Akuma no Riddle – 04 Review

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Considering Ms. Potatohead is the target of a bunch of assassins she seriously gotta get her priorities straight.

Sometimes I wonder… I know that writing some kind of story that ends up being a product for everyone to buy is hard but there are classes teaching you how to write, there are editors making a living out of giving you their honest opinion of how shitty the drivel is you’ve written, there are companies telling you what kind of stories they want to sell (and want you to write) etc., etc. … There are so many people telling you how to write a story but how come all these minds collaborating together can still result in a story that makes you go “Huh? Someone wrote this…? And nobody commented on it that it needed improvement…?”. Akuma no Riddle wasn’t my favorite series of the series by any stretch but this episode… How come the yuri-slice-of-life/romance-bits are better than the assassination-attempt bits in this episode?! And no, the whole slice-of-life-part is still dull but this episode’s assassination-stuff is on another level entirely when it comes to being bad.

Synopsis:
So… Christians, right? Shady bunch, aren’t they? First the whole thing with the priests and molesting children and now it turns out they take little children without parents – and turn them into assassins! Well, not all of them… because some of them are just not at all suited to be top-assassins. Didn’t stop glasses-girl, though, from accidentally blowing up her best friend. Sucks to be her, right? Well, the Black Class is her chance to finally leave all that shit behind and quit being an assassin – by killing Ms. Potatohead!
Will the worst assassin ever succeed in killing Ms. Potatohead so that she can stop failing at assassinations…?! Or will this obvious contradiction be the last straw to to break the camel’s back, metaphorically speaking…?

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Oh, sure, whining is such a great move for an antagonistic character. And naturally it’s even better if the antagonist is whining about how bad she is at being the antagonist… You really can’t be more bad-ass with your antagonist than making her completely incompetent at being dangerous!

Review:
Yuri is such an interesting thing to watch when it’s not a primarily romantic show because most of the time the writer (or writers or writers getting pressured by the producer etc.) seem to think that a homosexual relationship needs to have the same sort of power-dynamic a heterosexual relationship needs to have (according to stereotypes). But girls need to be cute so most of the time it seems like one of the girls in a yuri-relationship is a cute pet and the other is the caretaker which still makes the romantic part all about dominance even if you cute it up with cheesy dialogue.

Akuma no Riddle is a great example (which is why I brought it up in the first place of course) where Tokaku can be the biggest asshole there is and Ms. melonhead is just taking it as if it’s the cutest kind of rapport they could have. The problem is simply that they’re so single-minded about just repeating this one shtick over and over again but a good romantic relationship is about showing off about witty kinds of routines those characters only exchange with their loved ones. But instead Akuma no Riddle is one of those series where the romantic relationship just seems to exist between the characters that they are like all the time.

Although the number of characters in this certainly isn’t that big so the kind of interactions you got to see in this episode already got repetitive. And also: I don’t doubt that it’s easier to write this kind of stuff when you establish this sort of episodic structure with the each killer having her own attempt but I think in a post-modern world setting up rules in your fictional setting should mean you’re trying to subvert them in some way. Nobody wants to hear the story of the knight in shining armor saving the damsel-in-distress for the millionth time. Naturally there are also already stereotypes to how you can subvert such classic tropes but still… Making your plot formulaic isn’t good enough, especially when the characters and worldbuilding aren’t that great to begin with.

Naturally this episode starts with a bit of a relaxation-period. After that thrill-ride that was the last three episodes (that soundtrack certainly tried hard to make it seem like that…), we see the happy mundane aspect of taking your mid-term-tests (or whatever the hell they were doing… if those girls were doing really anything at all, really). But the problem is here that all these happy not-a-care-in-the-world-slice-of-life-scenes just seem ignorant of what is actually going on. Especially Ms. Potatohead who needs to be protected just doesn’t seem to get it. I can already see the finale when push comes to shove and she realizes just how shitty her situation is right now and we get all these angsty monologues and motivation-speeches about how Potatohead notices that 90% of the world wants her dead and Tokaku spouting some shit about loving Potatohead and being willing to protect her not matter what the cost. This is just another way of keeping things VERY generic: Letting your characters not be self-aware enough to actually understand what the hell is going on.

