Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lucifer's Face: The Themes Surrounding Kristoph Gavin

“…I saw the devil’s face.”

-Vera Misham, GS4

When Kristoph Gavin is exposed as a murderer at the end of case 4-1, it is difficult not to feel surprised. He is the protagonist’s trusted mentor, after all, and his actions amount to a deeply personal betrayal. At the same time, though, a quick analysis of his character up to that point reveals nothing out of the ordinary. He appears to be just another Ace Attorney villain with a gift for poise and witty eloquence. By the end of the game, however, it is clear that Kristoph is unlike any other character in the entire series. Words, metaphors and images all point to him as possessing a nature that is singularly, literally, satanic.

The allusions to Kristoph’s devilish nature begin when Vera Misham collapses during her own trial and gasps out the identity of her client from seven years ago as “the devil” before she loses consciousness. When Phoenix is seen seven years earlier questioning 12-year-old Vera about the identity of the client, she says that “I think…they might be the devil. Or maybe…an angel.” Upon being asked to elaborate on this powerful statement, she goes on to say that the client’s face did not look like the devil, rather, “the client…was gentle…with a gentle smile.” Nonetheless, she is confident that “that person wasn’t like other people.” Putting the pieces together creates a very ominous picture. Satan is, of course, a fallen angel, a fact that fits neatly with Vera’s uncertainty over whether her client is reminiscent of heaven or hell. Furthermore, the Bible repeatedly describes Satan as crafty and devious, one who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). In other words, he is anything but apparent and straightforward in his evil. This description fits Kristoph all too well to be purely coincidental.

If this evidence were not sufficient, the game offers much more. When Phoenix uses the Magatama to reveal Kristoph’s Psyche-locks, he is unable to break them, another indication of Kristoph’s inhumanness. Drew Misham’s last letter, addressed to Kristoph, requests that he release Vera from the “spell” he has put on her. (Phoenix himself observes that Kristoph has her “charmed.”) When Apollo perceives Kristoph’s hand tensing, the signal of his untruthfulness, he says that “a little devil appeared to give [him] the news,” presumably referring to the ghoulish image on the back of Kristoph’s hand. Both the image and Apollo’s choice of words are equally impossible to ignore. Finally, when Kristoph breaks down at the end of the game, the animation used is stunningly unique. No other witness breakdown comes even close to it: his hair rises into the air as though suspended by an aura, the pupils of his eyes disappear completely, and his hands compulsively cross each other at the wrists in a sinister manner as he screams in fearful, unearthly rage. The signs all point to the same conclusion, and examining the comparison in just one more light reveals an entirely different yet still compelling layer of the argument.

In the Bible, Satan is also described as the tempter, one who plays on a person’s own desires in order to guide that person to an action or behavior that is sinful or weak. Again, this characteristic uncannily applies to Kristoph. By Phoenix’s own admission, the fact that he presented forged evidence in court was partly his own fault. He made no effort to confirm its origin or legitimacy and simply used it when the need arose. In this way, it could be said that Phoenix gave in to the temptation to rely on dubious evidence so that he could win the trial, albeit for the sake of his client. Similarly, when Vera spoke with Kristoph and told him she was afraid to go outside, he encouraged this attitude and told her, “‘Don’t go outside if you don’t want to.’” Granted, a child is much less inclined to quibble over what’s “right or “wrong” and just do what she wants unless otherwise influenced, but Kristoph’s comforting reinforcement of such a self-depriving and weak behavior is none the less insidious for it.

There is at least one more incident in the game when Kristoph tries to seduce someone down the wrong path: case 4-1, the trial of Phoenix Wright. When Phoenix takes the stand to testify about Kristoph’s presence at the Borscht Bowl Club, Kristoph flatly states that “he’s lying,” and immediately orders Apollo to “expose him. Now.” Though Apollo’s internal struggle over this scenario is, for the most part, not highly apparent, it still probably existed, even if only to a tiny extent. He can take the path of least resistance and reject Phoenix’s testimony as lies, thereby securing his own safe status in life as the apprentice of a well-respected defense attorney; or he can do what is right and run a high risk of losing his mentor, his job, and his credibility. Thankfully, Apollo chooses the latter course, but the fact remains that Kristoph once again tried to play on another’s circumstances and desires to get them to do something wrong.

At this point, some will surely argue that Kristoph is not, in fact, unique. There have been other conspicuously dark characters, namely Dahlia Hawthorne and possibly Damon Gant. This is very true, and there are unmistakable indicators of their own supernaturally evil natures. However, two key differences exist between them and Kristoph. First, Dahlia is only ever referred to as a demon, and Gant is never explicitly called anything, demon or devil, while Kristoph is referred to as the devil multiple times. Obviously, demons are the devil’s underlings, not his equals. The second difference also follows this train of thought in that both Gant and Dahlia, when they were finally cornered, ultimately admitted defeat and submitted. (In Dahlia’s case, the real submission comes near the end of case 3-5, not in case 3-1.) Kristoph, in contrast, never shows any sign of giving in, not even at the very end of case 4-4 when he lost his temper. His total rage is clear, but there does not seem to be any tone of defeat in it. This alone is enough to distinguish him from Gant and Dahlia.

If it really is true that Kristoph Gavin is literally Satan incarnate, it could very well be asked, “Why would the development team take the story in such a religious direction? That kind of makes the whole series more fanciful and less believable, doesn’t it? Besides, it’s stretching it a bit to even think that there’s that much religious symbolism, right?” To those concerned about how grounded in reality the story is, it’s already pretty far from reality because of the frequent summoning of dead people’s spirits in the first 3 games. If anything, the prominence of spirit channeling in the story gives credibility to the importance of any other references to spirituality or religion that can be found. In any case, it is true that the series takes on a much more fantastic tone than even before if the religious references to Kristoph are taken literally. However, the references that surround Kristoph Gavin are very far from all that the series contains. Rather, these are liberally peppered throughout the entire series. The next essay will recount these examples in detail.


  1. You know, this explanation makes lots of sense, despite what the people at the Court Records forum say. It's true that the series is made in Japan, in which Christianity is nowhere close to being the majority religion, but Japanese media drawing insperation from the Judeo-Christian "mythology" is by no means unheard of.

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  3. Thanks for reading and for the response! I would have said something a lot sooner but, well, I haven't come here much lately because hardly anyone knows this thing exists!

    I'm very flattered you think my theory is sensible! Believe me, I realize that things like this are a stretch, at best, but I do 'em anyway!

    Again, thank you very much for reading and posting!

  4. This blog rocks! So its essays provided by you, thanks! Although I have to note, you forgot to mention Matt Engarde, someone whom personality resembles Kristoph, wouldn't you agree? *smiles Kristophily happy* lol

  5. Kristoph is such an interesting character. ;)