Source: Hayakawa's Mystery Magazine, January 2017
Madoy Van (Madoi Ban) was published in the January 2017 issue of Hayakawa’s Mystery Magazine. Madoy Van is the writer of the original story Gyakuten Saiban Jikanryokōsha no Gyakuten (‘Turnabout Trial - Turnabout of the Time Traveler’), which will be serialized in Mystery Magazine starting with the March 2016 issue to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) series. In this interview, the two men talk about their love for mystery fiction, their experience with Gyakuten Saiban (both as creator and user) and about the series growing into a media franchise.
How Gyakuten Saiban Was Made
Interviewer: It had already been reported that serialization of Gyakuten Saiban Jikanryokōsha no Gyakuten (‘Turnabout Trial - Turnabout of the Time Traveler’), a novelization of Gyakuten Saiban, will start in the March 2017 issue of this magazine. To celebrate, we’ll ask game creator Takumi Shū and Madoy Van, the writer responsible for the novelization, about Gyakuten Saiban and about mystery fiction. The first question is for Mr. Takumi. In an interview with this magazine in the past, you said that you entered the game industry because you wanted to make an orthodox mystery game. Could you tell us how that became a game about the courtroom?
Takumi: I joined the company because I wanted to create a detective game, and I think it was about twenty years ago when I made the proposal of what would become Gyakuten Saiban. Mr. Madoy, do you play games?
Madoy: I love them.
Takumi: We differ quite in age.
Madoy: I was born in 1983, and I think you were born in 1971, right?
Takumi: Over twenty years ago, when I played games, you had many mystery games you could solve simply by choosing between optional answers. So I wanted to make a game you’d solve yourself, on your own strength. As I thought about a way to use the buttons on a game machine to input your own deductions, I came up with the original idea of the mechanic where you point out contradictions. At first, the protagonist was a detective, but I thought that you had plenty of those in other games, and when I started thinking whether there wasn’t some kind of professional in seeing through lies, I thought of E.S. Gardner’s Perry Mason series. As for courtroom dramas, I also love Carter Dickson’s The Judas Window a lot.
Madoy: I also love The Judas Window. That’s one of the best.
Takumi: It really is. I remembered I had read that in high school, so and realized there had been no game up until then where the protagonist was an attorney. Linking those ideas together, I arrived at the courtroom as the setting of my game.
Interviewer: So it all started with wanting to make an orthodox mystery game.
Takumi: Precisely. All the time, I had on my mind how I could input my own deductions more directly in the game. If the opponent has five testimonies, and you have collected five pieces of evidence, that means you can pick out of 5 x 5 = 25 different optional answers. So with that, you could really feel the sensation of having input your own thoughts.
Interviewer: Mr. Takumi, I heard that you were in the Literature Faculty in university and that you wrote a novel as your thesis. Was there something that inspired you to make a game about mystery fiction?
Takumi: About that novel I wrote when I was in the Literature Faculty, they said I “hadn’t portrayed the characters. (laugh). I have absolutely no confidence in myself to write something literary. Gyakuten Saiban is a game where I concentrated the elements I think I’m good in. That’s little gimmicks, linking hints and foreshadowing, and light writing. I used those elements to make the game. Mr. Madoy, where did you learn to write?
Madoy: I learned it on my own. I was influenced by the books I had read, and then worked with that. Also, in university I was basically beaten to a pulp while I was in the mystery club. That’s how I learned to be mindfol of how others read my texts.
Takumi: They beat you up? (laugh)
Madoy: They really did (laugh). I was in the Kyoto University Mystery Club, and there’s a culture there where we criticize the works of your fellow members openly. Is there meaning behind that narration trick? Who is this trick meant for? They shoot questions like that at you. And it’s good. People point out a lot of things. And once you realize other people read what you write, you’re always on the search, trying things out.
Takumi: Did you really start writing at your university club?
Madoy: I had also written a little in high school. I wanted to become a writer.
Interviewer: Mr. Madoy, when did you start playing Gyakuten Saiban?
