Back in May, we took a look at the first Phoenix Wright musical, Ace Attorney: Truth Resurrected. The musical presented a retelling of the final case in the DS remake of the first game, "From the Ashes". And it was so well done that I went so far as to say that it was better than the section of the game it was based on.
In many ways, it was a perfect mix of high stakes drama and comedy, and even managed to do something that the games had never tried: give Phoenix a deep, believable romance. It was also a major success for the all-female Takarazuka theatre group, so much so that a second musical was commissioned for the following year. But while the first musical worked hard to keep the tone of the video games, Ace Attorney 2: Truth Resurrected Again tries something far more gutsy as it presents the most depressing Phoenix Wright tale ever told.
Note: Minor spoilers to follow.
Good — Character Sprites in the Flesh
The majority of the cast from the first musical returns in Truth Resurrected Again. This includes the main leads — Phoenix, Maya and Edgeworth — and even some of the series regulars that popped up in the last musical like Lotta Heart, Dick Gumshoe, and the Judge. As in the last musical, they are all expertly portrayed.
Every gesture of the cast in general perfectly mirrors their in-game counterparts. The "objections", "take thats" and "hold its" are spot on as well. But the breakout star of this musical in terms of acting is the newly introduced Franziska Von Karma. While the other characters only have to copy gestures, she has to master a whip as well — a feat she performs admirably.
Good — Not Just a Rehash
The plot of Truth Resurrected Again is split into two acts. The first is a completely original case. When Phoenix's old teacher (the one who set up the infamous school trial) is accused of murder in a church, Phoenix steps in to take her case. The second half of the musical is loosely based on the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All where Maya is kidnapped and Phoenix is blackmailed into defending a man he knows is guilty. That is where the similarities end, as the characters involved — as well as their motivations — could not be more different from the game.
Mixed — A Broken Phoenix Wright
One of the greatest strengths of the first Phoenix Wright musical was that it took an already exciting case and made it personal for Phoenix by having the defendant be Leorna, the lost love of his life. By the end of that musical, he is able to prove her innocence and the two rekindle their relationship. Yet, as we find out in the first few minutes of Truth Resurrected Again, their love was short lived as she lost her life in an accident shortly after.
This crushing loss makes the Phoenix Wright of Truth Resurrected Again a fundamentally broken (though quite interesting) version of the character. While not an unlikable person, he has nonetheless become pessimistic and jaded with the profession of law and is looking to retire. Though three years have passed, Phoenix has still not come to terms with his loss. Despite his loss of drive, Phoenix is still as good as he ever was — as a lawyer and a person. This Phoenix is focused, smart, and able to spot contradictions without a moment's thought. Yet when Maya is kidnapped, his aversion to losing yet another of his loved ones practically makes him into the villain, with only Edgeworth standing between him and letting a murderer go free.
This darker take on a broken and haunted Phoenix is an interesting exploration of the character, but long time fans may hate this depressing take on a usually upbeat character.
Mixed — The Score
The music in Truth Resurrected Again is a real mixed bag. The songs based on the game soundtrack are great fun for players of the series. The songs that return from the first musical are catchy enough as well. But Gumshoe's song is just silly, and the two romantic ballads are quite forgettable. That said, none of the songs are outright terrible. Moreover, all the singers are excellent and always on key. Simply put, it is the score that is a bit weak, not the cast.
Bad — Needless Attempt at a Love Story
The weakest part of the whole performance is the semi-love story between Phoenix and his teacher's daughter. While giving Phoenix a potential love interest is in no way a bad thing (I mean, look at the last musical), the problem with their relationship is that it never has a possibility of going anywhere. This Phoenix is still so attached to Leorna that he still has nightmares about her in addition to constant flashbacks. His only potential attraction to the teacher's daughter is that she reminds him of Leorna when she was young. And while this young woman idolizes and fawns over Phoenix, he is clearly uninterested in falling for the knock-off of his one true love. Thus, despite the significant time we spend on the two of them, there is never even the possibility of a romantic payoff — making the whole subplot feel like a waste of time.
I didn't like this musical as much as I liked the first one — though that is not to say that it was bad. The actors' portrayals of the game's cast were generally spot on and the new murder mystery was a welcome surprise. And while some may not like the broken Phoenix character, I loved it and thought he was the strongest part of the show.
Ace Attorney 2: Truth Resurrected Again was, like its predecessor, a great success for the all-female Takarazuka acting troop. And, just like the original musical, Truth Resurrected Again proved popular enough for a sequel for which tickets went on sale — and promptly sold out — last weekend. So come back late next month when we take a look at the third Phoenix Wright musical: Ace Attorney 3: Miles Edgeworth.
For those interested in importing the DVD of Ace Attorney 2: Truth Resurrected Again, it can be purchased from theofficial Takarazuka store, and fan-translated English subtitles can be downloaded fromKiyoshimitsu's LiveJournal page.