Anime: Riddle Story of Devil
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 8th, 2015
Retail Price: $64.98
Riddle Story of Devil is based on a manga series by Yun Kouga, telling the story of twelve female assassins from a top-notch boarding school with one similar goal in mind – a very deadly game. The group of girls are all privy to a target in this twisted assassination game that requires them all to compete amongst each other to kill a seemingly average girl named Haru Ichinose. The game is secret to anyone outside of the core 12 participants, and we learn that only one girl can be determined as the champion, which will earn her anything she could possibly desire. Almost instantly you begin to see how many of these girls are ruthlessly prepared to take the life of an innocent, versus those (few) who are apprehensive.
In addition to Haru’s large role in Riddle Story of Devil, we meet Tokaku Azuma, one of the teenage assassins known for her emotional detachment. Fortunately for Haru, Tokaku finds herself intrigued by the suggested target, causing a rift between her mission and a developing emotional attachment. In order to keep her newfound friend safe and alive, Tokaku decides to embrace her cherished skills against the other contenders – something you can imagine is a major point of conflict for Riddle Story of Devil. Ironically, the gullible Haru ends up needing the aid of someone sent to kill her as her only hope at staying alive in an environment where the odds are against the both of them. Starting out the relationship with the two under life and death circumstances gives the characters a chance to learn more about each other in unusual and testing times. Something specific that sparks the ongoing bodyguard role of Tokaku occurs when she notices an abundance of scars from others targeting her as well, reassuring Tokaku that she has no desire to see Haru endure any additional pain.
The plot of the anime does have many serious elements in its makeup, but it also plays up an unrealistic premise for a series. Sure, a large number of teenage assassins at a boarding school with homicide as an endgame is unlikely, but that doesn’t stop the series from converting to darker life struggles as well. Another intended story includes massive yuri overtones between the primary characters, but being in an all-girl school of course shows that other characters are also included in the yuri-ness that is treated more casually in anime than yaoi. I’m glad to share that the yuri in Riddle Story of Devil isn’t enough to isolate causal viewers – sure it’s noticeable in the anime, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely a detriment to the anime by any means. I enjoyed the developing bond linking the two women, and they both brought very different qualities to the anime which complemented the characters vastly. A quite guileless Haru opposite a rudimentary Tokaku follows a formula that gives a viewer at least one character to enjoy, but in this case I found both contained properties worth appreciating.
Tokaku is definitely the character who receives the most air time in the anime, with ties to every character whether through conflict, association, or flashbacks, and she caries a major portion of the plot in Riddle Story of Devil. Her change of heart about the mission is probably unusual for the deadly character with little friends, but it is portrayed authentic enough to make the connection between Haru and Tokaku. There are additional flashbacks about Tokaku’s childhood that led to the person she has become, and we begin to understand more about it – where in the end, Tokaku comes face to face with her past and has a chance to acknowledge something that has eaten away at her for years on end. Tokaku is a brilliant fighter and weapon specialist in addition to a savvy survivalist, proving to be someone worth siding with when there’s an attempted group of assassins targeting you. She is probably my favorite character in the anime, and has enough qualities to make it known she resides in a morally gray area.
Haru’s character is mostly shrouded in mystery (with reveals in the end about her involvement) but she doesn’t provide much reason to dislike her. Yes, Haru fills a damsel in distress role, but I liked the fact that other characters make reference to that – pushing Haru to fend for herself as the series reaches the penultimate moments. Another noteworthy aspect to Haru is that although she exudes a naïve personality, she begins to learn from the scenarios she experiences and keeps the hopefulness that’s a part of her, yet she also develops the distinct ability to realize what’s (mostly) going on around her. The ending brings her relationship with Tokaku back into focus, feeling like the series accomplished what it set out to do – but still leaving a door open incase of a desire to continue the story of Haru and Tokaku.
The animation sequences in Riddle Story of Devil include great fight scenes with elaborate detail, and the art embraces appealing character designs with a strong choice of colors, (especially in the dark lit or night scenes.) I enjoyed the English dub cast, most notably Tokaku’s voice actress for bringing that mellow – and slightly disinterested portrayal of a character with a deeper back-story. I like that Riddle Story of Devil feels like it tells a story beginning to end, with some filler along the way, but still taking the time to answer questions about the characters the series centers on.
Overall Score: 7.8/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:
-The concept ranges from intense, to goofy, and even occasionally romantically driven, much more than I would have expected from the series.
-I was relieved that Haru doesn’t stay oblivious to the occurrences surrounding her character.
-Tokaku made a great anti-hero with deeper roots that begin to become exposed over the course of the anime.
-Random creepy memorable moment goes to the puppet tea party that was intended to up the death toll.