Archaeologist and Private Investigator Professor Layton and his young apprentice Luke Triton are invited to an Opera performance by a famous singer and former student Janice Quatlane. When the Opera about an ancient society known as Ambrosia ends, there appears to be more to the event at the theatre than just an Opera. A voice tells the entire audience that they are all about to play a game, where the one winner receives the prize of eternal life, and everyone else dies. Professor Layton, Luke, Janice and several people are all stuck in this game, almost all with a reason for such a prize, but it is apparent that this game is more than just a game, but a huge puzzle for the answer to eternal life.
For those of you who haven’t heard of a Professor Layton, it is a popular portable game franchise by Level-5 that began in 2007 with Professor Layton and the Curious Village. It was a mystery puzzle game where the main element was looking for clues and solving puzzles and riddles to progress the story and solve the mysteries of a plot. Because of its simplistic yet brain inducing game play, with a clever plot and well-thought Japanese Animated art style, considering a great step up from other brain training titles on the system such as Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training; it was very successful internationally, especially in the UK where it reached 4th in the overall sales chart. Three games later came out with similar style of game play, with brand new stories and puzzles for gamers to get their heads into. The franchise was growing so fast in two years that it was obvious that a film was put into production, with developers Level-5 being involved in production and both the Japanese and English cast reprising their roles for the film. It was released in Japan December 2009 and later released in Singapore in March 2010 and England in October 2010.
Now I must warn you that I might be a bit more repetitive in this review, and that is mainly with the fact that this film literally is mostly like the actual game in film format. It is most likely that the same production team for the full motion video cut scenes was involved with the production of the film so if you are bothered with what I say than I am sorry.
The animation is almost exactly like the cut scenes from the games, the animation is mainly standard with the exceptions of the action heavy scenes, and unlike Blood: The Last Vampire they actually put effort in their crowd scenes, with the main example being the audience at the Opera, with each audience member, besides the film’s main characters, being unique and individually animated. There is also good use of 3D animation, although I’ve heard from some critics that the CG is over relied upon. In my opinion, it is very good in the fact that it blends very well with the 2D animations so you might almost never notice it.
The character designs might put people off in the games since the proportions are consistent but some of the characters do look exaggerated, yet somehow in the film the designs have more consistency. There are a few characters that look ridiculous on the most part they all look human and detailed, which is especially good for the amount of possible time that was put into this film.
The music is actually very good and very memorable, along with keeping fans happy with arrangements of music from the games themselves, which on their own are brilliantly done, there are some well composed original tracks and surprisingly beautiful vocals which are kept in the original language and performed by Nana Mizuki. I definitely would give the soundtrack a listen, both with and without the film.
Since playing the first game, I’ve grown a lot onto the English voice cast, and I still think it’s great. Both Chris Miller and Maria Darling do a great job as Layton and Luke respectively, both putting on great British accents, with Chris giving a polite and intelligent style voice and Maria giving young, cheeky and intuitive voice, both suiting their characters. Other voices in the English cast do a good job, and despite some of them lacking a good British accent to keep with the setting and their characters, they all put their hearts in and give a very watchable performance. Then there is the Japanese dub which I don’t think is worth listening to at all if you like the English Dub. I don’t think it is bad, since it is of a good quality and there are a few scenes which sound better in the Japanese dub, but overall, it is very generic. There isn’t really anything unique about the performances, so most of the characters come off sounding bland. It makes this one of the few anime films I recommend watching in English, because the English version sounds a lot more fitting.
I find that there are two main problems with video game films, and why most are bad. One problem is that they focus more on being a film than being a film based on an existing medium, so as a game based film they are bad, and a bad films overall means they are really bad. The other problem is that they either follow too loosely on the plot of the game, or try something completely different and fall flat on the pavement of bad and predictable writing. This film and a few before have been able to avoid these problems and are very good for this reason, they are good as both a film on its own and a film based on a game and they have good storylines that don’t entirely or at all follow the plot of the games they are based on and make it interesting for both viewers.
As a film on its own, the Eternal Diva does an alright job of summarising the games by literally talking about them at the start of the film, I’m not kidding. It is really the only problem I find since it literally is a fourth wall break before the opening credits but the rest of the film plays out really well. The genius element of the film is that it integrates puzzles in the style of the games surprisingly well, even to numbering the puzzle numbers with three digit numbers, it is actually really surprising to see how well it fits in to the story, but the film doesn’t give a lot of time for most of the puzzle for the audience to work it out. I could also say they don’t do enough puzzles but I think having more would drag out the film. The story is also very moving and like the stories in the games, so this film definitely fits like the games themselves.
Overall, this is most likely going to be one of the best games based films of the year, if not one of the best anime films based on a franchise. It is very faithful to the games and if you like the series or want to get into them then I certainly advise giving this film a look.
“Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva” is available from Manga Entertainment. The original video games on the Nintendo DS which include Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Pandora’s Box and Lost Future (All UK Titles) are available from Nintendo and Level-5 Games. Two more games in the series, Spectre’s Flute for the DS and Mask of Miracles for the 3DS are planned for a Japanese release in 2010 and 2011 with a later UK and USA release. While no sequel or future film is set for a release, Level-5 has stated that they plan to release new films every winter and there is a live action film in the works.