Akuma no riddle is an anime I really don't understand. It was marketed (and hyped) as a dark-action Yuri anime, but what it delivered was disney-esque action with a touch of friendship is magic. The story is based in a certain Myoujou Academy, where the black class is actually just a bunch of assassins trying to take out their hit (Haru). However though, one of the assassins (Tokakau) decides that she likes Haru and will protect her against all these terrors.
Now, while the premise is rather interesting -being a death game and all- it imposes specific rules to this game. The winner of the game supposedly gets one of their wishes granted, but they must first give Haru an advance notice before they try to take her out. Since only one wish is fulfilled, it discourages the assassins from working together and forces them to give away their element of surprise.
and from then on out, AnR fell to the ground.
Since the assassins were attacking in installments, it rapidly became obvious that Tokaku is gonna take them all out - after all, that is the only way for the plot to progress. This is often referred to as a "Monster of the Week setup". If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, a monster of the week setup has a strong monster appearing and posing a threat to the main character on a weekly (in this case, episodic) basis. Kind of like how pokemon did it. This forces the storyline down a very predictable path, with tokaku clearing assassins one after the other. If that wasn't bad enough, the assassins make such half-assed attempts at Haru's life that it is almost pitiable - and they do hype their master plans in advance.
This is probably best explained by Haruki's tactic. Before she attacked, she asked Nio if her wish will still be granted if she died and took Haru with her. This suggested something like blowing up half the school in an attempt to kill Haru so that her wish will finally be fulfilled. What really happened was that she made the theater lights fall on Haru- so SCARY. Even then, her master plan was executed perfectly, Tokaku was taken off-guard and the lights hit her the best they could. But what was the result of this perfectly executed plan? Tokaku just shrugged it off and stood up, and Haruki was knocked unconscious. What a lethal plan, retard.
After all is said and done, the story ends being pretty wishy washy and forcing happiness through plot armor alone. Oh, X didn't die from whatever would kill her cause company Y had inserted Z in her body!
Something like that.
That said, not all is wrong with its story. I found that the buildup and atmosphere was really well created and the immersion was pretty nice. The character development -while being episodic- was still fairly good. Think of it like a football match, one team gets a great buildup, breaks through the opposing side with runs and spot on passing, trick the goalkeeper, and then they fail to score. Repeatedly.
For the most part, the characters were pretty diverse and didn't follow cardboard cut out archetypes. While there were till characters that were fitting certain cliches (rich girl, crazy girl, cute girl with the bear) they mostly outgrew those during their epsiode.
And that right there is the fault.
Characters develop only during their turn as the monster of the week, outside of which they just talk about the current monster and comment on non-descript things (like, "So, its time for THAT, huh?"). So even though their development is good in their own episodes, it still seems like "oh, its time to throw some story out for girl #1321"
So to describe the development, the word I'd use is probably "forced". Despite providing a lot of story and spending a lot of time on the characters, it just isn't able to execute them properly.
That said, some ends really were great. The Romeo and Juliet one comes to mind. That was perfect. Although, the overall end of the series ruined that too. Anyways, the character I probably liked the best was probably Nio, she was pretty likable from the get go and her twin personalities were the deal clincher. I kinda liked banba too, but the story doesn't really give her the respect or the screen time she deserves.
However, considering the large cast of characters and only being given 12 episodes to fit the development in, I think AnR did a decent job.
At the start, the palette was nothing special. It was somewhat gritty and realistic, but it was unable to cover for the plot's failures. Despite that, I liked the artwork at specific times. To be more precise, the art really only strays from "average" when it tries to be darker, and when it does get darker, it looks great. There aren't a lot of faults to speak of, but there aren't a lot of extraordinary thing either when its being all bright and sunny.
Character models were fine and a bit heavily detailed, but once again, only showed greatness during darker parts.
The environment was surprisingly detailed, and while I would count that as a plus point, most of the time the environment isn't interactable. "wait" you say "this isn't a game, what the fuck is an interactable environment in this context?" By interactable, I refer to it being dynamic. Or perhaps showing when something should effect it. It just wasn't there.
Take a look at ep10, to be more specific, the part where Hanabusa (?) throws the chandelier at Tokaku. It hits her face first and drives her into the wall, after which Tokaku tries getting up and you can see that the wall is undamaged and the weapons are precisely where they were before being hit by a chandelier going like 40KMPH.
and right before that scene, Tokaku reaches for a pistol after leaving her cover and exposing herself to fire despite the fact that she had multiple weapons behind her!
That said, I still adored the art style and it looked really good at certain points. I'd say that the overall artwork is good.
This was a fairly surprising development. Considering the wide cast of characters, I assumed that the VAs would probably be terrible considering they are only supposed to play anything approaching a normal character for one episode, but I felt that the VAs did a fine job with what they had.
The music section is quite...varied. I liked the OP to a certain extent, but the real meat of the music section is the ED. There are character EDs and all of them are unique to the episode and are voiced by the monster of the episode, not to mention - all of them are quite nice.
That is honestly all there is to talk about in the music section. The rest was pretty standard.
For the most part AnR was...disappointing. Once again, I refer to the earlier football analogy. It was annoying how often the series missed its mark. It was like it wasn't even aiming for the goal, but at the audience of cheering fans who just want everything to work out. In that same sense, AnR's finishes were more aimed at the niche audience of 10 year olds who believe that everything in the world is bright and sunny with friendship being the power against all evil. Which is quite different than what it originally wanted to be - a dark gritty tale of lesbian assassins in a fight to the death. I mean, who the hell would NOT watch that? The complete disregard to its marketed genre and its incompetency at providing satisfying endings is probably the most paramount reason for AnR not being quite as enjoyable. But then again, there is some solace to be found in the fact that AnR really does have some good buildup and it isn't boring at any point. The pacing is fair enough and it manages to shoehorn everything into 12 episodes.
With that said, I would't really recommend watching Akuma no Riddle to anyone that wants what it seems like. If you want a somewhat darker but happy ending sort of anime, then I guess this is it. Implying of course that such a market even exists, though I'm pretty sure it doesn't.