Professor Hershel Layton—renowned archaeologist, puzzle-solver, and extraordinary gentleman—and his young aspiring apprentice Luke Triton receive a mysterious letter from his former student Janice Quatlane containing tickets to an opera at the Crown Petone. They soon discover that it is no ordinary opera, but rather a devious game for the legendary Fountain of Youth—the giver of eternal life. However, this only scratches the surface of an unfolding mystery that the pair must solve together in order to survive.
Despite being faced with complex puzzles and fervent competition, Professor Layton and his trusted assistant Luke never forget to uphold the standards of true gentlemen... and a true gentleman never leaves a puzzle unsolved.
Game adaptations seem to be a bit of a tricky subject for most anime studios for some reason. There are numerous examples of a perfectly good game being turned into mediocre show for no other reason than to cash in on the game's popularity. Part of the problem stems from the mistaken belief that fans of a particular game will spend their hard earned cash on a sub par representation of it, and while there are people who will buy the anime adaptation, the resulting income barely justifies the cost of making the show in the first place.
Not all adaptations are bad though. While many
adopt a rather simplistic method using the existing storyline and characters (and nothing more than that to be honest), there are a few that take a more revisionist approach and attempt to reconcile various elements of the game's storyline (tightening up the plot, adding new themes and improving existing characters amongst other things - Tears to Tiara is a good example of the revisionist approach at work).
On the other side of the coin there are anime adaptations that simply use the game's existing characters and the world in which they live to create a totally new story. Titles like Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike have proven how this method can enhance the game in a way a straightforward adaptation cannot, however this method also has its own inherent issues (for example ensuring the plot actually works within the framework of the game's world).
Layton Kyouju to Eien no Uta Hime (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva), falls into the latter category of adaptations, and while it may look like a show aimed at kids and fans of the games, there's surprisingly more depth to it than one might expect.
The story begins with Professor of Archaeology and puzzle enthusiast Hershel Layton and his self styled "number one apprentice" Luke investigating the theft of Big Ben (to those of you who don't know, Big Ben is actually the nickname of the bell, although most people use it for the tower). Following the successful completion of this investigation the pair continue with their normal affairs until Layton receives a letter from an old acquaintance, the opera singer Jenis Quatlane.
And so another adventure begins.
One of the things that stands out right from the start is the acknowledgement that not all viewers may be familiar with the games. The opening five minutes offer a concise introduction to the characters and the world in both a visual and descriptive sense. By necessity only the important facts are imparted, however there is enough information given during the first few scenes to allow all but the most pedantic viewers to enjoy the movie.
Given that this is ostensibly a movie for children, the story proper is well formed and proceeds at a nice pace, but there is an inherent predictability about certain characters and events. The plot is somewhat simplistic for the most part, however there are flashes of ingenuity that can keep the viewer guessing - no matter their age. What is probably the most surprising aspect of The Eternal Diva though, is that it's actually a rather interesting movie to watch.
The movie incorporates several aspects of the game's mechanics into itself in a rather interesting manner. Given that this is based on the world of Professor Layton there are the obvious puzzles to solve, but in addition to this there are scattered references linking the movie to the games in some very subtle ways. One example of this is the numerical notation for the first puzzle Layton and Luke have to solve a short way into the story, as the font is exactly the same as that used for the puzzles in the games. This attention to detail may cater specifically to those who have played the games, but the immersive quality it allows may also be tangible to those who've never heard of Professor Layton.
In terms of visuals The Eternal Diva is everything fans of the game would want to see. Layton and Luke appear exactly as they do in the games, while the rest of the characters have been designed to look as individual as possible. Everyone in the movie has a different look and feel, right down to their clothing, and one can only applaud the effort that has gone into their design. Granted they are on the simplistic side, but the sheer number of individual characteristics on show really does set this movie apart from many others. This attention to detail also applies to the scenery, which is as quaint and expressive as fans could wish for, and while the usage of CG does stand out a little from the backgrounds, the discrepancy is very minor, and not enough to upset the balance of the scenes.
The movie also features some very good animation, much of which is very fluid and well choreographed, however there are certain character actions and movements which are a bit on the ludicrous side. That said, this is a kids movie, and the stranger aspects of the animation may appeal to the movie's target audience more than it would to someone older.
Besides, I liked the fact that I got to watch Layton fight whilst holding onto his hat.
The Eternal Diva is a little bit unusual when it comes to the acting as the lead roles of Layton and Luke are played by Oizumi Yo and Horikita Maki, who also voice the characters in all three of the games. The rest of the cast is made up of some rather well known names, including Mizuki Nana as Jenis Quatlane and Orikasa Fumiko as Melina Whistler, and the experience they all bring to the movie really is telling.