So Ms. Potatohead sits in the library and doesn’t get the maths-homework (which when being shown as a close-up is the sort of low-budget copy/paste-shit you would expect in a show like this), the class-representattive glasses-wearing stereotype appears. And the glasses-girl naturally just scribbles down the solution of the maths-problem and Potatohead’s like “Sure, I get it now.” (because that’s how you help someone do his maths-homework after all). It’s strange considering how many animes choose to have a school-setting, there are really only a few whose school-idiosyncrasies make me think of my own time at school. And so this series treats the mid-terms like it’s some sort of comic-relief to all the heavy-assasination-stuff. How can SO few animes actually get school-life when they’re all about high-school-ifying their plots most of the time?

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But that’s the thing… Ms. Potatohead never even seems to acknowledge the basic danger of being targeted by these assassins! Where is the genuine sense of danger when the intended target doesn’t even seem to be aware of the danger – no matter how often she comes close to death?!

But let’s ignore the school-cheese for a minute and concentrate on the murderous plot the glasses-girl cooks up this week. No, scratch that, now that I think about it. Let’s talk about the motive of glasses-girl. Does this series even get what tragedy means? Okay, in the first flashback of glasses-girl… First of all: What kind of fucking Christian orphanage is supposed to train assassins?! And why?! How many times did the writer behind this episode read Dan Brown to convince him- or herself that the Catholic Church trained orphans to become professional assassins?! And for fuck’s sake… don’t make up a character-arc about such a trained assassin whose biggest problem is that she sucks at being an assassin! That’s comedy for fuck’s sake! Has nobody involved with the writing of this show ever read Aristotle?! This should take the MOST basic understanding of what drama is about to know that a character-arc about an assassin who sucks at being an assassin isn’t dramatic! The only tragic thing about it is that this episode acts like that’s not one hell of a hilarious character-arc.

in the first flashback I thought that was just the start of the character-arc when one of the boys bullies the glasses-girl that she nearly blew up the class since she sucked at assassin-stuff but not for a second I considered this series treating this storyhook as a legitimate thing to get sad about. And the actual traumatic climax of the flashback-stuff definitely takes the cake: Due to her glasses-girl sucking at assassin-stuff she inadvertently blows up the only person who didn’t mock her for sucking at assassin-stuff. I don’t know what to say to that, I really don’t know. That stuff is even worse than being generic because it’s simply just stupid. Although this episode does become comedy because obviously nobody connected to this show knows how comedy works and therefore didn’t know how inadvertently comedic this episode tries to be with its character-arc of glasses-girl.

As stupid as that stuff, are also all the assassination-attempts in this episode. Rigging the fridge with grenades in a way that you could open it and see the string attached to the grenade was a GREAT idea (meaning every idiot and his dog could’ve disarmed that trap…) and the grenade hidden in the grape-juice… I mean, as it’s shown in the episode it did seem a bit too much like precognition of Tokaku to chek the bottle but in reality I would assume you would see the grenade against the light. And then the most complex ploy of all: Somehow knowing that Ms. Potatohead wanted to find the hidden room in the library she rigged a book in said hidden room (meaning she relied also on Tokaku accompanying Ms. Potatohead which isn’t a sure thing as you should know having seen the previous three episodes). Then the least effective explosion ever happens and Tokaku fights with glasses-girl. Tokaku is naturally superior but her glasses-girl’s will is shattered anyway when Tokaku points out that it’s a bit contradictory how glasses-girl wants to quit being an assassin while trying to be a successful assassin for the first time. Again, that’s comedic writing, not dramatic writing. It’s not a tragedy when you point out to someone that by eating healthy food you don’t lose weight when you end up eating twice as much healthy food as you’ve eaten unhealthy food previously. This type of degrading silly kind of contradiction isn’t the stuff drama or tragedy is made of. What the hell does this show thinks it’s doing…?

 

As far as episodic stories go this one is pretty much one for the bin. I didn’t really think highly of the first three episodes but I really didn’t expect for this series to sink even lower with its story-quality. There’s some basic problems here of between what the episode intends to do and what it’s actually doing. At least I understand now why the series made up these stupid rules to unnecessarily streamline its plot…

Episode-Rating: 3/10

Random Thoughts:

  • Ms. Potatohead really is like the only one who even gave a shit about those tests in the Black Class, isn’t she? No wonder she ends up being the best student in class… but why does this series treat achievements in the school-system with this glory as if it’s natural for it to be linked to surviving assassination-attempts?
  • And since I complained about the bland romance in this series, here’s my recommendation for an actual good yuri-series: Maka Maka from Kishi Torajiro. Just google it, bing it or whatever swings your boat.

MWikipedia: M (named em) is the thirteenth letter of the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

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About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on April 29, 2014, in Akuma No Riddle, Anime, Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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