Monday, August 25, 2014

Anime Review: Riddle Story the Devil

Back when this show started airing in the winter I didn't give it a second glance since the premise seemed, well, dumb. But as with One Week Friends the longer it went the more it seemed like I was only hearing positive things about it so I decided to give it a shot anyway. I was watching it a bit slowly and so I was about halfway through when it ended and then I heard all of those same people start grumbling about the ending. And I decided that oh well, I haven't gotten to a part where I dislike the story yet so I might as well keep going, even if I'm probably also going to dislike it considering that I haven't seen one person remain positive about the ending....

Riddle Story the Devil (Akuma no Riddle)

Class Black is a strange class, not only is it a small class of only 12 girls who don't wear the school uniform but they're all there for one reason, to kill Haru Ichinose who will "win" the game if she survives until graduation. Tokaku Azuma is one of the girls set to kill her but, upon meeting her and becoming a roommate, she seems to have a change of heart and volunteers to protect Haru for the rest of the year against their truly insane classmates.

To be clear, yes the set-up for the story is ridiculous and sadly when the story tries to explain it in the final act that just makes it worse, then it goes from "this is silly but I'm invested enough in the rest of the story to roll with it" to "these characters are beyond illogical and I wonder what the writers were thinking when they thought this was a good explanation" and breaking the fourth wall in that manner is never a good sign. That's one reason why the final act of the story was the weakest part of it, it also brings in pseudo-magic, sudden character crises which would have made much more sense if they were at least hinted at earlier on, and in an attempt to give the story a "life goes on" ending it undoes the resolution to many of the minor character's conclusions in a very unsatisfying, not to mention contradictory to what the viewers/characters had believed happened, way which made it even worse. Apparently the anime has overtaken the manga, and quite early on, so it sounds like this was a classic "we need to tell the entire story in one cour but don't have a lot of source material to go on, let's wing it!" so hopefully the actual manga will have a more satisfying solution, although it sounds like the anime is going off of the manga's plans so who knows....

Going back to the beginning of the story, why were people even talking about this anime on my feeds to start with? Yuri, it's even billed as a yuri story so people were simply excited about it, weird premise aside. Although in the end it's yet another yuri story where none of the characters actually explicitly end up together, even if all of their relationships are coded as being romantic ones instead of platonic ones. What I mean is, we have a few pairs of characters where it seems like one girl, with more manly attributes, is protecting another character, who comes off as more soft and feminine, which felt like a dynamic that you also see in straight anime/manga couples versus when you have a group of all girls or all guys not romantically interested in each other covering each other's backs, those relationships come off as much more egalitarian*. I do wonder if the show can actually be called yuri in the end actually, there were two characters who the show set up to be an actual couple but when it shows their backstory they literally met only a few hours earlier, things like that make me want to call the show "yuri-bait" instead of "there is an honest-to-god relationship between these two girls".

 Touching on something I mentioned earlier, I was happy that Haru had more depth to her than I initially expected, she's not just a prize to be won and her combination of not wanting anymore people to die for her and yet being prepared to fight to stay alive felt a lot more natural than similar instances where you have a character who doesn't want to die but also doesn't want to have to fight to stay alive. Tokaku however, I felt like the writers had two different ideas of how they wanted her character arc to resolve and tried to put both of them into the story (to get specific, she's fighting an impostor of herself later on and honestly I liked the impostor's reasoning more than her own which left me feeling rather dissatisfied with her eventual choices). Adding that to my other complaints about the show, there's no real reason for me to recommend it unless you've already seen all the good yuri anime out there (admittedly it's a rather small list) or you just want something strange and accidentally silly about lesbian assassins. In that case, Funimation has the R1 license and is streaming it on their site/hulu and crunchyroll has the license for most other territories.

*not that real world relationships have or even should have that imbalance of power, I didn't say this was good writing but that this is what I think they were going for.