Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trials & Tribulations

"The miracle never happen (sic)"
"Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney - Justice for All"

And it's the final review in this month of legal mystery fiction. Of which most were actually stage plays. Weird things happen on this blog sometimes.

The Hero of Heroes show, where the best TV superhero is elected, is held in the Bandou Hotel, and defense attorney Naruhodou, his assistant Mayoi and her cousin Harumi are present too to watch the show live. However, Fujimino Isao, actor of the hero Ninja Nanja is found murdered in his dressing room and suspicion falls on Outorou Shingo, actor of the hero Tonosaman Hei. Amidst the chaos, an unknown person kidnaps Mayoi, and the kidnapper’s demands are that Naruhodou is to act as Outorou’s attorney, and that he should get Outorou a Not Guilty verdict, because the kidnapper doesn’t like to see Outorou hang for a crime he didn’t commit. Naruhodou has no choice but to defend Outorou, who swears he really didn’t kill Fujimino. The best way to get Outorou off the hook is of course finding out who did kill Fujimino, but the investigation leads into a maze with professional killers, a dirty past between Fujimino and Outorou and even a ghost from Naruhodou’s own past. Can Naruhodou win the trial and save Mayoi’s life in the 2015 stage play Gyakuten Saiban – Saraba Gyakuten (“Turnabout Trial – Farewell, My Turnabout”)?

This stage play is a sequel to the 2014 stage play Gyakuten Saiban - Gyakuten no Spotlight, and both based on the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) courtroom mystery videogame series. While Gyakuten no Spotlight was an original story, Saraba Gyakuten is directly based on the final episode included in the second game.

In general, I’d say this play is the better one. This is mainly because the original story on which this play is based is really an exciting mystery story that fits the real-time format well. The kidnapping adds a sense of urgency, while the setting of a murder among hero actors fits the format of a stage play. The conclusion of the story was one of the most exciting, and captivating moments of the whole game series, nay, of courtroom drama mysteries in general, and that feeling is retained in this stage play. The series has always been about turning seemingly hopeless situations in the courtroom around, but few were ever so desperate as these, and the way everything is turned around is fantastic. As a pure murder mystery story, it is actually really not that special, but as a courtroom mystery, Saraba Gyakuten is something special and it translates well to this stage play.

But does this stage play have something to add to the original game story, as you might as well play the game, right? Well, I have to admit that this issue is a bit more difficult to decide on. In terms of acting and presentation, I’d say it’s basically the same compared to Gyakuten no Spotlight. The main cast is the same, even if  this time you see less of Mayoi (because she is kidnapped) and more of her cousin Harumi. I wouldn’t say the acting was much better or worse than with the first play, and in terms of presentation, I think this stage play had a few moments that were quite inspired (the way the backgrounds are used), but that never had really impressive moments like the action scenes or the video footage scene in the first play. The actor-audience interaction is also similar, so the one thing that really sets these two plays apart is the story. And while Saraba Gyakuten is definitely the better story, I think that Gyakuten no Spotlight made better use of the fact that is a stage play, and the fact it is a completely original story of course also scores points.

This is of course always a problem with adaptations. Do you want to adapt an existing story into a different medium, or do you want to do something new using the existing world? I personally prefer the latter in general and I do think that taken on the whole, Gyakuten no Spotlight is the more interesting play of the two, even if the mystery plot in general is not as good as Saraba Gyakuten. I can however imagine that a lot of fans of the Ace Attorney series will prefer Saraba Gyakuten, with the idea of that they always wanted to see this story in live-action. I did think that this play was a lot more tightly plotted than the previous one. Which is because it’s based on the game  scenario of course, but it at least didn’t feature scenes I thought were really useless in the grand picture, which the previous play did have.

Overall though, I think that fans of the series will be satisfied by Gyakuten Saiban - Saraba Gyakuten’s adaptation of the game.  It is a solid stage play that has a captivating story, and the actors do a good job at getting the audience involved with the dramatic events that unfold. If I had to choose, I’d say the first one is the more interesting and original one, but in terms of story, I think this one wins easily.

Original Japanese title(s): 『逆転裁判 さらば逆転』

No comments :

Post a Comment