The Spring 2014 anime season was a little bare, but there’s always at least one or two eye-catching titles I want to check out every week. This season, the only anime I was compelled to watch — aside from Soul Eater NOT!, which I’d been anticipating — was Akuma no Riddle, released in English as Riddle Story of the Devil.
Akuma no Riddle is the story of the Black Class, thirteen girls in a single special class at an elite high school in Japan. Twelve of the girls are assassins of varying calibers; the thirteenth is their target. At least until one of the assassins, Toukaku, turns around and steps up as a defender of the target, a sweet and clueless-seeming girl named Haru.
I started watching Akuma no Riddle with a certain level of expectation. It’s one of the first yuri/shoujo-ai anime I’ve seen — unless you count Sailor Moon, which doesn’t really count in the North American dub — and based on the variety of yuri/shoujo-ai manga I’ve read in the past, I was curious to see what Akuma no Riddle might do the same or differently.
In terms of the art, my expectations were met completely. A fast Google search brings up plenty of clips from the manga, and the anime’s color style is a good translation of the black-and-white manga.
One of my favorite things about this anime? The super-creepy facial expressions.
Facial expressions are usually my favorite thing about anime and manga, anyway, but the expressions in Akuma no Riddle pretty much blast other creepy facial expressions out of the water. The best ones are from Nio, the small blonde towards the front of the cast picture above, who serves as the main organizer of the girls in the Black Class. She’s got by far the creepiest of manga expressions, and the anime stays faithful to that as well.
When watching an action-adventure anime, there are really two main aspects to evaluate: character development and awesome action scenes. Like many action-adventure anime — especially ones with just 12 episodes, as Akuma no Riddle has — this series manages to hit only one of these aspects. The assassin-on-assassin fight scenes are intense and a ton of fun, even though some of them turn pretty gross, and each girl’s specialty, ranging from sword-fighting to bombs to a pair of giant scissors, makes each episode an exciting ride.
Unfortunately, the time devoted to the fight scenes significantly reduces the amount of time available to develop the characters, their personalities, or their relationships to one another. While one pair of assassins in particular has a pretty cute relationship (for assassins, anyway), their friendship-but-probably-more is the only one besides that of Toukaku and Haru. I was itching to see more interactions between the characters — they live in pairs in the dorms, with some getting along well and others, uh, not — and more time devoted to each one before she mysteriously disappeared after her assassination attempt.
Akuma no Riddle is definitely the sort of show to marathon when you’re bored or just want to watch some epic fight scenes, and its 6-hour total run time makes it easy to marathon in one night or on a sick day. But if your anime viewing habits require more character-building, this may not be quite for you.
You can find Akuma no Riddle on Hulu under the title Riddle Story of the Devil.
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