Riddle Story of Devil Review
Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the show Riddle Story of Devil. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.
Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:
As the years have gone by, I find my tastes adapting to watch shows that I normally wouldn't have considered. This show is a prime example of that. Back when this show came out, I wasn't the biggest fan of yuri per say, and I prefer yaoi over it (still to this day). Also, people were really upset by the ending of this series. But when FUNimation started revealing the English dub cast, I started to become more and more interested in this show because it started to look more intriguing. I also managed to become more used to yuri, even though it seems to be overly sexualized in modern day anime, the most recent example being Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid.
I found out that this show had subtle yuri in it, which was a relief, as I was a little worried the show would focus on that instead. Other than that, I found myself ready to watch the show because of the fascinating sounding story, and hoping the show would satisfy me even if it had a bad ending. Did it do just that?
It did just that, my friends. Riddle Story of Devil provided a fun thrill ride for me, with a great story, interesting characters, the best animation I've seen out of Diomedea to this day, and a fantastic OST. Even though there were some weaknesses in the pacing and in some characters, the show was still very fun, and I don't regret watching it at all.
And I did actually like the ending. I don't know whether I'd like it less if I hadn't spoiled myself before I watched it, but I still found it to be pretty sweet. Don't worry, for those who haven't watched it, I won't go too far into that discussion. But it's super odd to be on the odd end like with Freezing Vibration and me liking that as well.
Let's first talk about this show's story:
Tokaku Azuma has just received a fantastic opportunity: she will be going to Myojo Academy to participate in the 10th year's Class Black. Ranging from different backgrounds and experience levels, 12 assassins (all female) gather to be the one to kill the last girl, who is their target. If they succeed in this mission, they will be granted one wish that they most desire. If they fail within 48 hours, they are expelled from the class and the school.
Tokaku comes from a family of raised assassins. However, she hasn't killed anybody despite extensive training due to something in her past. When she meets the alleged target, Haru Ichinose, she becomes drawn to her for reasons that she can not explain, and after thought, she decides to protect Haru from the other girls, assigning herself as Haru's guardian.
As the other assassins take their shot at killing Haru (well, except one), they are sent packing after failing to do so. And pretty soon, mysteries unfold about what Class Black's purpose really is. And when Tokaku realizes that she could possibly be in love with the one she protects, a secret of hers will come to light. Which girl will have their wish granted in this crazy game? Also, at what cost will they take to get their wish granted?
It can't be just me, but the premise for this show immediately draws parallels to Danganronpa. Although different, since there is only 1 target compared to everyone being a target, it still revolves around a class out to kill someone. Either way, it was pretty exciting. After the first 2 episodes, which mainly serve as a prologue, the episodes that follow are episodic, where it focus on 1 of the 12 assassins trying to kill Haru in order for their wishes to be granted. It's fun and, at the same time, a bit sad when one of my favorites took her shot, because I knew that they weren't coming out victorious.
This series is also pretty packed with action, with scuffles between Tokaku and whatever girl goes up against her. Some of them are pretty fun and exciting, and will definitely get your blood pumping at some point. Of course, none of them are exactly the same, and that's completely fine. I like unique villain defeats.
Of course, there are some slight problems, but they don't affect the story too much. It just depends on who the girl assassin of the episode is, because development for one comes a bit too late for my personal liking. Also, the shows at certain points paces itself too fast, and some characters do not get a bit more development due to this. It's way better than Dance with Devils though, because it's not as if all of the characters suffer from not having enough time to give their sparkle.
Also, like I mentioned previously, the ending doesn't really bother me as much besides one thing that made me go:
Yeah, just be prepared that it's kind of lame.
But even with the small problems, I still found Riddle Story of Devil to be very exciting. I'm looking forward to reading the manga as well, because I'm interested to see how that will play out in terms of slight differences.
Let's move on to the characters:
I'm not going to be discussing every girl in the main cast for this show, as I've done in previous reviews of other shows. Instead, I will be going over the main characters, and my top 2 assassins out of the bunch. Both of them were the most interesting and the most fun, so it wouldn't be fair to not include them.
Tokaku is up first:
Student 1 of Class Black, Tokaku Azuma comes from the feared Azuma family, where the majority of them are assassins. Tokaku is very distant and a bit aloof, however is easily able to focus when it comes to protecting Haru. Her skills are due to training that she has done over the years, and her main weapons are guns or knives.
However, Tokaku isn't experienced in actual assassinations. This is because she clamps up whenever she tries to kill someone, thinking back to a memory of her past. Isuke easily finds this out after she takes her first shot at killing Haru, but promises not to tell anyone (of course, this is not out of the good in her heart). After becoming Haru's protector, she manages to fend off the targets in time for the girls to give up, or get knocked out.
As a whole, I think Tokaku is a strong lead character. I liked her overall progression into realizing her feelings for Haru, and I also found her to be a pretty strong fighter. She does have her weak points, such as being overprotective of Haru considering the fact she's Class Black's target, and the face that she isn't able to attempt an assassination. She eventually gets over both of these as the series goes on, though I won't spoil how.
