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Trailer Review: Gyakutan Saiban

TAKE THAT! It's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: the Movie!

By / Posted on 15 November 2011

Gyakuten SaibanJapan is crazy.

Don’t get us wrong, the United States is a whole ‘nother load of crazeballs, but it’s generally and globally accepted that Japan is pretty bat guano nuts and we all love them for it. They put women’s used panties in vending machines as though they were bags of Doritos. They hire A-list Hollywood actors to be the spokesmen for their mundane products — Harrison Ford promotes beer and videogames while Sylvester Stallone smiles next to a glistening pork sausage. We’re not kidding. Why do the Japanese do this? Because they have tons of money and have gotten bored with our little Western lives and needed to fetishize every damn thing to the very edge of ridiculous (blatant speculation on our part, we have no hard evidence to prove this hypothesis).

Controversial Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike has made a feature film adaptation of the lawyer simulation videogame Gyakuten Saiban, better known in the west as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Miike is known for his bizarre and violent films, most notably Audition, Dead or Alive and Ichi the Killer. He is oft-considered a contemporary of Quentin Tarantino and admires the work of David Lynch. Gyakuten Saiban is a game about a rookie defense attorney who struggles with self-doubt while defending the innocent with the help of the spirit medium younger sister of his murdered mentor. Oh Japan, you always know just what we want but are too afraid to ask for!

Even if you’re not familiar with the videogame source material, you’ve got to admit this movie looks pretty awesome. The outlandish hair! The bombastic personalities! The Minority Report manner of throwing virtual evidence at the opposing counsel! This is like Law & Order on acid! Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good way of describing the games…

For fans of the Ace Attorney series, this trailer is even more exciting as it seems to be simultaneously a faithful retelling of the entire storyline of the first game and a wildly inventive dark new vision of the game’s bright cartoon world. There’s Phoenix Wright and rival prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, of course, plus their constant-screw-up childhood friend Larry Butz, funky photographer Lotta Hart, the Fey clan complete with Magatama pendants (is that little Pearl at 0:39?), undefeated prosecutor Manfred von Karma, Detective Dick Gumshoe and even a Blue Badger police mascot (at 1:01). They even prominently display the DL-6 case file, which fans of the series will know is the major source of contention across all three of the Phoenix Wright games.

Our opinion? This movie looks amazing in the most outlandish and fantastically wild manner. We never thought the courtroom could look so exciting. As fans of the videogames, of course we’re a bit biased, but gamers have come to accept that all film adaptations are universally terrible, so the fact that this one looks genuinely entertaining as a piece of cinema and is faithful to the source material is pretty outstanding. We are all about this Gyakutan Saiban film and will see it just as soon as there is are English subtitles available.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.