"Will you punish crime as a prosecutor, or save people as a defense attorney?"
"Turnabout Prosecutor 2"
Once more, with feeling!
a review of the Takarazuka Revue’s take on the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) videogame franchise. The Takarazuka Revue is an all-female revue specializing in musicals with an almost fairy-tale like presentation, and their version of the mystery videogame series was not perfect, though that was mostly because the original plot had been simplified a lot. The random dancing and singing was weird, but not bad at all actually. In 2013, the Takarazuka Revue did their third adaptation of the game series. Gyakuten Saiban 3 - Kenji Miles Edgeworth (“Turnabout Trial 3 - Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth”) stars the prodigy prosecutor Miles Edgeworth in a journey to find a new way in life after his defeat by the hands of Phoenix Wright, the protagonist of the previous two musicals. He comes across his childhood friend Larry Butz at the airport, who convinces him to fly back home to California. The two step on the plane, but mysterious powers send Edgeworth and Larry back in the past. There they come across Edgeworth’s father Gregory, to whom Edgeworth always looked up to. His father was a defense attorney and it was his father's murder during his childhood that led Edgeworth down the path of the prosecutor. But the Gregory Edgeworth they see in the past, is not the same Edgeworth had in his memories: Gregory Edgeworth was a defense attorney who tampered with evidence, and did anything to get a Not Guilty verdict. Now he’s doing the same in a case where a musician is the defendant in a murder case, and his son is determined to stop his own father from making a mockery of the law, even if it means he has to oppose him in court.
Seriously, how many blogs on mystery fiction will ever get to write about musicals…
As with the previous Takarazuka adaptations, Gyakuten Saiban 3 - Kenji Miles Edgeworth uses the localized names of the characters. This is because Takarazuka musicals aren’t set in the “real world” but in a fantasy-like world where anything can happen. Because of that, they decided not to use the Japanese names, but the English names to give the whole musical an extra touch of “otherworldliness”. The musical is very loosely based on the 2012 videogame Gyakuten Kenji 2 (‘Turnabout Prosecutor 2’), which used a mystery plot to explore the character of Mitsurugi (Edgeworth) and his bond with his father. The story of the musical in particular takes some very vague cues from the third episode included in the game, but you really need to do your best to recognize it, and you might as well consider it an original story.
Overall, it’s a fairly decent mystery story. Which is sometimes interrupted by singing and dancing. It’s too bad I have to say that the singing and dancing isn’t actually related to the mystery plot. It’s a missed chance, because it;d give an extra dimension to the fact the play is a musical in the first place, but now the story just gets interrupted once in a while with music. And I guess that the usual Takarazuka Revue public wants that, but I do wish there was a bit more synergy. By the way, do not underestimate the immense popularity of the Takarazuka Revue. Some might think “Ha! An all-female musical revue?!”, but they are really popular in Japan, with many of the actresses also having a good acting career after they leave the troupe. But that also means a lot of their musicals follow a certain formula, and that also holds for Gyakuten Saiban 3 - Kenji Miles Edgeworth. Obviously, this story also features a lot more emphasis on the drama of the story.
I had kinda forgotten about this, because it’s been a while since I saw the first musical, but they do a pretty good job at translating a videogame mystery game to a play that is done in real-time. There’s some clever use of a screen to show off evidence, and while the mystery itself is not very complex, you usually get just enough time to form some idea for yourself, before they show you the answer. The format of the Ace Attorney games also lends itself very well for a play that is done real-time, because the story does not build towards one big denouement at the end. Like with Columbo, smaller mysteries and contradictions are solved on at a time, which all add up to one bigger story. Things never get too big for the viewer, which is good. Each format obviously has its own strengths and weaknesses, and I think that this works very well for a theater form.
And fans of the games, they might be happy to hear that the play has the familiar cues, like music taken from the game. The actors are also very good at recreating the animations from the game, and portray the characters really well. Some of them are basically frame-for-frame recreations. For people who have played the games, this is an extra, while I think that for people who don’t know the games, these ‘game-like movements’ add a bit to the surreal world.
If you can get past the time-traveling plot, Gyakuten Saiban 3 - Kenji Miles Edgeworth is a pretty interesting take on the franchise. It’s definitely not meant as a straight-up adaptation of the series, but a crossover between the games and the Takarazuka Revue’s home style and I think it does a fairly good job at it. The first musical was, despite the changes, still a recognizable adaptation of one of the episodes from the game, while this third musical is, considering everything, basically an all-original story, which might make it a bit more exciting to watch, as you don’t know what to expect.
Original Japanese title(s): 『逆転裁判3 検事マイルズ・エッジワース』