Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Ace Attorney Season 2
DVD/BD Parts 1 & 2
Phoenix Wright is back for more baffling cases in a second season that goes back to the days before he was a lawyer in the case that solidified his decision to become a defense attorney. That case will have far-reaching effects up into the present day as Mia, Maya, and Pearl's family becomes the center of a major investigation and litigation that involves not only Phoenix, but Miles as well.
The second season of Ace Attorney, based on the games of the same name, is just as full of ludicrous conjectures, suspicious law practice, and inanity as the first season – and let's face it, that's more than half the fun. While it may not be an actual good show in the objective sense, it is a very entertaining one, and with cases that cover murder on a low-rent Orient Express, at a temple, and by a mysterious thief, among others, there's more than enough goofy law to keep viewers happy, and although this series is difficult to recommend for serious fans of classic mystery, it's very nearly worth it for the Murder on the Orient Express knock-off case in the first half of the show, which pulls so hard from Agatha Christie's original that it's difficult to decide if it's meant to be a tribute or a parody.
Generally speaking, you're probably not watching this hoping for an anime version of Law&Order. Apart from a few instances of legal jargon, there's not much that works in the actual practice of law, in Japan or otherwise, and for some viewers, that will strain their suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. For the most part things are just silly enough that it doesn't matter, but in other cases, the apparent stupidity of the characters or ridiculousness of the situation does get in the way of enjoyment. The best example of this is in the final case of the season, which takes up most of part two – apart from relying on the in-world version of being a spirit medium (which is credulity-straining), it also features as a major plot point a cave being locked with “trick locks” attached to the chain barring the door. Much is made about the need to carefully figure out the combination to all of the locks, but the fact of the matter is that any character could have gotten rid of them at any time by simply going out an getting a pair of bolt cutters, or possibly ducking under or through the chains, which weren't actually attached to the door. The sheer foolishness of this as a plot point makes the case even harder to swallow because it has such an obvious real-world answer that many of the other weird bits lack.
Be that as it may, the last case is one of the stronger elements of the show, in part because so much care is taken to give us all of the relevant backstory. This makes it feel much more important to the admittedly one-note characters and the overall world of the series, because we have so much more to go on in figuring everything out. It's also worth mentioning that this case (and the related cases that precede it in the second part of the series) all do make an effort at being solvable by the viewer, dropping more clues than we necessarily saw in season one or in the other cases in this season. While this can contribute to frustration at times (no one is all that quick on the uptake in-show), it also lends the second part of the season a feeling of credibility that other parts have lacked. This case also allows us to see the characters as more than just courtroom participants, which is nice; seeing Miles and Phoenix act like actual friends as adults after having been given episodes devoted to their childhood friendship (part one features a middle school story) grounds them a bit as characters and certainly helps to make Miles in particular feel less like a textbook villain.
That can be said of Godot's role in the show as well. While it isn't hard to figure out who he really is, the explanation behind his actions works within the context of that final case (and the past ones) to make him more rounded, at least within the confines of Ace Attorney. It should also be noted that the English dub held off on making a Waiting for Godot joke for an impressively long time (episode 19!), which becomes even more of a triumph of restraint when you consider all of the “Big Dick” Gumshoe gags and other questionable double-entendres. That aside, the dub remains a lot of fun, with an overall hammy quality with occasional sarcastic breakthroughs that works with the tone of the series. Dani Chambers, who plays both Iris and Dahlia, does a particularly good job with Dahlia's contrived sickly sweetness, and Brandon Potter's Godot has just the right amount of smarm. Lindsay Seidel's Maya is a little less squeaky this season, which makes the character more palatable in the dub, although her lack of knowledge about her own family at times makes us question her fitness to lead the Fey family.
There are a few issues that need to be mentioned that are not related to the plot. One is the recurring sign near Phoenix's law offices for “Jew Bank,” which treads dangerously close to a bad stereotype often used against Jewish people (that they control the world's finances); we see this sign clearly in a few different episodes. Episode seven has a moderately troubling portrayal of an effeminate man which also toes the line with regards to unfortunate stereotypes, although this isn't taken much beyond his appearance and mannerisms. On the nit-picky front, the wrong accent mark is used for the French word “très” (written “trés” in the show). Animation and artistic quality may be more of an issue for viewers, however, with lots of outsized hands, undersized heads, and just generally wonky depictions of people and animation that doesn't do much beyond the basics of its job. It's also worth noting that the advertised extras are incorrect on part two – while the case says that there are outtakes, instead we get commentary for episode fifteen. It is interesting, and it has a good explanation of time-coding, but it was a little disappointing not to have the promised outtakes.
Even if you've never played the Phoenix Wright games, there's something about the anime that's just a lot of ridiculous fun. While it takes itself seriously at times, it's more invested in just being an enjoyable way for non-gamers to experience the goofiness of the franchise and maybe even solve the mysteries long before Phoenix, Maya, or Godot do. It may not be amazing or of the highest quality, but for silly legal fun, you really can't do much better.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : C
Art : C-
Music : C
+ Strong vocal casts, second half of the season feels like a complete narrative rather than just piecemeal cases.
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