ComicsAlliance Takes On the Fashions of ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’
Capcom’s Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is one of my all-time favorite video game franchises. Bizarre characters, clever storytelling, spirit-channeling, forensic science, people getting murdered left and right — it’s everything you need for a good time. This month, director Takashi Miike is bringing the story to the big screen in Japan with a live-action movie, and even though it won’t be out on this side of the Pacific for a while, we’re still pretty excited about it.
That’s why today, ComicsAlliance’s resident fashion columnist Bethany Fong and I are taking aim at one of the most notable aspects of the games: the strange fashions of Phoenix Wright!Chris: I used to play the Phoenix Wright games at my old job because, as the record will show, I am what you might call a “terrible employee.” I love ’em, even though they don’t really fit in my standard definition of a “video game.” They’re more just stories that you have to poke at to keep reading, but the characters and plots are so engaging that it’s entirely worth it. I even bought the art book that was put out by Udon Studios, which is where I found the weirdest designs.
Bethany: Exactly! I think one of the biggest hooks of this game for me was the cast of wacky, colorful characters, and I love how each one has a distinct style. It almost felt like a more stylish game of Clue.
Chris: “Colorful” is definitely the word. Before we get into it, though, here’s the premise for anyone who hasn’t played the games: Phoenix Wright is a defense attorney in what is quite possibly the most insane version of justice system you can imagine, to the point where the little diagram in the instruction manual has a footnote explaining that this is definitely not the way it works in real life. Phoenix and his sidekick get hired to defend people accused of murder, searching and seizing as much evidence as they damn well please in order to break through the complex network of lies that each and every single person in the game seems to tell to obscure a crime, and he has to do it within three days or it’s an automatic conviction. The situation’s stacked against him, but just when things look their darkest, he rises from the ashes (hence the name) to claim the victory.
Bethany: During the course of each case, Phoenix encounters a slew of witnesses, detectives, and fellow attorneys, each quirkier than the last. Perhaps the raised bar of casual absurdity of the standard civilian in the Phoenix Wright universe calls for such a bizarre justice system, but I digress.
Chris: It’s worth noting that if the police in this game would just round up anyone whose name was a synonym or anagram for “Criminal,” they could pretty much make the crime rate drop to zero. But we’ll get to that. Ready to jump into the fashions?
Bethany: Call up the first witness!
Chris: Let’s start with the Ace Attorney himself, Phoenix Wright!
Chris: On the left, we’ve got Phoenix in the present, which we wanted to include just to prove that, despite what you’re about to see, normal clothes do in fact exist in this universe.
Bethany: And yet, that conservative suit is complemented by that spiky Dragon Ball-esque hairstyle
Chris: I hate that the Internet has made me unable to look at a dude with spiky hair in a blue suit without thinking, “Oh, that must be someone’s fan-art of a humanized Sonic the Hedgehog.”
Bethany: …So does that make it wrong that I still think that Phoenix is kind of cute?
Chris: Oh, no, he’s adorable. Even if he did raid Clark Kent’s closet circa 1976. On the right, we have Phoenix as he’s seen in a flashback to his college days, and before you ask, yes: His girlfriend gave him that shirt.
Bethany: She made him that shirt and I’m absolutely jealous. Too bad she turned out to be a murderer (spoiler alert!).
Chris: The concept art brings up a pretty amazing element that you never see in the game: That dude has custom-made shoes with his initials on them. And just so you know, Capcom? I would probably pay good money for some Phoenix Wright Asics.
Bethany: So the first time I saw Phoenix’s college digs, it was actually years before I played the games; I encountered a few cosplayers sporting this exact look at conventions, face mask included. Because of the style of this outfit, I just figured that Phoenix was rocking one of those fashionable SARS masks that used to be popular in Japanese street fashion years ago. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago however, that I realized that Phoenix was actually sick during his testimony.
Chris: They also tried to make him look younger by shortening his hair spikes and keeping them the same shape, and the effect sort of makes his head look an Art Deco hood ornament. Overall, though, these are what I’d consider to be pretty standard clothes. But don’t worry: We’ll be getting as far away from standard as possible, starting with Phoenix’s arch-rival, prosecutor Miles Edgeworth:
Bethany: I love everything about Miles Edgeworth’s look — so refined, aristocratic and put together, which makes him all the more charming whenever he’s frustrated and humbled by Phoenix’s objections. Even his steel grey hair fits in impeccably with this look.
Chris: Clearly, this is not a dude to be messed with. His ascot has three layers of ruffles, people! He’s like the Final Boss form of Fred from Scooby-Doo.
Bethany: Also, a purple suit and ruffles will always remind me of Prince, so that may be a major reason why I love Edgeworth.
Chris: I’ve always thought of it as more burgundy than purple, but now that you’ve said that, there’s no way I’ll be able to look at him without seeing it. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to conduct a trial against humanized Sonic the Hedgehog…
Bethany: LET’S GO EDGEY!
Chris: It’s worth noting that in the flashback to his younger days, Edgeworth had the same ruffled ascot, but the jacket and vest were what I can only describe as “high-fashion buccaneer.” So this is his toned-down version.
