Akuma no Riddle – 09 Review

_C12__Akuma_no_Riddle_-_09.mp4 - 00000So whoever sees her strength will say the opposite of the blatantly obvious? That’s some strength this Tokaku is supposed to have…

I would really like to know how the author of the manga-series would describe the kind of story she has produced with this. Even putting all the usual anime-stereotypes aside, this series just can be SO stupid at times. And it’s not even very self-aware about it, the story just keeps a straight face when one of the girls destroys a room with a big-ass hammer as if it’s the easiest thing ever and the story doesn’t even flinch when one of the girls just throws another girl across the room as if she weighs nothing. Just a little bit more craziness and this series would actually be campy enough to become somewhat entertaining.

Synopsis:
Hallways whose doors lead to rooms like cages with windows looking on other windows behind which are just more cages. Schools can be like that – if you ignore the stairs. And that everybody does as the tense game of cat and mouse continues. Ms. Potatohead fleeing from the insane rage of a psychopath and Tokaku facing the disdain of Isuke who sees killing as a better pasttime than… not-killing, I guess.

Tables are turned time and again as entrapped in that maze of one floor in a school-building as the characters are. So they all have to endlessly run in circles but then…!

In a moment of weakness Tokaku falls through the glass of a window and lands hard on a conveniently placed tree but her head is hurt which means… FLASHBACK-TIME! All the unholy mojo of plot-convenient amnesia undone Tokaku finally realizes that all those adults, whether nice, evil, alive or dead just can go fuck themselves. From now on she’s gonna do this shit called life her way. And thanks to that enlightening train of thought Tokaku is easily able to beat the shit out of Isuke. But she chooses not to kill her – not because her sentimental, naggy aunt told her so but because this whole thing is her fucking show now.

_C12__Akuma_no_Riddle_-_09.mp4 - 00003Great move, aunt of Tokaku! Why even bother explaining the value of human life to a kid when you might as well brainwash the kid with the help of an inconvenient-flashbacks-syndrome?!

Review:
There’s a scene in this episode where Banba, while cackling crazily, is tearing down doors in a public toilet with a giant hammer while Ms. Potatohead is hiding in the closet for cleaning-tools listening to her killer coming closer. And finally there’s only the door for the closet left and Banba raises the hammer – when Ms. Potatohead suddenly opens the door and hits Banba right in the face, while dashing past her. I think that scene really highlights how this episode basically plays out: There’s a lot of tension and danger is looming over everything Ms. Potatohead and Tokaku do, they act like they’re trapped and can’t escape from being hunted down again and again… but then the tension always gets released for a moment – due to blatant silliness storytelling-wise. This and the last episode may have been the best episodes of the series so far but it’s also clear that there’s a lot of silliness that doesn’t need to be there. The same way the rules for the Black Class kinda arbitrarily streamlined a situation that right from the beginning should’ve been as tense and chaotic as this episode has been, every tense situation in this episode is resolved by a silly moment that pushes the immediate danger away. A lot of scenes are set up as dangerous, only to be resolved by a rather convenient twist. For example, this episode does the whole “seeing the killer in a reflection before he strikes a character from behind”-shtick twice.

What is weird, though, is the fact that this episode and the last one really handled the backstories of the assassins way better than the previous ones. There aren’t any overlong flashback-scenes that offer the audience some convoluted origin-story for why the girl is in the Black Class. The short flashes of Banba as a younger girl being in some sort of cell being photographed by some freaky doctor may not have told a very comprehensive story but these glimpses are more than enough to make the audience understand what the character is about. Characters like Banba who are completely crazy don’t need to be explained. Humans are normally fairly reasonable and there are cultural norms and laws that establish those but a psychopath done right is showing what happens when a human doesn’t confirm to these rules. Banba wanted nothing for the trouble of killing Ms. Potatohead which just emphasizes this sense of chaos and unpredictability that should come with a psychopath-character.

Meanwhile, the other girl Isuke is all about professionalism. She’s an actual assassin and that’s why she originally thought of Tokaku as a sort of competitor because she thought of her also as an assassin. But being this professional assassin she soon realized that Tokaku actually isn’t a fellow-assassin. And there’s this sense of superiority in her character when she talks to Tokaku about her inability to kill someone because for her the ability to kill someone is clearly a sign of power. It’s really important to note here that just knowing her to be a professional assassin and the way she acted towards Tokaku has delivered way more characterization than showing a phonecall to her parents who are also assassins. While a backstory helps the audience to emphasize with a character, it’s not as relevant to the drama of the series as clarifying the conflicts between the characters in the story. Drama is all about conflict and why understanding the motivation of the characters is important, it really is only important for the main-characters. For the rest of the cast it’s more important to establish the conflict between them and the main-character while indirectly characterizing both sides. Not every character on a stage needs to tell his life-story to matter to the story.

