general essence of the story, kind of touched on.
The Ace Attorney anime seems like a bit of a balancing act, of sorts. The anime production staff are clearly aware of the fact that they can’t accomplish a proper, faithful and satisfying adaption of the original game, so they really are picking and choosing the best bits and kind of representing them on screen. The adaption itself ends up feeling a bit uneven as a result. There are certain elements that you could, potentially deem to be the most important aspects of the Steel Samurai case, and then kind of gloss over the rest. You can imagine which parts of the episode end up working well, and which ones don’t. You guessed it, the episode is at its best when it follows the games as closely as possible.
Everything actually starts off kind of great, because the start of the story is almost the same as that of the game. Which brings us to all the “important” items that the show covers in the episode. Item number one, Mayoi is a huge fan of Steel Samurai. Mayoi in general, throughout the games has a very childish, immature side to her. That particular aspect to her personality is kind of like one of the foundation supporting pillars to the series, so it makes sense that a good chunk of the opening focuses on that. We get a slightly extended and decently animated version of the Steel Samurai TV show, and there’s even some Naruhodo and Co Law Associates financial troubles kind of peppered in.
A big part of the franchise’s central appeal, is how much it builds up the idea of Naruhodo and Mayoi running a small law firm, and attracting the darnest, weirdest clients. Its important to hit on that particular note, so the show does that, and actually spends an adequate amount of time on it. And once that’s done, we move into the setup for the case itself.
The next major and important item, item number two, is how much of a bundle of contradictions the defendant Miboshi really is. Miboshi has the intimidating appearance of a villain, he almost looks like a lion in human form, but he plays a super hero, and despite his appearance, is a really nice, softy of a dude. So the show hits on that, as quickly as it can, and has Mayoi kind of act as the lens for the “don’t judge a book by its cover” aspect of Miboshi’s situation. Miboshi gets a few moments to show that he’s actually a pretty nice and likable dude, and then its off to the TV studios.
The whole thing at the TV studio is pretty brief too, but again, the show hits on perhaps the most important notes. Oba-san (Grandma or Oldbag as she’s called in the games) gets a nice introduction, and pretty much is spot on. Again, there isn’t enough time to really home in on how darn annoying Oba-san really is, but you get a decent sense of her core traits, she’s pretty arrogant, hard to follow, and rambles a lot, while obviously hating on the youngsters.
Oba-san starts as a pretty bad case of an old person hating younger’s stereotype for old people, but its all for intended effect. Oba-san is meant to be a character that you can’t stand, if only so you can have Naruhodo tear her down later, and knock her down a few pegs. Does it work here? Kind of. There’s a sense that Oba-san’s got some problems, but I think she comes off as a lot less of a problem case. She’s almost kind of sad really, and a character that you almost feel bad for, in some ways. It really does feel like the poor old woman is being picked on by the youngsters, but that’s equally because how of the anime lays everything out.
And then we go into important item number 3, the kid who’s a big fan of the Steel Samurai and who keeps sneaking into the studio. You barely see him, as you’re supposed to at this point, so that’s kind of as expected. Beyond that, we do see Naruhodo and Mayoi kind of chat with a few people and investigate the studio itself, but that’s done in a quick montage with Itonokogiri kind of talking over it all. Then of course, we rush into the courtroom.
Up till this point, you could argue that the show actually cuts out fairly little and just kind of rushes to good stuff; the first day in court. You wouldn’t be entirely incorrect if you said that, but I look at it all from a slightly different perspective. The show needs to wrap up the setup by the halfway point so it does, touching on the broad strokes and covering just enough for the show to have some kind of coherent plot.
The issue is, of course, that this case is actually pretty complex and twisty in its solutions, so whittling those down is going to be quite the challenge as we move forward. You can already kind of get a sense that the show is starting to crumble under the pressure of the complex stuff it needs to adapt and talk about. Itonokogiri has to show off a map and kind of highlight what the base problem is, and the security camera is kind of mentioned in passing.
Then of course, there’s Reiji, the prosecution and his story. The show throws in one scene of him meeting with his “sensei” and the whole idea of “Guilty is justice” is touched on, in passing. Again, broad strokes, hitting those big bullet points, but never really taking a second to breath and expand on those core concepts. For fans of the games, at least, especially those who haven’t played the first game in a while, I can see this episode kind of working with how it tackles stuff.
They got Oldbag, they covered how Miboshi is, they covered Reiji’s pressure, they added Mayoi’s personal stake in this case, all the major things are there. As a fan, I really did feel a sense of strong nostalgia, and whatever the show itself cut out, my own hazy memories kind of filled in for me. Problem is, I can see this whole case, until the trial itself, feel very fast, odd and weird.
There’s jokes in here, there’s odd happenings, and there’s huge jumps from scene to scene. The episode lays out a decent amount of the core stuff that’s needed from the story, but as to whether it flows well or not… It kind of doesn’t. It feels a lot like how most of the show has been feeling thus far, like someone’s hurriedly summarizing the story of the games, as quickly as they can.
Then we jump into the trial itself, which really just kinda focuses on the one photo of the steel samurai, and how Naruhodo kind of uses Oba-san as a scapegoat of sorts. I’ll cover how this particular scene and idea is different in the differences section, but suffice to say, Naruhodo comes off as a bit of a bully here. He’s got no leg to stand on, so he pivots and kind of blames Oldbag here. And it works, as she begins to be suspected of murder, she caves and starts actually revealing some proper information, throwing everyone in the court for a loop and ending the episode.
