This is review number three hundred and twenty. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Wizard Barrister: Benmashi Cecil. It’s a twelve episode anime about a girl that’s actually a lawyer and she goes to court. She doesn’t yell “objection!” though so that’s a bit disappointing. The disappointment doesn’t end there though. There are a lot of wonderfully bad things here so let’s read on.
Cecil Sudo is the youngest wizard barrister ever and she has decided to work for the Butterfly Law Firm to practice her craft. Wizards are badly discriminated in this place and Cecil wants to defend them all. Unfortunately, trouble is part of the job and it tends to follow Cecil around. Cecil doesn’t know it but she’s actually part of a conspiracy that started from six years ago.
Taking the Pants Off
Wizard Barrister looked like a very promising series at first. The idea that wizards are defending other wizards in their own special trial sounds like a very interesting concept. If there’s one thing Phoenix Wright taught me is that you can make the judicial system funny and engaging at the same time. I didn’t finish Apollo Justice though because I was stuck on the third level looking at this ugly guy trying to find his tell. I gave up completely when I realized it was his armpit sweat. Anyways, Wizard Barrister kinda had the same over the top concept where you have to prove your client’s innocence by also doing your own investigation. The first trial even featured our main character tracking down a gang of bank robbers using her own summoned robot. I honestly had my concerns about this series because it just looked like an unedited mess but the following episodes convinced me otherwise. The show has a lot of promise and it had a plot interesting enough to have me looking forward to the next episode again and again. Wizard Barrister seemed it like had all of its elements under control with how smooth the episodes progressed. Unfortunately, this show kinda got weird in the end. I’ll say this, watch the first two episodes and whatever feeling you have for the show will most likely stay with you after you finish this anime. My feeling was concerned and doubt over the amount of excessive elements this show had. This eventually bit this series in the back and turned a good anime into a pretty sour experience.
This show opened with the Phoenix style trial system where you prove the defendant’s innocence. This is all the more exciting because the anime established early on that wizards are a minority and they have been discriminated for a long time. The trials usually lean one way with the defendant being charged guilty. The wizard barristers, a fancy term for lawyers defending wizards, would then try to navigate through this field of discrimination to find the truth before their client is found guilty. Even the police don’t like wizards because their powers scare them so it’s really an unfair process for the wizards. They have a reason to despise the wizards though. They often cause public disturbance and endanger the lives of others because of their powers. A lot of wizards use their powers for crime and this fuels the hate towards them some more. This is a vicious cycle though because most are opted to commit crime because of the discrimination they feel. Some wizards who are mostly peaceful would also be threatened when society starts targeting them as well. It’s an ugly system filled with hate. The wizard barristers do their best to maintain order and defend the truth above all things. The process is pretty familiar if you indulge yourself in a lot of crime shows. The lawyers would interview people, gather information and put the facts together to reveal the truth. In Wizard Barrister though, the trial system isn’t its main focus. I honestly loved the idea of a court room trial anime but this show didn’t think it was enough. The trials are often just a backdrop for the real story. The trials are often shallow and easily predictable. Hoping the audience is familiar with the trial process, the show would often skip important steps and just hastily go to trial. The court room trials aren’t properly paced though. Wizard court has a law that a verdict must be reached as swift as possible and this means before the meeting ends. So a judge is presented with the facts and then he bangs a gable. No jury process and no emotional tugging of any kind. It naturally sucks but the main story does have a lot of promise to it.
This anime has three plot points. The first plot point would have to be trial process. The main character, Cecil Sudo, and the law firm she works in would defend their clients. These are standalone stories with the typical court room trial stuff going. Aside from that, the first plot point also establishes the status quo of the show. The fact that wizards are discriminated, the level of hate for the wizards and how unfair the trial process gives us an idea just how much these wizards are hated by society. To further elaborate the status quo, the first plot point slowly introduces the Magical Prohibition Law with ten articles under it or something. It details the extent to which the wizards can function in society and the set of rules they must follow. Wizards are charged with breaking these laws and the penalty is usually life imprisonment or death row pending on the severity of the charges. Interestingly though, the Magical Prohibition Law that objectively puts wizards in society is also wonderfully subjectively bias. I think all ten laws are slowly fed through each episode and it helped thicken up the plot. The Magical Prohibition Law has some unfair items to it that gives you an idea why a lot of the characters act the way they do. I actually like how this set of rules established the status quo and also acts as a guide for the overarching story of this anime. Slowly discovering each one of them also adds to the experience because the show has a smart way of keeping the audience in the dark. It feeds information in a slow manner that keeps you intrigued. Understanding the Magical Prohibition Law is just a part of it. The main story of this anime is actually a lot more fun to discern.