Haru's up next:
Student 13 of Class Black, Haru is very bright and optimistic. She mainly refers to herself in the third person (in Japanese besides one time), and seems very easy to approach. However, her body is covered in scars, and the reason as to why they are there is unknown. She gets very uncomfortable when people bring it up or look at them.
Besides being a little too weak to fight on her own, she is at least able to do what she can to escape situations she's in some of the time. For example, she has a short lived escape from Otoya in the botanical garden, thanks to convenient falling scissors. But she is actually able to fend off Sumireko in Episode 10 with pretty impressive results. So at least she isn't completely helpless.
Overall, I liked Haru a fair amount. Though she isn't going to get any brownie points for being sometimes completely oblivious that she could be walking into danger (but then again, it's easy to understand why, as she trusts people too easily), I still found her to be nice in her own right. I'd be friends with her if she actually went to my school, without Class Black.
The spotlight's on Nio now:
Student number 10 in Class Black, and is the arbitrator of the events that go down inside the class. She is very upbeat and peppy and seems to be somewhat friendly, offering gossip or poking into other's business. However, something seems off about her. Is she hiding something that could be explained later, or is it those shark teeth that pop out whenever she makes a dramatic announcement?
That's up for you guys to find out. But on the plus side, Nio and Rin Matsuoka could be shark teeth twins. XD
Overall, Nio is an okay character. She gets more involved in the main plot towards the end of the show, though subtle foreshadowing is used to build up more of her character. I actually really like that she was the source of some secrets and was the overseer of Class Black, who basically just watches over the assassins and keeps track of their wishes. I do wish she was more interesting that she was, but with the development she got, I'm not too mad with it.
Now onto my 2 favorite assassins, starting with Mahiru/Shinya:
Mahiru is student 12, who is very shy and not very talkative. However, once the sun comes down, Shinya, her other personality, comes barreling in. She is much more aggressive and very unstable, often having a psychotic grin on her face. She was created after Mahiru experienced rough trauma in her past, and is also afraid of light. The reason as to why she has the scar on the left side of her face was when she killed her abuser.
Though Shinya is shown to be unstable, it is only because she is acting on Mahiru's desires, which hints at Mahiru possibly being more unstable than Shinya is. Since Mahiru is too timid to actually commit any murders, Shinya is the one to do them for her. But in the end, Shinya deeply cares for Mahiru and doesn't want her to get hurt. Her wish isn't really confirmed, but I'd say for Shinya that she wishes for Mahiru to be fully protected from danger.
She is the 8th student to get expelled from Class Black, when Isuke blindsides her when they team up to take down Haru.
Overall, Mahiru was probably the most interesting character out of the show. Not only is her split personality pretty cool (it kind of reminds me of Aoba and Sly Blue, though Sly Blue isn't really a split personality, and well, Shinya isn't as sexually charged), but I think as Shinya she becomes pretty badass compared to Mahiru. I still like Mahiru too, as she's pretty sweet and a bit shy, but I appreciated it when the show developed Shinya a little more.
To make a quick comparison between the two, I'll just give you these GIF's: Mahiru being the very timid girl who doesn't have the punch to stand up for herself, and Shinya being the somewhat drunk party-goer who would probably be found laughing to herself in the corner.
What about her partner in crime Isuke? Whelp, she's up next:
Meet my personal favorite out of Riddle Story of Devil. Isuke is student 2, and is pretty much a complete diva. She is very brash and can be quite selfish. In actuality though, Isuke's had a pretty tough life. After subjecting from violence from her family, she was taken in by Eisuke, a male assassin who killed her parents. Though he couldn't save her younger brother in time, she was taken under his wing and made his successor. Because of this, she refers to him as her mom, considering that Eisuke has a husband, who is seemingly unaware of Eisuke's occupation.
Her wish is to get money so that Eisuke can retire from the assassination business and buy a home in the tropics. Before Class Black's orientation, she tries to kill Haru, but fails when Tokaku intervenes. She partners up with Shinya to take on Tokaku and Haru again, and she knocks out Shinya after thinking she had dealt with Tokaku. After Tokaku regains consciousness after falling from a window and realizing some things about her past, she rushes to the site where Haru is, and incapacitates Isuke by throwing a knife in her hand and choking her to unconsciousness. She is the 9th student to be expelled.
Isuke is pretty fun throughout the anime. Yes, she's a bitch, but I think that's what's charming about her. She's pretty unapologetic, rude, and not afraid to admit her opinion, but she's easily a standout from the girls because of this. If she wasn't here, this show wouldn't be half as entertaining. She gave us so many great moments:
The other assassins in Class Black are Koko Kaminaga, Hitsugi Kirigaya, Shiena Kenmochi (who is the only one who doesn't attempt to take Haru's life, as she is taken out before she can give her advanced notice), Haruki Sagae (my 3rd favorite of the cast), Suzu Shuto, Otoya Takechi, Chitaru Namatame, and Sumireko Hanabusa. These are in order, from 3-9 and 11. Each girl has their own unique personality.
