Akuma no Riddle – 10/11 Review

[HorribleSubs] Akuma no Riddle - 11 [480p].mkv - 00007Ha, I bet they regret saying that, now that they’ve been hacked into pieces because of her!

Look, I just don’t buy it. Ms. Potatohead REEKS… and people LOVE it?! I’ve seen those ads for deodorants, perfums and whatnot, all making you believe that your smell matters. But it just isn’t true! Those ads are total fiction! Even the name of this phenomenon: Animal Magnetism. Animals are things that breath, shit, piss and then die horribly to turn into a smelly corpse. Just a stinking affair all around, if you ask me! Magnets are inanimate objects that push and pull other certain inanimate objects you need to have around, it’s like gravity but with more work involved. So, fuck that! How the hell would these two words ever result in something you want to have?! If you ask me, animal magnetism just isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Synopsis:
The Black Class is coming to an end and that means: Revelations! Because guess what, something as cheesy as Black Class kinda hat a different purpose than killing Ms. Potatohead! It was a test! A test of… reek, a reek-test, I guess! Because Ms. Potatohead’s magic-reek makes everyone like her… except that the only who liked her was the girl with the repressed testosterone so I guess her magic-reek isn’t as effective as the Evil Lady claims to be.

Anyway, turns out Ms. Potatohead mentioned to Tokaku about a hundred times that she needed to tell her about how she reeks actually but just never found a good time… for some reason. Well, because of that Tokaku is kinda pissed. Meanwhile, Sharkteeth shows Ms. Potatohead the little graveyard under the school giving a nice, little speech cheesy enough for a tombstone… except I guess, they don’t do that sorta thing down there in that bee-graveyard-art-piece. What they have there, though, is a ton of fog-machines for some reason. So, Ms. Potatohead is wandering around kinda warming up to the idea of becoming the bee-godmother of the bee-illuminati.

But then Tokaku turns up and tries to kill her because… stuff or something. Find out next week, I guess!

[HorribleSubs] Akuma no Riddle - 11 [480p].mkv - 00006Good decision then to get your education in a class where you have to deal with a bunch of assassins! I bet that’s just the sort of thing your family had in mind when they talked about you having a normal life!

Review:
What riddles would the devil ask you? Banal ones, is the punchline, I guess. At least that’s the one this series is using. But in some way it’s a rather fitting allegory as there’s a lot in Akuma no Riddle that’s simply banal. On the surface this is a series about assassins, danger, survival and the various things that can push a person to become a murderer. But as the series is drawing to a close, it’s clear that ultimately it’s a story about Tokaku learning to be a nice person only to be faced by betrayal right when happiness is about to reek its fluffy head towards her. Betrayal implies love, though. You can’t be betrayed by someone you didn’t like in the first place. There has to be some sort of trust and love is certainly the highest form of trust. So, here we go again: Do I buy the yuri-romance of Ms. Potatohead and Tokaku? Well, to make it short: Nope.

But before that, there’s the 10th episode and for having the last assassin to be faced by Tokaku, it’s certainly not a very climactic experience. In fact, the climax happened in the two episodes before that. What the 10th episode is doing, meanwhile, is just table-setting for the finale. And it does that to an extent where robot-girl as a character was a superfluous existence merely spouting foreshadowing and warnings. It was a whole episode basically amounting to ‘Hey, guys, we have a plottwist coming!’. Knowing now what the plottwist is, I can say three things: First, I didn’t see it coming. Second, it’s complete nonsense. And third… yeah, it doesn’t really work.

In retrospect the tenth episode actually has some fitting metaphors for what’s about to be revealed although I don’t think that the 10th episode was a particularly smart place for such a thing. The truth is one episode away! Why would you need to tease it? Mind you, that wasn’t build-up, what that episode did was just poking the audience with the fact that neither Tokaku nor the audience knew the truth. You usually do this kind of teasing earlier in a series since you don’t wanna commit to the full truth and want to build up excitement for when the truth is about to be revealed. But you only get excited because looking at the schedule of the series, you know, the finale is still some time away. The whole episode becomes sort of banal when the very next episode basically bursts the hype-bubble. I mean, who would need to be hooked by the 10th episode to watch the finale? If that person has come that for, I don’t think that person would need to be convinced to watch the finale. So, the whole table-setting of the 10th episode was a rather tiresome exercise of predictability. I would even go so far as to call it filler. You don’t lose anything story-wise by not watching the 10th episode. Sure, you miss robot-girl sort-of not knowing how spoiling a story works and Tokaku is listening to Head Over Heels from Tears For Fears while excitedly uttering oaths of protection to Ms. Potatohead like a broken record… but other than that? Nothing you wouldn’t get told in the 11th episode in a much clearer way.

