• Member Since 21st Jul, 2013
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comicfan616


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  • 113 weeks
    FiMFic Reviews: Turnabout Storm Adaptation... Or "The Victim's Autopsy Report"

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  • 133 weeks
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    1 comments · 254 views
Feb
18th
2017

FiMFic Reviews: Turnabout Storm Adaptation... Or "The Victim's Autopsy Report" · 4:19pm Feb 18th, 2017

From October 2011 to October 2013, a series of videos was released under the unifying banner of Turnabout Storm, a fan-crossover series between My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and the Ace Attorney video game series, produced by NeoArtimus. The project as a whole was a success as far as fanworks go, inspiring plenty of fanart, pseudo-sequels, and reaction/commentary videos. It was so successful that, in January of 2012—mere months after the first video, and about a month since the second—RavenRegios uploaded an unofficial (by their own admission) fanfiction adaptation, which will be the subject for today’s review.

Now, some of you may be asking why I’m focusing on an adaptation as opposed to the original videos themselves. Well, first off, it’s my blog and I can do what I feel like. Second, even though it’s an adaptation, it should be judged by its own merits as a work of art—after all, we don’t count movies based on books as extensions of the originals or video games licensed from movies as being one and the same.

And third (and this is the important part), I HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATE this fanfic.

I’m saying this now so no one has any misgivings about what I say about it from here on, but this fic is the perfect example of how to not only make a bad adaptation, but a bad story in general. And while we’re on the subject of disclaimers, I should note that I am not going to restrain myself when it comes to spoilers (I’ve got a lot to say about this one, and this requires a loose spoiler policy), so if you have not seen or, Celestia forbid, read Turnabout Storm in any of its forms, proceed at your own risk.

Before I tear into the adaptation, here are some details (and my thoughts) on Turnabout Storm in general:

As mentioned before, the story crosses My Little Pony with Ace Attorney. Phoenix Wright, the protagonist of the games, is magically summoned to Equestria by Twilight Sparkle, who asks him to defend Rainbow Dash from a false murder charge. The story and presentation are a near perfect mix of the two franchises (i.e. Ace Attorney themes and story beats with My Little Pony visuals and settings), with neither one overshadowing the other. The videos take on the visual style of the games, i.e. the visual novel appearance of a character in the foreground and relevant dialogue in a text box along the bottom (with voice acting to make this style easier on the audience), giving it a distinct appearance that fans of the series will appreciate (though I have heard of people who haven’t played Ace Attorney say they eventually took an interest after watching the series).

Overall, it’s a good series and deserves its place in the… “pantheon” (for lack of a better tern) of MLP fanworks. In fact, my only real criticism is that the videos tend to rely on fan pandering references a little too heavily; not like “Slice of Life” levels of obvious, but still distracting, ranging from all-but-subtle title drops to a full-blown reminder that “Story of the Blanks” exists (and if you don’t know what that is, that’s how bad and desperate the references can be at times).

As for the adaptation…

Okay, bear with me, because, as I said before, I have a lot to say regarding this fic.

Going into this, I knew it would be bad. Within the first few chapters, I was becoming bored out of my skull because the story made no attempt to be anything other than a one-to-one rehash of the videos in terms of dialogue. Just as an example, in the opening scene (after the prologue), Phoenix gets a call from a telemarketer as opposed to a prospective client, which his law firm is in dire need of. By itself, this scene is almost useless, but it does give the audience a sense of what his life is like before he gets pulled into Equestria, while also providing a small amount of comedy. In the adaptation, this scene is played straight with no changes whatsoever to the dialogue.

Now I hear some of you asking, “What’s the problem? Why focus on this one scene?” Well, first off, I’m just using it as an example, not an actual reason as to why this fic is bad. And because, while this scene was innocuous in a visual medium, the literary version became stunted in the transition. There’s a slightly understandable school of thought among fanbases of any kind that a good adaptation changes essentially nothing. And while certain examples like the recent Jem movie prove this to be true, it’s not one-hundred percent true. After all, the word “adaptation” is derived from “adapt,” meaning, “to change to better suit a new environment,” whether that environment be a natural habitat or a different artistic medium.

I’m not saying the telemarketer scene shouldn’t have been kept in, but it was handled very poorly. When I said there were no changes to the dialogue, I meant it; everything Phoenix said was practically transcribed from video to writing, but the telemarketer, whose voice wasn’t heard in the videos, remained silent in the fic. And while this makes sense for an audio-visual medium like video, where the audience is a passive observer, literary fiction is a much more intimate affair, where everything that happens to a given character and their reactions and feelings regarding those events is put on full display. At the very least, readers should have been able to hear what Phoenix heard through that telephone, rather than stumbling around an unknown voice that didn’t need to be hidden, given the medium this story was in.

But all that was just the tip of the iceberg. As I went on, I came to realize that mere transcription would be the least of my problems (and, as we’ll get to later, one that wouldn’t last).

