Ace Attorney creator on making the characters, music, and more
We’ve translated the last portion of Famitsu’s interviews with Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi. This time around, Takumi delves into the different characters, such as how he came up with Godot. He touches on other topics as well such as the iconic music.
Phoenix is a character who is almost too clever to be real, but are there any other characters who are modeled on real people?
Takumi: Quite a lot of the characters are modeled on people I know. The way Ron always drifts off in the middle of a sentence is based on one of my seniors and the way that Moe the Clown always laughs at his own jokes is based on one of my junior staff. The funny thing is that even when those people play the game, they don’t realize they are based on them.
Special attention is often given to the names in Ace Attorney, but are there any that you think are particularly well done?
Takumi: There are a lot but I think I especially like Mayoi (Maya when localized). I like the way the characters look (真宵 ‘True Evening’) and they also sound distinctive. Because I particularly like the symmetry between the right and left characters, I give most of my heroine names that kind of design. Mayoi, Mei (Franziska), Harumi (Pearl)… that type of thing. Actually while I was coming up with Mia’s (JP: Chihiro) name, I had in mind her asking thousands of questions as a lawyer (Chihiro’s characters are 千thousand and 尋Ask). Then finally I do really like the name of Phoenix (JP: Naruhodo-kun: ‘Mr I see’) as I think it represents the game world well.
Are there any names of supporting characters that also leave an impression?
Takumi: For women’s names maybe something like Shikabane Urami (EN: Viola Cadaverini*). It’s funny but she often gets mistaken for a member of the Gavinners band. Aside from that, in terms of ones people might not even have realized, there is the name of the ventriloquist, Ben. As with the English world ‘Ventriloquist’, the puppeteer is called ‘Ben’ (Japanese has no ‘Ve’ sound so use ‘Be’) and then the dummy is called ‘Rilo’, so they are both part of that word ‘ventriloquist’.
(*Shikabane means corpse, just as Cadaver does.)
I never knew the English word for ventriloquist!
Takumi: Talking about a name with a distinctive sound, I think Terry Fawles (JP: Onamida Michiru) is a strong example. Recently, at the recording for the anime I heard ‘Onamida-san’ being shouted over and over. To be honest, I never thought the day would come that I’d hear that name said aloud! (laughs)
The impression you have of a name can change when you hear it spoken. Aside from names, is creating all of those characters hard work?
Takumi: For sure. The ones that give me trouble day after day are the foes and rival lawyers for Phoenix. Miles Edgeworth is great though. If only I could just create another rival as good as him. Actually I am reading a manga now called The Glass Mask and the rival character, Ayumi Himekawa, is really impressive. She is the perfect rival and her appearance sticks with you. The other rival in Ace Attorney, Franziska von Karma, was created to flip everything on its head. She’s discriminated against for being a woman and constantly compared to her genius father, which makes her feel ordinary. That whip she uses came to represent a lot of what the series is about internationally. I managed to get everyone in the team to agree that it was OK to go that far with her character.
Talking of Franziska, her crying face in that last scene really hits home. To have this facial expression we’ve never seen before in the ending…
Takumi: Right. In early development I had a range of necessary expressions drawn up, but we ended up not using that one until the end. I thought since we had gone through the effort of making it, she just had to cry, so I went back and quickly wrote in a scene that wasn’t there before as an epilogue. And because of that one of my favorite scenes was born! (laughs)
It was kind of a shock when playing to realize she is Manfred’s daughter. There’s quite a lot of years separating them.
Takumi: That’s the way it turned out. It would probably even be OK if she were his granddaughter, but then players would want to know about her parents.
By the way, what’s the story behind her mother? She must have been a beauty…
Takumi: Who knows…? (laughs) The truth is that my original idea for her father was a guy in his forties, so the original illustrations for Manfred were more in line with Miles Edgeworth.
Mentioning the more senior characters, there’s also Godot. What was the development like for him?
Takumi: After Miles and Franziska, I was worried about what I would do next. I was also tired of those characters who pass themselves off as geniuses. I thought about doing a brand new character with a big personality, and the keyword ‘hard-boiled’ came to mind. To be honest this isn’t really the perfect world for a hard-boiled character, but I wanted someone to say all of those cool lines. I used to note them down every day and then constructed his story from there. After that I read this book that was kind of like a manual on how to live in a hard-boiled way. Things like: ‘choose your own path’ or ‘live by your own rules’. Eventually I was able to bring it all together well.
When you say choose your own path, the first thing that comes to mind is the amount of coffee he drinks.
Takumi: I’m not sure whether there was a reason or not but we decided that he would drink 17 cups of coffee per trial. Either way, we wanted the number to be high but also an odd number.
So you were caught up on the number? (laughs)
Takumi: I hear that Godot is especially dear to his designer Iwamoto (Tatsuro Iwamoto), and because of that love he leaves a strong impression with everyone that plays the game, which is great. Originally, instead of slamming his fist on the desk we thought about having him swinging a chair around.
Maybe that’s because of the antics of Barok Van Zieks in ‘The Great Ace Attorney’ (unreleased outside of Japan)?
Takumi: Yes maybe so. (laughs) At the time we just couldn’t think of a good reason, but after ten years I was happy to finally make it a reality with the Barok storyline. The other thing with Godot we had trouble with was the name. Before we decided on Godot his name was actually Aiga Hoshiidake. The Aiga part was cool but I just couldn’t get used to Hoshiidake. In the end I went for a kind of oddball famous private detective vibe… (laughs)
I think his real name of Diego Armando (JP: Souryuu Kaminogi) is pretty cool.
Takumi: Thank you. Originally I thought about using the character for ‘pair’ in his name in contrast to the character for ‘one’ that is in Phoenix’s name… but not for any profound meaning except to somehow contrast their relationships to Mia Fey.