Sunday, September 13, 2009

Angels and Demons, Heaven and Hell: The Recurring Theme of Spirituality in Ace Attorney

In the previous essay, I argued that Kristoph Gavin is literally the devil incarnate. However out of place such an idea may seem, it actually fits well with other similar themes and references that have popped up throughout the series, as I will show.

It begins in GS1 with Miles Edgeworth being branded by a newspaper as a “demon prosecutor.” Furthermore, Manfred von Karma’s original Japanese name, “Karuma Gou,” is rich in meaning. In terms of pronunciation, “Gou” may come from the word gouka, which could mean “fires of hell,” and in terms of kanji, “karu ma” means “a demon which hunts.” (Additionally, the word “karma” can mean “a distinctive aura, atmosphere, or feeling,” which could very well refer to Manfred himself.) What’s important to note here is that Edgeworth, the so-called “demon prosecutor,” is actually a man of integrity, while von Karma is the true demon. (The theme of generally good people shrouding themselves in evil behavior and genuinely evil people pretending to be good will occur again.) Later in case 1-5, Damon Gant is introduced. His first name itself could come from the name Dameon, which is often associated with evil. Far more interesting, though, is the fact that when he first enters the courtroom Phoenix observes that “a strange, stuffy aura seems to be filling the courtroom.” Ema herself notices that “the temperature rose 5.7 degrees when that man came in!” Can such evidence be ignored, or do we have another demon on our hands?

In GS2, Franziska von Karma goes to any lengths necessary to find the defendant guilty, all while mercilessly insulting Phoenix and whipping anyone who displeases her, thereby seeming to uphold the dubious von Karma name. (Also, her Japanese name is “Karuma Mei,” “Mei” meaning “dark.”) However, any hints that she might have demonic status are canceled out by the way she breaks down at the end of the game, not to mention the fact that she plays a key role in helping Phoenix save Maya. In contrast, Matt Engarde, the TV star who strives to always seem “refreshing like a spring breeze” is ultimately exposed as a cold-hearted, utterly ruthless man. Not only does Phoenix refer to Engarde as a demon at least once, but even Engarde describes himself by saying, “Yeah…I’m such a handsome devil,” before he reveals himself. Nice choice of words, Mr. Engarde!

In terms of the good shrouded in evil, evil disguised as good theme, not to mention the angels and demons theme, GS3 contains the most clear-cut examples of both. Godot twice describes himself as having “returned from the depths of Hell…To do battle” with Phoenix in court. In mentioning hell, Godot is, of course, referring to his “death,” but the choice of words is still very telling. Then there’s Dahlia Hawthorne, the self-styled angel, a facade which Phoenix precisely labels when he describes the “perfect, angelic smile [she has] on her face” when her death sentence is pronounced. She is, of course, a truly evil individual, but more than that, other characters explicitly call her a demon multiple times. When her spirit leaves Maya’s body in case 3-5, Godot completes the theme by saying that she probably “went back to the hell she came from.”

GS4 has no real example of good shrouded in evil because the primary candidate for such a phenomenon, the prosecutor, is established as a generally likeable character from the beginning. Nevertheless, Kristoph Gavin hogs the spotlight, so to speak, with the overwhelming amount of references to him as the devil, which were detailed in the last essay. On top of all the overarching themes mentioned previously, there are also copious, similarly religious references littered throughout the dialogue of all four games. Taken individually, they tend to be innocuous, but when they are combined, they amount to a very significant bulk, and there may be still others I missed. For GS1-GS3, references are organized by case, and for GS4 they are organized by topic. They are as follows:

  • Case 1-2
-Before Phoenix cross-examines Redd White, the latter taunts him, saying, "I hope you have made your peace with God, Mr. Lawyer!"
  • Case 1-5
-Angel Starr refers to Lana Skye's promotion to Chief Prosecutor by remarking, "How many lunchboxes of sin did she pack to make that journey, I wonder!"

  • Case 2-2
-Morgan Fey describes Pearl as "angelic."

-Phoenix, describing Morgan, thinks to himself, "That soft kind smile...It's the kind that tells you a pair of devil horns are not too far away."
  • Case 2-4
-Wendy Oldbag refers to herself as both a "devil" and an "angel."

-When Phoenix and Pearl come across Oldbag moaning in Juan Corrida's room, Pearl fearfully asks if it's a ghost. Phoenix responds by saying, "I don't think it's a ghost...Maybe it's a demon!?"

  • Case 3-1
-At one point, Mia wonders why she is being "demonized."
  • Case 3-4
-Terry Fawles repeatedly refers to Dahlia as "my Teen Angel."
  • Case 3-5
-Phoenix, when describing his fall into the Eagle River, says that he was "swallowed by the eternal darkness that surrounded me."

-Edgeworth, while breaking Iris's Psyche-locks, makes the remark that "there is a deep-seated darkness in my heart, presumably in a reference to the Terry Fawles trial.

-Larry Butz, when comparing Heavenly Hall and Dusky Bridge, makes the remark that "this place [Heavenly Hall] must be heaven, because that thing is hell."

-Larry Butz, when claiming that he saw Iris flying through the air, describes her as a "floating angel."

-Godot calls Franziska von Karma "my equestrian angel."

-Iris, describing her and Dahlia's father, says that "he was a hideous man" who "threw our mother away, and then sent her to Hell."

-Morgan Fey again refers to Pearl as "my angel."

-Godot makes a comment about people not being able to "see the demons that lurk in the night."

