Featuring the verbose title Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Official Casebook Vol. 1: The Phoenix Wright Files, this manga consists of 11 short stories written and drawn by various different authors, based on the characters of the popular videogame by Capcom for the Nintendo DS. Personally, I’ve never played the games, so I can’t comment on how faithful it is to the source material, but I will review it simply as a stand-alone read.
It’s rather strange that the title refers to this collection as an “official casebook” since virtually none of the stories focus at all on any actual case or trial that Phoenix Wright and his friends are involved in. In fact, it’s almost as if the authors of these stories never played the videogames either, were simply handed copies of the instruction manual by Capcom, and then did their best to avoid needing first-hand knowledge of the game (or the judicial system) by focusing their stories on every-day office hi-jinx.
These stories come across as a collection of doujinshi submissions, with all the writing and drawing quality which that implies. A lot of the subject matter is of a very generic nature, the authors seem to have all attended the same workshop on how to create a quirky story out of any cast or setting an author might be commissioned to work with. There are at least two whole stories where a female coworker picks up a cat off the street and begs Wright to let her keep it! The authors have attempted to maintain relevance by stringing rudimentary law office language into the dialogue – whether the story focuses on reuniting lovers in the afterlife, simulating a waterfall to bolster psychic powers, or tending to a sick coworker, it’s all equally applicable to the world of Phoenix Wright story as long as someone exclaims “Objection!” at some point in the process. In the rare event that a trial does take place in the story, it is glossed over in a few panels and the outcome is revealed in the final text blurb of the chapter.
The art ranges from •pretty good’, to •pretty doujinshi’. A few stories, such as “Tournabout Illusions” by Seventh Gear or “The Legendary Defense Attorney” by Kikuchiyo Anko, are quite nicely rendered and almost look like Capcom themselves could have produced it. However, the rest run the gamut of typical amateur styles and clumsy aesthetics. You know when you’re on the internet and you see that anime fanart where even the most testosterone-charged male characters look like moe schoolgirls because the artist never learned how to draw men? Yeah, there’s stuff like that in here.
I can’t say I recommend this to anyone but the most devout Phoenix Wright fans. If you absolutely love the game, then you will probably get a kick out of seeing the cast involved in a slew of silly outside situations. However, for someone who’s just looking for a well-told, nicely drawn story, Official Casebook has little to offer. When the stories are as generic and bland as they are here, the multiple-short story format only serves to ensure that the narrative never goes anywhere. It doesn’t help that the artwork is so inconsistent; if the whole book was drawn by a single one of better artists, it might have been a decent read if only for the art itself. If you’re a gamer, you might give this a quick look in the bookstore, but otherwise I wouldn’t bother with it.
Story and Art: Various Artists
Rating: T Ages 13+