When I reviewed the first volume of Phoenix Wright: Official Casebook last year, I felt disappointed by the way it focused on funny short stories that were either good or bad; it was basically a manga for Phoenix Wright fans and I wasn’t impressed by it in the slightest. Thankfully the new Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney manga returns to the formula that made the game series so great: present Phoenix with a case so that he can unravel it with a cast of fun characters. Does the manga succeed in doing so? Court is now in session.
The third volume takes defence attorney Phoenix Wright and his assistant Maya to the popular Fortune-Telling Plaza but due to a typhoon, the place is unusually quiet. While waiting for their next fortune specialist they meet another customer Russi Clover, who has become paranoid after the first fortune-teller says that she will be “Possessed by the Lord of Death.” After brief introductions, all three split to see their next fortune-tellers; cut to Phoenix as a sudden shriek comes from the room Russi Clover entered. When Phoenix enters we see Russi’s hands covered in blood and fortune teller “Oracle Hecate” dead. What’s even worse is that she is certain that she killed the fortune-teller and, worse still, prosecutor Franziska von Karma arrives on the scene early due to her taking over as a fortune-teller for the day. Faced with these impossible odds, Phoenix and Maya do everything they can to prove Russi’s innocence.
Unlike the Official Casebook manga series, you don’t have to be a hardcore Phoenix Wright to enjoy this. The manga gives us some main character introductions at the start for anyone who doesn’t know the major characters but again, the reading experience is better if you have played the games. Another plus is that this volume has the whole case, it has a beginning and it has an end, so you don’t have to buy the previous two volumes to get the full experience.
Thankfully, much like the games, it definitely feels like Phoenix Wright; the volume has an interesting cast of odd characters, the case itself is full of mystery and every page unravels a new idea or clue and, most importantly, I wanted to see how the case ended. The volume also retains the light humour of the series which keeps it from becoming dull.
Gripes are few but since this is one volume, most of the fortune-teller characters are pretty bland and forgettable; Russi Clover is a very ditzy, ill-tempered character that is hard to sympathise with as the main suspect that Phoenix has to defend and just feels like a stereotypical “moe” character.
The art is done by Kazuo Maekawa who does a brilliant job of giving these characters such unique designs; while I don’t like all of them (like Russi’s generic moe design) Franziska von Karma’s look in the manga is really fantastic.
The Bonus Section is a very short but funny two page fourth wall-breaking story, with nods to all the previous Phoenix Wright games and some useful Translation and Naming notes which are fully detailed.
A really enjoyable manga that includes everything that makes the Phoenix Wright franchise so great.