What They Say:
Hold it! The Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright, is back. And his newest case is giving him a serious headache-with a case of amnesia! Once Phoenix gets his bearings, he’s back to finding the truth and helping his clients. But, a case involving a phantom thief brings in the smooth blend of justice and lawyer from hell, Godot! This coffee-obsessed prosecutor will prove not only to be a challenge, but will also be a reminder of a terrible trial from Phoenix’s past.
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 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in an eight/three 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. While the first set went for a bookish look to it where we had the main cast together, this one goes for a traditional character montage design with our two leads in the foreground as Godot looms over them in the background. With a lot of darker colors there it works well enough but it has the kind of quickly put together thing that has little in the way of detail or a real hook to it. The back of the case does a small piece of artwork along the left while the right breaks down the episodes by trial. The slipcover is an all-white piece that has several shots along the right side down in a strip while the left breaks out summary of the premise and an awkward list of extras. It lists just bloopers here but none are included, and the included extras aren’t listed. 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 Mia 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 almost mirror the previous edition – no outtakes, sadly – as we get a commentary track for the fifteenth episode as well as the clean opening and closing sequences.
The back half of the second season of Ace Attorney was a little surprising at first since it’s a touch shorter, coming in at just eleven episodes for a twenty-three episode season overall. It’s also an odd one in that of the trial side stories, the first one we get is two episodes long and then the next one is seven episodes long. Add in two standalone episodes and that brings you up to the full amount. With so many of the episodes before being three or four episodes each, it feels weird to have such a lengthier story here and I’m not quite sure that this is the show that can handle it structurally. The basis of everything is in shorter and achievable chunks that you deal with because longer ones just feel kind of unnatural coming from the portable game side.
The opening tale is a bit of a fun one since it again takes us into the past a bit as we see yet another time that Naruhodo was framed. This puts Mia in charge of defending him and she does a pretty good job considering her own issues with being in court from her own past. But what’s fun is that Dahlia is brought into play and that’s a connection to a new case that’s going on which is why it comes up with Mia to begin with. It’s a story that deals with the events in the present day but touches upon the incident of the past and actually works to solve it thanks to Mia’s persistence and belief that something from then just didn’t feel right even though it got Naruhodo free. Dahlia’s a kind of fun character in her own right but everyone has their outlandish quirks in this series so she doesn’t quite stand out as much because of that.
After another standalone episode the show shifts into the new trail where we see Mia taking on her first client a year before she had even met Naruhodo. Mia’s certainly not a bad character and the more variety in the game and the show for “playable” characters the better for fans. So watching her deal with a death row convict along with some familiar characters like Miles and the Gumshoe fellow, it shows what kind of lawyer she is as she explores what happened and looking for clues that will help her client. Over the two episodes, we see her working it through pretty well with the research and some basic interactions that ends up going pretty big by the end of it. That it once again ties into Dahlia is amusing since we know her preference in how to eliminate people and that makes another appearance here.
The final story of the season, crossing seven episodes, really is just too much material for it to hold together well. While there are series that can handle long-form mysteries and tie it together well, Ace Attorney is not one of them. Its initial focus is on Maya where she’s working through some training for the temple and has her friends going with her. While she, she meets a children’s author named Elise who has a much bigger role in all of this as time goes on. During the meet and greet, Naruhodo recognizes one of the women there and believes she may be Dahlia but can’t be completely positive on it, which allows Dahlia to roam free, resulting in Elise’s death. That reinforces Naruhodo’s intention to figure out what went on here and who is truly guilty.
As an extended arc, it works well in that we do get some interesting reveals for Elise and who she truly is while also getting to see Dahlia navigate a more complex storyline. Or rather, more complicated storyline. With the back and forth and the style of the show, it retains that light and near-comical touch for a lot of it that makes it hard to really connect with. It has its moments as the show generally does because it has the overacting bug to it that’s built into its DNA. But this one serves to help deal with the larger storyline of Dahlia, more of Naruhodo’s past and connecting a few other pieces so that there’s a lot more of a close bond between everyone because of it. Again, it’s not bad but it just doesn’t work for me in the slightest because of how the show is presented. My hopes in that a second season would smooth some things out from the first didn’t pan out and the structure of it, especially in this back half, just made it worse.
While I’ve watched in fascination a number of people playing the Ace Attorney games over the years, it was never something I to into myself as handheld gaming just isn’t for me. I had hoped that the anime would present something fun and quirky and it does do just that in its own way a good chunk of the time. The result is a show that’s a bit over the top in execution, feels below budget when it comes to its look, and is just too corny. I get the charm of it for those that it works for me but the more time I spent with this cast overall and their stories, the more it just made me fidgety and struggle with the story material itself, seeing all the flaws writ bigger even if I enjoyed some of the references and homage pieces. Funimation wraps up the season well enough with a good home video release, a little extra bonus material, and a nice package. Fans ought to be pleased to have it in general and done as well as it is as it seemed like everyone had fun making it, but it was a kind of fun that didn’t connect with me.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 15 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: November 5th, 2019
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.