Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Anime Review: Akuma no Riddle


Welp, that was frustrating. I mostly enjoyed Akuma no Riddle (a.k.a. Riddle Story of Devil), but it easily could have been better than it was, and that ending sure sucked. But let me backtrack.

Akuma no Riddle is about an assassin named Tokaku who is put in a high school class full of assassins, where they are all to target one girl among them, Haru. Whoever kills Haru gets anything she wants. Tokaku defects to protect Haru, and most of the episodes involve one assassin at a time trying to off Haru- with a couple exceptions that mess with the formula. Tokaku is supposed to be falling in love with Haru and vice versa, and there are enough hints that their being canonically paired would make sense, but we get damn little pay-off for what is billed as a yuri series.

Two of the assassins, Chitaru and Hitsugi, become a canon side couple, whose episode I liked- although wow, their final scene was explained badly. I also especially liked Haruki's episode because, like Chitaru and Hitsugi, she was sympathetic; Otoya's portion because Haru's response to her was way better than I expected given how she is marketed (I liked that aspect of Sumireko's episode also); and Isuke's because, while she isn't a favorite of mine, I like that her backstory is, "A gay couple gave me a more loving home than my original home." I thought her mention of her dads in episode 2 was just going to be a throwaway line, but this series developed her family life and capped it off with a final scene I really liked. Additionally, Haru was more active in saving herself than I expected, although I wish that held true during the final episode. It's also interesting that, aside from Isuke's dad Eisuke, all of the assassins we see, including Tokaku's grandma (who is the head of a legendary assassin clan), are women, and it's something I wish this series had delved into a little more.

Anyway, AnR would have benefited from getting more than twelve episodes to tell its story and develop its cast, but I still enjoyed it as a fighty yuri series with a plot- as opposed to another slice-of-life comedy- assuming that the story and yuri-scented relationship between Haru and Tokaku would have pay-off. I don't want to beat to death how disappointing Haru and Tokaku's relationship ultimately was- lordy, you'd think a title marketing itself as a yuri series would do more by its story's end- so I will move on to bitching about how the rest of the story turned out.

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Wtf was Tokaku doing in that last episode? It would have been so much stronger if Haru and Tokaku had discussed what to do to get out of the game. Instead, Tokaku played right into it because she wanted to prove her feelings were real. Was Haru dying really worth that? It would have been a much stronger ending if, instead of Tokaku getting lucky and not killing Haru because of the convenient titanium plot device, they had come up with a fake-trying-to-kill-Haru plan with the knowledge that stabbing her in that location wouldn't kill her. As for Chitaru and Hitsugi- normally I would just be like "Yay!" about a fictional lesbian couple I liked not being dead- although I wasn't offended by them dying, I guess because of the assumed Tokaku x Haru endgame, and didn't feel that sad about it otherwise because I wasn't super-attached to them before it happened- but this series did such a piss poor job explaining why they were alive. However half-assed the explanation for Haru being alive was, at least we got an explanation. It's especially hand-wavey in Chitaru's case, since she drank a bottle of poison brewed by a legendary poison assassin. Anyway, I won't go through all of the final episode handwaves- if you're reading this, you probably know what I mean. At the very least, Isuke's last scene was perfect, and I'm a little amused that the best couple in this series was ultimately the m/m one even though we saw the least of them.
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Anyway, despite my ranting, I did mostly enjoy watching this series- but again, the pay-off I expected did not happen. A bonus OVA episode with a new short story is apparently set to be released, though, so maybe it'll help rectify the queerbaiting in the TV series. Still wish the series itself had done more given its billing, though.

Akuma no Riddle is streaming in North America on Hulu (here) with much less hassle than on Funimation's site (here), and in Europe (excluding German-speaking territories, Ireland, the UK, and Scandinavia), the Arab League, and the Middle East on Crunchyroll.

3 comments:

drawnseeker said...

I do enjoy the series simply because it was so different from the dozens of yuri stories. It's not perfect (I wish there was more character development beyond One assassin each episode.) I wish more yuri would try new things instead of chaining itself to the classic school girls in love plot line. (Now, if only Hayate X Blade could get an anime.)

Katherine Hanson said...

@drawnseeker- I'm with you on wanting to see more variety. (And yes, an HxB adaptation!) I got the two volumes of the Akuma no Riddle manga that are out so far because I understand that the manga is better than the anime, so fingers crossed for that.

drawnseeker said...

I hope the manga comes to America, we can always use more Yuri.