Alright, so, I’d been wanting an Ace Attorney anime since I first played it back in 2007, and only wanted one more and more as the years went by. Then I started to realise how bad most anime adaptations of games are (case in point, Dangan Ronpa) and no longer wanted one. And then we got an Ace Attorney anime anyway! And, just like with Dangan Ronpa, I’m going to be co-blogging the entire show – this time with Junko, who loves Ace Attorney just as much as if not even more than I do. For better or worse.
Well then, let’s get started on the momentous first episode of everyone’s favourite pointing lawyer.
(A heads up, while I know most existing fans of this franchise in the west are used to the localised names of the cast, we’re going to be using the original Japanese names since it seems kind of awkward to use different names to what the characters are saying and what the official subtitles read.)
Just like in the game, Ryuichi Naruhodo (Phoenix Wright) is a brand new defense attorney who is just about to take on his first ever case. He’s a little awkward and flustered but he’s filled with passion – and, luckily for him, under the watchful eye of his mentor Chihiro Ayasato (Mia Fey) – an amazing lawyer whom he learned everything from. She’s come to his first trial for moral support (and to explain the controls in the game). His first case is somewhat heavy – it’s a murder case – but he chose to take it on specifically because the accused is his ”’friend”’ Yahari Masahi (Larry Butz). Yahari may be annoying, but he’s definitely not a murderer, so Naruhodo sets out to prove his innocence by taking note of blatant contradictions in the witnesses’ testimony.
Because the witness is the worst liar in the world, it’s very easy for Naruhodo to prove that he was the real murderer.
It’s probably a good thing that it took so long for an Ace Attorney anime to get made because it’s given me the time and reflection required to have incredibly low expectations for anime based on games. Especially after Dangan Ronpa. So going into this first episode of Ace Attorney like this allowed me to be surprised for two reasons – both good and bad.
First of all, I’m actually really pleased at a lot of things in this so far! It’s already got a huge advantage over Dangan Ronpa in that it actually captures the spirit of the game – so far, it feels like the same characters and the same mood. It’s so far not just a simple play-by-play of what happens in the game – there’s some really nice little touches here and there that I enjoyed. First is the glimpse of Naruhodo’s appartment – showing that he’s only just moved in, boxes everywhere – his sweater from his flashback in the third game in plain view. It’s cute watching him bike to work (and then forget his bike at the end of the episode) and all his expressions and awkward mannerisms are well-preserved. Unlike in the game, the lawyers now get to stand up and walk around the courtroom while talking – which is good as it would have gotten kind of boring visually otherwise, and there’s even little things like Naruhodo putting on gloves before handling the evidence. The courtroom itself isn’t the insanely high-tech system from the live action movie but a relatively subdued affair – like the games – the main difference being the two large screens to display evidence.
Probably my favourite thing about this episode is firstly the voice acting – I have no complaints about anyone and Yahari’s performance is great – followed by the opening and ending. The opening is just the kind of ridiculous vaguely retro sounding shonentastic ditty I wanted for a show like this (as well as being simultaneously adorable and hilariously homoerotic – it seems like they just accepted the main audience of the show by having this ridiculous part with Naruhodou and Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth) bound together by a ~golden chain of fate~.) The ending, meanwhile, is an adorable and frankly beautiful little piece focussing on Mayoi Ayasato (Maya Fey) that seriously makes me so happy, given that she’s my favourite character in the game.
All these little things could have, theoretically, made this a good adapation, but unfortunately there’s always the negatives. And there’s just one gigantic glaring one that’s really hard to ignore, AKA the second thing that surprised me.
The animation in this is possibly the worst I have ever seen in all my years reviewing stuff on Moeronpan. This is not me exaggerating. I didn’t expect this to look that good but I expected something passable. I actually watched this episode twice, once so that I could watch it with Junko at the same time and then once again to collect screencaps, and both times there are honestly parts that make me flinch. Even the opening has some awful looking parts. It seriously looks like a show that came out in 2002, and even then I’d have said it looks really cheap. For a franchise as massive and enduring as Ace Attorney, this feels like such a slap in the face. It really did deserve better than this. And it’s not even just the animation that looks bad – there’s something kind of off about the art itself. The colour palette of the characters seems off (for some reason the colour of the skin shading irks me) and the outline is really weak – it kind of reminds me of when you use a program to automatically turn an image into vector lineart. The lines look boring and ill-defined, if that makes sense. And this is the first episode. There’s also really blatant CG that’s used for effect – when Naruhodou first enters the courtroom, and then after that the important points in witness testimonies are depicted as glowy blue text that float into Naruhodou’s head. The contrast between the overly polished CG and the bad animation makes both look even worse in comparison.
To be honest, I’m not sure which I would have preferred – a nicely animated show that had nothing else going for it, or this adapation, which has a lot of things I like with absolutely terrible animation. However, I have every intention of watching this all because I’m really curious how the rest of it will be adapated. While animation aside I did like how they handled this episode – in the grand scheme of Ace Attorney, it’s probably the most boring part of all the games put together. It’s literally the tutorial case after all. It does make me wonder how they’re going to handle the future cases that are full of surprising twists, lots of evidence and multiple important testimony points, because, given that this is a game in which the player has to figure things out, it does have a high risk of it seeming weird and hokey to have Naruhodou continually having sudden “oh that’s it!” moments.
Even if this adaptation ends up terrible, I do hope that it’s at least entertaining. Despite my disappointment at the animation, I am looking forward to episode two.
Animation aside, I thought this was a strong first episode. The pace was a little quick, but as the first case in-game is mostly used to explain the mechanics to the player, there isn’t much material left to work with when you strip that away. I worry that, as a first episode, it may not hook in people who aren’t already fans of the series – the mystery is far from compelling, and the killer lacks motive or originality. However, it did a good job of setting up the recurring characters of Naruhodou, Chihiro, Yahari and the Judge. Yahari especially delivered, and can I just say Naruhodou is -adorable-? His messy apartment, biking to work….really, he’s perfect. My absolute favorite thing was the small hints they’ve already started dropping towards the overarching plot. Those flashbacks to Naruhodou and Yahari as grade school pals and Naruhodou’s musings on ‘how I became a lawyer’ are going to get -really- relevant later. A strong start overall, and I can’t wait until the next Edgeworth….EPISODE. I said next EPISODE. Right.
Out of 5 from Moeronpan: 1/2
Out of 5 from Junko: 1/2