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Phoenix Wright the Musical 2 – Review

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 2 ~Truth Resurrected, Again~ is the new Phoenix Wright musical which just finished its run in Japan.  Below I give the review in text and video format.  Please pick your poison.

Video Review

Written Review

Upon hearing about video game adaptations, one immediately thinks of the failures. Whether it’s changing the setting from the Mushroom Kingdom to a parallel Earth, or making Chun-Li into piano player, major changes to the overall “essence of the game” never seem to work out for the better. Despite this, studios keep cashing in on name recognition instead of working to create a quality adaptation loyal to the source material. That is, until now.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 2 ~Truth Resurrected, Again~ is the second musical based on Capcom’s popular courtroom game series, Phoenix Wright, and was performed by the Takarazuka Revue in September 2009. Takarazuka Revue is a popular Japanese theater group most well known for having both genders played by their all-female cast. Within the larger group of the Takarazuka Revue, there are five troupes, each focusing on a specific type of performance. The newest of these is the Cosmos troupe, which with their focus on non-traditional theater was the troupe chosen to perform both this and the previous Phoenix Wright musical.

 

 

The show begins several months after the events of the first musical. Phoenix Wright (Ace Attorney) has moved his practice from New York back to his hometown in California. His first case? A man is murdered in a church and Phoenix's grade school teacher –whose in-class trial set Phoenix on his path to become a lawyer– is accused of the crime. Phoenix and his assistant, Maya Fey, take the case and prepare to do battle against prosecuting genius, Franziska Von Karma. The second act follows Phoenix in his next case as he is blackmailed into defending the true murderer against his longtime friend and rival, Miles Edgeworth.

 

The plot takes great care to fit itself into the pre-established world of Phoenix Wright. While it doesn’t exist within the game-world continuity, with a few minor changes as to when and how characters are introduced, it could. Also, though the story is original to this musical, players of Phoenix Wright: Justice for All will notice a similar series of plot twists in the second act, despite the completely different characters and context. It is a well-made homage to fans of the game, in addition to being an exciting story all on its own.

The characters are also handled with the same care as the plot. The costumes seem to be pulled directly out of the game but it is the actor’s attention to detail that truly brings Phoenix Wright into the real world. For example, during a trial in the game itself, each character sprite has around 10 possible animations which act as body language for the characters. In the musical, the actors perfectly copy these, whether it be a pointing objection or a cringe of pain from a well-placed argument. That is not to say that the characters are portrayed exactly the same as their in-game counterparts. Detective Gumshoe for one is played more as a spastic incompetent, rather than an unlucky, but hardworking man. Maya’s cutesy attitude, on the other hand, is played up to the extreme. On the physical side, Phoenix is a blond and the judge has only a mustache and not a beard. But rest assured, these are only superficial changes. The “essence” remains.

Of course, another plus about seeing any Takarazuka performance is marveling at the female actors in their male roles. From the back of the theater, one can tell at a glance the gender of any given character. This comes from not only the clothes and voice, but rather the very way in which they carry themselves; how they walk, move, stand, or sit. By the end of the show, it’s hard to believe Takarazuka is an all-female group.

Simply put, this was both an A-grade Takarazuka performance and a brilliant game adaptation. Yes, there’s singing, yes there's dancing, but always at the right time and never too much. It seems that after nearly two decades of continuously poor game adaptations, someone has finally found the correct formula. And with it, a genre, treated with scorn by game fans and critics alike, finally has a role model to follow.

—how they walk, move, stand, or sit.

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