What if you played a game against 12 others, where the winners prize is anything your heart desires. What if the aim of the game was to assassinate a fellow student? Sounds like a bit of tension would grow between the competitors, and in Riddle Story of Devil twelve girls are thrown together in a classroom setting to be the first to send Haru Ichinose to an early grave. The protagonist Tokaku Azuma is top of her class in assassinations and sent by her teachers to participate, bearing the burden of her family name she will be tested in ways she never has before.
Class Black is now in session.
Based on the manga written by Kouga Yun and illustrated by Sunao Minakata, this series is a melting pot of danger and deceit in the form of cute teenage girls all with their own reasons for participating in this elaborate game. Haru Ichinose is the target, a seemingly innocent girl she stands absolutely no chance at survival and is picked out almost immediately by her new classmates as the target. With everyone living together in dorms and attending classes during the day with normal civilians, a set of rules in in place to keep order among the girls and to prevent outsiders from getting harmed. Tokaku’s luck is on her side and she is roomed together with Haru, and after interacting with her a few times a strange instinct kicks in and she makes the decision to reject her original mission and protect Haru’s life. There are now 11 assassins, and 1 bodyguard.
The girls of Class Black are all unique, and each episode reveals details one or two of them so there is a constant trickle of new information to keep the almost grinding story line fresh. Haru is confident she can make friends, even though she knows her life might be snuffed out at any time, she continues to smile and try her hardest to graduate alive. Her interactions with the other girls are watched closely by Tokaku, and despite her warnings Haru always has a tiny sliver of hope that she might be able to change their minds, which leads to her becoming too trusting which never really ends well. There’s all kinds in this little class from the truly psychotic, to the double personalities, revenge seekers and some looking to escape their life of killing, and others who don’t really clear up their reason for being there. Although they are there as assassins, their teacher is not aware and keeps them busy with normal school activities and lessons which liven up the day and present new challenges for the assassins.
Like most of the other girls (except for probably Otoya) Tokaku is haunted by her past, a vague memory that comes to the surface at key moments while she is trying to protect Haru. Not knowing what really spurred her to protect Haru, she continues on with her decision hoping to find the answer, and slowly old memories come to surface throughout the series. Every now and then her assassin teacher sends her little riddles, for what reason other than his own amusement it’s not really clear, but I found myself thinking of possible answers as well which brings a little bit of interaction with the show.
Personally, this anime didn’t really resonate with me as nearly all of the characters have unbelievable backgrounds and life problems no normal person can relate to, which is what really lets down this series. As much as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to like or care for any of the assassin girls, not only because they were trying to kill someone for their own selfish desires, a couple of the girls just felt like cliche gap fillers. Common sense just flies out the window with Haru, and I started to wonder how she stayed alive all this time, and how she would have fared if she didn’t have Tokaku in Class Black. The ending twist does explain a bit of this, but there are more questions which are not answered. The original manga probably covers all these and more, but with a mere 12 episodes there are bound to be key elements missing to keep the anime series short and sweet, and it’s hard to emotionally invest in any of the characters within that amount of time. You do feel sorry for some of the girls when they fail though, and other you are glad to see leave the class forever.
I did enjoy the different endings for each episode focused on each assassin, with a new song it really gave a bit of variety and I found myself watching them to the end. The extras are standard with the textless openings and endings, as well as some nifty trailers and a bonus episode which is basically an excuse to put them all in skimpy bikinis and rip them off each other. It is also a bit unclear when this island adventure fits into the story line, but it is basically a gag episode so you can’t take it too seriously. The English dubbing isn’t too bad but I still prefer the original Japanese as there’s no truly groundbreaking revelations until the very end, if you miss out of a few subtitles it’s not terribly unfortunate. I didn’t mind Riddle Story of Devil as far as a short series in concerned, I know the manga delves deeper into the characters relationships, but I think they had just the right amount to keep you entertained.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.