Monday, March 16, 2009

The Phoenix Wright Manga

Desperate during this long, dark era where no new Ace Attorney games are on the release schedule, I picked up Phoenix Wright : Ace Attorney Official Casebook Volume 1 : The Phoenix Wright Files Manga. A manga is a Japanese comic book, shrunk in size to that of a regular large paperback book, and read from back to front.

That was the first hurdle for me - figuring out how to read it. You start at the back page and read the panels right to left, top to bottom. Once I figured that out I began pouring through the black and white casebook, hoping to enjoy the complex court intrigue and deep character development the games were known for.

Not so much.

This is a collection of about a dozen short stories, featuring Phoenix Wright and many of the characters from the games in different situations. The stories are mostly lighthearted fare, with the defense lawyer dealing with situations like a stray kitten and a cold. It's not mystery nor crime drama in any sense.

Getting used to the Japanese way of cartooning (and how it's translated into English) has been an interesting process. The art style can change from nomral in one panel to exaggerated features in the next. When a character has an emotional outburst, for example, they often revert to a child-like appearance and it's suddenly Jim Henson's Phoenix Wright Babies.

Thought balloons often appear without an actual balloon, sometimes to show a character's contrasting thoughts on a matter. And to keep the art styles intact through the translation, sound effects are left in Japanese but little English translations are written near them and close attention must be paid.

All in all, this book was less sophisticated than I'd hoped it would be, but since I'm such a fan of the series, I've enjoyed it nonetheless for light reading. A new game in the series is in the works in Japan, so it's still going to be a long wait before we see it on these shores.

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