There are a wealth of effects on display here too, each very clear and well synchronised, but one of the stars of the show is actually the music. As the title suggests music plays a key role in The Eternal Diva, and the movie makes great use of the pieces on offer. In addition to this the vocal tracks are just as absorbing as the instrumental ones, all of which add an air of authenticity to proceedings.
One small gripe though, is that a movie is nowhere near enough time to develop characters in any meaningful way, and The Eternal Diva is no exception to this. One of the aspects of the anime that may not sit too well with some people is the fact that both Layton and Luke are only fully appreciable if one has played at least the first game, hence the reason for the 5 minute introduction. The problem though, is that even if one has played The Curious Village and Pandora's Box (the only two games released before The Eternal Diva), there is still something lacking. The movie doesn't really try to develop Layton or Luke in any way, and while I do like them as characters, the truth is that they are very one dimensional from start to finish. Granted there is some decent characterisation at work in the film, but unfortunately it's not enough to carry the characters forward, and it's more like they're simply going through the motions of having an adventure rather than actually ... having an adventure.
This "shallowness" is also present in near enough every other character with a speaking role, and while it doesn't really detract from one's overall enjoyment of the movie, it also makes it more difficult to take it seriously. Unfortunately it seems to be a legacy from the movie's video-game origins, and one can only hope that future productions attempt to test the characters instead of simply letting them out for a run in the yard.
Be that as it may, in all honesty I rather enjoyed The Eternal Diva, but then again, I rather enjoyed the games as well. The movie isn't overly complex or taxing in any way, and there are some nice concepts introduced that make the story into something more like a strange cross between Sherlock Holmes, Tomb Raider and The A-Team (you'll understand why when you watch the movie), all wrapped up in some very proper manners and dry British wit.
Granted this is movie is very obviously catering to kids and fans of the games, but there's enough going on to keep most people happy. The Eternal Diva isn't so much an adaptation as an extra chapter in the story of Professor Layton, and because of this it has an appeal that many straight forward conversions just can't seem to match.
That said, I do have to wonder how many more games the franchise will sell as one could also view this as nothing more than a glorified advert.
There seems to be some great misconception among the general viewership that a work of film needs to be bursting at the seams with blood and sex to be “mature”. More people will see a film that wears an R rating like a badge of honour on a weathered veteran than will see Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva and films like it, and it’s their loss.
‘Eternal Diva’ is the first in a planned series of anime films based on the Professor Layton series of puzzle games. Though the games aren’t for everyone, the movie takes place years before the games’ timeline (with the exception
of a brief scene at the beginning, but it’s easy to tell what’s going on), so the uninitiated needn’t worry over catching up to a long, pre-existing canon. The plot is simple enough: Layton and Luke find themselves trapped in the middle of a contest, hosted by a strange masked man, in which the winner will gain immortality, and the unfortunate losers will all die. But not all is as it seems (is it ever?), and the professor and his young apprentice make it their mission to get to the bottom of the affair.
The plot is multi-layered, thought-out, and pristinely paced, though it never quite stops itself from being patently ridiculous (Hershel Layton built this helicopter in the jungle with a box of scraps!). As the film builds towards its climax it becomes increasingly bizarre, but by that point it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. That said, it’s fun all the way through, and if the viewer can suspend his disbelief long enough to watch Layton fall hundreds of feet through the air and land with his trademark top hat undisturbed from its place, he shouldn’t have too much trouble with the rest of the plot.
The writing does a remarkable job of fleshing out even the minor characters; they all have their reasons for pursuing the prize of immortality (some more noble than others). Every character has a defined personality and motivation without resorting to “quirkiness” (with the exception of Growski, though he’s not a bad character—bless justice-serving, shark-wrestling, moustache-having hairy bosom). As for the main characters, the titular Professor is an almost paternal character whose patient, distanced and logical approach to even the most outrageous of subjects gives the viewer a sense of respect for the character, rather than seeming elitist or even creepy (as it would were it guided by clumsier writing). Luke Triton, our young Watson, manages to be cute and believably childlike without grating on the viewer’s nerves.
The character designs are unique among anime, and they will further endear some viewers (like myself) and drive others off. The art style is a very simplistic kind of imitation of Western cartoons with an unmistakably Japanese twist, and the film is set in dusty, sunny Edwardian England, unafraid to dabble in steampunk. The art and even the way the characters move is expressive and fluid enough that even a quick glance over a character gives the viewer an idea of their personality. Upon seeing the character designs, one could be forgiven for expecting the same childish cartoon art in the whole picture, but OLM takes care to render the Victorian architecture—and other settings—in loving detail.
