Justin and Krystallina's going back to school, and this time, we should be prepared to Ronpa! No, ronpa is not a dance sequence!
Justin: Looking back at School Judgment, it’s an average series. I did read this back when WSJ serialized it, and hey, it’s Takeshi Obata drawing a mystery series, what could go wrong? Easily the first thing that could go wrong is the story taking place in grade school — not even high school! You’d think this would be my chance to remind you that some of the cast, with Obata’s fantastically adult style drawings, look high school-adult level, so there’s no way this is acceptable to look at, but that’s not the problem. The problem is because it’s set in 6th grade, that I can’t accept any of the exaggerated classroom sessions. It pretends to go heavy by mentioning a bloody classroom as its teaser, but proceeds to try and attempt unfunny jokes and has the perp go 100 laps around the school while cleaning. It’s interesting that it wants to tell a serious story with children, but it feels more like it realizes it can’t go where it wants because of how it’s set up. That’s disappointing.
Krystallina: School Judgment is the Ace Attorney games set in an elementary school. Seriously, this is Ace Attorney: a client who seems to be guilty, an eccentric prosecutor, and witnesses who their true selves on the stand. And yet the humor is set against a background of some serious crimes. (Well, the cases here are not very dramatic, but there’s a dark one lurking in the background.)
The one major difference between the stories is the defense attorney aka the main character. Phoenix is a lovable dork; Abaku is more of a cocky hero rather than a cheerful one. Abaku is confident and pretty much figures out the real perp right away; Phoenix generally has to wing it. Abaku isn’t afraid to use his oration skills to argue with others, and he definitely isn’t afraid of his opponent. The only other difference between the two is the judges. In Ace Attorney, the judge is often easily swayed, but he is an experienced old man. Here, the judge is a preschooler. Five years old with the face of an old man. It’s a bizarre style choice, and, according to the author’s notes, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like a baby old man.
As for the art, this feels a little different from Obata’s usual works. I really don’t think I would have recognized Obata as the artist if his name wasn’t on the cover. I think the youthful cast plays a part as well as having a writer with whom Obata had never teamed up before. It’s good that School Judgment isn’t a clone of his other works, but I don’t think his strengths are in drawing heavy menservants named Lolimatsu or man-babies.
Otherwise, if you are a fan of Ace Attorney and don’t mind swapping the humor for a younger cast and a very different protagonist, then School Judgment is for you. If you want more classic Ace Attorney, then go for the manga versions released by Kodansha Comics.