Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora

Or "Things That Are Important to a Mage: Summer Sky."

I'm afraid I don't have just a whole lot to say about this anime currently airing in Japan. It's rather subdued and slow. In fact it's extremely simplistic when put up alongside all the flashier shows running right now. That's not to say it's a bad show, because if you like slow moving, quiet stories, then it will probably be fine for you. If anything, check it out for it's production style, which is pretty interesting. I'm not sure how it's done exactly, but (particularly) during outdoor scenes, it looks as if the characters are being animated in front of a real life photograph (which may just be a highly realistic painting).

Mahou Tsukai ni... is a magic girl story - like Someday's Dreamers, not like Sailor Moon. And for good reason. Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto should sound familiar, as it is the Japanese title for Someday's Dreamers. Natsu no Sora is created by Norie Yamada, who wrote the Someday's Dreamers manga. They're produced by different studios, but both aired on TV Asahi, and, as a bonus, both have music by Takefumi Haketa.

A basic description of Natsu no Sora would be similar to a description of Someday's Dreamers, minus the teeny bopper bubblegum pop feel of the previous show (which caused me to dislike it so much).. Sora is a teen mage from a family of mages (her father, at least, who is dead), and now that she is 16, she is being sent to Tokyo to go to magic school. Sora lives in a small area of Hokkaido, where her family owns a farm, so she's unused to large city life. She moves in with a mentor mage, in a house with another student mage named Gouta Midorikawa. Sora is very adept at magic, and can already cast powerful spells, but Gouta hasn't been able to use much (if any) magic at all. Gouta is a bit older as well (Sora is about 16, but I'd say Gouta isn't any older than 20, and is probably more around 18). He's frustrated and a bit embarrassed that he can't use magic, and therefore keeps to himself and doesn't really associate with the others in his class. Rather cold and distant. Until Sora comes along.

I'm 3 episodes in and...well...the story hasn't really progressed much. The way the mage system works here is similar to how it runs in Someday's Dreamers. People send in a request, and mages are dispatched. Sora (similar to SD's Yume) is not content to simply cast the requested magic, but feels she must help her customer beyond a simple spell. Her approach is different; she's a vastly different sort of character than Yume was, though there are similarities. Though the presentation and production of the show is what really makes it a different series.

The animation is simple, but it's fitting. And the opening and closing songs are quite nice as well. I know at least one of you is a Someday's Dreamers fan (or enjoyed it, at least), and anyone else who liked it should check out the new show. If anyone else is interested in a quiet little show devoid of the flashy colors, crazy action sequences and giggling moe girls that are rampant these days, then it might not be a bad idea to check it out. It's very slice of life, which can be rather boring for some, but like I said, if you want a break from everything else out there, it's not too bad.

Sora and Gouta in the image above.


Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

First of all, this is not your daddy's Phoenix Wright. Apollo, unfortunately (though only so far) is not anywhere near as interesting a character as Phoenix was. But never fear, because the lovable Nick makes plenty of appearances throughout the game (and you control him through his final trial as well).

Apollo Justice is an orphaned lawyer prodigy. At just 22 years of age, he's well on his way to a successful career in defense. Apollo works under the guiding hand of Kristoph Gavin, a famous defense attorney and a friend of former attorney Phoenix Wright. Our favorite spiky haired lawyer has been out of the business for about 7 years, when a fateful trial cost him his attorney's badge. He's been biding his time as a professional poker player for the Borscht Bowl Club, where he also (barely) plays piano, and his attorney's office has been turned into a talent agency. Maya and Pearl are (physically) absent (they're mentioned a couple of times), and have been replaced by 15 year old Trucy, Phoenix's adopted daughter and an aspiring magician. Everything goes topsy turvey when Phoenix is charged in the murder of a mysterious Borscht customer. He hires the young Apollo from Gavin's office to defend him.

Taking Edgeworth's place is young rock star Klavier Gavin, brother of Kristoph Gavin, a brand new prosecutor and lead singer of The Gavinners. In place of Gumshoe is forensics fanatic Ema Skye, who appeared in a bonus case in the US version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

For those not familiar with the series, the Ace Attorney games are visual novel games for the DS (though the Phoenix Wright games are actually just DS ports of GBA games, and Apollo's game is the first originally made for the DS) in which you act out the part of a defense lawyer by gathering evidence and miraculously defending clients with piles of evidence against them. They're a lot of fun, if you don't mind all the reading. The stories are really great, and the characters are interesting, and that's why you play them. Don't expect any action, because the most you'll find is an occasional finger print analysis while you're digging around an area for evidence. The games utilize the touch screen with evidence gathering and forensics analysis, though most of the time you can just use the D-pad and buttons. You can also use the microphone to call out an "Objection!" if you so desire, or simply use a button if you want a quieter experience. There's not much animation either; it's mostly character expressions (which are still great), and a short "cinematic" event depicting the crime before each case begins. But the environments are nicely detailed, and everything is well drawn. They're simple games, in that respect, but you really have to use your brain to figure out your cases; the object is to catch the witness in a lie, and then present your evidence that proves your theory.

In Apollo Justice a new ability is added. You may remember from the last 2 Phoenix Wright games that Phoenix could use his Magatama to unlock Psyche-Locks from characters hiding secrets. Apollo has a bracelet that allows him to "perceive" the nervous habits of the people is questions in court. This allows you to zoom in on a witness and search them during sections of the testimony to locate a nervous tick (such as playing with a ring on their finger or swallowing when they are nervous or lying) and use it to force the person to tell the truth. Otherwise the game play is the same as the Phoenix Wright games, but that's why they're played to begin with. The use of forensics returns, including the addition of poison detecting spray, but it's used sparsely as before.

The game is good enough. The last case is pretty fantastic, although the way it's played out makes little sense. I don't want to give anything away, but you use Phoenix to do some past and present investigating into a couple of cases (including his final case seven years ago) to help out Apollo, but sometimes the way the information is used makes little sense (ie: you go back in time to ask someone who is dead a question about something you just learned). If you ignore that, it's fine, and it's great to watch all of the events come together. Unfortunately, I felt like they got rid of their payload all too soon, at least if they wish to make 2 more games like before. There are still some things to work with, but a lot of the secrets (which in the Phoenix games, regarding the Fey family, didn't come out until the end of the 3rd game) have already been solved, and I wish they had saved them for a later title. Because I do think there will be more Apollo Justice titles, as they left some things unsolved or unfinished regarding Apollo and Trucy; so there is stuff to continue on with.

If you liked the Phoenix Wright games, you'll like this one as well. It's all there - mysterious murders, creative cases, evidence hunting, brain wracking cross examinations, kooky characters, perfect mood music. Though be warned that Phoenix is not the same Nick he was before. A bad turn in court and 7 years of living in disgrace have made him a very different person. I don't like Trucy as much as I adored Maya and Pearl, but she has her own charms and I'm sure she'll grow on me. She's certainly adorable. And while Edgeworth will always have a place in my heart (and my wallet...I'm really excited about his game with Gumshoe they're working on), I must admit to falling a bit in love with the Gavin brothers as well. One of them has already proved pretty interesting, and I hope the other does as well.