The second plot point is about Cecil trying to prove his mother innocent. Her mother is in death row and part of why she became a wizard barrister is so she can help her get out of it. It didn’t mean much at first. Cecil would often just visit her mother in prison talking to her about her cases. Cecil is an inexperienced wizard barrister so she would often screw up in some episodes. She’d have some moral dilemma and other things that she is unprepared for. Her mother’s case slowly became a focal point of the show though because the incident regarding her imprisonment leads to something big. It’s so big that it involved Cecil as well and a whole bunch of people looking after her. As the anime progresses, various people would start hovering over Cecil planning something shady. Since the show does a great job keeping the audience in the dark, none of the various pieces of this plot point really makes sense until the last few episodes of the show. The best I can gather when I first saw it was that there was a big conspiracy happening with a lot of people involved in it. Cecil seems to be in the middle of it and her mother’s case is apparently the start of it all. You’ll feel lost though when various characters start doing weird things that’ll make you question their motive. The second plot point would only really make sense in connection to the third plot point of this anime.
The third plot point is about the taboo magic known as a summoning magic. That’s the vaguest way I can describe it. This plot point is very huge though as it starts building up since the first episode and goes all the way to the last episode. Part of the conspiracy theory involving the second plot point has something to do with some of Cecil’s current cases. They always seem to end up putting Cecil in danger. These are totally unrelated cases that the Butterfly Law Firm accepts yet they always seem to involve Cecil being put in harm’s way. But Cecil would somehow squirm out of it when she would unlock a dormant power of hers. Cecil seems to be a special wizard that possesses more than one ability. She originally had the power to create robots by gathering metal in her surroundings. As the show progresses, she would unlock new powers completely new to her. The incidents regarding her powers are actually all planned. Apparently, someone is pushing her to unlock her powers because they need it in their grand scheme. A shady group led by a mysterious person wants Cecil’s power because it is very important to his plan that won’t make a lick of sense until you reach the later parts of the show. I love how the anime would give you a chance to guess though. Like a true court room trial show, the anime would give important information at random times hoping the audience can piece two and two together. The anime would reveal a face early on but their intentions are never really explained. The more the audience is asked to guess, the more this plot point actually becomes a lot more intriguing to watch. You’ll never guess though just how big the conspiracy is and there is information that just doesn’t fit in the overall picture unless explained later on. The second half of the show really focused on the last two plot points though so the mystery was properly explained. I actually admire how there were no stone left unturned and every piece of information fits in this gigantic puzzle the anime was piecing together. Every character’s role is properly explained and all the questions are answered. Some of them are answered in a sloppy manner but there was a satisfying pay off after seeing the show.
Despite the mystery aspect of the show progressing really well, there are a lot of things I don’t really think belonged in the show. There are elements in the story that just didn’t matter but the show kept utilizing it for no apparent reason. I’d call them clutter and this kinda ruins the overall experience. The first thing that I just didn’t appreciate would have to be our main character herself, Cecil Sudo. This is a show about conspiracy and lives being put in the hands of a biased judicial system yet our main character is a seventeen year old girl that belongs in the marshmallow show more than a serious anime like this one. With her constant “moe” presence, the seriousness of the story can never really develop. Everything just felt like child play. Sure, some people are killed from time to time and others are in a bind because of the discriminatory trial process. With a main character that is all fluffs and butterflies though, it’s a little hard to take the show seriously. I do understand that you can reach a balance of light hearted cuteness with a deadly serious story. I’ve seen it done in Higurashi Naku Koro ni but Wizard Barrister just feels like a bunch of people going through the motions led by a main character too saccharine for the setting. She also has this weird fan service moment with her familiar, a pervy frog. How exactly do you get into the show’s story when it gives you pockets of our main character in the bathtub being harassed by a frog? In this anime, some wizards have familiars in the form of a talking animal. They’re like cute mascots that have their own annoying word at the end of their sentences whenever they talk, bon. As far as the show’s structure go, these familiars never really do anything. They don’t fight with their masters and they don’t contribute anything to the story. They’re just things that look cute and acts pervy. Why exactly is it necessary to have mascots in a serious trial room anime? I really hate clutter in an anime. It often translates to the creators going forward with their first idea without editing it. A Phoenix Wright style anime with a cute main character and a talking frog seems to be the initial concept for this anime. But wait, there’s more, the creators felt this show absolute cannot exist without f*cking mecha.