Bethany: Oh, the fashions of our youth. So long gone are the days of buccaneer jackets and SARS masks.
Chris: Speaking of prosecutors in dubious fashions, here’s my favorite of Phoenix’s adversaries, prosecutorial prodigy Franziska von Karma!
Bethany: So my first thought when I encountered Franziska was that she reminded me of a mix between Cassandra from Soul Cailbur and office wear.
Chris: Let’s be honest, Bethany: Franziska is essentially a dominatrix. She’s wearing black leather, carries a whip — when she was younger it was a riding crop — and uses it on anyone who fails to meet her standards of perfection, while berating them for being a foolishly foolish fool. So they’re clearly trying to go with that by making an out fit that allllllmost goes for sexy, then swerves into hilarity at the last minute with those foofy sleeves and ginormous cuffs.
Bethany: OBJECTION! Only the boots and gloves are leather — the rest of her outfit is black suiting and a dress shirt!
Chris: HOLD IT! According to Capcom and Udon’s The Art of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, “Her cool attitude coupled with her leather clothes gives Franziska the unmistakable presence of an ‘Undefeated Queen.'” Looks like you’ve just been caught in a contradiction, Miss Fong!
Bethany: I rest my case. Anyway, I actually really like the balance of the twee puffy sleeves, bow collar, and the baby blue diamond buttons with the structured menswear vest, pencil skirt and the black leather accessories.
Chris: In the world of Phoenix Wright, you can tell a man’s status from his neckwear. Phoenix, as a rookie, has a simple tie; Edgeworth as an unbeaten prosecutor has a triple-ruffle. For women, it’s apparently the complexity of their bows, which I think would make you the Queen of the Legal System.
Bethany: I should also note that Franziska is a prodigy, and a star prosecutor at the mere age of 18. However, this is also a world where Phoenix and Miles are already ace attorneys by the age of 24, so maybe I’ve missed my calling…
Chris: Well, when you consider that by Final Fantasy standards they’d be grizzled veterans of saving the world at the age of 17, they really should be more accomplished by now. Franzy’s the only one on the right track.
Bethany: And she’s got the stylish icy coif to match!
Chris: Well, now that we’ve met the people doing the actual lawyerin’, let’s get to the suspects and witnesses, starting with April May and Redd White!
Chris: I wish I could tell you that these are the pinkest outfits we’re going to be seeing tonight.
Bethany: Not that I mind, but then again, I’m also a Jem girl, so…
Chris: I think Jem would look at these outfits and think they were a little bit over the top. At least Redd White’s.
Bethany: Oh my god, Redd White is totally Eric Raymond’s malicious intent and Riot’s skeeziness living in sparkling harmony in Rio’s body. But enough of the Jem references – April May and Redd White display some of my favorite fashion staples: bold hearts, obnoxious rhinestones, and a fist full of damage-inflictng gold rings.
Chris: There’s… there’s just a lot going on with these two, including April wearing so many hearts that it looks like she’s getting ready to go fight Ganondorf, but my eyes are always drawn to Redd’s hair and that single violet victory roll he has. What is going on with that thing?
Bethany: Whenever I look at Redd White, I always think of that classic styling tip from Coco Chanel, wherein she suggests that you remove one accessory before you leave the house, to avoid looking too cluttered. In this case, I would eliminate Redd’s tie. There are not nearly enough diamonds in the world to divert our attention away from that awful polka-dot tie.
Chris: That dude would have to leave the house four or five times before he was anything less than “blinding.”
Bethany: This is another example of the styling in the concept art that we don’t get to see in the game – April May’s heels even have hearts on them! Which actually reminded me a lot of these Vivienne Westwood x Melissa heart heels.
Chris: Be honest, Bethany: Do you own those shoes? I think I’ve seen you wear that jacket at cons.
Bethany: I do actually own a pink blazer… All I’ll say for now is that if April May becomes the victim of a fashion heist in the near future, there were plenty of warning signs.
Chris: Next up, probably my favorite design of the entire series, Angel Starr!
Chris: I think it’s clear by now that the Ace Attorney designers are all about accessorizing, and Angel wins that competition hands down. That is quite possibly the single greatest hat in video game history.
Bethany: Agreed! A plum pillbox hat adorned with two onigiri (rice balls)? Absolute perfection! Plus, she even has a matching choker pendant of a hotdog cut into the shape of a baby octopus, which is a treat often featured in bento boxes.
Chris: In case you can’t tell, she sells bento boxes. They did everything but give her a sign to hold, but considering that this is a game with a character named “Shelly DeKiller,” that’s about as subtle as it gets. I do have to say that I think she may be slightly overdressed for wandering around parking garages selling lunches. Then again, I’ve often heard that a little black dress is right for any occasion, which I guess would include a job in food service.
Bethany: That may be true. After all, she’s wearing a black cocktail dress and a fur coat, but then again, her closest peer is a security guard who looks like a cowboy, so…
Chris: Good point. Well, I promised pink, so get ready for what is described in the art book as the character showing the most skin in the entire Phoenix Wright universe: Max Galactica.
Chris: Today on The Pickup Artist: when Peacocking goes too far.