The most obvious issue was the writing itself. Third-person omniscient. I defended it in Royal Review. I questioned it in On a Cross and Arrow. But this story makes the latter seem much better by comparison. Nothing is hidden from the reader in this fic. And while On a Cross and Arrow was mostly consistent with its perspectives and how it switched viewpoints, this fic flagrantly disregards the entire concept. Viewpoints between characters will change on a whim, sometimes paragraph by paragraph. Phoenix says his line, we get his thoughts, then Twilight gives the reader her own thoughts, then the more antagonistic characters will say something and have the narration reveal their own thoughts. It’s a jumbled up mess!

And the worst part: there is no reason for it. The original project was presented entirely in Phoenix’s perspective (with one exception we’ll get to later), so why couldn’t the writing have reflected that? I would argue that third-person objective would have been a much better style, but first-person narration would have been fine as well. At the very least, it would have kept a sense of mystery about the other characters and given full focus to the main character, who should be the only one the reader really cares about in the course of the story.

But, as hinted at before, Phoenix isn’t the only character the audience follows. Halfway through the story, he and Twilight split up to conduct their own investigations. With the original, NeoArtimus split this particular part of the story into two videos, one focusing on Phoenix, the other on Twilight, both happening at around the same time, even crossing paths in the middle. When it came time to write this down for the adaptation, however, the separation style was kept. It first goes through all of Phoenix’s chapters, start to end, before cutting to Twilight and telling the whole thing over again. And with the videos I see on YouTube that edit both parts into one with appropriate cuts, I find it immensely hard to believe that arranging written chapters would be that much harder. I understand this was likely done because the fic was being written while the videos were still in production (yeah, by the way, ask Harry Potter how that turned out), but it is still possible to rearrange chapters after the fact.

One more comment about the presentation before we move to the really big problems:

Throughout the fic, various images, most of them originally from the videos, are added between paragraphs, usually during the trial scenes where evidence and crime scene layouts are presented, along with the Ace Attorney series’ iconic “OBJECTION!” outburst whenever a character actually says it. But with the last example as the possible exception, these images are completely pointless. After all, if I wanted to actually see what was going on in this story, I could just watch the videos and lose nothing. It gets really bad, though, when images are just placed at random for no other reason than, “This is where the videos put this image, so it is required to be here.” Again, why should this image be here when I could just watch the videos with these same images? And on a similar note, was there really no other way to tell the story in regards to cross-examining the witnesses outside of the gameplay style of “witnesses repeat what they say, then pick apart their statements individually”?

But even worse things taint this fic, and they can all fall under one basic category: the changes. I know I said earlier that the adaptation didn’t seem all that eager to change anything, but that was only true for the start. As the fic goes on, more scenes are added. Actually, “scenes” is probably too generous of a term, as they amount to little more than one- or two-paragraph summaries that add little value before picking up with the story again and returning to “business as usual,” i.e. “transcribe and little else.”

Towards the climax, though, things get far more hectic. Whereas before it seemed like the fic didn’t want to deviate too far from the source material, in the final moments, it looked as though it couldn’t wait to break away. New concepts are added or expanded upon, almost changing the story in its entirety from then on. As far as I can tell, most of these changes were made with the purpose of “fixing” some of the “problems” with the original videos’ story presentation. But with the results they made, I have to wonder if those problems were better off as they were.

The most obvious example is an added layer to the final showdown with Sonata, the story’s main antagonist (not to be confused, however, with the siren [in fact, in a rare stroke of brilliance, the fic opts to give her a previously non-existant surname, Tarot, since Sonata Dusk wasn’t a character at the time of the project’s release]). In the original videos, Phoenix proved that Sonata, who is a unicorn, had access to an electricity spell that could have killed the victim as opposed to the storm cloud supposedly set off by Rainbow Dash, which was enough to get her to confess. In the adaptation however, it is argued that the spell was only meant to stun, not kill, to which Phoenix rebuts that the stress of the situation (the victim was about to kill her) caused her to unintentionally amplify the spell. His evidence: powerful pain pills that Sonata had been taking for recent horn trauma caused by overexerting her magic.

Useless as that already seemed, said pills serve another purpose in the story. The pills come with the side effect of a slight inhibiting of the user’s mental process, and Sonata had been overdosing with the purpose of trying to forget what had happened. And with the fic’s tendencies to try to “fix” certain problems, it implies that Sonata’s actions were risky and nonsensical as she tried to hide her crimes. In other words, this adaptation’s argument was that Sonata’s nonsensical actions were the result of her literally taking stupid pills! And it wasn’t even the first time the fic pulled this nonsense; earlier on, Sonata gives Phoenix the pills for a headache he’d been experiencing. In keeping with the “fix all the problems” angle, this is to excuse Phoenix’s later decision to blindly trust an anonymous source to meet with him alone in the Everfree Forest (a decision he soon regretted, to be fair), as opposed to just him being desperate for evidence and a solid case for the trial in the videos.