So, before I talk about the essential element of betrayal, I want to talk about the actual shocking twist of this series. It’s bullshit. And it’s the kind of fantasy-bullshit that even makes a genre-fan like me roll my eyes. The most obvious problem of the reveal about Ms. Potatohead is that it’s incredibly lazy. The ability is simply too vague and too powerful. There’s a use for mystery when it comes to stuff like magic, dragons and whatnot. But the 11th episode offers an explanation so that isn’t really an option. Now, if the story wants to go for an explanation the most important thing are limitations. For example, imagine someone saying “I can see all the raindrops in the world at the same time.”. Even if you were someone who believes in magic you would be hardpressed to imagine what this actually means and how this sort of thing would actually work in the first place. With Ms. Potatohead’s ability the problem is more one of power than vagueness and results in extra vagueness because of it. But it amounts to the same sense of confusion and ultimately it makes you unable to suspend your disbelief. So, here’s how her ability works: She has some sort of special pheromone that makes other people like her without them realizing and she might even use this ability without realizing herself. Okay, now imagine you being in a room with a good friend and you two having a good time. Now a third person enters and accuses you of having the ability to manipulate people into liking you without them realizing. You protest, of course, but then the third person adds that you can manipulate people into liking you without being aware of it yourself. So, the reveal is that someone has an ability that said person uses without being aware of it on a person that’s not aware of being targeted by it. Well, to me it sounds like likeability has suddenly become something supernatural. Maybe they shouldn’t have hunted witches back then but likeable people instead (well, even better yet the inquisition shouldn’t have existed in the first place but spilled milk, water, bridge and so forth). And it all results in the most egregious betrayal-scenes imaginable when Tokaku asks Ms. Potatohead to prove to her that she wasn’t manipulated. Uhm, of course she can’t! That’s how stupid this fucking thing is! You just CANNOT prove its existence! It could be just made-up bullshit for all we know! I mean, everybody knows it’s made-up bullshit but in the setting of the series, I mean…

Anyway, let’s talk about the second part of the reveal: The purpose of the Black Class. First of all, I’m not entirely sure what the Primer is supposed to do with her magic-reek if that’s all there is to her after surviving the Black Class. Again, it just makes her a very likeable person and nothing more. Shouldn’t the bee-illuminati invest a bit more into her education and training than some weird little survival game? Ms. Potatohead is the only Primer-successor they have and they let her be “contaminated” by normal people until she was 14 or something like that. She will never become the bee-godmother everyone wants her to be with that kind of upbringing. It’s a miracle they even managed to keep the Primer-line alive for that long with those kinds of stupid training-programs.

[HorribleSubs] Akuma no Riddle - 11 [480p].mkv - 00003Except, of course, that despite winning Ms. Potatohead still doesn’t have what it takes to be the godmother of some illuminati-clan.

But what about Ms. Potatohead? Poor Ms. Potatohead… All these times she spent yapping about being friends with all those girls who’d rather see her dead and the one time she needed to yap to keep a friend she keeps her mouth shut. A bit of poetic irony, isn’t it? It’s a bit stupid, too, of course… well, actually, it’s mostly just stupid but hey now we know what the finale is about: Betrayal! Oh, Tokaku felt SO betrayed finding out she wasn’t a knight in shining armor. Oof, that must’ve hurt her testosterone-laden pride quite a bit. But naturally she doesn’t want to go down without a fight like a true… knight! … Except, of course, that I really don’t give a shit.

The first problem with the betrayal-conceit is that it’s about love. If Tokaku’s and Ms. Potatohead’s relationship really needs to amount to this moment of betrayal then the series needs to build up a sense of trust and love between the two so that this kind of thing can work. But for most of the series Tokaku was an emotionless husk just going through the motions (more or less) of protecting Ms. Potatohead. And VERY slowly Tokaku reached the point where she expressed herself more after a bit of a revelation… which led to her talking A LOT about needing to protect Ms. Potatohead but much more didn’t really happen. And it’s not like they needed more time. Well, I mean, they kinda did to develop new-Tokaku a bit more but the point is that most of Akuma no Riddle was kinda wasted in terms of Tokaku’s character-development and the development of the relationship. So, when Tokaku reacts this harshly to the realization that Ms. Potatohead didn’t tell her about her awesome power to be NOT likeable enough to NOT be targeted by a bunch of assassins, I just didn’t care. It’s not like I don’t buy that the whole debacle would put a dent on their relationship but I’m not sure what kind of oh-so-great-relationship is lost here because of it. There wasn’t really that much of a friendship (or romance) between Tokaku and Ms. Potatohead to begin with.

