Yuri Anime: Riddle Story of a Devil, Disk 1 (English)

June 18th, 2017

Riddle Story of a Devil: Akuma no Riddle is the story of “Class Black” a super-secret class at absurdly elite Myoujo Academy. All of the members of Class Black are assassins with one exception – and that exception will be their target. (Apparently) normal girl Ichinose Haru is the target and the others will vie to kill her in order to gain their greatest desire. But, as one might expect, nothing is as it seems.

One of the assassins, Azuma Tokaku, defects to Haru’s side and pits herself against the class as Haru’s bodyguard.

The story, which has a fair amount of service, is definitely meant for an audience that likes that kind of thing, but the writing is slightly less exclusive. In the anime Haru is harmless, but not entirely helpless. And there is a kind of redemption in the assassin’s attempts and their outcomes.

Kadokawa is absolute genius at cranking out moderately entertaining, formulaic anime that can be marketed within an inch of it’s life. Every once in a they have a massive break-out hit, like the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, that can pay for many dozens of other series for years. Those dozens of others are generally good, often involve some big names in conception or production, and are both profitable and entertaining enough to pay for themselves. Riddle Story of a Devil: Akuma no Riddle was one of these.

Based on the manga drawn by Kouga Yun, the story feels, from beginning to end, like something built by committee. As I rewatched it, I was constantly put in mind of Seraphim Call, a mediocre anime of the late 20th century that, upon rewatch, was better than I gave it credit for. Especially Volume 2. In the sense that every episode is effectively a character piece that only tangentially affects the main story, Riddle Story of a Devil reminded me of this earlier series of pastiches.

The animation is very much of this time and place, but for all that, not terrible. Characters are variable, as they are meant to be, but watching it, I was motivated yet again, to promise to not come up with convoluted plots to kill people, or explain anything. Or speak in some weird, annoying way. If I were to become an assassin, the rule would be get in, get out, move on. No talking. I’d also like the committee to explain why the character of Kaiba exists at all. Useless doesn’t come close to describing his role. If they cut everything of him out of the story it would affect exactly one scene.

The one thing I genuinely liked throughout the series was the music. The end-of-episode themes were all sung by the assassin who was the focus of that particular episode and both music and lyrics were suited nicely to their story. Those were really quite good.

The Yuri. Well….the Yuri is here more by reputation than anything. We can see that Kirigaya and Chitaru are together-ish and we can kind of see that Tokaku has no idea why she wants to help Haru (and, frankly, at first, neither can I. It’s not until Haru shows some spine, that I was convinced.) The opening credits kind of imply a thing between them but in Disk 1, it’s really not there.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Not bad, not zOMG good. Random bits of CGI
Story – 7 Not bad, not zOMG good. Random bits of plot
Characters – 7 Types, rather than people, with backstories to make them human
Service – 6 Nudity, lascivious gaze of the camera, and a sexually deviant serial killer
Yuri – 2 At halfway, barely there and only because we’re looking for it.

Overall – 7

So, yeah, this isn’t high art, it’s low entertainment, but for solid, slightly service-y, slightly violent entertainment, it was pretty good. I like the fight scenes well enough, and the gimmicky assassins are just silly.

My sincere thanks to Okazu Superhero Dan P for sponsoring this review! It’s right in your wheelhouse and mine.
Good weekend entertainment, with the lightest glaze of Yuri.

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