In an alternate world where trials are determined by a judge within three days' time, rookie defense lawyer Phoenix Wright (Naruhodo Ryuichi) must absolve his clients using investigative skill and intuition to find the inconsistencies in the testimonies of unreliable witnesses. But when his mentor Mia Fey (Ayasato Chihiro) is murdered, and her sister Maya (Mayoi) is accused of the crime, he must face ruthless and undefeated prosecutor Miles Edgeworth (Mitsurugi Reiji) in order to find the real killer and, above all, seek the truth.
Nearly anyone who ever owned a Nintendo DS should be familiar with Ace Attorney, a quirky series that is the embodiment of what TV Tropes would call Artistic License: Law -- it's not until late in the series that jury trials are even brought into play, and for the most part, the outlandish characters and scenarios bear just a passing resemblance to actual legal and investigative practice, but nevertheless there is a certain lovable charm that pervades the franchise.
A fair number of people will likely have already queued up Crunchyroll to revisit these fun characters, but how will this come off to those who never played the game? Well, honestly, Ace Attorney is a real mixed bag -- while the characters remain loads of fun (even when, sometimes, they don't seem to make sense), there are some deep flaws here that keep this from really excelling as a standalone anime.
The single most distracting and frustrating issue I had with this series is the animation itself: particularly in the early going, A-1 really drops the ball on making these iconic characters look right on screen. Phoenix in particular looks off-model and flat-wrong at times, even in the *opening sequence*, and it's clear that the art style just hasn't translated as well from the small screen DS to the, um, not-so-small-screen of TV. There is noticeable "chop" in the frame rate, and the integration of 3D backgrounds with the 2D characters leaves a lot to be desired. These issues seem to be less glaring as the series goes on, but you will never be watching this for its base artistic value.
Being that the plot is drawn directly from the first two games, it's safe to say that they are as convoluted and over-complex as you can expect; there are the occasional "gotcha" moments draw effectively from thin air that all-too-often pervade Japanese mystery series (and frankly, Phoenix's tactic of "bluff until the truth comes out" would get him very quickly disbarred in the real world), but at least Ace Attorney takes them in stride and effectively acknowledges the inherent gamey goofiness - and really embraces the "this is obviously a video game anime" feeling in a way few other shows do. While it's sold as a "mystery", you're not really here to think: it's a lot of Phoenix Wright "objecting" and Maya Fey doing supernatural things and Miles Edgeworth being not-so-transparently male-tsundere and it's really honestly quite silly and fun, given that this is a show about solving murders. These are easy characters to root for, and there's not a sour note from any of the voice actors who portray them, even though they are different actors from those in the games.
Will this appeal to anyone who never played the games? Well, honestly, I'm not sure. The whole setup takes a lot of getting used to, and some people might be put off by the cavalier attitude taken towards real-life legal and investigative procedure, as well as the over-the-top nature of many of the characters. (The judge, in particular, is a complete and utter moron, and not someone you'd ever want to treat with life-and-death decisions.) But then, if you're looking for a not-so-serious, super-melodramatic show where characters yell things that are helpfully projected in gigantic speech bubbles punctuated gusts of wind and the occasional flood of confetti (yes, in a courtroom) then you might really find Ace Attorney enjoyable.
Though the quirkiness of the source material may not appeal to all, and the animation issues really hinder this series from being a great one, Ace Attorney remains reasonably entertaining for fans of the game, and perhaps even for newcomers to the franchise.
Never objectionable, Ace Attorney is goofily pleasant fun. If you can ignore the severe animation flaws, add one star; if you need something gritty, just walk on by. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Given that this is a series involving several murders which are examined fairly indepth, there is a fair amount of blood (but no gore). There is some fan-service involving a witness blatantly using sex appeal as a manipulative tactic during a trial, as well as somewhat more questionable fan-service "humor" involving the effects of a full-grown woman's spirit being channeled by spirit mediums who aren't as full-grown.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source (Crunchyroll), Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Ace Attorney © 2016 Capcom / Yomiuri Television / A-1 Pictures
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