The second problem is that Ms. Potatohead gets WAY too much victimized by the story. Hell, even a skunk looks like a mass-murderer compared to her passive flailing and yapping. When it’s revealed that she kept her magic-reek a secret, she petulantly complains that she doesn’t wanna be a Primer and she was told that she could leave once the Black Class was over. I doubt even that magic-reek of hers will make that sort of whininess endearing. Even now when she’s sort-of faced with the fact that she needs to become a Primer, she… just does nothing. This time Sharkteeth-girl is leading her around and meanwhile Ms. Potatohead still doesn’t do ANYTHING! Either she’s a liar to the point of being a sociopath or she’s really just THAT stupid. Either way, it makes Tokaku’s anger sound a bit unwarranted as it’s giving Ms. Potatohead way too much credit for somehow planning it like this. In the end Tokaku’s confrontation with Ms. Potatohead is just as banal as the riddles in this series. Akuma no Riddle simply failed in creating a cohesive dramatic arc.

 

With its 10th episode Akuma no Riddle blatantly sets up its finale but as the 11th episode rolls around it quickly becomes clear that Akuma no Riddle hasn’t spent its time wisely. Lacking in depth, charm and believability Tokaku’s and Ms. Potatohead’s relationship doesn’t offer the solid ground this finale needs to work as intended. Instead the finale becomes reliant on bogus-supernatural-conspiracy-stuff that barely makes sense and hardly has any dramatic weight. The worst thing that could be said about the final upcoming episode of Akuma no Riddle is that it doesn’t matter how it will end.

Episodes-Rating: 10th Episode: 4.0/10 11th Episode: 5.0/10

Random Thoughts:

  • That one girl-assassin coming back in episode 10 was a lazy plot-device to explain Tokaku saving the day yet again in some fashion. And after that assassin-girl had served her purpose she was immediately disposed of by Sharkteeth-girl. I don’t think you could write plot-developments any less forced than what Akuma no Riddle did there.
  • Ms. Potatohead seriously believed that they would just let her go after surviving the Black Class…? They killed her adoptive family to get to her! Those people really don’t sound like they are the kind who would actually let her go…
  • One way that would’ve actually made the ‘animal magnetism’-bullshit work, would’ve been turning it into some creepy straight-up mind-control-ability showing that Ms. Potatohead’s adoptive family died because they acted like mindless slaves when they tried to protect her. That way there’s some fear attached to what Ms. Potatohead could become if she can freely evolve her abilities.
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About M0rg0th

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

Posted on June 14, 2014, in Akuma No Riddle, Anime, Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When Tokaku got angry I was so much Willy Wonka “Stop. Don’t go. Please.” What attraction, really? I have never gotten the sense this was any more personal than “We shouldn’t be killing teenagers to please some fat cat spying on us.”

    As for the power itself, it would have made way more sense if this was a passive skill that Haru learned via those assassination attempts. The prolonged bullseye on her back (and the rest of the women born into her family) wouldn’t just be murdering all-the-not-best for the hell of it, but a survival of the fittest. Whoever adapts to the harsh life being the most qualified to navigate this nebulous political world. In that sense Haru could be insidious, and not be aware that her nature, after so many years of hammering away at her, is to do what will manipulate people to prioritize her existence, much like babies can identify smiles because they indicate safety (back when your parents had a high chance of dying out in the African wilderness).It would have even gelled well with the past couple weeks where we’ve seen her in a more active defensive role (like kicking Hanabusa to her death), only getting involved when her peons have failed. She may not internally rationalize that way, but we could be left to make that choice ourselves.

    But…nebulous magical pheromones? Breaking point for me was when she runs out crying and then won’t shut up about how not special she is.

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    • Well, Ms. Potatohead needed to know of the power beforehand because the actual point of it all was to create a betrayal-scenario. Like you said, this ‘animal magnetism’ is pretty nebulous in its description and kinda non-existent as far as practical evidence goes. And despite the revelation Ms. Potatohead still pretty much plays the victim-card. Her reaction to being asked to make a decision isn’t “I don’t want to do this.”, it’s “Why do you force me to decide this?!”. It all feels a bit lazily thrown together.

      And you gotta remember, Tokaku also had a secret background that got only revealed a couple of episodes ago. Both got treated like plottwists that explained why both did the things the way they did. Also, it was sort-of a mystery in both cases as to why exactly they acted that way. And it’s clear that the writer of this series considered the reveals coming with the plottwists to be enough payoff. But the pacing in this regard simply sucked. Withholding the characters’ motivation from the audience doesn’t make them more interesting. Naturally there wasn’t much character-development, either, because without a motivation there isn’t really a starting-point for any character-developments.

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