At the elite boarding school Myoujou Academy, there exists the special "Class Black." Disguised as a normal class, it serves one purpose: assassination. At the center of Class Black, one student is the target while the others are assassins who are all itching to make the kill. The student who successfully assassinates them will have any wish of theirs granted, but they only have one chance to do so; expulsion awaits those who miss their mark.
Azuma Tokaku, an apathetic assassin-in-training, finds herself transferred to the latest Class Black with 12 other girls. One girl sticks out from the rest—Haru Ichinose, a cheerful girl who is idealistically insistent on making friends and graduating. To little surprise, the students discover that Haru is indeed the target and begin to plan their assassination. However, Azuma feels a growing fondness for Haru and is drawn to a different course of action. Now, for the first time in her life, she has found a cause to fight for.
Akuma no Riddle has been published digitally in English by Kadokawa Bookwalker since October 29, 2014. Seven Seas Entertainment physically released the series from October 27, 2015 to August 15, 2017. It has also been published in Spanish by Ivrea España and Ivrea Argentina.
The Survival game is a special kind of genre, one that has, within a set of parameters, a wide selection of customization. One series can focus on the traditional battle royale setting, while another can use the murder mystery to accomplish its goals. For Akuma no Riddle, there is only one target and everyone in her class (except one would-be assassin) wants her dead. Does this series nail it's own approach to the survival game genre? Not really, but at least it looks pretty!
Story: The premise is simple: one girl and her BFF against the rest of her all female class. Each one
of her potential killers only has one shot at ending her life and if they succeed, they are allowed anything they desire.
A story like this one relies heavily on its characters, as the atmosphere, exposition and the like are dictated on character interactions. However, as I'll get to later, the characters of this series range from generic to straight rip offs of other character ideas for other survival game series. With this in mind, there is no true atmosphere, no suspense to any of the murder attempts. There are betrayals and surprises and a few moments of the story are actually pretty well thought out, but at the end of the day, without a memorable cast, all this series has going for it is a typical story about temptation with a dash of lifeless yuri.
Characters: On the note about characters, I'll first say this: if everyone's targeting two people, those two people should at least be somewhat memorable. However, the two leads barely have any characterization. Hare, everyone's target, is the typical Genki girl who with a dark past, complete with scars all over her body and a desire to be friends with everybody, even her killers. Her reasons for being everyone's target is only briefly hinted at and as the story continues, the reader is not given anything to work with to discern the reason for themselves.
Hare's partner, Azuma, is the stoic protector who also has a semi-tragic past. She is initially one of the killers, but joins Hare's party for a reason akin to "love at first sight". Their bond is the archetypical knight and princess same sex pair, with Azuma protecting her friend through the kind of paranoid obsession one can expect from an assassin among other assassins.
The rest of the cast includes the arrogant girl who's only after money, the honest one who only cares about family, the manipulative mastermind, the shy girl with a split personality, the elegant girl and the serial killer who uses scissors...does that last one sound familiar? Heck, do all of them sound familiar? All of them have motivations for their actions, but almost all of them are so unoriginal that it brings the entire series as a whole down. The one exception to this rule is the other yuri-pair. Their connection to "the school play" arc was actually done quite well, but even their individual characters aren't anything particularly memorable.
Overall, the cast, which should the lifeblood of a survival game, has no identity of its own, hindering what could have been a decent series. Any originality this series may have is suffocated by the tropes and cliches this series is made of.
Art: On a lighter note, the illustration quality is above average, especially during the colored first page of almost every chapter. Those illustrations were honestly one of the few reasons why I kept reading, even though they are little more than potential ships between two characters.
Action scenes are drawn well, with every blow having an impact. Faces are expressive and moments that desire bigger panels are indeed given the space they need. The character designs themselves are nothing special, but I must admit that they do look very in color. Aesthetically, the series is pretty well off.
Enjoyment: I read this series in about one day but it wasn't because it was a page turner. The characters are bland which in turn ruins the rest of the story, regardless of any creative potential the premise may have had. I turned the pages for the art, not for the characters or story. For those interested in this series, brace yourselves. If you like very nice pictures, then look at the first pages and drool over them to your hearts content because there's little else to this series in terms of substance.
I believe that, as it stands, a score of 4/10, "ew", is appropriate. The series looks nice, especially on the colored pages, and its premise actually sounds quite interesting, but the unoriginal cutout characters ruin the already genre-typical plot. Attempts at originality fall flat and while there may be a good scene or two, at the end of the day, it simply struggles to bat even.
The answer to Riddle is simple: Better luck next time.