Tokaku Azuma is a heartless teenage assassin on a mission of death. She’s been sent to a prestigious, all-girls boarding school to compete in an assassination game against eleven other beautiful killers. Their heinous mission: send the innocent and cheerful Haru Ichinose to an early grave. But when Tokaku finds herself strangely drawn to her intended target, she must utilise her lethal skills to keep her new friend alive – and Haru must place her life in the ruthless, cold-blooded hands of the very woman sent to kill her.
When Tokaku Azuma gets put in this unlikely situation, she begins to make her strategy. When she discovers that she will be the student sharing a room with the mark they’re all targeting, everything changes. Haru appears to be a very gentle, sweet soul who has undergone terrible things, and Tokaku begins to question why all these young assassins were sent to kill Haru Ichinose and the bigger meaning behind the shadowy, limitless promises when one of them succeeds.
Riddle Story of Devil is sort of like an elimination anime, but spares you of any real gore. For a story centres around assassins it certainly isn’t as bloody as I would have expected it to be. After expressing their intention to officially kill Haru, each assassin has 48 hours to fulfill their objective. If they fail, they are expelled from Myōjō Academy and don;t seem to suffer further repercussions at all, which is, which is surprising considering the story angle of premeditated murder. Or maybe it’s just me being all-too used to elimination games that unequivocally end in death for those that lose…
Even though Tokaku is an assassin, it becomes clear from her actions (and from gradual insights into her past_ that she hasn’t actually killed anyone yet. Even though Haru is vague about what is obviously a dark and mysterious past, Tokaku is somewhat drawn to her determination to smile through it all. Even though she quickly realises that all members are her class are determined to be the one to kills Haru, to have their wish granted by this mysterious, all-powerful school board, Haru knows that she will survive because more people have died protecting her than those that have tried to kill her. Whether that is a foreshadowing of Tokaku’s fate now that she has publicly declared herself as Haru’s protector reminds to be seen. The two girls seem to have shared some terrible tragedies within their childhood that have helped to bring them together quickly.
I’m also interested to see the various personalities and particular assassination techniques of the other 11 members of the elite Class Black at Myōjō Academy. I’ve already seen the underhanded poisoning skills of Isuke Inukai and been given a preview of her upbringing and what may have brought her onto the path of professional killing, which is rather intriguing. So is it too much to hope for that we have some more interesting and varied backstories from all the other participants?
Aside from being close to impossible to kills, shown early on by Isuke’s failed poisoning (as well as the myriad of scars covering her body), Haru is also somewhat of a naive little idiot. Even though she knows these girls are explicitly here to try to kill her, she’s still very chatty and engages with them without any emotional or physical guard. When Otoya begins a conversation with her and the two discover they supposedly share a lot of interests, Haru believes that the girl still might just want to be friends with her despite Tokaku insisting that the girl just wants to get closer to her to kill her. Haru holds on to the unachievable ideal that, because Tokaku turned to protect her rather than kill her, maybe the others will decide against taking her out too and they can all graduate Class Black together. She begins to quickly realise, however, that this might not be able to be the case when super-sadist Otoya reveals her true intentions and kidnaps her with the intention of torturing her to death slowly.
We begin to learn that not all of the assassins are as evil as we first think they’re going to be. Some of the wishes the girls want granted for completing this grisly task include to be finally free of their life as an assassin or the wish to see that their younger siblings never go hungry again. On the other hand, some of them want carte blanche to continue their killing sprees forever, so it’s not all tame and tortured souls on the roster here. There also seems to be more than meets the eye to Nio, considering that the psychotic Otoya saw something in her that even has her frightened, so I’m looking forward to finding out more.
Riddle Story of Devil puts a bit of a different spin on elimination anime. It’s entertaining, action-packed and the supporting characters are suitably varied for me to tell them apart, but the thing to watch is the relationship developing between Tokaku and Haru. There seems to be something significant about it, something sinister and subtle, that has me analysing it in great detail. There’s not just the intrigue and battles to keep you watching every episode, but you want to see it through to the end to see just what’s happening behind the scenes of this academy and what our young assassins aren’t being told and I think it’s worth sticking around to find out.