_C12__Akuma_no_Riddle_-_09.mp4 - 00005I would feel bad about calling her Ms. Potatohead… if it weren’t for moments like these. Why the hell would anyone throw their phone first?! Especially when there’s a ton of other stuff around to throw?!

Naturally Tokaku saves the day in the end and it’s all tied to her big moment of truth as she finally remembers her past. There’s a lot of silliness involved with this sequence and the psychology involved isn’t even farfetched but rather becomes a form of magic (it’s ASSASSIN-PSYCHO-MOJO… I assume, that’s, uhm, a thing). Suitably there’s a lot of talk about curses and the way the aunt talks about Tokaku forgetting the oath she had to swear while still being forced to keep it, it all reeks of magic. But this whole sequence certainly proved why I complained about the glimpses we’ve seen of the “shrine” starting with the very first episode of the show. If you want the audience to care about a character – don’t hide his motivation from the audience! It seems especially ironic in this case because the flashback heavily implies that even though her aunt seemed to be a positive, lasting influence on Tokaku, she’s still left traumatized somewhat by what had happened. So, these flashbacks deliver the information of what a burden Tokaku’s past has been for her – and a few minutes later we’re already supposed to cheer for her getting over her fucking past! That’s the most idiotic kind of character-development imaginable. One moment the story finally reveals why a character acts like he does – and in the very next moment the story already shows the character deciding to change himself. There’s of course that silly element attached to it as well where some sort of amnesia-spell is attached to the whole situation surrounding the oath that forces Tokaku not to kill.

And I’m not even gonna question how a hit on the head made Tokaku remember exactly but the point is: Upon remembering what happened and why it happened – Tokaku becomes an adult. Yep, well… not in a sexual sense… then again, maybe, if you’re inclined to interpret the fact of her being naked that way when she decided to become an adult. There’s definitely a certain coming-of-age element to her turning away from the oath her aunt forced her to keep and making now decisions for herself. And I assume she was also training to become an assassin while probably keeping her inability to kill a secret so she was also keeping the oath her grandmother put on her to become an assassin. And as a coming-of-age-story the interesting part is that when Tokaku decided to take responsibility for her own actions she not only turned away from the career as an assassin that her evil grandmother forced upon her but she also turned away from this noble oath to not kill forced upon her by her aunt. Two things to note in this case: One, this series seems to think that the freedom of choice is more important than doing the right thing, you wanting to do something is more important than doing the right thing on principle. Two, the reason why Tokaku is burdened by her past is because all the adults in her childhood forced her to be a certain way. Ultimately it implies that only you yourself can know what you should do because it’s what you want to do. A rather egoistic interpretation of growing up, I would say, but okay…

Again, I just can repeat how baffled I am by the decision to keep this whole stuff bottled up so that it becomes a reveal in this episode. Letting that whole past play out over time during the episodes without Tokaku conveniently forgetting it (but still being influenced by it because of… assassin-psycho-mojo, I guess) would’ve been a much smarter choice. Something simple like letting Ms. Potatohead find Tokaku’s diary without the latter’s knowledge and letting her read through it whenever she finds the time during the episodes. It just needed a simple storytelling-device to create some form of build-up. That kind of “burdened by the past”-thingy and coming-of-age-stuff needs that sort of build-up. It’s a fucking process after all. I don’t think there are teenagers out there because they haven’t found the magical button in their brain that instantly makes them grow the fuck up or something. You can’t just suddenly drop issues like this on the audience, then immediately resolve them and expect the audience to give a shit.

At this point I will have to point something out, though. I’m rather generous with the interpretation of this episode. The thriller-scenes are somewhat enjoyable and the characterization is somewhat okay-ish. But overall, this whole thing is still a very heavy-handed, inelegant affair. Subtlety and complexity are things this show doesn’t even dream about. Instead it goes for cheap thrills, cheesiness and silliness. And if you look closely, this episode has plotholes big enough for a truck to drive through. Comparatively, though, this really was the best episode to date in this series. Considering what this series is doing I hope that things just become even crazier from now on. It will never deliver a respectable story in any regard so why even bother, right?

