“Be careful what you wish for”, that phrase is unfortunately ringing more true than it should with regards to the current Ace Attorney anime adaption. In the premiere I had voiced several concerns, and chief among them was the fact that the show was not taking its sweet time with the story, and that very much changed this week. Despite the slower paced story, somewhat careful building and what not, this episode had its issues for a number of reasons. As a whole, this show has a number of problems, whether its a serious lack of production budget, some weird choices for the voice acting, or just a very disappointing start.
The chief problem, however, and one that really was confirmed by this week’s episode, is a lack of respect for the source material. Anime adaptions are definitely a tricky thing, if only because they need to take something from one medium, and translate its appeal and its essence into another. Bringing the sense of enjoyment from say a manga to an anime is a bit easier, if only because you can look at manga pages as very detailed and glorified story boards for a potential episode. Video Games are a lot trickier, if only because there’s not that much to drawn on from except the overall story and the dialogue.
Games also are longer, more subdued affairs and a big part of their overall appeal is the interactive element. So… When adaption a game into an anime, there’s bound to be changes and adjustments that need to happen. The problem this week, wasn’t so much that the story was adjusted and events were changed, but more so the fact that a lot of information was unnecessarily injected into a story that really didn’t need it.
I did my second peer into the staff associated with this project and found that the script writer for the series’ first episode was Atsuhiro TOMIOKA. If you click on that link you’ll find that he’s done a decent body of work, so I don’t think the writing talent is the problem here. If anything, I think the writing chops here are actually working against this adaption.
A big chunk of what made this episode so painful to watch for myself, was the artificially “injected” emotion and story that quite honestly was never needed. There’s a lot added to the setup for this second trial, and a lot of it is really really unnecessary, and just overall odd. The changes and the unnecessary additions are what almost ruin the essence and power of the story. And here’s the thing, these are minute enough that you’d almost forget them, but as someone who’s a fan of the games, I actually went back and played the start of the second case to confirm my suspicions.
The biggest change in this episode and the story, is the huge amount of foreshadowing. There’s simply too much of it, littered all throughout the episode. First, we see who might have killed Chihiro-san, and we actually do get to see some pretty distinctive features of the potential prime suspect. That’s something that never really happens in the game itself, where Naruhodo is just kind of thrown into this whole mess, and the audience/the player is right there with him.
There’s no real indication that Mayoi has been framed, because all we really see in the game is her beside Chihiro’s dead body, followed by a sudden scream from the hotel window opposite the office. See, that whole part about a certain character seeing everything and calling the Police all of a sudden, is important, if only because it speeds stuff along, it suggests why Detective “Ikunotosugiri” appears all of a sudden, and it doesn’t give Naruhodo the whole “SHE MIGHT Be the killer look”. That’s a pretty important change, and one that feels like it loses the essence of the moment. And because we don’t have that whole window bystander call the Police, Itonokogiri’s sudden appearance feels rather weird and convenient. Again, these are small little things that bring down the quality of the story.
And while we’re on the whole topic of additions, all those cuts to the prosecutor, Reiji are all anime only additions. The problem with this little addition and all the foreshadowing to him is that makes the episode lose focus. The first part of this story and the first day is all about Naruhodo and Mayoi, and how they end up teaming together to prove Mayoi’s innocence. That’s a tall order in itself, because as the episode itself shows, there’s a lot of ground to cover there. Adding the unnecessary focus on Reiji and then even ending the episode with him and Naruhodo facing off, with that horrible “Objection!” that makes no sense at all, is where the episode falls to its lowest, as does the series.
See, in contrast, the first day in the game, actually ends with Naruhodo getting a better handle on who the first witness is going to be, and getting the evidence he does get during his investigation. The big cliffhanger at the end is the whole idea of Naruhodo having some evidence up his sleeve and be ready to tussle with the first witness. Again, I can’t mention who’s who because the anime unfortunately doesn’t really show said witness at all.
And of course, The whole deal with the famous lawyer “Hosikage” is greatly changed as well. See when Naruhodo goes to see the lawyer at Mayoi’s request the first time, he’s not even at his offices. The whole conversation with Hosikage deciding to accept the case is totally original, as is the phone call that he receives once Naruhodo leaves. That whole segment, never really happens in the game, and its because of the fact that Hosikage isn’t in his office, that Narhudo ends up going back to the office and running into Itonokogiri.
Thankfully the conversation with Itonokogiri is more or less completely unedited from the games, with the one notable exception being that some evidence isn’t quite touched upon like it was in the games. And of course, then there’s that call back to the first witness, who Naruhodo actually ends up going to see after his little talk with Itonokogiri.
Minor changes you’d say, but its those changes that end up disconnecting and changing some things. I suspect a big reason for that is going to be that there are going to be some changes in the case itself. Changes that obviously worry me.
Its due to the changes that the story ends up feeling a lot weird and disjointed. So when Naruhodo ends up going to the hotel room, he actually meets the lady in the shower and has an interesting conversation with her, before he ends up going back to Hosikage Office and then gets refused by him with a reason of there “not being enough notice”. Again, its hard to really focus on the significance of these changes without spoilers, but needless to say, these cuts and changes do change the spirit of the story itself quite significantly.
