With an interesting premise that is dark and alluring, this show looked very promising. The thing with some anime adaptions is that it’s hard to pull off while the source material is still on-going. Studios and Staff that take on this type of project are now tasked with a challenging job of getting the execution right. Akuma no Riddle is sadly held back from the poor execution on many of the aspects, ideas and story elements it presented that prevents the show from being great.
Adapted from Yun Kouga's manga, Akuma no Riddle follows the path of Tokaku Azuma, a seasoned assassin who transfers to a private boarding school in Myoujou Academy to attend Class Black. It consists of 13 students, 12 being assassins and 1 being the target in Haru Ichinose, a bright and cheerful girl who aims to become friends with her peers. Unknowing to her, things soon take a turn for the worst. The purpose of this Class is more of a test or game for the assassins, they have to find out who is the target among them and then assassinate her within the rules that have been established. The ruling is that the target must be informed that she is going to be targeted and killed and that it must happen within 48 hours after issuing the notice. Failing to follow the ruling or the completion of the assassination within the time frame has one expelled from Class Black. If successful, one is granted any wish of their desire.
Tokaku concludes that Haru is the target after thoroughly examining her peers and has her sights on her. She finds out that Haru will become her roommate and after spending the time to getting to know her more, she becomes drawn to her to the point where she defects to her side and becomes her protector as they both strive to graduate Class Black. This is how the story begins and I found this rather interesting. I like the whole idea of this survival concept but as the story progresses, it felt that it was following an episodic format where an episode is dedicated to each one of the girls trying to kill Haru. While we get some flashbacks about their past and how they came to Class Black, it leaves every character besides Tokaku and Haru one episode for development. This led to shallow characters, rushed conclusions and a drowned out overarching story which for the most part makes Akuma no Riddle fail to make anything meaningful.
This is where I felt Akuma no Riddle was lacking and it’s how the show handles its characters. I wish there was more exploration with our main protagonists though we get to see their true self behind the façade they put on and also learn important details of their past. For the rest of the characters, due to time constraints of only 12 episodes, it was a tough ask to get more from them or to care for them. This is a big flaw, given the setup of the show is extremely character driven and with the ‘assassination of the week’ approach it gives limited ways for development, which in this case comes from a flashback, what they want for their reward or how they failed the assassination. One episode for development is simply not enough to feel invested.
One of the things to appreciate about Akuma no Riddle is its distinctive look and style. The world is well designed, the art style and colour palette used helped create a dark and eerie atmosphere which increased the intensity of the assassinations. The character designs were very well done and each character's look suited their personalities. Diomedea studio did ok with the animation, it was consistent despite drops in quality occasionally. Majority of the action scenes were very fluid and choreographed very well. An interesting choice the show implemented was the custom Ending that each episode got dedicated to each character of the series. I found that very creative and it added more content—showing a little summary about their story.
The score is mainly fast-paced and dark atmospheric tracks to keep you engaged in the assassinations but no particular track was inherently memorable. Immediately I found myself hooked to the Opening song, "Soushou Innocence" by Maaya Uchida. It really sets the mood and tone for the series while also fitting the themes. As mentioned before, I was pleased by the custom Endings and to go along with the different animation used in each one was also different songs. This is what made the Endings so refreshing and another plus factor in the creativity category. I had no issues regarding the voice acting, each of the voices used fitted the design and personality of the character. They deserve praise for showcasing the characters true killer instinct perfectly both in and outside of the assassinations.
When the series began, I noticed it had a "Yuri" tag but that was later switched with ‘Shoujo-ai’. Call me blind if I missed anything but there was no Yuri, sure there were hints with Tokaku and Haru's relationship but nothing serious or anything that would turn viewers off who may not like Yuri. The concept of survival game is nothing new but it did attempt to give it a bit more flair, something I can appreciate. The rating I had for it before the last two episodes was a bit higher but I had to bring it down because I felt the ending was anticlimactic and was disappointed on the route it chose. Despite its flaws Akuma no Riddle can still be an enjoyable thriller for those who like episodic series with lots of action, it has its moments and I felt that I may have enjoyed it a bit more if I didn’t go into the show with high expectations.