The courtroom part of the episode itself? It suffers I think, the most from this whole “just touch on the important stuff”. The show kind of highlights how much of a pain Oldbag is for everyone, even the prosecution itself, but its as with everything else, its little more than a quick nod. The courtroom trial itself just feels very lifeless, lacking energy, and even though we have somewhat of a back and forth between Reiji and Naruhodo, it all feels very distant. Even the judge seems abnormally calm and almost a little tired.
Unlike past episodes even, where there is at least a sense that Naruhodo’s in hot water, it really does feel like nothing incredibly important is happening, and the drama finally grabs some life once Oldbag starts talking, in the final few moments of the episode. And of course, then the episode stops, in what should be a cliffhanger of sorts, but ends up feeling like an odd stopping point, one that seems to kill any momentum that the story could’ve had.
All in all, from an anime only perspective, I’d almost say this episode is a bit more problematic than if I were watching it as a fan. Its almost like this show is kind of being made exclusively for nostalgia driven fans, ones that are probably familiar enough with the story to kind of close the gaps and inject some of the feeling missing from the episode itself, but who don’t exactly remember the story, with all its little nuances and the added layer of depth that just isn’t seen here. Speaking of which:
So the differences this week are really kind of interesting, if only because there’s a lot less change in the story initially. This episode actually opens up and adapts everything verbatim from the games in the very start. The scene with the Silver Samurai and The Evil Magistrate, which is only kind of shown in the games, is animated and presented quite nicely here. The stuff with Naruhodo and Mayoi in the office? All directly taken from the games. Even the introduction to Miboshi (or Will Powers as he’s known in the localized games) is almost directly ripped from the game.
And I honestly believe, that these parts are the best bits of the episode. You can argue on whether Ace Attroney itself is a good story or not, I clearly have my opinion on the matter, but… What you do at least see everything how it was originally conceived and made. As a fan who loves the series, that’s all I really want people to see. I want everyone to see the game and the story, and these characters for what they are and were, and not distorted because of a lack of time or budget.
Of course, once we get into the nitty gritty of the case itself, things start to change. The conversation with Miboshi is a lot quicker, and some dialogue is obviously cut out to get things moving. It isn’t too bad, but the divergence starts there. Once we get to the studio itself, the changes and summation kicks into overdrive.
See, in the games Mayoi and Naruhodo happen upon Oldbag first, then kind of walk around and encounter her, Itonokogiri and a few other characters throughout. There’s a real sense of uncovering the fact that Miboshi looks pretty darn guilty. There’s really nothing for Naruhodo and Mayoi to go on, except that they’re kinda screwed.
The photo that gets presented in the court later in the anime? Well in the game, Naruhodo and Mayoi actually find it themselves. They also talk with the Assistant in the movie theater (who you briefly see in the anime during that investigation montage) and that reveals a few hints for what’s to come.
As an interesting aside, the Kid that we see featured quite prominently in this episode during the investigation phase, actually doesn’t appear until much later in the game. In the games, the first day ends with Naruhodo kind of adding Oldbag to the list of suspects, and actually using the photo to prove that the kid couldn’t have held the spear because of how heavy it is.
There are some other changes in the courtroom itself. One change, of course, is that the judge himself is a lot more skeptical this time around, and asks a lot of questions and pokes some holes into Oldbag’s testimony as well. Its one of those rare instances where he actually acts like a proper Judge, so its sad to see that kind of removed from the anime itself.
Secondly, there’s Oldbag and Reiji. In the game, Oldbag literally drives Reiji and everyone else up a wall, to the point where when Naruhodo starts breaking her testimony down and killing her alibi, Reiji does literally nothing to stand in the way of it all.
These changes may seem minor, but again, the credit as to who does what gets shifted around. Its not Naruhodo who points out that anyone could be the steel Samurai in the suit, its the judge. its not Oldbag who mentions the fact the spear is too heavy for the kid, but its actually Naruhodo who uses that against her. And the photo? Oldbag doesn’t bring it up, but rather its something that Naruhodo himself has, and uses rather cleverly.
So yes, the major changes are the actual courtroom trial (and how certain parts are skipped or moved around) and the investigation of the case before the trial itself. Timing myself, I actually found that I got through the investigation part of the game in about 25-30 mins, and the trial itself in another 22 minutes or so. This was obviously using a walkthrough (to speed things along), but it does point out the fact that the actual content that was present in this episode could’ve easily have spanned two.
Personally, I think this episode makes a great case for the one thing that I’ve been saying since the start of this anime series; The anime needs to adapt the game series, verbatim, line for line. The early parts of the episode, where it does just that, felt a lot more proper and overall enjoyable to me, and it was only when the show began switching stuff around and cutting things, that everything got a lot more hairy.
Again, I do wonder why this show feels the need to rush through and get through each day in a case, every episode. If the show could just take its time and adapt things slowly and carefully, then I feel like it would have that room to create real excitement and fun drama. I will say that it does feel like the show got better this week, and I just wish that they do more of what they did in the start of the episode, and less of everything else. The chance for the Ace Attroney anime to do any real good for its parent franchise is slim at best now, but it’d be nice if it slowly got really good for those of us who’re still sticking with it.
Day Two, which will feature more investigation and court room shenanigans. I’m curious to see how they manage to compress all of what comes next, into one episode next week.
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