Madoy: I still remember it well, it was in June 2007. I started with 4 (Ace Attorney 4 – Apollo Justice). I was on the lookout for new ideas as I was busy seeking employment. Fortunately, I found a job, and about the time I was thinking about giving up on sending in manuscripts, publisher Kodansha contacted me. The editor said that my manuscript hadn’t won, but that I should write a new one and come to them. At the time, I had been under the influence of 4 and the original three games which had been ported to the Nintendo DS, so I also read books like Anthony Berkeley’s Trial and Error and The Second Shot. The setting of the courtroom often appears in English orthodox mystery fiction. Through that process, I started realized the courtroom was the perfect archetype for what I wanted to do.
Interviewer: And so you made your debut in 2009 with Marutamachi Revoir. It was a mystery novel about a private trial. Had Gyakuten Saiban been a big influence on that?
Madoy: A very big influence. I was talking with my editor on the phone, and they told me that they sensed I was holding back, but that I should just write what I wanted to write. So I proposed to a courtroom mystery. I had the idea that rather than a whodunit, a story about several impressive people who’d come together and have a verbal battle would fit my style better. I also wanted to write something different from the classic Holmes and Watson format. I also tried a pattern with two protagonists, who’d go against each other so you wouldn’t know who the detective and who the assistant was, but I realized that a direct confrontation was more exciting.
Takumi: In the games the protagonist is a defense attorney, so the defense attorney has to win, but in a novel, you can also write from a different point of view.
Madoy: Yes. I also read Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolate Case, and I thought that it would be good if I wouldn’t just reveal one deduction after another in a straight line, but have them review and correct their deductions. Those matters all connected and I think I played the games at the perfect timing.
Takumi: A trial is like a sports game, don’t you think? There is a referee in the form oa the judge, and the gallery is the audience. And you can’t flee. That’s why you can come up with exciting developments then. I am of the opinion even now that it is the best form to do a mystery game. I am grateful to Perry Mason (laugh).
Creating Mystery Fiction
Interviewer: Mr. Madoy, who is your favorite character in the Gyakuten Saiban series?
Madoy: I like the rival prosecutors. That gap between how they appear all cool, and then lose, that’s good. Lately, I have started sympathizing with the culprits. The culprit I like best is the one from the final episode of 2 (Ace Attorney 2 - Justice For All). If you’d ask me what episode I like best, I’d probably say the final episode of 2.
Takumi: Thank you. It was hard writing that story, so I have many memories of that. That was in a way the ultimate story, and I think I perhaps should have saved that for the finale of the series. I always write my stories without thinking of the future (laugh).
Madoy: I could feel the influence of the works of Awasaka Tsumao and Ōsaka Keikichi, so I was really impressed when I realized that the person who made the games was a lover of mystery fiction.
Takumi: At first, I was careful not to make the references too obvious. But I tried to add them in a way so other lovers of mystery fiction would notice… I am happy that people noticed them.
Interviewer: Are there things you pay attention to when you add elements from mystery fiction or trials in a game?
Takumi: The most important prerequisite is that the players can solve the mysteries. And then I’d extend the number of trials so there’d be more occasions to point out contradictions, and work it out in short story form.
Interviewer: Do you try to deduce the solution yourself too when reading mystery fction?
Takumi: I don’t think about that (laugh). I like following the flow and getting surprised, and I wouldn’t figure it out even if I tried. How about you, Mr. Madoy?
Madoy: I also try not to think about it. ‘Perhaps there’s something here,’ I might think, but I’ll just turn the page.
Takumi: Even if I got it right, I think it’d be a shame. When I read mystery fiction, I want to be surprised. I am sure the writers too don’t want the readers to figure it out (laugh).
Madoy: You just said that you make the games by deciding on the contradictions to include, in the fifteen years since Gyakuten Saiban first released, the problem of game storage data has improved a lot. It’s basically unlimited now. Does that make your work harder?
Takumi: It makes it harder (laugh).
Madoy: Ah, so it does (laugh).
