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Cholisose: Our last Anime Watchers film for July is Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, which features characters from the Professor Layton video game franchise for the Nintendo DS. This post will offer two perspectives of the film, as Ultima has played the games before, and I haven’t. Does the film manage to please its built-in fanbase, and is it still approachable for those new to the series?

Ultima: Adaptations of video game series are becoming popular in the anime community. You have recently aired titles such as Persona 4, as well as currently airing ones like Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. There must be some sort of trend and interest in video game adaptations, as Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva hopped on that bandwagon pretty early in 2011. Some of you may know Professor Layton from the video game series on the Nintendo DS (also titled Professor Layton). Originally dubbed and voiced in Japanese, Layton gained enough popularity overseas to be officially introduced as a English title.

In each Layton game, you play as the esteemed Professor and his trusty sidekick Luke. Each title includes over 150 puzzles that you must solve to unlock the mystery behind the story. Now that we have a basic idea for how the Layton series works, we can begin discussing what we liked/disliked about Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva.

Personally for me, it was refreshing to see a movie about Professor Layton. I have played all of the English titles for the Nintendo DS to date, and each one I enjoyed very much. As a fan of puzzle-solving and mystery, I had some high expectations for The Eternal Diva.

Right off the bat, you really get a sense of the same personality and character you’ve grown to love in the video games portrayed onto the big screen. Layton still has his sophisticated, gentlemanly demeanour, while Luke is quirky as ever and always headstrong on being Layton’s apprentice. A few more characters are brought back from the series, such as the Police Inspector Clamp, and Remi, the Professor’s assistant in the London University.

Unfortunately for those that have not played the video games, these characters will be unfamiliar to the audience, as they receive very little character development and background in the movie. Obviously the intent is that the movie would be geared towards those that have played the video games, and for those that haven’t, are encouraged to do so.

Despite offering not very much character development, the series is packed with action and interesting twists on problem-solving puzzles. You have some pretty funky mechanisms that the two main characters must interact with, and they allow for some creative ways to make the audience think. Sometimes you have to question how exactly the antagonist can come up with these devices, or why exactly would he spend so much time making them in the first place. Overlooking that plot hole, we still get an entertaining movie.

The art stays true to the video games, as the characters are specifically drawn to reflect how they look for their anime adaptation. I think it adds more to the comical aspect of the movie, where it’s intended for all ages to watch but also mature enough to be treated as a suspense mystery.

The story is obviously far-fetched, but that should be expected from the Layton franchise. At the beginning of each video game, it starts off with a statement, “All characters and story line are entirely based on fictional work.” Once you start playing through, you can clearly see and feel how bizarre the story can get. The movie is no different, where you wonder at times just exactly how “impossible” the story can get, but again, it’s Layton, and if you know Layton, it’s expected.

Overall, I enjoyed Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva. It was a movie clearly for the fans, or at least for those that are familiar with Professor Layton. That being said, many can still enjoy the movie despite not playing the video games. Granted, there are some things that may be confusing, such as brief character introductions and some inside jokes, but nothing that would hinder the story or plot in an alarming way. I recommend this movie for those that want to see a bit of bizarre mystery-solving, coupled with some comical characters and story-driven plot.

Cholisose: I knew only a little about the Professor Layton series before watching this film (ie that it’s a series of puzzle-solving video games about a top hat-wearing British chap who solves mysteries). I was a a little worried at first that I would be confused while watching this film (since it starts off with an explanation that it ties in directly with one of the games), but all in all it wasn’t difficult to follow at all. The characters were all pretty simple, and the plot in general didn’t seem to reference a great deal of things (and if it did, it didn’t seem to be critical for the storyline).

Overall I thought this was a really fun movie! I’m sometimes a bit hesitant toward children’s films, especially when it’s a tie-in to a franchise of some sort, but there isn’t much bad that I can say about this film. It’s an adventure of sorts that incorporates a number of clever puzzles, which our adept Holmesian detective solves with ease. The story is harmless, the animation style charming, and the characters adorable. Layton is indeed quite the gentleman, and Luke is a cute little apprentice. The side characters in general also fulfill their roles well, and though some of them were clearly established in the games already (and thus didn’t get much introduction), I didn’t have any trouble getting who they were. Perhaps the only character fell flat the most for me though was the main antagonist, but he’s theatrical enough to at least keep things moving.

There were definitely some moments that jumped into incredulous territory, but I mainly just found it amusing rather than dissatisfying. Perhaps I’m more lenient toward this sort of thing when it comes to children’s films? I suppose it wasn’t hard to just go with it, thanks to the film’s steady pacing and nice set of mysteries for us all to try and work out. I’m unfortunately no good at puzzles, so most everything Layton solved were pleasant surprises. I think I particularly liked some of the twists at the end, regarding who was Milena. The general theme that was weaved into the grand overarching mystery was also pretty well-handled, I felt. It’s nothing ground-breaking by any means, but it makes the film feel more worthwhile than it would have otherwise.

I think it’d be great if a Professor Layton anime series was made, if only to give children a good show that will provide some decent puzzles to try and work out. Having more episodes to work with would also help in fleshing out the main characters some more. (Not that this is the type of series that calls for deep, dramatic character development, but it’d be fun for non-gamers to get to know Layton a little more, other than just how great he is at solving mysteries.)

Some time I’ll have to give the games a try! I hear they’re good fun, and as long as I have access to a game faq for when I’m in a pinch, I’d probably enjoy them too. =P