Speaking of the spirit of the story, there’s Mayoi. Now, first lets talk about the good things, Mayoi for the most part, has a pretty solid seiyuu choice in Aoi Yuuki. The voice itself fits, but Mayoi’s characterization is slightly off. Mayoi’s shown as a kind of weak, distressed girl who’s very vulnerable and needs protection. And that’s fine, because her character in the games has that aura to her as well, but its mixed in with a bit of airheadedness and positivity that is severely lacking here.
But again, you can chalk that up to just kind of the seiyuu’s own interpretation of that character. The biggest issue, and the one that rubbed me the wrong way, was how Naruhodo actually ends up being Mayoi’s lawyer, In the games, its all Naruhodo’s decision, he forces it on Mayoi himself, and there’s no moment of them both asking each other for that to happen. Naruhodo says it himself, and Mayoi ends up agreeing to it.
Why is that such a big deal? Its a big deal because it establishes Naruhodo’s ability to empathize with and steer his clients towards hope. The whole conversation at the start of the episode, with Naruhodo offering to represent Mayoi, and being told that he thought she was guilty, that never happens in the games, and that’s huge insult to the relationship that forms between these two characters.
And that is that “artificial” injection of content that I was talking about. Having Mayoi and Naruhodo both have this moment where they appreciate each other, and then ask for each other in unison? Its powerful sure but its not the right emotion at the right time, and combined with Naruhodo’s own flashback (which has added elements of its own), it kind of devolves into soap opera melodrama almost.
And like I mentioned before, its after this decision that Naruhodo himself initiates, that the game’s cliffhanger happens. This involves Naruhodo going back to the hotel room, and searching it while the occupant is not really there, and its then, that he finds the evidence that he does and is exciting and prepared for whatever’s coming tomorrow.
The anime, instead, decides to go for the “fan pleasing” moment of Naruhodo and Reiji facing off, and ending the episode there. The whole situation between Naruhodo and Reiji is exceedingly complex, and its the core of what I’d argue is the first game. Their past and the fact that they know each other, becomes a focus of the first parts of this case, alongside obviously whatever headway Naruhodo makes. To kind of shove that into the last few moments of the episode, giving Naruhodo a so called decisive moment where he faces off against Reiji, WITHOUT giving the audience the context into why its such a big deal? Well that makes the moment feel awkward and weird.
So yes, I think while I was in denial a bit at how bad this series was with the first episode, my head’s a lot clearer now that the joy of seeing Ace Attorney in animated form has worn off. The production values for this show really are terrible, not in the artwork or backgrounds, which are pretty aptly lifted from the game, but rather in the animation. The animation is terrible, there’s no two words about it.
The character’s emotions, reactions, feel like cheap mimes of how expressive and entertaining those same characters were in game form. The transition to Anime form has just not been kind for Ace Attorney. This is a show that needed to be done by Madhouse or Bones, i.e a studio of that caliber, with a writing staff that trusted and respected the source material.
Instead of all of that, we have what we have, which seems like a train-wreck waiting to happen. I think what this show was MEANT to do, was expand the brand and appeal of the Ace Attorney franchise to non-gamers and potentially add in a whole new demographic to its fandom. Instead of that, I’m not really sure who this show is for. The diehard fans are going to notice the problems and discrepancies and be insulted by them. General audiences not familiar with the franchise, well… If they didn’t checkout last week then I’m sure that there’s a good chance that they’ll drop off this week.
As for me? I’m still here because I honestly am curious about how this is all going to go down. How bad is it going to be? How much are they going to change things e.t.c., because like I said in the premiere, I’ve honestly always felt like this game and series has been anime ready from the get go.
Honestly, all this episode had to do, was adapt everything from the games, verbatim, and it would’ve led to an engaging episode and story. Injecting new scenes, expanding and changing others, and flat out revealing certain things that were unnecessary at this point, is kind of bastardizing the story. There was enough content in here, to fill the episode quite nicely.
We met Mayoi, we met Itonokogiri (who again, had great casting in Masasmi Iwasaki) and we also have Naruhodo meet with the first witness that he’s to cross examine the next day. That, his decision to represent Mayoi and the overall setup of the case, is darn good stuff in itself. And I think, that’s where that disrespect and distrust of the source material comes in. See, there’s this fear that’s projected into the episode, one where the show itself thinks that it’ll lose audiences if it doesn’t showoff Reiji or have this long, drawn out emotional moment that’s super expanded, at the cost of adjusting and changing the order and connection of things.
Ace Attorney deserved better, as did its fans. It seems like Capcom might’ve skimped on or been uninterested in managing this project on the production committee that they were most definitely a part of. I guess we’ll just see what happens from here on out, and just how different this show becomes from the source material that inspired it.
Some extra little tidbits that I’ll be adding in, (shamelessly stolen from what Dee@Josei Next Door does for some of her blogs).
- Itonokogiri Keisuke is called Dick Gumshoe in the western locaziled version of the game. The Japanese name Itonokogiri means roughly means “a fretsaw”, which is obviously in line with all the characters in this story having odd names.
- Mayoi Ayasato is known as Maya Fey in the western version of the games. Here her name rough translates to “lost, or to lose one’s way”. Again, its a funny name for a character, and kind of encapsulates who lost and out of it Mayoi can be sometimes.
The first day of the trial begins. See you next week!
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