Takumi: When data increases, there’ll of course be more work to be done. The development team has grown rather large too. The stories also get longer and longer, and that’s not easy. But I think that all series share this fate. But if you have limitations, you need to work harder and that something leads to new discoveries, and that’s fun.
Madoy: I see. By the way, I heard that you had to cut out a whole episode out of 2 because of memory restraints. It must have been a hard thing to do, but what happened with that?
Takumi: Thank you. I included that episode in 3 (Ace Attorney 3 - Trials and Tribulations). It’s Turnabout Recipe (Recipe for Turnabout), the story set in a restaurant. I was lucky a sequel was made.
Interviewer: If there is an element to orthodox mystery fiction that works out better in game form, what do you think that is?
Takumi: I think the strength of games lie in the fact the player can participate in the story and experience what is to solve a mystery themselves. And it’s also important that different from a book, you don’t how many pages are left, so you never know how it’ll end (laugh). With films you have screening time, so you have an idea. But games are a lot more free in that regard, and I think it’s interesting as a medium that allows you to enjoy a story in a pure manner.
The Series’ Fifteenth Anniversary
Interviewer: The Gyakuten Saiban series has been going on for fifteen years now, but could you tell us about what you think was difficult across all those games?
Takumi: It’s difficult coming up with the mystery plots each and every time. I really felt I had used up everything with 1 ~ 3. But the users of the game also change, so now I think it’s about showing variation. There was a time where I took on the challenge with ingredients, but now I think it’s about my own cooking skills.
Madoy: It’s the same with novels. It all changes. At first I also tried to compete with ingredients, but now I try to focus on my cooking.
Takumi: Both games and novels take a long time to prepare.
Madoy: Games take development time, so I guess it’s not possible to bring out a new game in a short period of time. What if the reactions you get are different from what you expected.
Takumi: I do mind them of course, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I have them face them, but continue working on what I believe in. As you say, developing games takes time, but that also means I have time to polish up on the story. But it is difficult to keep control on your spirits across such a long period. I am an employee worker, so if it’s decided I have to come up with a trick that day, I really have to do that. We’re working on the games as a team, so everyone helps each other out. I heard there are writers who don’t take on jobs unless they have an idea ready.
Madoy: I do understand the stance if you’re someone who likes to write about original ideas and gimmicks. But if you focus on that too much, you won’t be able to write anything. In my case, I try not to have it all depend on just a trick or gimmick.
Takumi: Gyakuten Saiban too is essentially a game where you have one small contradiction after another. There’s no one big gimmick. It’s like a series of small surprises.
Interviewer: Do you feel that as the series progressed, the level of difficulty wanted by the players has changed?
Takumi: It do. But like I said, it’s been fifteen years, so there are also newcomers. Lately, there are even a lot of parents and children who enjoy the games together. I think that the fun of mystery fiction surpasses age and nationalities. There are also a lot of people who like Gyakuten Saiban abroad, and the series has spread out with time. I am happy we all worked this hard on the series.
Interviewer: Is there a work in the series you’d consider a turning point?
Takumi: I have no idea, actually. I worked on each of the games as if my life depended on it. Each time, I’d use up all of my ideas, so perhaps they’re all turning points (laugh). And sometimes I get ideas from the feedback from fans. For example, I got a lot of comments on the fact I used spirit channeling in the first game, but that only made me want to create a trick concerning spirit channeling on purpose, so that’s why I made 2 and 3. In the end, spirit channeling became a characteristic of the Gyakuten Saiban series, so I am happy it turned out like that. Every user has their ideas on what mystery fiction is.
Madoy: Yes, everyone is different. I think that spirit channeling is a great idea for mystery fiction.
Takumi: As long as the rules are clearly defined, it works perfectly as an element in mystery fiction.
Interviewer: The Gyakuten Saiban series has grown out to a media mix franchise. Anime, novelizations, stage plays, comics, Takarazuka revues, a live action film. What do you think seeing Gyakuten Saiban in all those different mediums?