Speaking of Phoenix and how the fic handled him, one thing I noticed throughout the story was an added layer of gentlemanly conduct in the presence of characters like Rarity and Fluttershy. I mean, Phoenix isn’t a jerk by any stretch of the imagination (snarky perhaps, but not a jerk), but he’s no Casanova, either. Kissing Rarity’s hoof as a sign of respect seems very unnatural for his character, especially since, in the games at least, he tries to maintain a professional air about himself (though results may vary). But his treatment of Fluttershy is like “religious zealot” levels of over-the-top, and that is no exaggeration. When Fluttershy saves him from timberwolves during the aforementioned “Everfree meetup” scene, Phoenix feels almost indebted to her, especially since he was all but forced to cast suspicion on her during the trial earlier that day—which itself leads to a tearful breakdown, begging for forgiveness he barely even expects, causing even more wonder when she does forgive him. If it weren’t for another moment we’ll get to later, I would have said that Phoenix actually fell in love with Fluttershy.

As dumb as all that is, however, it gets even worse. After the trial is concluded, the fic just keeps on going for several more chapters. I grant that Phoenix would have had to stay in Equestria for a bit after the trial while Twilight prepared the spell to send him home, but this goes on for almost a full weeks’ worth of time. Granted, part of this is because the fic actually added a scene where Phoenix is standing before a review board due to him unwittingly breaking into Sonata’s hotel room, something the videos didn’t do, but most of what goes on in these final chapters could be considered sequels in their own right. In fact, according to author’s notes, much of it is for the purpose of setting up actual sequels.

And while I will admit there were some creative ideas in these chapters, they still suffered from poor execution. Heck, in one scene where Phoenix provides defense for Trixie (the prosecution in the murder trial), the fic wastes a whole chapter deposing a biased and bribed judge; take that scene out, and I guarantee no one would have missed it. Another trial has Phoenix defend Sonata with Vinyl Scratch as the prosecutor (yeah, I thought it was weird, at first, but I grew to accept that much, at least), but the fic practically handwaves the whole thing; a few lines of dialogue and some brief descriptions are all we get. I get that we didn’t need another full trial after spending an entire story doing just that, but that brings up the question of why it needed to be in this fic in the first place!

But while the last act changes things up dramatically, the first few aren’t completely left alone either. Throughout the fic, two plot threads are brought up that make me scratch my head at best. First is the “elemental magic” motif. Throughout the story, Twilight shows certain tendencies of producing smoke whenever her emotions start to flare up. Same with Trixie, except her breath starts to freeze as though in the cold. According to the fic, unicorns have some latent elemental magic as a part of their very being, while some have stronger essences than others. This draws inspiration from the “Twilight-Rapidash moment” from “Feeling Pinkie Keen.” While I will admit this is an interesting concept on its own, and even leads to what is surprisingly my least hated moment in this fic (that being Trixie’s own trial for assault and endangerment after she lets her ice powers go out of control), it still doesn’t work. First off, it has practically no place in this adaptation, instead feeling like it belongs in its own story. It also leads to an added fight scene between Trixie and Twilight at the climax of the trial (something I question very heavily) and essentially turns Trixie into Elsa from Disney’s Frozen (right down to her expanded backstory and quoting lines from “Let it Go” [Remember the references I talked about earlier? This fic takes it even further. They even directly lampshade the Frozen references later on.]).

The second plot thread, though, is by far the dumbest decision made for this adaptation. Partway through writing, one of Raven’s editors (yes, plural, which only makes the whole thing even worse) noted that they had read some romantic subtext into Phoenix and Twilight’s relationship in the original videos. So, naturally, that aspect was brought to the forefront. It started out as a small infatuation with Phoenix’s features on Twilight’s part (particularly his hands [good luck getting that mental image out of your head]), but over time, it becomes something more, with even Phoenix starting to feel some kind of connection with Twilight. It even adds a new layer at the halfway point; since females outnumber males by a large margin, the males are often seen as more vulnerable and in need of protection, so the fic adds moments of Twilight trying to defend Phoenix from everything that could possibly happen to him—again, interesting, but it all serves no purpose. (And while, yes, part of my discomfort was the human/pony relationship itself, the fact that it didn’t need to be included at all was the more important part.)

If you’re still with me after all that, I thank you for being patient with me. I knew that I wanted to write a more negative review this time around, but it took everything I had to continue reading this train wreck. Anything good I could possibly say about this adaptation was immediately overshadowed by something worse or came with an asterisk attached. In the end, though, I continued, partly because I wanted to see this through and because, after all the praise and the high like-to-dislike ratio this fic gets, I felt it and its author and editors needed a reality check.

So, for the crime of bad writing and bad adapting, this review finds Turnabout Storm, the FimFic adaptation…

GUILTY

Recommendation Rating: :heart: Don’t bother; this thing has nothing going for it. :pinkiesick:

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