Note: I was unsure whether to use the Japanese or English names in this report as I know people are generally familiar with one or the other. I decided to go with the Japanese names but I included the English names in brackets the first time I mentioned them, except for the ones that were original to the stage play.
Generally, when I go to stage plays or musicals I go because there is an actor I like in them, rather than because I like or am familiar with the source work. Sometimes though, something that I really like gets a stage play, and this was one of them. Besides being vaguely (I say vaguely because I’ve only seen him a little in Tenimyu before this) familiar with Wada Takuma, all of the other cast of this show were completely unknown to me. I am however, a huge fan of the Gyakuten Saiban/Kenji series and so I couldn’t resist going to watch this. It’s not the first stage in the series, but the first I’ve been able to see.
Being a stage based on a game I really really love, I had pretty high expectations of this play, and I’m happy to say that they were met from the moment they introduced the first scene with the date, time and location being projected onto the backdrop like they do in the games. They also used a lot of the game music as background music, which added to the atmosphere of the game.
Of course, Gyakuten Kenji wouldn’t be Gyakuten Kenji without opening with a murder scene. The setting was a temple, and a rather overweight woman (I’m not being mean, this was referred to and made fun of throughout the play) was walking in the rain when she was confronted by a mysterious person whose face we couldn’t see with a large metal briefcase. Of course, the woman was soon hit around the head with the case and that was the end of her, to put it bluntly.
The show then opened with Ooba Kaoru (Wendy Oldbag) who came out through one of the side doors and wandered through the crowds with a big basket full of food she was trying to sell to the audience (on the pretence that we there to watch the filming that was taking place on stage). Being the curious, gossipy old woman she is, she asked a couple of people in the audience whose fan they were. Coincidentally both people she asked turned out to be fans of Tomita Sho, leading her off on a little trail of thought about how she had just seen him back stage and how cool he was.
Next we were introduced to Itonokogiri Keisuke (Dick Gumshoe) and Ichijou Mikumo (Kay Faraday). I’m not entirely sure if they had been aware that the staff had put an extra row of seats on the centre walkway, giving them far less space to manuevure, but it was rather funny watching Itonokogiri trying to shuffle his way past and apologising to all the people sitting on that row, and then Mikumo kind of shuffling along behind him.
Once they finally got onto the stage, it was revealed that the setting here was a classroom set at a studio, in which they were filing a sentai-like series. Yahari Masashi (Larry Butz) was working at the studio (how many jobs has that guy had by now?) and can I just say that his jacket was so florescant orange that when they had certain lights on it glowed.
The action started with the cast filming one of the scenes of the show, during which we were introduced to the sentai characters. There were four sentai, three of which were mostly background characters, and Mamoru, who was one of the more central characters. His special sentai power was photography. He displayed this by taking a photo of the villains on his polaroid camera, and then giving them the picture which totally distracted them from fighting.
Their leader was Asukai Tomoro (left) who had the power of teleportation and was super dramatic 100% of the time. Anyway, they made a mistake with the scene and had to cut, and upon apologising to their producer who was seemingly asleep at a desk in the corner, she fell to the floor while they were trying to wake her up, and yes, she was the woman who had been killed. And that was when Mitsurugi finally appeared from one of the side doors like a hero, doing that awesome pointy thing he does, and of course we were then all confident that this case was going to be solved.
From there, the story went along as any other Gyakuten Kenji story would. The main issues surrounding the case was that the place where the woman had been killed wasn’t the same place as where she had find, and the distance between the two locations made it difficult for them to conclude how the body had moved. There was this whole thing where several of the characters were trying to convince Edgeworth and the detective that she must have been teleported there (teleportation was one of the themes of the sentai show they were filming, and they were all super into their characters). Of course, stubbotn Edgeworth who still doesn’t seem to believe in magic and the supernatural despite all of the weird things he’s seen in his career, didn’t believe a word of it, and a lot of the investigation was taken up trying to work on other possibilities.
I’m not going to spoil the ending since there will be a DVD and you can all watch and find out for yourselves, but I was glad that there were just as many false accusations and suspects before we finally got to the true culprit, and I definitely didn’t guess who it was going to be before the truth finally came out. I’ll admit I was expecting something else which is probably a good thing but I really liked how the truth came out and there was this really nice scene between the killer and another character which told their backstory, which I really enjoyed watching.
Here are a few of my favourite things from the play:
- Wada Takuma as Mitsurugi. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I wasn’t. He gave all this new depth and facial expressions and movements that you don’t really get to see in the games, and every moment he was on stage I enjoyed watching him.
- The relationship between Mitsurugi, Masashi and Kaoru. When Mitsurugi arrived at a scene, he stopped dead still and was convinced he could hear Kaoru’s voice in his head. It turned out she was actually there and she ran onto the scene and just leapt on his back which was amazing because he was running around trying to fling her off and she just wouldn’t let go. Seeing his face every time she so much as touched him was so funny. On the other hand, we then had Kaoru’s obvious distaste towards Masashi but suddenly they would have these little moment were they ended up doing weird acrobatics together even though they really clearly didn’t want to touch each other.