Takumi: I originally created Gyakuten Saiban as a game, so personally I was quite curious how it’d work out in the beginning. The first media mix outing was the Takarazuka Revue. The dramatic parts of Gyakuten Saiban took place in an unrealistic setting like a game-like world, something that wouldn’t work in a novel or film. But you have only women playing in the Takarazuka Revue, so it really feels like a complete world of fiction, and I think they really worked well. So my ideas on media mix changed then, and I thought it was quite interesting. Mr. Madoy, have you seen any of the media mix outings?
Madoy: I have seen the anime and the stage play. There were original stories and direction and I enjoyed them. I think the direction and scenarios of the anime were adjusted well for its afternoon time slot. Before I went to the stage play, I wondered what the story, but I could only nod in satisfaction when I found out it was based on the final episode of 2. Gyakuten Saiban has a lot of interconnected stories, so there is no other final story as independent as that story.
Interviewer: Mr. Madoy, after the Revoir series you once again took on the theme of a trial in the Sherlock Note series. I have to ask you again, but what makes a courtroom story alluring in your eyes?
Madoy: I think it’s the confrontation. It is a whodunit mystery, but lighter. The culprit doesn’t want to get caught, so they come up with a trick to fool the police and the detective, but that doesn’t really feel like a confrontation. And I also don’t like how a story ends once you know how the culprit is. With Gyakuten Saiban, you first have a confrontation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor, and once you figure out who the culprit is, a confrontation between the culprit and the defense attorney. That series of confrontations, I think that is the ideal balance. I like how both parties used their heads to battle, and thus decide who wins and who loses. It’s not winning or losing in a courtroom, but that is the reason I write about them.
Takumi: It’s a formula that lends itself for twists and turns.
Gyakuten Saiban - Turnabout of the Time Traveler
Interviewer: Let’s talk about Gyakuten Saiban - Turnabout of the Time Traveler. What kind of story will this novelization be?
Takumi: I can’t go spoil the story now, but as it’s the fifteenth anniversary of Gyakuten Saiban, “fifteen years ago” is the keyword of this story. Of course, that person connected so strongly with prosecutor Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth) is also involved.
Interviewer: Mr. Madoy, you have worked on several media mix novels. How is it working with others on stories based on worlds from comics and games?
Madoy: The grammar is different. I only learned about this after working on the story of a comic, but those scenes where the detective deduces, they just have too much text in them when in comic form. It doesn’t look right. So I had to cut out the boring scenes, and make room for more interesting illustrations. That’s different from novels.
Takumi: How do you write an original story for a comic?
Madoy: The editor gave me an estimation of how many words would translate to how many pages of comic. I wrote the story based on that.
Takumi: I see. I remember when I helped on the script of the anime, they did gave me an estimation of how many pages would translate to how many minutes on screen.
Madoy: It was scary working on the novelization of the free game Kokurase. You had the original creator, and the fans, and people commenting that this character would never say something like that.
Takumi: I guess that happens.
Madoy: yes. I have to check on every step, so it takes a lot more time than working on my own original stories. But of course, it’s also fun to overcome that obstacle. But when I think about working on a series that has lasted for fifteen years… I’m afraid (laugh).
Takumi: I get afraid too every time (laugh).
Madoy: Working on a media mix work is teamwork, so that gives you a feeling of relief. Working on novels is a rather lonesome work.
Takumi: With opinions from different fields, you learn to reconsider the work you do, and get more stimulated. I am looking forward to your story.
Interviewer: Can I ask for one final comment for the fans of Gyakuten Saiban and the readers of Mystery Magazine?
Takumi: I worked with everything I had on the series and now fifteen years have passed. I am always grateful to all the people who have played the games. This year, we announced Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo (‘The Grand Turnabout Trial 2 - Naruhodō Ryūnosuke’s Resolution’) at the Tokyo Game Show. Please look forward to it!
Madoy: I will try not be crushed by the weight of fifteen years (laugh). And I hope I will be able to present you with a story that both fans of the games, but also people who don’t know about Gyakuten Saiban yet can enjoy.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for today.
(October 17, 2016, Osaka)