Archive for June, 2010

No objections here

June 5th, 2010
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From the Pile is a regular feature in which we profile something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. We’ve been in this game for several years now and have had only limited space in the print edition to share all our thoughts, so there’s quite a bit of catch-up work to do on our backlog. So without further ado …

Today’s profile: “Phoenix Wright Official Casebook Vol. 2: The Miles Edgeworth Files”
Publisher: Del Rey
Age rating: Teen 13+

So Capcom recently released the original “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” game at Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iTouch, for the low, low price of $4.99. I have neither of those devices, but my ears still perked up when I saw the words “Phoenix Wright” in the subject line of a press release, all other words notwithstanding. For those who haven’t yet experienced this courtroom drama game in its original Nintendo DS form or on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console, now is a great time to do so. I’m a devoted fan of the “Ace Attorney” series (at least once I actually opened that first game — regular readers of this blog may remember that it took me 3 years before I finally cracked it open), and after you finish this game, you’ll also understand who I cosplayed as at this year’s Kawaii Kon.

The game introduces rookie defense attorney Phoenix Wright, who must prove the innocence of his clients in the face of overwhelming evidence otherwise, lying witnesses and scheming prosecutors. Speaking of which, this game also introduced Phoenix’s childhood friend and now rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, who is probably the most beloved “bad guy” next to Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII.

OK, so Edgeworth isn’t really a “bad guy” so much as “a guy who has some serious issues, although not as many as Sephiroth.” But he is one of the most fascinating characters in the entire “Ace Attorney” series, so it was no surprise that a game starring him finally came out. And, of course, there is a manga.

The “Official Casebook Vol. 2: The Miles Edgeworth Files,” is, as might be apparent from the title, the second in the manga series, with the first focusing on the games’ titular character. And which, it might be noted, received a relatively mixed review from Jason Y. and myself.

Now while I absolutely love the “Ace Attorney” game series, the first manga based on it bored me and thus made me very, VERY hesitant to pick up the next book. But I’ve been down this road before: I end up following a series anyway despite my supposedly staunch decision to quit after experiencing a really bad first entry — I have the “Evil Under the Sun” game for the Wii even though the previous one by The Adventure Company, “And Then There Were None,” made my brain cells commit suicide. “The Miles Edgeworth Files” was an impulse purchase made as I was browsing the manga selection in a certain bookstore and I saw it there while looking for the newest “Case Closed.”

That spur-of-the-moment buy for once turned out to be a lucky strike. As in the first book, “Edgeworth” consists of many unrelated stories, drawn by different artists. The quality of the art in this second volume is much more consistent, although Reala Kasori’s style in the story “Big Earthquake? Maya Cannon!” put me off with its really, REALLY huge eyes.

But this collection really shines in the stories themselves. I’ve always been drawn to slightly darker stories and people, and Miles Edgeworth the character is a deep and conflicted one that allows for great storytelling. The artists captured the prosecutor perfectly, with the right amount of slapstick absurdity to make things funny while also keeping it believable considering Edgeworth’s aloof, matter-of-fact personality.

This collection skillfully exploits that deadpan personality for comic purposes. He’s funny exactly because his stoic manner will not allow him to show much emotion, while his competitive fire gets him ensnared in some inane situations.

Whereas the wackiness in the first “Phoenix Wright” manga simply adds another layer of silliness to the already somewhat silly Wright’s personality and his VERY silly sidekicks, the insanity in “Edgeworth” proves to be a very nice balance against the prosecutor’s normally reserved self. In “A Spicy Turnabout” by Hiro Toge, the young man is shanghaied into participating in the annual police-versus-prosecutors contest to see which department will pick up the tab for the New Year’s party. This year, the contest is to see which side can eat more plates of curry, the spiciness of which is ratcheted up with each subsequent plate. But as Edgeworth’s contest partner, high schooler Ema Skye, says, it’s not the spiciness that’s revolting — the smell and taste are so disgusting that poor Ema is down for the count after just one plate. The prosecutor himself can barely stomach his first bite.

Seeing Edgeworth spout his usual pretentious trash talk at the chief of police while the sweat drips down his face and his mouth and legs tremble to hold in the nauseating curry was enough to make my own stomach burst out — but with laughter, not with foul food.

Many stories explore the strange friend/enemy relationship between Edgeworth and Wright. The game may be named after the latter, but it’s really both of their intertwining lives and now careers that drive the success of the games — and at their very core, it’s Edgeworth who’s the real focus, with his emotions, his actions that affected others, and his tragedies that continue to haunt him.

“Distant Memories” by Yunomi Hisamatsu brings him a reminder of his childhood with a dream of some unknown boy giving Edgeworth an umbrella as the dejected prosecutor-to-be sat crying, drenched in the pouring rain. The now-adult Edgeworth seeks out Wright, hoping that speaking to him will bring the vague memories more into focus. And as manga is wont to do, it then shifts into sudden slapstick as young spiritual mediums Pearl and Maya chase after Edgeworth bearing a huge hammer and bat to hit the memories back into him.

In a predictable but still touching ending, Edgeworth comes to realize that he is and very likely always will be very much in debt to his rival Wright — a fact that repulses him as much as it offers some comfort to his soul.

Then there are the stories that show that tender side of Edgeworth that we know is lurking beneath the surface but that he tries his hardest to hold in, yet never completely succeeds. Again, the manner isn’t overly sappy or dramatic and is restrained enough to fit well with Edgeworth’s character. “Magnificent Curry Cookout” (what’s up with all this curry?) by Mami Tachibana not only is a good example, but it overall really captures the various aspects of the man as he tries to help the child Pearl overcome her dislike of the food — an emotion likely caused by its connection to a certain case she was involved in — by declaring that they will hold a cooking field trip to, as Edgeworth puts it, engrave positive memories in Pearl’s heart.

Altogether, the manga got me laughing out loud while at the same time feeling empathy for this young, tormented prosecutor and his painful past. “The Miles Edgeworth Files” is a must read for “Ace Attorney” fans wanting more of their favorite prosecutor. If you’re like me and shied away from the manga after the first volume, rest assured that the second book is far more entertaining and will not disappoint.

Hachi Maru Hachi: Signed, sealed, delivered

June 2nd, 2010
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When I last signed off Cel Shaded on May 23, I said I was going on vacation. Technically, I’m still on vacation, having just returned from a week-long stay in San Jose, Calif., sightseeing and attending FanimeCon while I was there. You’ll get to see a short wrap-up of what I did there … umm … eventually. Vacation, after all.

There is, however, something coming up locally in a few days that I wanted to highlight. A few of the creators from local manga/short story anthology Hachi Maru Hachi — specifically, artists Mia Baek (“Where Unknown”), Tara Tamayori (“Eternal Blade”) and Hanson Weng (“Gateway to Eden”), and writer Brad Tanabe (“Kotae wa Ramen no Naka Ni”) — will be signing copies of the first issue from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Barnes and Noble at Kahala Mall. I was a bit disappointed to learn recently that the second issue has been delayed indefinitely until sales of the first issue reach a more acceptable level (subscriptions were also refunded accordingly), so this is a great way to turn out and support local artists in Hawaii.

For more about Hachi Maru Hachi, visit the publisher’s website at www.hanabistudio.com, or check out my Cel Shaded review from May 2.