Female assassins? Check! Implied shōjo-ai relationships? It there in spirit! Anything else of value to make it worth the price of admission? Wish I could say that the devil is in the details, but appears he took his Spring break early.
Title: Akuma no Riddle (Lit: Devil’s Riddle, Riddle Story of Devil)
Genre: Action, Drama, Shōjo-ai
At a private girls’ boarding school, Myōjō Academy, thirteen girls are transferred into the academy’s “10th Year Class Black”. Of these thirteen students, twelve are assassins from various backgrounds who are all tasked with assassinating the remaining student, a girl named Haru Ichinose. If they succeed, they will be granted any wish they desire, but if they fail, they are expelled from the class. One of the assassins, Tokaku Azuma, develops feelings for Haru and defects to her side, resolving to protect her from the other assassins.
Like a vast majority of “this medium” to anime adapted works that precede through the greenlit gambit, Akuma no Riddle falls under the category of “how did it slip through”. With having no more than 2 volumes of manga to its name, it is quite fascinating to see that it was at least given enough consideration to be woven together neatly and provided a rather conclusive ending. As unimaginative as the concept is and inept the details are going in, a weird synergy manifest. For something that turns out satisfactory, how does it end up unsatisfactory overall? Clearly, Akuma no Riddle has little to nothing of value to make its lackluster, nonexistence parts equal to the unoccupied whole.
Wherein the concept of the series has veteran assassin Tokaku Azuma turn against 11 fellow assassins that enroll in her class at a chance to kill Haru Ichinose, a mysterious girl that whoever kills her gets their wish granted – it already starts on more questionable grounds than a series normally would. Although, with the wish component remaining a steadfast, yet convenient device, it only exist to give the assassins an opportune moment to share their backgrounds within the “villain-of-week” scheme each episode tirelessly drags to the forefront. Granted that the majority of the characters come off with uninteresting past life’s that lead them into the assassination trade, Tokaku and Haru holding onto the protagonist flag aren’t any better. For all the suffering Haru endures (mentally and more so, physically), it is difficult to fall into her comer of support or exactly find Tokaku alluring for her steely persona hiding her indecisiveness as she tries to figure out why she decided to protect Haru in the first place. Not all is it hard to care about such characters, but does become increasing difficult when they come off as vapid or at the very least, portrayed that way. .
All that being said, the aforementioned “villain-of-week” format engrained into the series really doesn’t afford it much in terms of deviation. Between all the assassination attempts and Tokaku’s unwavering resolve to protect Haru, that is completely all each episode carries in terms of substance with no new knowledge gained or secrets gradually unearthed. The 10th episode is only real turning point, hinting at Haru’s already known secret behind the attempts on her life and leading up to the revelations that hardly made sitting through the series worth it or even providing a grounded explanation. Hence, the term “inept “. I do commend director Keizo Kusakawa for attempting to imbue some excitement and show off some the more desired aspects of the series (episode 8 and 9 is a good example), but due to the impromptu nature of many scenarios – it just doesn’t allow that to happen often. Instead of coming together naturally, it is a forcibly and awkward experience. And for all those salivating over the Shōjo-ai elements, they exist about on the same plane as the contextual details. With the heavy exception of Haru and Tokaku (Hitsugi and Chitaru are about as obligatory as you get), it is subtly implied for most others that manage to tick the check-boxes.
Diomedea’s animation of the series is at least an attractive asset, but more just in terms of visuals than anything other than that. For the all action that briefly happens across the series, it really amounts to choppy and laggard sequences – if only for a few of the earlier episodes where they do get more lively toward the end, but not by much. As a series that does follow assassins, the animation does at least set mood appropriately: featuring a lot of dismal backgrounds and contrasted with occasionally sharp, deep color shades. The musical works a bit better in the series favor with most orchestral pieces adding to the flair and dramatics wasted via the narrative and other areas.
With every single incomplete light novel and manga that resides in the prospective library, Akuma no Riddle is just one that is too limited in content. Despite Kusakawa’s best efforts, without that content, it doesn’t matter how well resolved or woven together if it doesn’t have anything that the core. It is just that plain and simple. By no means does that mean Akuma no Riddle is a terrible idea – just significantly squandered. And above that, also means that their possibly have to be other titles worth adapting than turning to one taking an intermission. At the very least, I hope so or studios are running out of outlets to work with. Regardless, if you want Sakura Trick with action boiled into the mix, you won’t be getting that and if that is where your expectations lie – get rid of them now to save yourself the disappointment. Otherwise, you’re looking at another fragmentary adaptation among many with potential wasted.
Pros: Decent animation, decent concept, nice soundtrack,
Cons: story lacking content, most characters/characterization is insipid