This anime is an original screenplay. Yes, gawd damn it, a show adapted from nothing but the unedited minds of whatever studio it crawled out of. I’ll be fair. I saw promise in this show. The story and the mystery are very engaging but like all original screenplays, they tried to be overambitious and then falls flat in their face. The addition of moe and mascots to this original screenplay had me worried. Rather than develop the large cast and focus more on trials, the creators felt this show absolutely needed mecha a lot more. Why? A trial anime with mecha sounds like a very stupid idea. Can you imagine Phoenix Wright chasing down the bad guy in a mecha? It’s stupid. Why? It’s because court room trial anime thrives in a rich story. If you’ve seen any Law and Order episode then you’ll know that the main goal is to be thought provoking but also indulge the audience is a rich narrative about the trial process. The show nailed it with the Magical Law Prohibition. I gave it a pass when it pushed it away for a mystery story about a large conspiracy but I think the mecha would have to be the stupidest aspect of this anime. It doesn’t belong here. Why complicate wizards by having others create robots? Why not just have regular wizards and then develop their backstory? Being a wizard in this anime is kind alike being a mutant or, dare I say, being gay. Why not use that instead? Enrich the story with real life prejudice and incompetence of the government which is the main goal of the first plot point, by the way. The same plot point the show casually pushed to the side. Instead, it wanted to be cool so it had the main character felt up by a frog and then have her fight in a f*cking robot. The hilarious bit here is that the mecha just didn’t ruin the overall story. It also ruined the quality of the show when the studio clearly ran out of budget somewhere down the line. I’ll explain later on. Anyways, there was some wasted potential for the first plot point because the show chose to focus more on the other plot points. It’s something I’ve grown used to with original screenplays. They tend to let you down in the most annoying manner after you’ve fallen in love with their initial concept. It’s a shame because there are a lot of things to enjoy in this show but they’re mostly the ones not properly developed by the anime.
There are a lot of characters. Cecil Sudo is your typical bland main character. She’s not really the type you can root for and she also doesn’t really do much in the show. Sure, she functions with the story but nothing big to really set her apart. I felt like the show didn’t utilize her properly. She’s a seventeen year old wizard barrister. She’s the youngest one to ever do that which means she’s a genius. She’s also very inexperienced so there’s a chance for this overachiever to cover up her lack of experience with her actual talent in the court room. Unfortunately, she came off as an overly dependent child that would only be straightened out by her colleagues. She’s not intuitive and observant for a lawyer and her “moe” factor gets in the way with any kind of character development you put on her. I admire how the show kept her interesting by unknowingly making her the center of this big conspiracy but she lacked depth for such a big role. She never showed vulnerability, she is overly cheerful, her determination to prove her client’s innocence is muddled as the anime progresses, and she just became annoying at the end constantly being cradled by the other characters. She is honestly just missing some more qualities that would make us believe she’s a reliable main character. In the show’s run, she’s more of a damsel than anything else. With the poor character development, Cecil is just doomed from the start. In all honestly, her mother had more personality than her and she only appeared talking to Cecil in prison.
The characters in the Butterfly Law Firm are all interesting but a lot of them are underutilized and some suffered through the poor character development as well. There are eccentric characters in the show like a girl that talks about men and pervy stuff all the time, a jack of all trades kind of assistant and a paralegal that is into sentai shows. They’re bland like our main character but they also look endearing despite that. They just weren’t properly utilized by the anime. I especially like the assistant because she was like a hacker in the first episode and she had a lot of skills to contribute to the group. Unfortunately, the show tossed her aside because she played no role in the main story. Actually, the entire law firm played no role in the story making a lot of them wasted characters. Sadly, some of the interesting characters are tossed to the side as well. My favorite would be the other new rookie lawyer that joined the law firm along with Cecil. She was a hard ass always serious and her back story is unique. She had this growing hatred and jealousy for Cecil that I think the anime badly misused. They could’ve used it to develop Cecil, create a meaningful relationship in the show and just do a lot of interesting things with this jealous girl constantly hounding Cecil and the special treatment she gets. They also badly misused this awesome guy that used to be a prosecutor but lost his job because his powers awakened. It’s in the law that wizards can’t get jobs in the government. He is this stoic and stern person that honestly had a lot of cool things to contribute if his character is developed more nicely. I think he could’ve been more useful as a mentor for Cecil with his calm nerves and years of experience working for the other side. Lastly, there is also the oldest guy in the firm being a massive idol fanatic. He has the ability to conjure up illusions but his age is becoming a bother. He could’ve easily given Cecil some sage advice and an insight in what it was like living with discrimination all his life. The first plot point is really rich with a lot of cool stuff and I’m just bummed the show didn’t see its own potential.
