The Ace Attorney franchise strikes me as one of these things that should be well more well known in the west then it is. Don’t get me wrong if you show a certain audience a picture of Phoenix Wright (central character in five of the six main series games) he could definitely be recognised but the lack of faith that publisher Capcom has about re-releasing any of half of the main series games (beyond the original trilogy) speaks volumes. I’m not a huge “gamer” but I’ve always had a soft spot for this series of hugely engaging visual novel/adventure games ever since I picked up the DS European localization for the first game by chance in 2006. I followed the franchise closely since then and have always greeted any news about the franchise with a large amount of anticipation (much as I’m still not sure if I actually finished the 6th and most recent game on the 3DS.)
Fans of visual novels and media that has a quirky but not irksome sense of humour should definitely give the original trilogy a go. They are fantastically engaging with plots that will keep the player engaged from start to finish and a hefty dollop of very Japanese humour that is a distinct parody of the countries legal system (despite the localizations being set in the US.) Outside of the anime adaptation there was one major gap in my Ace Attorney knowledge that was unfilled until this week. Takashi Miike’s 2012 live action film adaptation. Foreign film fans will be very aware of Miiike’s work. The man is famous for cranking out multiple films a year and a good majority of them get a foreign release with some debuting to solid acclaim. That said as someone who likes to watch films legally, I assumed his Ace Attorney adaptation would be far too niche to get a proper release in the UK. The years went by and this his was one of the major films I would watch in a heartbeat if it was released officially but was never going to get the chance to see it. Lo and behold eight years after its Japanese release a fully subtitled and rentable copy appeared on Amazon Video and is also available (from what I have seen) On iTunes. Nevertheless, this was an immediate rental for me and a high priority watch. what did the live action adaptation deliver?
It’s worth noting that the UK rental edition of the film does not contain any UK distributor logos (even from the more niche outfits you would expect to pick up this kind of adaptation.) Its closest comparison might be those expensive but officially importable Blu Rays of foreign films that happened to have subtitles in the correct language for that market (without the expense.) Watching the film as a fan was a great experience. Nevertheless, it’s not hard to see why UK distributors would not touch it. I’ve never seen any other adaptation that goes so far out of its way to recreate every element of its source material in another medium The. plot, characters, costumes, screenplay and hair styling represent an almost exact live action replica of the first game are all present and correct. The result is a the film having precisely zero appeal to anyone who is not intimately familiar with the source material as the very Japanese centric parody and sense of humour will just come across as weird to any potential outside viewer.
This is not evening mentioning the direct adaptations of the more mystical elements of the narrative that represent some of the core mechanics of certain games in this franchise when transitioned to live action. These elements are faithfully translated the kind of thing any studio executive worth their salt would have looked at and sent very harsh notes to the film makers for being almost completely incomprehensible. I guess the franchise is big enough in Japan that the film adaptation has enough of a built-in audience that this didn’t matter. Watching this and trying to work out what an outsider would make of it was a wild experience. it makes the original Pokémon theatrical animated trilogy look vaguely coherent. Certain parents and non-fans may think watching those films are as much fun as skinning their own feet with a carrot peeler but they can be followed from a narrative perspective without any knowledge of the overall franchise. Much as I can say I loved seeing the filmmaker’s transition the Ace Attorney world to live action judging the film outside of its place within the overall franchise was something of a challenge.
Film Rating. 7/10
Ace Attorney Trilogy is available on most major game platforms (Switch, PS4 Xbox One) as well as iOS and PC.