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Ace Attorney Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

There’s likely plenty to object to.

What They Say:
As a brand-new defense lawyer, Phoenix Wright is learning what it means to be a true defender of justice. But when his mentor is murdered, things go downhill fast! With all evidence pointing to the victim’s sister Maya, it’s up to Phoenix to use all his wit and powerful shouting to prove her innocence. Which is easier said than done when up against Miles Edgeworth, the genius prosecutor.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the dub, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. It’s rare that a dub doesn’t get the 5.1 treatment, even when it’s a basic show, so there’s likely some stipulations about it in the contract. The show wouldn’t be much different with one as it’s largely a dialogue driven piece with lots of courtroom time and other standard investigative elements that doesn’t even require much in the way of directionality or placement. Some of the courtroom scenes work a little into it but it’s still a fairly standard simple mix. The tracks for both are definitely clean and problem free and there’s no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback, it’s just not all that noticeable of a design.

Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by A-1 Pictures, this is a very basic and simple looking show that reminded me more of the whole US animation side of adapting video games to animation. It’s got a flat look to it, bland colors even when they’re a bit more vibrant, and some awkward elements that just made me cringe – particularly the use of CG characters in the seating in the courtroom watching on in some scenes but not others. The encoding for it isn’t an issue at all here as it’s clean and without problems with solid colors and no line noise of aliasing going on. But the source material isn’t anything that will make it stand out, especially coming from a place like A-1 Pictures. I get that it’s mirroring what the game looks like but that just makes it look like game animation from far too many years ago.

The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case where we get a slipcover that uses different artwork with it. The slipcover goes for a white background that utilizes the game logo well against it and has an upper body shot of Naruhodo with his finger pointing out while the top half goes for the big game piece of the “Objection” that takes up lots of space. It’s what fans expect, it’s what fans get. The back of the slipcover does more character artwork that features Mitsurugi and Chihiro Ayasato taken form an above angle with everyone in their standard courtroom outfits.while including a smaller logo – but no objections, which is welcome. The case artwork itself has another shot of Naruhodo set against a richly detailed backdrop of the courtroom while the back cover provides a breakdown of the episodes by number and title on the right along with the extras while the left has another Naruhodo headshot. The technical grid covers everything cleanly and clearly for both formats while the reverse side replicates all of this but with a different shot of Naruhodo done to the white background.

The menu design for this release keeps things simple with what it does in using the white screen to throw the various phrases out in big red batches across it. The logo is simple but effective and the look of it overall works as it’s something that ties into the game in the right way. The problem I have with the menu is something that likely will only both a small number of people like me in that when you do language selection you’re offered two subtitle tracks; the Phoenix Wright track or the Naruhodo Ryuichi track. Having not played the games I had no idea what the difference was until I remembered that the name is likely localized in the game and the subtitles offer up separate tracks of authentic or localized. I’m glad they did it but they could have labeled this piece of it a heck of a lot better.

The extras for this release go a bit above the norm just in the fact that we get two minutes of outtakes from the dub cast. It’s done without a look at the actors performing, which I always find to be more fun in seeing them react to the flub, but there are some cute bits here that will make people smile. In addition to that we get a commentary track for the twelfth episode as it finishes off the third storyline of the set as well as the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a number of games out there in the series, the Ace Attorney anime is something that felt pretty overdue. It was surprising to me that A-1 Pictures picked it up and that it was done as it was with the arcs as I expected that it might be a bit more Case Closed style in nature. Having not played the games and having no expectations, I thought it’d be the kind of series that could go on for years instead of two cour, and I figured it’d have a more budget oriented production behind it. That said, it looks like a budget production as it works the style of the games and that doesn’t do the show any favors. It’s kind of flat, static most of the time, and fairly uninteresting to look at – at best.

This season is made up of thirteen episodes that cover three arcs from the game plus a few little extra bits and bobs. The arcs run in a three/three/four format which as it covers the events from the game gives it a bit of room to breathe. Too much, in fact, as a lot of this felt like it could have been resolved in two if not one episode from time to time. But there’s such a languid way of bringing things out combined with the absurdity of the legal system as presented here, which is a satire of the real thing that’s certainly a mess like every legal system is at times, and that just made it a hard watch from that alone. I’m not much of a fan of legal shows to begin with, though I’ll catch a Law & Order here and there simply because that’s a black hole that’s impossible to escape if you stumble upon it, but what we get here just made me wince at times because of the combination of the stories, the legal shenanigans, and the animation itself.

The series follows Ryuichi Naruhodo as he works as a rookie defense attorney and has to struggle with a lot of things. One of which is the death of Chihiro, a fellow defense attorney that Naruhodo works for early on in his career. He ends up taking over things quickly to help figure out her murder since he’s accused of it as is Chihiro’s younger sister Mayoi, who in the end becomes his assistant and keeps an eye out over Naruhodo for Chihiro. There’s a decent bit of material about her being a spiritualist that can offer advice from the other side from time to time, which gives Chihiro a chance on occasion to show up in ghost form and help out through possession of her sister. It sounds creepier than it is but that’s mostly because the show looks so amateurish to begin with that it’s hard to take any of it seriously.

The story arcs for the mysteries never feel like they come together well as we get the various bouts of examination and cross-examination, the first two of which has Naruhodo going up against the much better lawyer with prosecutor Mitsurugi, who it turns out is a childhood friend of Naruhodo’s that kind of went separate ways over time. The third arc focuses on Mitsurugi as he’s accused of murder related to the death of his father fifteen years before that changed the lives of these two kids and their friend Yahari, who himself is accused of murder in the opening arc and makes appearances throughout. There’s almost a Scooby-Doo level quality to the mysteries that we get here and the kind of goofy investigations that go on, but it’s also just hard to really get into it because it’s so ludicrous (and again, a satire of the real thing) with how the actual courtroom side goes. I can understand the appeal of this as a game in playing with it, and having characters like Mayoi offer advice and the ridiculousness of those accused, but as an anime series it just feels childish in a way that even many kids shows don’t.

In Summary:
I had little expectations going into the show and didn’t follow how it was received by fans of the game when it aired, so I wasn’t going into it prejudiced or anything. What I got was a show that seems to adapt aspects of the game in a way that makes sense for a game but doesn’t adapt well to serialized storytelling. If I was becoming more and more bored in a marathon session of each arc over the course of a day, I can imagine that this wouldn’t even connect well when watched as a simulcast alongside however many other shows people watch regularly. Game to anime adaptations have really grown well in the past decade but this one is a throwback to the kinds of things that I don’t miss at all. It does attempt to get serious from time to time, notably when dealing with Mitsurugi’s past, but even that just feels like it doesn’t connect because of the style and design of the world.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Ace Attorney Outtakes: Part 1, Episode 12 Commentary, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers

Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 23rd, 2018
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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