Monday, September 17, 2012

Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) Should be Compulsory Viewing for all Law Students

Anything I watch this year will have a hard time topping this movie, which I can safely say is the best video game to movie adaptation I have ever seen- though to be honest I haven't seen that many video game adaptations to have a right to whine.

Gyakuten Saiban, better known outside Japan as Ace Attorney. is the story of a newbie defense attorney (Naruhodo Ryuuichi) who is drawn into cases way over his head, which he wins with a fair bit of luck, occasional flashes of clarity,  and some supernatural nudging. The lovely part about this series is that, despite it being a courtroom drama- there's absolutely no legalese involved.

The movie is based mainly on the first game in the series, focusing on the DL-6 case, concerning the murder of defense attorney Mitsurugi Shin. There are about four or five games in the series- so hopefully we'll be seeing sequels to this film in the years to come.

The characters were portrayed pretty well by the actors- most of whom were an excellent fit. One early concern of fans when news of the movie first came out was- would they be able to make Naruhodo's hair look the same as in the games? Well, they certainly did- with a lot of gel, it seems.

Prosecutor Mitsurugi Kenji is as classy, upright as in the games, and perhaps.... a little frilly and fluttery. His best line from the film, for me, would be his emotional outburst halfway through- "私はそこまでひらひらしていない!" (I am not that fluttery!). Another classy character, his mentor, Gou Karuma, looked and played the part of a courtroom veteran- and had me wondering if he was the voice actor of Charles zi Britannia, Wakamoto Norio (nope, not him).

Naruhodo's mentor Ayasato Chihiro didn't get much screen time, for a painfully obvious reason (I'm not telling). She looked younger in the games, and the change in her hair colour from brown to what looked like purplish blue wasn't pleasing. Perhaps the older look was for realism, to portray her as a more senior lawyer- though I can't think of any excuse for the hair. Homicide detective Itonokogiri Keisuke, on the other hand, looked too young- and not square jawed enough.

Of course we mustn't forget the nameless Saibanchou (Judge), played to perfection by Emoto Akira. Reading the Judge's biography will reveal many ridiculous character flaws, but in this movie his only duty is to preside over the court. He doesn't have much to say, but you can feel  the weight in his monotone one-liners, when he asks Naruhodo if he is done, or his wonderfully flat "何ですて?" (what did you say?) when shocked.

The movie's pacing is good, never skipping a beat. It's neither too fast nor too slow. The characters are colourful and wacky. It doesn't make a mess of the original games, and the ending shows the possibility of an equally offbeat sequel. And finally, at the risk of sounding xenophobic, it's in Japanese, starring Japanese actors- I don't think I would have bothered watching the show if it was a mass-manufactured Hollywood mess, perhaps with Nicholas Cage as Naruhodo, and worse still, not named Naruhodo (which actually means 'oh I see'), but the appalling English name of Phoenix Wright.

On a side note: Gyakuten Saiban is a Capcom franchise- the same company that owns the rights to the horrible Resident Evil movies. They also own the Monster Hunter franchise, which is rumoured to be in line for a film treatment- albeit by the director of the Resident Evil movies. I don't know if I should be delighted or praying for mercy.

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