Akuma no Riddle – 07 Review
Ms. Potatohead’s deductive skills in action while she’s looking for a card that is supposedly in a body of water somewhere.
Look, assassinations… I figure there’s a person on one side and then there’s this other person on the other side. And the first person tries to kill the second person. Then the second person dies. That’s an assassination in theory, right? And you assume there’s a reason. You can’t just like assassinate anybody. Because you need to have plan and that guy who’s gonna die better be worth it. Maybe the target is an asshole, who knows? Assassinations are real hard work, some frying pan doesn’t cut it. And so you come to this series where girls are assassins, people who work hard to kill people… presumably. Because so far… not really that much hard work involved in the whole killing-process of those assassinations. Guess, no one’s really surprised that Ms. Potatohead is still alive.
Aging. It’s a horrible thing, isn’t it? One day you’re young jumping around with friends, falling in love and whatnot, but then you get older… and all of a sudden you can’t stand the sight of anything resembling a young person. A common fate for people who are afflicted by this thing called aging.
But what if you wouldn’t be able to change? What if you got a special syndrom named after that movie Christopher Lambert starred in and that Queen wrote the music for? And what if the name of that syndrome had nothing to do with the fact that Highlander is a good example for a solid start of a franchise that spawned shitty sequels? And what if there’s a girl with this specific syndrome suffering from the thing that Mel Gibson actually wanted in that movie Forever Young from 1992? And what if Forever Young by Alphaville was a more appropriate ED theme song for this?
A lot of questions and this episode… doesn’t have any answers for those. BUT instead we see Forever-Young-Girl trying to kill Ms. Potatohead… with a game… of RIDDLES! … Get it? It’s like the title… Anyway, there are these card-thingys Tokaku and Ms. Potatohead need to find and it’s all such a nice thing to watch. Well, at least nobody seemed to be that distraught about the concept of seeing Ms. Potatohead’s head blow up.
But the real tearjerker this week is the reminder of how evil these old people are. Getting old just turns you into an asshole. I guess that’s the morale of this assassin’s story.
I don’t think a school-uniform offers any more protection than a swim-suit when it comes to life-or-death-situations.
A big part of Akuma no Riddle’s identity is its yuri-aspect. In terms of animes and mangas yuri and yaoi mean a lot more tropes than just the homosexual romance as the genre also comes with a certain objectification of the romance-aspect in the worst cases. Going beyond gratuitous stuff like pantyshots or the typical hotspring-episode or beach-episode it’s also about creating a specific scenario that makes that series then yuri or yaoi. Just in terms of romance the how and why of the romantic scenario becomes irrelevant in comparison to actually having specific scenes sort-of celebrating this romance. The series counts on yuri or yaoi having a target-audience that is simply there for this specific aspect and is satisfied by this approach of objectifying the story and its characters to deliver these scenarios you would expect in that sub-genre. Or shorter: It’s when a series tries to sell itself by fanservice alone. This is the lowest bar of quality a yuri or yaoi series has to pass. That’s certainly a lazy approach to storytelling and just for completeness’ sake this sort of stripped-down highlight-reel-approach can be pretty much done with any genre, not only romance. But since I’m talking about Akuma no Riddle here, I’m only talking about what this means for a yuri-series.
Now yuri is romantic in nature so at least one of the sub-plots of the story will be romantic. The way romance is treated heavily depends on what role it plays in the story. It can go from a simplistic linear falling-in-love-story with a happy ending to something complicated like Romeo and Juliet where the success of love is connected to bigger problems. So, for example the former approach would be two characters falling in love during an action-laden story and there’s no question about it that they love each other. That way romantic scenes are straightforward and all about the mood this romance creates allowing the plot to stop for a while and lessen the tension to build it up again in future scenes. The latter approach to romance is to make it dramatic. By giving the romance some sort of stakes it allows a plot to form around that romance. And these stakes can be something purely romantic where the stake is the success of the love like for example a love-triangle or a ‘Will they, Won’t they’-scenario or the stakes are external which means external forces prevent in some way the love from happening. Akuma no Riddle is clearly all about the external-stakes-kind-of-love by making the love-interest the target of “assassinations” which Tokaku has to prevent for the sake of saving her love towards Ms. Potatohead.