There are some characters heavily featured though like the two cops hunting down the criminals. One is a hot headed woman that breathes constant discrimination towards wizards. She has close ties with the senior partner of Butterfly Law Firm though so she does have a soft spot from time to time. She has a male partner that is often the cool headed one in the group trying to reason with his partner. He also has some dark secrets of his own since he is a big part of the third plot point. He got weirdly given the spotlight towards the second half mainly because of the conspiracy. This happens a lot in original screenplays. A lot of things are half baked including a forced role for one side character that, while looks important to the main story, is absolutely detrimental to the overall look of the show. They did this same method in another original screenplay anime called M3 as well. An effeminate side character immediately became a villain five episodes before the show ended because it was a half-baked original screenplay and it realized it had no villain to end the show with. Stupid. This is what happened to the male cop in this show. He had no immediate role at first and then somehow got a big push that had an awkward transition. It felt painful seeing him have his moral dilemma scenes. He did play a part in the story and I did love the mystery surrounding him but he was the last character I wanted to be developed in the show. He was a side character you didn’t care for at first. He’s an important person all of a sudden? It’s stupid.
Speaking of characters that you didn’t care for, there was this girl called Moyo Tento. I love how they kept her in the dark for so long. Her role is so mysterious that it will make you want to watch more just to understand where she fits in the story. I love her involvement but she is a pretty annoying character. She isn’t just bland but she is also really annoying. I don’t understand her. Story wise, she is intriguing but she’s the type of character you’d wish get pushed to the side. Some of her actions are weird and directionless. Her cute personality is over bearing and considering she got more screen time than a bunch of characters more interesting that her makes this woman twice as annoying. She’s a victim of the poor character development so I can’t blame her that much. The show spent too much time on the story that the characters clearly suffered from it.
Original Screenplays suck. This point is proven one more time with this anime. Again, not all of them suck but majority of them does. This show has a strong story and a wonderful mystery that’ll make you want more. Technically, the lack of character development and the sloppy presentation ruins the overall experience. I do not understand Yasuomi Umetsu. This guy loves court rooms or something because this is the second time he has pulled off this sh*t. Any one remembers Galilei Donna? It’s another promising original screenplay that ultimately crumbled because it lacked polish and direction. The last episode featured a trial as well exactly the same as the one in Wizard Barrister. He has improved in pulling off this stuff though because Wizard Barrister is a lot more interesting than Galilei Donna. It still crumbled in the end though. I’m starting to think he’s doing this sh*t on purpose. I bet he pitched this anime to A-1 Pictures as well but realized it looked like another Galilei Donna rehash and declined. He then took it to Studio Arms and he almost created an absolute classic here if he just learned from his first f*cking show. Studio Arms is a very small time studio and I bet they thought this anime would’ve done something big for them. After all, the creator of Kite pitched you something. I would agree with it as well considering all my studio has ever done is low quality crap like Sabagebu and Gokuko no Brynhidlr. Sadly, Wizard Barrister still attains the low quality crap Studio Arms is known for. As a wonderful pattern for original screenplays, veterans are often involved and they often show that they have no idea how to actually create a show. Completing this party is Michiko Itou, the screenplay writer. She has some decent works like doing the script for Special A and No. 6. I’m surprised she agreed letting this show have a lot of clutter. Original Screenplays usually have very talented people involved in it but it just adds to the disappointment when you realize the show could’ve been better. They should’ve realized that as well.