Continuing the good start of this little arc from last week, the 9th episode even manages to raise the bar quality-wise by the show’s standards. Mostly it’s thanks to the tense atmosphere this episode carried on from the last episode but it also offers a somewhat satisfying emotional payoff. While the reveal of Tokaku’s backstory was ill-timed and suffered from a lack of necessary build-up, it put the character into perspective. Furthermore, it delivered much-needed character-development for that character in terms of expressiveness. Overall, it’s definitely the best episode to date for this series.

Episode-Rating: 6.0/10

Random Thoughts:

  • The weird thing about the action-sequences in this episode was that all of a sudden nearly everyone gained superhuman powers. I mean, the fights were silly before but this episode didn’t even pretend that these girls are “just” trained fighters.
  • Well, then again, Banba has the worst reflexes imaginable. To be hit by a thrown phone and a door opening… That’s stuff an average person would at least attempt to dodge. But Banba would just stand still in those moments and take the full brunt of the hit… which is just silly.
  • And guess nobody explained to any of the characters how stairs work because all the scenes seem to take place on the same floor in the school-building. If it wasn’t supposed to be like this then the director of this episode should be fired immediately for complete incompetence.
  • At least Tokaku got more expressive due to he character-development. She still seems way too masculine, though… At this point you could still reveal her to be a man and it wouldn’t seem unreasonable. Her character really is just THAT similar to a bland male protector-stereotype. Creating a strong female character means a bit more than creating a female character that’s essentially a male stereotype.
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About M0rg0th

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

Posted on May 31, 2014, in Akuma No Riddle, Anime, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. “To be hit by a thrown phone and a door opening…”

    ^^^ Arrrrrrrgh!! The phone thing almost made me lose my mind in this episode. Ms. Potatohead threw her *flip* phone (aka tiny phone – not one of those Samsung monstrosities), hit Banba square in the face and somehow it knocked Banba down? A phone to the face knocked out a trained killer who is smashing through concrete walls and fire doors with a sledge hammer that probably weigh more than she does? Absurd.

    However, I will say that I really appreciated that we got to see Ms. Potatohead do something useful for once. She’s dodged a few knife slashes and things like that before, but this episode showed that Ms. Potatohead really does have good reflexes and isn’t completely worthless. It helped me to believe the whole idea that Ms. Potatohead has survived countless assassination attempts in her life. Yes, she was shaking with fear the whole time, but she managed to keep herself alive – by herself – through most of the episode.

    Also, the ending made me wonder if Ms. Potatohead is going to start taking this whole assassination-thing seriously. Like, maybe now she won’t try to be best friends with the girls who are trying to kill her?? But wait, now there’s only one girl left… Too bad. 😉

    Like

    • > She’s dodged a few knife slashes and things like that before, but this episode showed that Ms. Potatohead really does have good reflexes and isn’t completely worthless.

      Ah, I completely forgot about that scene… And it wasn’t really a sign of Ms. Potatohead’s capabilities for me like it was for you… I mean, I would’ve liked to mention it as such except they showed her being covered in slashes after a long battle with Isuke which is just as nonsensical as the phone knocking out Banba. Sure, it shows that she indeed has good reflexes but it’s done in the silliest way imaginable. After all that many slashes are more than enough to make her weak from blood-loss if not even worse… You don’t survive wounds just because they aren’t killing-blows…

      > Also, the ending made me wonder if Ms. Potatohead is going to start taking this whole assassination-thing seriously. Like, maybe now she won’t try to be best friends with the girls who are trying to kill her?? But wait, now there’s only one girl left… Too bad.

      Pff, she was just being emotional because her knight in shining armor, thought dead, saved her in the end.

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      • “Pff, she was just being emotional because her knight in shining armor, thought dead, saved her in the end.”

        Yeah, you’re probably right about this.

        Like

  2. *❄Winter❄Snow❄*

    Anime Review of 1/2 the anime in 2014 (This has nothing to do with this but whatever)- This anime contains fanservice and no plot. I’m done here.

    (RANT >.>)
    This makes me wonder, WHAT THE HE** is the anime of 2014 right now. My only hope right now is SAO ll Okay, I don’t care if this is like the lamest plot in the world.. It probably isn’t since well, I read most of the plot on the wikia and it is actually pretty good. Who cares if it is anime of 20__ 2 times in row? Better than most of the anime right now from what I am seeing. I’m thinking this will end on episode 13 or 12.. I actually had SOME hope in Black Bullet, No Game No Life, and like idk how many more. I actually thought Tokaku was a boy. Maybe not .-. (when I saw cover picture)

    Whoever invented “fansevice” IN ANIME better apologize whats happening to the anime world right now.. Not their fault but I’m like MAD.

