Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe for Turnabout


"Defense attorneys have to smile brazenly especially when they are in a pinch."
"Gyakuten Saiban"

Need to cheat with a short manga review. Again. But it's game-related, so it still fits in with this month's theme.

Like mentioned in the Trick X Logic post, Kuroda Kenji has been connected to the Gyakuten series for several years now, being the script-writer of the serialized manga version. The manga is not a comic-version of the games, but contains original stories set in the Gyakuten world with art by Maekawa Kazuo. Just like the games, the manga started out as Gyakuten Saiban ("Turnabout Trial"), with defense attorney Naruhodou as the protagonist, but two years ago the title changed to Gyakuten Kenji ("Turnabout Prosecutor"), and features prosecutor Mitsurugi as the protagonist now.

Gyakuten Kenji 4, released in February, contains two complete stories, Gyakuten! Kikikaikai  ("Turnabout! Strange Monsters") and  Gyakuten Clinic ("Turnabout Clinic"). In the main story, Gyakuten! Kikikaikai, Mitsurugi and detective Itokonogiri end up in a small hotel in the mountains after a driving accident (resulting in Itokonogiri's patrol car's fall of a cliff). With the Supernatural Phenomena Research Committee gathered in the hotel and no rooms left, Mitsurugi and Itokonogiri are forced to stay at the hotel-annex. Fire has broken out several times the last month in the annex and one of the guards even says he saw an Oni in the midst of the fire once. Add a woman who thinks her husband disappeared from the hotel, an excorist and a rather touchy hotel owner and you have all the ingredients for murder. When the hotel owner is found dead outside the hotel, seemingly pushed from the seventh floor of the annex, Mitsurugi starts his investigation. He has done it in other stories in this series, but Kuroda focuses a lot on architecture and the movement of people in this story and while the story has no real original elements, the solution consisting of two smaller, well known tricks, Kuroda managed to mix the elements in an amusing way.

Gyakuten Clinic ("Turnabout Clinic") is a short story and has the same  focus on architecture and the movement of people, but is less interesting that the previous story. It features a very crude locked room mystery, one of the most basic forms (and solutions). The usage of a modern kind of key actually makes this kind of locked room even more easy to pull off (and see through), and I am actually kinda disappointed in Kuroda for writing such a story.

But the biggest problem I have with this volume is that it strays far from the focus of the Gyakuten series on contradictions and turnabouts. People who have played the games will know that the title "Turnabout Trial" doesn't only refer to the flow  of the trials in the games, where you often need to switch between defense and offense. You also often have to look at the facts from the totally different angle (sometimes it's even needed to actually turn evidence around) to get to the truth. While Kuroda's earlier stories for the manga did reproduce that turnabout feeling, lately his stories are "just" normal detective stories. They just don't feel like they are specifically turnabout stories, which was why I liked the manga in the first place. It is still a decent, sometimes quite good detective manga, but I don't see the need of the Gyakuten name anymore. At this point, I would say Kuroda might as well drop the Gyakuten franchise name and just write an original detective manga. 

Original Japanese title(s): カプコン(監修)、 黒田研二(脚本)、 前川 かずお(漫画)『逆転検事4』/「逆転!鬼々怪々」/「逆転クリニック」

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