- The earthquake scene. No Gyakuten game is complete without an earthquake to show us that Mitsurugi is in fact human, and watching him squeezing underneath this tiny little desk while everyone else was just standing around calmly was one of the moments in the play where I laughed most.
- There was a scene towards the end where Mikumo handed over her Little Thief device (an item that comes up a lot in the games, which they can input data in to reproduce the crime scenes in order to find contradictions) and then leaves, assuming that Mitsurugi knew how to use it. Of course in the game, they put it on and everything just appears, but for comedy value in the stage when he turned it on, the murdered woman would appear on stage, run over to the table where she was found dead, put down her belongings and then dramatically drop to the ground. But Mitsurugi kept turning the machine on and off, and she had to do the same routine every time, leaving her more and more exhausted each time. What was particularly funny is that when she would lie down her blouse rose up over her stomach a little and you could see her heavy exhausted breathing, even though she was meant to be dead. Anyway, in the end she yelled at Mitsurugi (who was facing us and had no idea of the mess going on behind him) to stop messing around.
- Mamoru. I don’t need to expand on this. I just loved his character. He was such a little fail wandering around with his camera and always seeming just a little bit in the way and annoying, but his photographs were one of the key things in solving the case. Anyway, I liked him so much I went and bought his photoset when the show finished.
- While they were swinging the sets about to change them, they distracted us by having a character do some kind of dance routine or something. My favourite was Itonokogiri who actually breakdanced which was pretty amazing. Until he screwed up his leg and had to crawl off the stage in pain, haha.
And a few of my more disappointing things… (not that there were many).
- Yahari Masashi’s role and actions in the play. This was nothing to do with the actor who looked and played him amazingly, but I didn’t feel like he got a chance to show what I really like about the character. They had his love of women and inability to keep hold of a job down perfectly, but honestly I really wanted to see him being accused of a crime or putting his foot in it just a little bit more than they did. I really wanted to see his pathetic side more, and we didn’t get to see enough of it. I wonder what he was like in the previous stages? I’ll watch and find out.
- Chijo Yaichiro (right). This character was super annoying and I didn’t really feel like he added much to the whole thing. His character basically wandered around with a briefcase full of money, and would always jump onto the stage yelling “HOW MUCH?!” in English before opening the case. Super super annoying. He did it right next to my ear when he came through the side door too.
- Actually… there isn’t anything else. I was pretty happy with this stage. Honestly my main problem in the beginning had been that they were doing an original story and I would have preferred to have seen one I already knew on stage, but I can’t blame them for that and it was a pretty nice original story after all.
Being the first day, there were a few little mishaps that made the show even more fun.
- Two of three Kaoru’s hair clips fell out of her hair during one scene where she was doing random acrobatics with Masashi, and although she clipped one back in it then fell out again so she just gave up and slipped it into the pocket of her apron. When she came back later they had been put back in place and they never moved again, but it was funny watching her having to keep leaning over to pick them up.
- Akane tripped down from the part of the classroom set with the teacher’s desk, and almost fell in character. Wada didn’t miss a beat and had his Mitsurugi ask her if she was okay.
- Asukai Tomoro made a lot of dramatic movements during his times on stage, but during one move where he dropped down onto one knee, he was so dramatic that his cape flew up and ended up over his head. You could tell he wasn’t sure whether to just keep doing his line with it on his head or pull it off first. In the end he did both at the same time.
- Chijo Yaichiro always enterted the stage in a very dramatic fashion as well, but this was where he slipped up as during one of his scenes he was supposed to fling open the gates of the shrine entrance. Unfortunately he pushed them a little too hard and they crashed into the walls at the side and closed again in his face. He muttered a quick, “I guess I’m going back…” before opening them again slightly less violently.
After the show finished, the cast greeted the audience and Wada said a few words. He spoke briefly about the fact that this was a continuing series of stages with this being the first one focussing on the Investigations side. He also mentioned that the 6th Gyakuten Saiban game had just been released, as well as the anime currently being broadcast. He finished by thanking everyone for coming, and told us he’d be waiting for us tomorrow too. One of the other cast members said, “… all of them?” and Wada laughed and replied confidently, “yes, they’re all coming back tomorrow.” Sorry Wada, I would have if I wasn’t so busy that weekend.
Now, I’m hoping we get even more of these stages in the future. Having just replayed it, I would honestly really love a stage of the final case of Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations). Without spoiling anything, it’s the one with the temple and the bridge and that certain prosecutor who loves coffee. However, having replayed it I am pretty confident it’s too indepth to put on stage. It involves so much backstory and about three other cases. It’s a shame though, because that setting would look amazing on stage. My second choice would be the final case from Gyakuten Saiban 5, mostly because Yuugami Jin (Simon Blackquill) is my favourite character in all the games and he’d look amazing on stage (I may have even cast him already…).
I guess we will see what is in store for the future? There’s been one every year for the past three years, so maybe a new one for 2017?
Pictures in this review are from this news article.