Sight and Sound
Yasuomi Umetsu designed the characters in this show. He has a pretty basic design where everything looks incredibly plain. There is very little detail work and he mostly just makes them special by making them colorful. Their outfit and styles are outlandish making them standout in a nice way. You can tell Yasuomi has no background in character design though because he created whacky characters for the Butterfly Law Firm but the rest of the cast are your standard generic characters. I honestly think he took inspiration from Phoenix Wright and he wanted his characters to look as cool as the ones in the game. Cecil’s design look decent with her cute skirt and colorful palette but I already point out how it’s more of a bother than anything else in the show. I am a fan of pretty faces in character design and I just feel that he put very little effort in them hoping the outfits can carry his characters. I’ll give points for the imaginative concept but it doesn’t really make the show special. It just adds to the unpolished and directionless drivel the anime already has. If there’s a design I do like, it’d be the male characters of the Shark Law Firm. They have a plain suit on but they have personality not relying on the design. They’re young and aggressive with clean suits on. It’s simple but it tells a lot about the characters. If only he worked on the faces some more then I would’ve been all in on the design. The sloppy design is very detrimental because the animation looks gawd damn sloppy as well.
The first few episodes of the show do have some decent animation. Nothing to really admire but the movements are solid and the vibrant color palette brightens up the show. The heavy reliance on stiff CG got me worried though. Stiff CG are computer generated stuff that doesn’t blend with its surrounding. It’s like a full 3D model mixed in with normal animation and it looks awful. It’s one of those things I hate in an anime. A lot of studios rely on stiff CG to carry out complicated animations and Studio Arms is no different. I’ll be fair, the mecha fight scenes are awesome with a decent pace and some cool exchanges between the robots. It’s as cool as the wizard battles where two people just throw waves of elemental attacks at each other. The wizard battles gets more points though because it employed cool effects that can match a decent shounen showdown. A fire attack clashing with a water attack will create steam that will cover the area and it just looks amazing animation-wise. Stiff CG is hard to make though. It requires money. Even though it’s a shortcut for animation, it can eat up money and Studio Arms really lost budget for Wizard Barrister because of their dumb use of Stiff CG. Episode eleven and twelve has some of the worst animation I have ever seen. No, I’m three hundred and twenty reviews in and the last two episodes contain the very worst animation TPAB have ever seen. There are still frames, mouths are covered, scenes are recycled and certain moments just look embarrassingly bad. The stiff CG scenes still moved smoothly though and certain important scenes have the same quality the anime always has. It just means this poor bastard of a studio ran out of money and needed to fill the gaps in the story with whatever crap they can fill it with. I do believe the awful animation of the last two episodes ruined the experience completely. As a fan of animation in general, I cannot accept professionals doing stupid sh*t like this. I’ll be knocking a point of the overall score for this crap. As a reviewer, I believe the main goal of an anime studio is to entertain its audience. Giving us a poorly put together episode felt like a giant middle finger to the viewers that faithfully followed the show till the end. The horrible animation of the last two episodes ruined whatever closure you might feel for the show and basically just dampens an already sour experience. This shouldn’t happen but it did so f*ck everyone involved with this sh*t.
The anime’s OP is “JUSTITIA” by Lia. I love Lia’s voice. The song is pretty decent. Lia pretty much made the whole song interesting because the lyrics are your typical words about never giving up hope. It does fit the show well since our main character is someone trying her best to be a competent wizard barrister. The OP sequence features all the characters and an inviting montage that feels like the anime is adapted from a light novel. This OP is misleading though but I do love how the characters are presented in their most awesome form. The anime’s ED is “BLUE TOPAZ” by Rui Tanabe. This is pretty much like the OP song with a positive lyric about never giving up. It had a more girly line to it though that I can’t quite explain. I think it’s because of the vibrant instrumental. Rui’s voice is decent. It didn’t really made the song special but there is novelty when the song is sung by your main character. The ED sequence is just a bunch of scene where Cecil looks cute or something. I do love the scenic shots since it gave you an idea what kind of quality this anime was aiming for in terms of animation.
5/10 “The mystery of the show will keep you guessing and wanting more but the noticeable clutter and the awful animation of the last two episodes ruin what should’ve been a good anime experience.”
I think this show has a lot of potential. The court room trial format served this anime well and the main story is gripping enough that I kept on watching the next episode. Unfortunately, there are a lot of negatives in this show that outweigh the positives. There are also some embarrassingly bad moments here that will really affect the experience. If you like trial based anime a la Phoenix Wright then you’ll enjoy the first half of this anime. If you enjoy mystery that makes you think then there’s something to enjoy in this show. It has some bad things going for it as well though so just tread on with an open mind.