Bethany: True story: When I finally encountered Max Galactica, I screamed “OUTRAGEOUS!” at my DS. I know that I promised to cut out further Jem-talk, but for serious, guys. LOOK AT HIM.
Chris: He even has stars on his face!
Bethany: So Max Galactica is a showboat magician at a circus (OBVIOUSLY) who is known for his three signature symbols: his silk hat, cloak, and white roses, just in case you were worried about getting him confused with some other flying magician with a flowing mane of pink hair.
Chris: I wonder if he does card tricks.
Bethany: As you see, Max doesn’t have any cards up his sleeve, but on his sleeves and his shoes!
Chris: They put a lot of work into these shoes, considering that every single character in the game is only ever shown from the waist up.
Bethany: True… though perhaps that’s why there were plenty of posters and promo shots featuring Max Galactica’s entire getup in the background!
Chris: I think this outfit mostly speaks for itself, but I do want to point out that this is exactly how ComicsAlliance’s Caleb Goellner dresses at San Diego. The only difference is that instead of cards, his tiny tuxedo jacket has cartoon pugs and sentai robots.
Bethany: In that case, I’d like two tickets to the ComicsAlliance circus, please.
Chris: For our next subject, let’s have a close look at private detective Luke Atmey!
Chris: If Angel Starr and her onigiri hat win the accessory competition, a private detective who has a monocle that is also a magnifying glass definitely merits an honorable mention.
Bethany: That magnifying glass monocle is absolutely brilliant! However, I wished that he took a little more time inspecting his horrible hairdo before looking for clues related to master thief Mask*DeMasque.
Chris: I can’t help but think that your snide remark is a sign that you’re experiencing a little bow-related jealousy here, Bethany.
Bethany: OBJECTION! Even I’ve accepted the fact that a nice bow would never be able to salvage a hair-don’t.
Chris: That is some pretty serious neckwear, though, which seems to be a recurring theme in the franchise. Then again, when you only show people from the waist up and they’re usually behind a witness podium, I guess it limits your options for accessories.
Bethany: Now that I think about it, I DID start wearing large bows shortly after I served on jury duty when I was 19…
Chris: Ah yes. The infamous unsolved Hello Kitty Murders. Your dark past is all coming out now, Bethany!
Bethany: If I were a Phoenix Wright witness, both my bow and I would have nervous sweat drops right now.
Chris: You have to admit that going by the pseudonym “Betty Felon” was a bit of a giveaway. But before you finally break down and confess, let’s have a look at a few characters from the Apollo Justice era of the series, starting with young Wocky Kitaki!
Chris: This guy definitely has a DeviantArt page. In fact, I think he’s the guy that drew Human Sonic the Hedgehog.
Bethany: I haven’t played Apollo Justice yet, but I’m quite surprised that an Eevee trainer was accused of murder.
Chris: Those underground gym battles can get deadly. I heard it took over 10 Jennies to bring him down. He was so jacked up on powdered Thunder Stones that he thought he was a damn Raichu. Kept yelling how he was “Electabuzzin’.”
Bethany: Note to self: Avoid shady dudes with hairstyles that resemble foxes. To be fair though, I really want his jacket, especially with the current trend of varsity jackets.
Chris: It’s basically like what the dude from Drive would wear if he went to an anime con.
Bethany: Also, look at that badass Blue Badger shirt. He’s sporting sunglasses AND a five o’clock shadow! It’s like one of those gangster Looney Tunes shirts that they sell at mall kiosks.
Chris: Man, I don’t think we even have nearly enough space to get into the Blue Badger mythology that is built throughout the six games of the series, but that’s actually Bad Badger, the Blue Badger’s villainous cousin.
Chris: There’s a whole family of them once you get to the later games, but this was the Bad Badger’s first appearance. According to the art book, the fact that Wocky fancies himself to be a gangster but still wears cartoon characters on his clothes was meant to “reflect his childish nature,” which means I think I just got insulted by a piece of concept art for owning a bunch of t-shirts with Batman on them.
Bethany: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I want a Bad Badger t-shirt now.
Chris: And now, our final subject: Daryan Crescend!
Chris: Believe it or not, this is a police officer.
Chris: The gold thing on his collar isn’t just a shark-tooth-shaped zipper pull, it’s also a shark-tooth-shaped police badge.
Bethany: OH SH*T.
Chris: See, he plays guitar in a world-famous rock band that’s made up entirely of cops and prosecutors, including Apollo’s rival, Klavier Gavin, who sings lead.
Bethany: So I think that I can safely assume that this fella… is also a fan of foxes/Eevees?
Chris: He’s meant to have a shark motif, with the badge and the “teeth” on his collar and the boots, but that hair… I don’t know if they were going for “fin” or what, but they ended up somewhere at “hair phallus.”
Bethany: I think they were trying really hard to make a shark shaped pompadour, though they should’ve gone with a fin-shaped hair abomination instead. Otherwise, I really love the shark-teeth jacket, and those shark fin boots.
Chris: I think that makes this the second fashion critique in a row where you’ve bashed my mohawk, Bethany.
Bethany: Note to self: Avoid shady dudes with hairstyles that resemble sharks/phalluses.