Other characters include Kaiba, a teacher at the school who often sends Tokaku riddles to solve, and is a troll, Mr. Mizorogi, Class Black's teacher who is completely oblivious to the events going on in his class, as whenever a student leaves, he is told that they transferred. And finally, we have Meichi Yuri, the headmaster of Myojo Academy.
The animation for this series was produced by Diomedea, who are also known for Squid Girl, Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren't They?, and Sky Wizards Academy.
Overall, Diomedea's been an average studio for me. They've had some good animation in the past, like for Squid Girl and Noucome. But recently, Diomedea's been hitting some bumps in the road, considering that they animated 4 shows in last year's winter season. Also, don't forget Sky Wizards Academy. I know I only watched one episode, but exploding mustard gas isn't that appealing, right? Along with weak CGI.
Good news is that Riddle Story of Devil's animation is pretty top notch, and probably my favorite thing that Diomedea has worked on. The characters all look very pretty, the black and white put over the background characters was a nice touch, the fight scenes were nice, and we had some great detail here and there. Sometimes, it does drop a bit, but happy to say not too drastically.
Hopefully Diomedea can get back up to this level of quality. I think they might, considering that they've been taking a break, and nothing came out from them in the fall season. Let's hope it's something I'm interested in.
The score for this series was composed by Yoshiaki Fujisawa, who is also known for working on GATE, Love Live!, and the currently airing (at the time of this review) Prince of Stride: Alternative,
Riddle Story of Devil's OST brought to mind DRAMAtical Murder's (which I liked more when I re-watched it). Though it doesn't dabble in the electronic range that much, there's still some great tracks that benefited a mood to certain scenes, or just plain up sounded epic. This score was just so beautiful and awesome, and I couldn't get enough of it. Hopefully Yoshiaki gets some more work, because this score needs a round of applause.
This is also helped by the individual ending songs sung by each member of Class Black, with 2 being exceptions. One is a duet, and the other is a whole group song with the girls. I have to say, these ending songs as a whole were much better than all of the insert songs in the 3 seasons of Uta Pri thus far (well, besides POISON KISS and Tatsuhiza Suzuki's lovely vocals on Only One), due to being so much more memorable as the show goes on. Each song has a different style to it, and it doesn't feel like it's one big cliche one after another (idol group names dropped during songs, similar production styles, same topics of love).
I'm not sure how many songwriters worked on the songs compared to Uta Pri (which was one person), but they showed more promise in showcasing the character's personality in each song. The best examples of this being Kouko's ending, Haruki's ending, Mahiru's ending, and Isuke's ending, which are my top 4 personal favorites of the series. All of them are produced extremely well (I'm 50% sure they were all done by the same producer), and shows a nice glimpse at all of the characters and their own struggles.
Haruki's ending with that rock groove really reminded me of what Ranmaru could do if he had this production since he loves rock. It'd be heaven I imagine.
I'd highly recommend you guys to check them out if you can.
Now onto the topic of voice acting. In Japanese, there's a lot of female seiyuus in the cast that haven't been cast in a ton of stuff. In fact, a couple of them has this as their only role in anime. But that didn't stop me from really liking most of the performances, old and new seiyuus alike. From what I've seen of the English dub thus far has also managed to impress me, even though I do prefer some of the voices in Japanese.
Highlights in the original Japanese are Ayaka Suwa (thus far, this is the only role that I've liked from her), Hisako Kanemoto, Azumi Azakara (surprised to see this amount of range from her), Haruka Yoshimura, Yuki Yamada, Fumiko Uchimura, Chika Anzai, Sachika Misawa, Yoshino Nanjo, Miho Arakawa, Yuka Otsubo, Tomokazu Sugita, and Takahiro Sakurai (who finally uses a different voice compared to what he's using nowadays).
Highlight so far in the English dub are Morgan Berry (for her first lead role, she easily kills it), Alexis Tipton, Jaime Marchi, Natalie Hoover, Anastasia Munoz, Carli Mosier, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Monica Rial, Lauren Landa, Bryn Apprill, Mikaela Krantz, Robert McCollum, Ricco Fajardo, and Rachel Robinson.
Overall, I was really happy with how this show turned out. It was very exciting with some great action, pretty nice animation, good characters, and a stunning OST. Though the series did stumble a bit with its pacing and some character development, it was still a really fun show, and I'm sad that it took me a while to watch it. This makes me interested in checking out the manga, along with the author's other work, Loveless, in the future.
Overall, this series is recommended to those who like yuri undertones, strong female characters, great action, or looking for a good series to binge watch one day. I'd think it work perfectly.
Most characters were pretty nice (particularly Isuke).
Ending didn't bug me too much.
Good voice acting by some unfamiliar seiyuus.
Pacing can be a bit too fast at times.
Some characters not fully developed.