  • Heaven/Hell
Klavier makes multiple references to heaven (and in one case, hell)

-"We have a choice between Heaven...or Hell" (Case 4-2)

-"Only one could pass through that 'doorway to heaven'" (Case 4-3)

-"The victim was already climbing a three-month stairway to heaven...Why not wait for him to knock-knock-knock on heaven's door?" (Case 4-4)

-Trucy describing the Gramarye magic, exclaims, "They're grand illusions! Miracles! The apocalypse! Heaven and Earth will shake!" (Case 4-4)
  • Darkness
-Little Plum remarks, "Stay in this [gangster] business too long...and you start to see only darkness in people" (Case 4-2)

-Guy Eldoon, talking about Wocky's situation, says that "There's a darkness in this world, Trucy-doll. Waiting, hungry. [Very possible link to 1 Peter 5:8, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."] Compared to it, these gangs' turf wars are like kid games. When you're up against real evil...Well, it don't matter if you're strong or weak, it'll take you all the same" (Case 4-2)

-Lamiroir says she does not fear physical darkness. Rather, "the real darkness...lies in my heart" (Case 4-3)

-Valant Gramarye, speaking of Magnifi's blackmail of both him and Zak, says that "it is all part and parcel of the darkness that comes when the curtain falls" (Case 4-4)

-Phoenix speaks of needing to "protect Trucy from [the] darkness of Troupe Gramarye" (Case 4-4)

-Phoenix, reflecting on Zak Gramarye's death, makes reference to an "impenetrable darkness" and the need to "push back the darkness for good" (Case 4-4)

-Klavier also mentions "an impenetrable darkness...a darkness that has swallowed even myself" (Case 4-4)

-Apollo observes that "Prosecutor Gavin looks like he's in physical pain" and resolves to "pull that darkness out of him" (Case 4-4)

  • Demons/The devil
-Winston Payne makes reference to Apollo's "demonic-looking horns" (Case 4-1)

-Trucy refers to the thief who stole her panties as a "sly devil" (Case 4-2)

-Apollo, seeing Machi at the detention center, remarks, "Speak of the devil" (Case 4-3)

-When Phoenix is pressing Valant Gramarye during the trial of Zak Gramarye, Klavier remarks that "The devil is in the details" (Case 4-4), which is likely a take-off the variously attributed quote "God is in the details"

-Zak, talking about Magnifi Gramarye, refers to him as "the old devil" (Case 4-4)

-Valant, when confessing his crime to Phoenix, makes repeated reference to a "little demon" who encouraged his actions" (Case 4-4)
  • Divinity
-Klavier describes Lamiroir's voice as "divine" and goes on to say that she is "beloved by the gods of music" (Case 4-3)

-Valant likens himself as well as Magnifi to a "deity" when reflecting on the magic of Troupe Gramarye. He also calls Magnifi a "creator-god" (Case 4-4)

So what does all this mean for the series? Well, the religious references have become more abundant and the themes more pronounced as time has gone on, with GS4 going the farthest yet by strongly insinuating that a character is literally the devil. Accordingly, this might give us a clue as to how the series will end. It is at least possible that the last game will feature a final confrontation, between the spiritual forces of light and darkness, of epic proportions. References to angels might even become more frequent because frankly, the development team’s gotten away with tossing out the demon theme (and now devil theme) to the point where in future, if they wanted to, they could probably make multiple veiled references to characters of suspect (perhaps heavenly) origins. Whatever happens, though, given what has already occurred, it will be highly interesting to see how it all turns out.


  1. Don't forget Wocky always calling Alita his 'fallen angel'.

  2. Thanks! I did notice that when I was searching for this stuff...must've forgotten to include it.

  3. I'm afraid I have a few more objections here than I did to the Kristoph=Satan article that preceeded it. While Kristoph's behavior and description seems to be very specifically tied to Lucifer, the other two villians with supernatural "freakout" sprites...
    -Whether Dahlia is a specifically Christian-lore demon or a more general sort of demon is ambigious, although I definately won't rule out the posibility of Christian demon influences.
    --Dahlia's sprites have glowing eyes and butterflies burning to crisps (possibly by hellfire?), and Kristoph's in 4-1 have objects floating up as if by telekinesis before crashing down, and his later sprite you already covered. When they're defeated, they seem like something you would see in a movie about demonic possesion.
    ---But Gant's sprites seem too specific. Electricity? Capcom said in an interview that his design is based on the greek god Zeus. But is that all? He's certainly jovial ... maybe he's not a fallen angel, but a corrupted god?

    Many of the religious quotes you compiled could just be a result of religion's influence on the English language, and thus on the english translation. Would be nice if someone could confirm what references were and weren't in the Japanese...

    The good/evil theme in Ace Attorney is definately very strong, but the supernatural in the games are probably more of a "kitchen sink" than straight Judeo-Christian. After all, the most explicitly stated supernatural force in the games are a villiage of shinto spirit mediums.


    Also, maybe in Apollo Justice, Pheonix is the "good shrouded in evil" character? He's accused of forging a piece of evidence, later actually forges a piece of evidence, plays poker at a seedy respraunt, and is surrounded by "grape juice" bottles that make him look like an alchoholic. He may not seem demonic or hellish like previous canidates for the role, but at least he apears to be surrounded by vice.

  4. I would like to relate Matt Engarde with Mephisto, what do you think?

  5. I just hope this
    -Winston Payne makes reference to Apollo's "demonic-looking horns" (Case 4-1)
    is not a foreshadowing.