By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa, based on the video game by Capcom. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Young Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
Back when Kodansha Comics was still Del Rey, they put out two doujinshi anthologies based on the popular video game series, featuring lots of cute stories and bad puns. In Japan, however, there was actually a genuine ongoing manga based off of the series. It ran for five volumes, and also spawned a sequel based off of Phoenix’s rival Miles Edgeworth which ran an additional four. Rather than a gaming magazine, it appeared in one of their titles aimed at young men, the appropriately named Young Magazine.
I’m not normally a gamer, but I make an exception for Phoenix, whose games were so much fun. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Phoenix Wright is a young up and coming defense attorney who usually finds himself dealing with clients who look incredibly guilty but profess their innocence. He and his partner, the perky teenage spirit medium Maya Fey, investigate the crime, stack up clues, and eventually arrive at the trial, where they cross-examine witnesses and try to get the judge to see what really happened.
The manga based off of it is much the same, and even starts the way most games in this series have, with Phoenix called on to defend his hapless childhood friend Larry Butz, who is accused of murder – again. Once this appetizer is finished, we get the main case of the volume, which actually will be spreading out into Volume 2 as well. Phoenix is called to the house of a somewhat jerkass president of an IT company, who suspects he will soon be arrested for murder and wants Phoenix to represent him before that even happens. What follows is a rather claustrophobic tale of a messed-up family, a building that screams ‘deathtrap’, and spiders. A whole mess of spiders.
The manga follows the general theme of the games quite well. We meet a pile of different characters, all of whom seem to be at odds with each other, leaving Phoenix and Maya to try to figure things out. I was also very pleased to see that they kept the basic humor that makes Phoenix Wright so much fun – Phoenix and Maya snark at each other (and other characters) constantly, and there’s no shortage of goofy characters and evidence, especially in the first case. That said, the murders themselves are treated quite seriously. The first case ends on a melancholy note, and the second one gets very intense – folks who don’t like spiders might want to steer clear of this volume.
The localization of the manga reads fine, sounding much like the games. Occasionally they have to cheat, as the manga can show things like Maya’s ramen obsession – so the translation notes say Maya likes burgers AND ramen! Fans of Miles Edgeworth should be warned, however, that he doesn’t appear here beyond Phoenix briefly thinking of him. Winston Payne is the prosecution in Larry’s case, and we have not gotten to the trial for the second one yet. Heck, even Dick Gumshoe doesn’t show up until the end!
Oh, and the Judge asking Phoenix and Maya to keep their lover’s spats outside the court did my little shipping heart good. :)
There’s nothing groundbreaking about this manga. It gives readers exactly what they want – more adventures of Phoenix Wright – and does it in a way that won’t disappoint fans. People who aren’t fans of the game might find its attitude hard to take at first – it’s very glib for a detective series – but for what it is, it works very well.