Friday, June 6, 2014

Spring 2014 Anime: Akuma no Riddle

So, Akuma no Riddle.  Where to begin?  To be honest, this is probably the weakest show of the lot for me.  And yet I keep watching it.  

At its core, Akuma no Riddle is a somewhat derivative mixup of stories like Battle Royale and Hitman: Absolution.  It revolves around the "Black Class," a special class at a special school consisting entirely of girls.  One of these girls is Haru Ichinose, a cutie who's optimistic to a fault and determined to graduate.  Unfortunately, what Haru doesn't realize is that every other girl in her class has enrolled for the express purpose of murdering her.  They're all assassins you see, all contracted to kill Haru.  But this contract is special; almost like a game.  There are three rules: 

1) Do not involve anyone outside the Black Class (including their homeroom teacher, who at least appears to be a dope)
2) Give Haru written notice of your intent to kill her before attempting to do so
3) Kill her within 48 hours of her receiving your notice, or you must immediately drop out and leave.

The prize awaiting the girl who manages to kill Haru is--as you might expect with tournament-style shows like these--anything you can imagine.  However, one girl has for whatever reason decided to go against the flow, and protect Haru instead of kill her.  The show follows Haru and her newfound protector Tokaku Azuma as they fend off the other assassins and somehow manage to have a somewhat normal high school life.

Akuma no Riddle is a strange show, to be honest.  It makes no real effort to expand on its setting or overarching plot, which leaves you with just the moment to moment action to go by.  The cast is also largely nothing special, with most of the characters fulfilling basic conventional character archetypes (and some not fulfilling these archetypes particularly well) and barely functioning beyond their tendency to attack Haru one at a time, once per week in a typical 'monster of the week' format.  Haru herself is strangely endearing with her tireless optimism and friendly disposition, even towards her classmates who she is very aware are all going to try to kill her in cold blood at some point or another.  But the only mildly interesting character in the show other than Haru so far is Nio, a mysterious and somewhat amusing girl who watches over the proceedings as a sort of referee rather than actively participating herself.

But what's most strange is the tone of the show.  I can put aside the fact that it has basically organized a contract assassination into a cruel game, but the show's overall tone is inexplicable.  Before long everyone except the teacher is aware of what's going on, and they're all generally amicable to each other and act like they don't all have a lot to lose by failing.  Haru obviously has her life on the line, but every girl is fighting for a chance at something better, whether it's just basic survival or ultimate happiness.  Though most of the characters try to seclude Haru before attempting to slay her, some don't mind going for the kill right in front of the other classmates.  Even stranger is that the classmates generally just watch in mild amusement as this occurs.

Even more strange is Haru herself, who seems to be totally at peace with the fact that she is very clearly on the chopping block.  Perhaps in spite of this, she continually places more trust in her classmates than any sane person in her situation ought to.  When invited to meet one of the girls in a secluded location late at night, she happily agrees.  Despite how foolish she acts and how sunny her disposition generally is, Haru doesn't give the impression of being a total dope.  This isn't her first rodeo, and underneath that bubbly personality we see a girl who's fought all her life just to stay alive, and is at this point inexplicably confident in her ability to get through this ordeal just as she has before.

If not for Haru, I likely would have dropped Akuma no Riddle.  But as cliched as this may sound, I want to see how her struggle plays out.

No comments: