Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Through the Curtain

うなれパンチ とどろけキック さみしいときには
燃えてシンギング ヘッドバンキング 切ない時には 
太鼓ドーンドン 響けカッカッ ほらね忘れちゃう 
ワワワワンダーモモモモーイ これぞファンタジーな七不思議 

Cry out, my punch! Roar, my kick! When I'm lonely
I sing and shout anime songs and these tears fly away
Burn! I'll be singing and headbanging and when I'm sad
The taiko drum goes baaaam-bam, and again boom-boom, and see, I already forgot!
Wowowowonder Momomomoi This are my fantastic seven mysteries!
"Wonder Momoi" (Momoi Haruko)

I usually try to avoid posting reviews of the same franchises in a row, but ah well, since both are recent releases...

The office of Naruhodo houses not only a trio of talented defense attorneys best known for their miraculous feats as in the courtroom, but also a talented magician in the form of Naruhodo's adoptive daughter Minuki. Minuki has been booked together to perform at a live event at the newly opened Pegasus Town shopping mall, together with two other young and rising stars of the entertainment world: the self-proclaimed "comedy artist' Choukakkou Nadare, and the fruit-cutting idol Momogaya Sumomo, known for cutting fruit art while dancing and singing on stage. As the head of the Naruhodo Anything Agency, Naruhodo naturally comes along to see his daughter perform, but also to meet wit Minuki's fellow performers and of course the mall manager who organized the event. After the event however, Nadare is found dead in his dressing room, stabbed in his chest with Sumomo's knife, which makes her the prime suspect. Asked by Minuki, Naruhodo decides to defend Sumomo in court, but things are not easy: two witnesses place Sumomo at the scene of the crime, while prosecution is also led by Yugami, a master in psychological manipulation. All seems hopeless in Takase Mie's 2016 novel Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten Idol ("Turnabout Trial - Turnabout Idol"), but that's how every day goes for Naruhodo.

While there have been short stories before, Gyakuten Idol is actually the very first novel published based on the long-running videogame Gyakuten / Ace Attorney series. I already mentioned it in my review of the latest game, Gyakuten Saiban 6, earlier this week, but the successful mystery game franchise has explored all kinds of media besides the videogame form, like like film, musicals and manga. The book is an all-original story, set several months after the events of Gyakuten Saiban 5 and features original illustrations by Kikuyarou, who also does some official artwork for the Japanese e-zine for the Ace Attorney series.

To be perfectly honest, I had not very high expectations of this novel when I first heard of it. It's being published through the Kadokawa Tsubasa Bunko label, which is a label specifically aimed at children. The fact the cover art consisted of a badly made copypasta of existing artwork for the videogames wasn't really encouraging either. On the other hand: author Takase Mie is a veteran writer, specializing in mystery novels, light novels and novelizations of popular game series like Kirby, Persona, and Fire Emblem. So there was definitely a chance that this would turn out to be a good book.

And it was. I was pleasantly surprised by Gyakuten Idol, because it's really a fun mystery novel based on the Ace Attorney series. Like in the games, the case starts out simple, but witness testimonies quickly make the situation worse for Naruhodo and his client, and he has to point out contradictions in the witness testimonies in order to save Sumomo. Naruhodo, and the player, usually know very little about what the witnesses will say at the witness stand in the courtroom, so the contents as well as the implications of each testimony are always a surprise, leading to exciting and dynamic story developments. Like with the games, a lot of smaller mysteries are solved one after another, which all lead to the solving of the 'greater' mystery. This structure keeps the story exciting throughout, instead of pushing all revelations to the end of the story, like a lot of other mystery novels do.

And it's a pretty tightly structured mystery story too. And while the novel is definitely short and obviously aimed at younger readers, written with easy-to-read prose, it's also clear this was plotted by someone with a lot of experience with writing mystery stories, so I really did enjoy it. Heck, I was genuinely excited when I first opened the book and saw it included a map of Pegasus Town. Things like that would make any mystery fan excited, right? As a mystery novel meant to be read by younger readers, I really have no complaints about Gyakuten Idol.

Fans of the Ace Attorney series should be able to enjoy this book, as it does have all the elements you'd expect from such a story. From the outrageous characters to the way the story develops and the in-jokes, it never feels out-of-place. The short story featured in the Ace Attorney-themed guidebook Gyakuten Houtei for example didn't really feel like a real story set in the universe, but Gyakuten Idol is a story I could easily see as being part of the actual universe.

So yeah, I enjoyed the book, because it's precisely what it should be. An amusing, well-plotted mystery story aimed at younger readers, set in the universe of the Ace Attorney games. I definitely wouldn't mind seeing more of these in the future.

Original Japanese title(s): 高瀬美恵 『逆転裁判 逆転アイドル』


  1. Agreed. I just finished reading this book. First Japanese book to ever finish, so I feel accomplished. Thoroughly enjoyed the story. Had it not been Gyakuten Saiban I may not have made it through.

    1. Congratulations with finishing your first Japanese book! It's really easy to read, so it's definitely very well-suited as a first challenge (in case other people are also considering it).

      It's actually very impressive how Takase managed to write a normal Ace Attorney story with much simpler prose than the games use.

  2. Does this novel include furigana? I'm still having a hard time reading full novels in Japanese and furigana help a lot. I'm a huge fan of Ace Attorney, I figured this might be worth a buy to get my motivation up!

    1. Yes, all the kanji have furigana, and most of the narrative is done through conversation, so the novel's really well suited to learn reading longer Japanese texts! Good luck!