    ~Actual Thought on this Episode~
    I only read a few reviews.. I can’t freaking watch this kind of anime without think someone is gonna murder me. Danganronpa haunted me for 2 months.. I SWEAR. Most action series do leave things unexplained.. Example: Hey, LET’S CREATE A GAME AND HAVE THEM SURVIVE! SAO left that unexplained .-. Not the worst episode I saw in this series though.

    Added on later at the end > So I saw your comment and I was like woah so I watched the episode because it was afternoon…. That phone part .-. Excuse me, since when did a phone knock down people?
    Hm… I don’t think this is going to last much longer TBH. I mean it is typical nowadays that aniem will last 12-13 episodes.. Not surprised by that. Most of them try to surge too much action in them and don’t turn out well (Magical Warfare) I can’t say that some of then aren’t like fluffing awesome (Madoka Magica)

    *Thinks* Why is Tokaku helping in the first place.. I thought you were going to be like total over powered person in this series.. Wasted potential there..

    Any of you guys have an idea what is anime of 2014..? Just asking for your opinion. Okay.. I better stop ranting <.<

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  3. Definitely agree with a lot of your points, especially the amnesia-bubble-empowerment….thing. I think what ultimately hurt it was it was missing a layer. The brainwashing curse was only ever brought up as a negative influence. This wasn’t a long struggle to overcome it, so we’re missing that aspect of the hero journey. But neither did we really get the impression it was positive. Like, make us think this was a good thing but it turns out it was actually horrible. Closest to that is Isuke’s speculation that it is what led Tokaku to be Protector is the only lip-service to this. Which I think was the angle they were going for as I got a forgiveness vibe from the nudie scene with mom…but who knows at this point?

    So when we have the big flashback and she UNDERSTANDS! the show is sitting there with a big grin and jazz hands asking “Aren’t I clever?” and we’re just left to say “No…no, not really.” Without that positive association, the revelation isn’t exactly a revelation as much as it’s explaining things to us long past the point it should have been. But I guess that goes back to our Danganronpa level of pacing quality.

    Also, we seem to have adopted that “the family is magic” approach that was in Noragami last season. Not just, respect for the family, but like saying it into a mirror three times will cause bad things to happen spontaneously.

    Though I did think of this..

    “Considering what this series is doing I hope that things just become even crazier from now on. It will never deliver a respectable story in any regard so why even bother, right?”

    …Does this mean you’ll be referring to it as Kill la Kill’s lesbian murder mystery? xD

    Like

    • > This wasn’t a long struggle to overcome it, so we’re missing that aspect of the hero journey.

      Well, they did show those snippets of a flashback whenever Tokaku tried to kill someone or whenever she got too emotional. It was conceived more as a mystery which made things awkward, though, when all of a sudden it didn’t only have to lead to an explanation for Tokaku’s behavior but also act as a plot-device for character-development. In the beginning it was something akin to explaining for example that Tokaku is ambidextrous but then all of a sudden all these moments of subtly hinting at her ambidexterity turned into an internal struggle over the question whether she should become a professional juggler. And a moment after telling the audience that she finally decides to become a professional juggler. So, less than lacking a journey-aspect, I would say, it’s like not much happened for a long time and then the hero rushed through what essentially was his journey within a few moments.

      > Closest to that is Isuke’s speculation that it is what led Tokaku to be Protector is the only lip-service to this.

      Akuma no Riddle isn’t very precise in regards to that but my interpretation is that Tokaku deciding to become Ms. Potatohead’s protector is actually the catalyst for her “revelation” (or whatever you wanna call it) because it’s something she wanted to do. The big thing of this whole character-development is the freedom of making your own choices so Tokaku being that protector is ultimately good because she WANTED to do that. Unlike being forced not to kill or being forced to be an assassin, wanting to bang Ms. Potatohead is her own idea so it’s automatically the right thing to do. I doubt the story has really considered the implications of how this relates to morality or common sense.

      > But I guess that goes back to our Danganronpa level of pacing quality.

      Yeah… though, then again, in their defence, it was pretty clear that a team of sloth-animals created that anime-adaptation.

      > Does this mean you’ll be referring to it as Kill la Kill’s lesbian murder mystery?

      Well, Kill La Kill DID have the director and writer of Gurren Lagann so there was a certain expectation for how crazy things would get. As long as the evil overlordlady doesn’t turn out to be Ms. Potatohead’s mother, I’m fine with anything ranging from an apocalypse-scenario that needs to be stopped to everything actually being just a dream of a butterfly sitting on a rosebud.

      Like

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