A new class has started at Myojo Private School, but this one’s a bit different: Class Black is filled with 12 teenage assassins, all after the same target — their thirteenth classmate, Haru. Azuma Tokaku is one of these assassins — but when her chance to take out Haru and seize the reward presents itself, she can’t bring herself to complete her duty.
Akuma no Riddle was one of the anime I enjoyed most during the season it was airing. After watching faithfully (and almost obsessively) every week, I even picked up a Japanese edition of Volume 1 at Kinokuniya in New York. As a fan of the series so far, I was excited to see Seven Seas had picked this one up.
The best way to describe this manga is a schoolgirl assassination action manga with undertones of yuri romance. Tokaku is a star student at her original school of assassins, presented in the prologue as totally cold. Yet the warmth of a girl like Haru, who wasn’t raised to kill people, starts to melt her, and even after their first meeting, Tokaku is already a little attached.
While Tokaku’s assassin exploits may seem like the biggest draw to this series, the real star of Akuma no Riddle is Haru, the eternally optimistic assassination target, who tells Tokaku quite firmly that she wasn’t born to die — she was born to live.
One slightly confusing thing about this edition is that the back cover lists Haru’s name in the Western style, with the given name first and the family name last — “Haru Ichinose” — while Tokaku’s name is listed in the Japanese style with her given name last, “Azuma Tokaku.” In the manga itself, the characters are “Ichinose Haru” and “Tokaku Azuma,” both written in the Japanese style. It’s not confusing once the reader is in the middle of the story, but volume one has other translation quirks, too, like when one character refers to a “sunrise” when the students are clearly returning to the dorm after school has ended.
The English edition is slightly larger than my Japanese one, which makes this edition easier to read. Akuma no Riddle has an art style that borders on over-stylized, and it’s enjoyable: the facial expressions are wonderfully devious, and in chapter 4, the character Nio has a smile that looks downright demonic — perfect for setting the tone for a story of competing assassins, fragile alliances, and backstabbing betrayals.
The artist also makes good use of white space — or, more accurately, black space: on several pages and spreads, the gaps between panels are filled with black instead of blank space, and many panels utilize purely black backgrounds. In some cases, this doesn’t work quite so well, since it gives an impression of nighttime during a scene set during the day.
As an introduction to the series, volume one both explains and withholds enough information for the reader to understand what’s going on while being compelled to try to find out why. While it wouldn’t top my list of yuri recommendations — Seven Seas in particular has a lot of great titles for those strictly interested in yuri romance — it’s a fast-paced and romantic action story with an almost entirely female cast. I would definitely recommend this for readers looking for assassination stories or diverse stories that aren’t tokenizing.
Story: 4 out of 5 stars
Art: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Feliza Casano edits and writes for all sections of the site. In her approximate 2.3 hours of free time each month, she loves watching anime, reading science fiction, and working on her novels-in-progress. Keep up with her antics at felizacasano.com and follow her on Twitter @FelizaCasano.