Those familiar with the Professor Layton games will recognise a few songs from their soundtracks making cameo appearances here, particularly Layton’s own catchy leitmotif. The film’s original songs aren’t too shabby either, sporting surprisingly entrancing vocal work by Nana Mizuki (let it be said that this is the first time I’ve found her voice to be anything other than grating). There’s not much I can say about the voice acting, simply because it’s very good—though some minor characters have exaggerated, embellished ways of speaking, it works, and it’s not unexpected (this is, after all, a cartoon).
If it sounds like I’m gushing about the movie, it’s probably because I am. It’s hard to remember the last time I enjoyed an anime this much, and although it can probably be attributed to my fannish expectations and love of the games it’s based on, I can’t imagine anyone honestly calling Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva a bad movie. It’s worth a chance; give it one.
I'd have to tell you one thing, Finishing this anime made me feel like I finished Lupin III and the Castle of Cagliostro all over again, and that actually says much, considering the fact that overall, I consider Lupin III and the Castle of Cagliostro the best anime I've ever seen.
It all starts with Prof. Layton and sidekick Luke being invited to an opera by a very important person who happens to be a former acquaintance of Prof. Layton, Seeing that this is a Layton movie, Things suddenly go awry the moment the whole performance is finished, puzzles ensue.
The score, as heard on all the
Prof.Layton games, is astoundingly staggering and the art makes you feel like you're watching a show that's done by Studio Ghibli, it may rely a bit on CG, but it actually goes quite well with everything.
Regardless, I'm disappointed that they didn't release this in cinemas throughout the US, It had the potential to outsell Ponyo. If you want an anime that will make you feel that excitement you once experienced back when you were a kid, this is the anime you're looking for.
For those who've played or heard of the Professor Layton games, this movie serves as its own story within that universe. While I haven't played any of the games myself to see the relations of those game's plots and this movie, I had no issues understanding who is who and who is most likely the main characters of the games. That aside, not ever playing the games (but always hearing of their great quality) I had always assumed that Professor Layton was a mystery-solving, focused game with somewhat complex things to unravel. While this movie, on MAL, does only contain the genre "mystery" to describe
it, I wouldn't come into it thinking you're going to be holding onto Layton's shoes seeing how he's going to solve a list of seemingly impossible problems. Infact, if I was in-charge of picking genres, I would include "adventure" and "fantasy", which may give you a much better idea of what kind of movie this really is.
Reminding that I've never played any Professor Layton game, or ever browsed what they're like, I always thought that they took place in a more or less realistic setting where solutions to problems wouldn't involve devices that have never been invented or any form of fantasy involvement. It always presented itself in the cover photos as something more on the lines of a colorful Sherlock Homes, which shows what mindset I had before entering this movie. I did expect it to be a bit family-friendly, and it is, but the involvement of fantasy into the plot was far stronger than I had hoped.
Throughout the entire movie, there were probably 3 or 4 solid mysteries to solve that didn't rely on anything fantasy (which would make it more unreasonable to be able to solve it). While some of these mysteries were a bit clever, some were less and I could come up with the solution almost on the spot. The mystery aspect in general is fairly weak and was the greatest disappointment I had with this film.
The characters and their interactions was probably the most interesting part of the film, along with the atmosphere it had nearer to the beginning. The art style was also interesting with a good amount of great animation, but at times the quality of the drawings did seem to be a bit too simple for a full-blown movie.
One other thing to note about the fantasy aspects of this movie is that they aren't particularly bad and they do have some depth (ironically more depth than the actual mysteries go), but a mystery movie shouldn't rely on fantasy as factors to try and find solutions. Not to mention this movie, within its deeper fantasy themes, has its own understanding of how humans are that might even conflict with other people's beliefs making it impossible for them to understand what is truly going on.
Overall, I didn't dislike this movie, but I wasn't too impressed with it either. My expectations, and assumptions, beforehand should be noted as fans of the series might be getting exactly what they expected with this movie. It may very well be a great adaptation of the series. It's just the series in general seemed to fluff up its mystery aspects which I found very simple and very scarce in this movie. I would say for those who have not gotten into the games that this movie should not be gone into as a mystery movie, but as a family-friendly, adventure fantasy.
The Jewish population in Japan may be tiny (IT'S UNDER 9000!), but there's a long history of exchange between Jewish and Japanese culture. Here's some historical background and a list of stand-out Jewish characters in anime, manga, and light novels.