What They Say:
Based on the manga from Yun Kouga, creator of the beloved manga Loveless, Riddle Story of Devil sends twelve female assassins to a prestigious boarding school to compete against each other in a secret killing game. The winner will be granted anything her heart desires, but only one girl can come out on top.
The mission is simple: send fellow student Haru Ichinose to an early grave. The task should be easy for heartless assassin Tokaku Azuma – but everything changes when she finds herself strangely drawn to her naive target. Her decision to use her lethal skills to keep her new friend alive will raise the stakes of the game and push the girls closer together as the other beauties threaten to tear them apart.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English language mix gets a 5.1 one done up at 448kbps. The show is one that works a rather familiar sound design overall where when it does hit the action side it bumps things up enough to stand out, but the bulk of it is more dialogue oriented where it’s center channel based. There’s a good range of characters here but none of them do anything that stands out in a bigger than normal way so it’s all fairly normalized. The action gets the bump from the music score as well that swells nicely at times and it also gets a little more impact with the 5.1 mix where it comes across a bit fuller and warmer. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episode series plus OVA is spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second. Animated by Diomedea, the show has a pretty good look about it as it adapts the original work but it also plays to a more subdued and muted color palette that keeps it from coming across in a bright and bold way. With the more muted palette, the show has a slightly darker look about it that almost feels like a layer of grain on top of it yet not. It’s not highly distinctive but combined with the look of the characters it definitely gives it something that isn’t quite the norm. Colors look good, detail holds up well and there’s no problems with cross coloration throughout it.
The limited edition release of this series brings us a pretty good looking package overall where we get a heavy chipboard box that holds the two DVD cases inside. The front of the box gives us a good full-length image of Tokaku and Haru pressed close to each other where they’re set against the tartan school uniform skirt background covered in blood. It has some nice pop to it and the designs themselves are a bit cleaner and more appealing than the show itself. The back cover brings the two together in a different kind of embrace as we see them laying on the ground together, but seen from above. With a purple hued background, it’s a solid complement to the front of the box while standing out on its own as well. Within the box we get the two clear DVD keepcases that works the same style as the front of the box with the background while using more character combinations. It definitely ups the fanservice feeling compared to the box, however. The back covers continue the tartan aspect while providing more character combinations and a breakdown of the episodes by number and title as well as respective extras The reverse side essentially does the same while providing more artwork variations, which is definitely a plus as there’s a lot to like here.
The menus for this release are pretty nice and works in the style of the packaging overall with the tartan background. It’s a bit brighter here than the packaging is which is a little disconcerting, especially with the red blood splatter element. The use of the artwork from the front of the box works well, zoomed in a bit more, definitely gives it a good bit of pop and sets the tone well. The navigation is simple and easy to move around in with the language setup working smoothly while the extras are nicely laid out as well, especially where there’s a whole lot of them. Submenus load quickly and they’re solidly functional all around.
This release has a good selection of extras, though it’s a bit distinct in a way. The English language side gets a pair of commentary tracks with the cast/production team that’s definitely a fun listen. The other extra is that we get all of the ending sequences in clean version, of which there’s a new one for each episode. They’re all pretty varied so it adds a lot and looks great while also adding in the single opening sequence.
Based on the manga by Yun Kōga and Sunao Minakata, Akuma no Riddle is a twelve episode series that aired in the spring of 2014. This set also includes the OVA episode that takes place in the middle of the series and is largely a bit of fanservice oriented fun. Localized as Riddle Story of Devil, the show had a solid simulcast run that netted it this home video release, which is standard definition only due to licensor restraints at the moment. The series is one that I suspect will have a bit more impact in high definition, but what we do get here certainly makes for a pretty engaging show.
The show largely takes place in the Myojo Academy, a private school where we’re introduced to thirteen girls that have just been transferred into the 10th Year Black Class. The class is an interesting one as it’s filled with some of the best assassins of the various clans and families that exist in Japan. They’ve been brought together with a simple plan that will net them their biggest wish if the succeed. If they fail, they get expelled from the class and the school, though that’s really just them not being able to attempt to win any further. Naturally, being the kind of show it is, the class is filled with high school girls and only a male teacher that’s unaware of the true nature of the class. Which is good as he’s the type that doesn’t seem like he’d cotton much to his group of girls all trying to kill a fellow student.
The core idea is that twelve of the girls are tasked with the mission from the director of the school to kill their fellow student Haru. There are various rules that they have to follow, but there’s nothing that’s really strong in terms altering the flow of events or the nature of the show. Where it takes its interesting turn is that the primary character that we’re introduced to, Tokaku of the legendary Azuma family, ends up deciding that she doesn’t want to go after the target, her classmate Haru. Instead, she opts to defend and protect Haru from being killed, something that the director approves of. And so begins twelve episodes of the two young women getting to know each other while fending off a range of attempts on Haru’s life.
The nature of the show works a familiar pattern where as each of the girls go after Haru we end up learning about them. There are some interesting aspects to most of them, especially those that are really fighting for something in regards to their wish, while we also get the usual bland ones that don’t have much in the way of personality. What becomes interesting is that there’s an almost laid back feeling to when they decide to go after Haru, though you can tell who has become a focus in each episode. There’s some good interaction among all of the students though as they go through their normal school days while also tormenting each other about what they’re going to do. The banter has its moments mostly because the various girls all have distinctive enough personalities and designs to sell it in the brief bits before going bigger when they get their own episode.
Where most of the focus is on is with the pairing of Tokaku and Haru, and most of it on Tokaku in terms of character examination. Haru’s position of being the target and coming across as a kind of normal girl that just wants a normal life works well since we know there’s more to her than we can see. Tokaku, on the other hand, has a whole lot more going on. Being born into the family of assassins with hundreds of years of history is certain standard fare, but I like that she’s intent on not killing anyone while still picking up all the skills to actually do the kills. She made a promise as a child that she wouldn’t give in to what the family wanted and reinforcing that with the loss of her mother and her aunt gives her plenty of incentive to follow through. Which makes it easier for her to side with Haru since she believes she can stop everyone without killing them.
In proper form, the series follows the model well with its overall arc and does it right, providing for enough style to carry it through with. In a weird way, I have to admit that I’m glad that they followed tradition with an OVA that’s all about the fanservice. With the main show now digging too deep into that for the most part – it has its moments though, the OVA has a summer camp basically with the class going to an island. There’s no assassination games being played there but they do have some competition going on that keeps it active. Where it ramps things up is in the fanservice department since the girls spend all their time in swimsuits while sticking to their personalities. It’s not a serious story but it works the fun in a very good way, making it a fun little addendum that belongs mid-series rather than as an epilogue piece.
While the show works a somewhat predictable storyline and it does get a lot more serious towards the end when it reveals the truth behind not only Haru but also the family side for Tokaku, it also executes it all pretty well and makes for an engaging run. There are a few shows revolving around the whole teenage assassination/murder thing any given year and there’s only so many ways you can really do something when you keep it focused within the school realm. What they do here is pretty fun though as it keeps it serious enough but also introduces enough humor along the way as well. You come away liking the cast, even if you don’t really connect with them outside of Tokaku since most of them have superficial episode of the week stories.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (6, 10), Textless Opening and Closings
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 8th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.