But like I said what yuri-fans want isn’t how or why this love is celebrated in various scenes but that there are scenes celebrating that love. Again, just to make it clear, that doesn’t mean that yuri-fans are stupid for wanting that, that is really just the lowest bar of their expectations and naturally any series taking things more seriously than meeting that bar are hold in higher regard. I’ve already talked about in previous reviews about the weird hoops this series’ story has jumped through in order to streamline its plot and now with the expectation of yuri-fans in mind it certainly makes it easier for the story to deliver those scenarios where the yuri-romance is celebrated (in hindsight, the whole sixth episode was basically just that, I would say). But the central romance of the series is certainly lacking in terms of actual romance. Tokaku’s and Ms. Potatohead’s relationship has barely changed besides having occasional moments of them being closer to each other than the rest of the time. By making the romance reliant on external stakes and dramatizing it that way the romance became reliant on the plot. And the plot has been rather repetitive so far with those assassinations hardly providing any sort of compelling action or drama. I’ve already talked about the disconnect between the drama of the assassins’ reasons to kill Ms. Potatohead and the relationship between Tokaku and Ms. Potatohead but looking at it from a purely romantic point of view this series is really lacking those character-driven moments that would show off the romance. First of all, there’s hardly any chemistry between Tokaku and Ms. Potatohead that isn’t spelled out in the most obvious way by their actions – and only their actions. I think, the only true sort-of romantic dialogue of this series so far happened in episode 02 when Tokaku talked with Ms. Potatohead about her disinterest in being the target of assassinations. Other than that the series clearly tries to get by with the action-moments of Tokaku actively protecting Ms. Potatohead when an assassination is underway. And these scenes barely qualify in terms of character-reactions or atmosphere. The barely romantic moment in this episode is more like a setup for some much-needed character-development by having Ms. Potatohead selflessly save Tokaku for a change. That should give the latter something to think about and hopefully it will actually lead to something.
And I say that because so far those assassinations were pretty shitty. Episode six had all that Romeo-Juliet-bullshit going for it (and Teddy-girl and red-hair-girl certainly had way more going on romance-wise than the TokoHaru after during the last seven episodes) but the actual assassinations are just fucking stupid. I mean, the girl in this episode didn’t even seem like she gave a shit about being successful. And the rest didn’t really give a shit either. They acted as if they had been invited to a nice stage-show. But the soundtrack… that fucking try-hard soundtrack was more obnoxious than anything else. While most of the cast was in quite a good mood watching Tokaku and Ms. Potatohead chase around in search of those cards to prevent Ms. Potatohead’s head from a rather painful explosion, the soundtrack made it all sound like the tensest shit to ever grace the earth. And the overly tense music would go on for way too long which just made it all the more obnoxious.
She says that as if some boring riddle-game would actually make things more exciting…
Also… a man leaving his wife because she looks too young – is a thing that never happened. I mean, what was the logic there supposed to be? “He got older and I didn’t. So he left me.”. Sure, this whole immortality-emo-bullshit has already been told in way too many forms in way too many stories which should make it REALLY easy to at least give it a bit of a moral reasoning that explains that tragedy. And it is immortality, like hell, it’s just ‘never aging’. Besides, why would she stop aging as a teenager if she had it all along? And her wanting a cure, that doesn’t exist, mind you, is just as stupid. Of all the things, she’s asking for something that doesn’t exist and isn’t sure to be created even with infinite funding and research. That makes also no sense. Or it could, of course, if any of those episodes actually bothered to give those backstories the necessary time to tell their story. But as it is there’s no way in hell I will probably ever giving a shit about any of those assassins.
The assassination-attempts get more ludicrous but with each episode but sadly stay as dull and uninteresting as always. Mainly due to a lack of time to properly tell the assassins’ respective stories it’s hard to care for the plight that motivates the assasins and that they create in an effort to kill Ms. Potatohead. Aside from that, the romantic plot of Tokaku and Ms. Potatoehead might have made little progress in this episode but overall remains in the same state it has been since episode 02. And with that relationship actually being the motivation for the plot, it’s hard to get invested in the story of Akuma no Riddle.