It’s a shame when a show has to work to not be good.
Let it never be said that Akuma no Riddle is a show that wastes time. The pacing had been brisk leading up to this episode but this week it was particularly breakneck as we eliminated not one, not two but three additional assassins from contention. I really hope this pacing decision was made in order to allow the upcoming arcs to have significantly more build-up because it was fairly clear that this particular arc suffered dearly due to lack of time to properly flesh out its characters. The previous arc I felt did a solid job of handling its story within a one-episode time frame and I don’t know that there was any way to enhance the previous two arcs with more time. This episode, by contrast, really felt like the time constraints cut it off at the knees.
The primary issue here was the lack of time used to develop the relationship between Chitaru and Hitsugi. When the entire thrust of your story is built around the mildly lesbianic relationship between two side-characters, you really need to sell the relationship to make the story work. I can see the framework of a solid yuri relationship here with Chitaru developing affection for Hitsugi based on her perceived need to protect somebody who looks so fragile and Hitsugi, knowing the truth about the identity of Angel’s Trumpet, feeling some responsibility for healing Chitaru since Hitsugi ultimately created her trauma. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time to sell use on this and the relationship kind of fizzled as a result. Getting the viewer to buy into a new set of characters every week is difficult under the best of circumstances. The way things played out I kind of wish that yuri side-plot had played out over the course of several episodes running parallel to the main story rather than some very minor hints earlier on followed by cramming all of it into the single episode.
Our other victim this episode, Kenmochi Shiena, ended up being little more than a throwaway character in the end. In a show where characters are discarded each week to little or no effect, Shiena was sacrificed to the plot even more thoroughly than most characters. It seems a bit pointless to waste an entire character like that. Again, if the lack of Shiena time meant more time to advance the other characters I would be more okay with it but the rest of the episode didn’t seem to benefit that much. Shiena’s elimination as she was injected with a syringe carrying the comical label “POISON” was similarly pointless to the rest of her screen time other than as a springboard for a completely bogus deduction on the part of Chitaru.
That deduction might have been the most annoying part of the episode. Shiena is poisoned under mysterious circumstances. Chitaru, knowing that poison was Angel’s Trumpet’s weapon of choice, is understandably suspicious. At this point, the rest of the class begins to speculate that Tokaku may have killed Shiena because Shiena had just submitted her notice to Haru. Given all this information Chitaru reaches the logical conclusion that Angel’s Trumpet is… Haru? What? I suppose it’s possible that Chitaru has some sort of inside knowledge about the Azuma family indicating that they don’t use poison as their weapon of choice which would eliminate Tokaku from consideration. However, we have been given no indication that this is the case Even if we decide that Tokaku isn’t Angel’s Trumpet, there’s still no real reason to suspect Haru. Haru has shown no indication that she’s even capable of killing somebody. There’s an argument to be made that Haru was the only other one there besides Tokaku, but I find reaching that conclusion without even considering any of the other known assassins very questionable. It ends up being yet another example of something that really could have used some more time to properly justify it. Unfortunately this show has no time for such formalities.
It’s a real shame that things worked out this way because I’ve been clamoring for weeks to see a change to Akuma no Riddle’s formula. We got a little bit of that this week since we weren’t limited to a single assassin targeting Haru but they could have done so much more here. This is where Chitaru’s conclusion that Haru was Angel’s Trumpet was particularly frustrating. We’ve spent this entire show with every single assassin gunning for Haru with no other tactics in mind. They’ve done very little to sabotage each other opting instead to go after Haru in a very formulaic one after the other style. In this episode we finally had the opportunity to see an assassin whose target wasn’t necessarily Haru. There was a perfect chance for her to choose to target Tokaku, not because Tokaku is protecting Haru, but because her target actually was Tokaku. Unfortunately, the writers instead chose to force in a way to make Chitaru target Haru just like every single other assassin in the whole show. It’s a really disappointing result given how much the show would benefit from such a change of pace.
Not to give the writers zero credit here; we did, after all, get Hitsugi killing off Shiena before any assassination attempt took place. That was at least something to indicate that the writers are willing to have somebody other than Tokaku or Nio take out an assassin and that this show won’t perpetually move at a one assassin a week pace. I also liked the use of Romeo and Juliet as a metaphor for the way the relationship between Chitaru and Hitsugi played out, although it did feel like they were beating us over the head with it at times. I know it fit with the Romeo and Juliet metaphor but I really didn’t like the decision to have Chitaru kill herself at the end. If I was in charge I would have chosen to have Chitaru instead leave the school with a hole in her heart after Hitsugi died. There was really opportunity there for Chitaru to be forced to confront the reality that she had accomplished her goal of avenging her mentor’s daughter but at the same time she lost another girl she loved. That potentially powerful message was undercut by the fact that she offed herself rather than standing up and dealing with things.
Going forward I think it’s really time for Akuma no Riddle to put up or shut up. They’ve eliminated six of the eleven assassins in the past four episodes. There are now seven episodes let with which to deal with five assassins. I’ve been very adamant that Akuma no Riddle should give its characters more time to develop and break away from formulaic episodes that cease to matter as soon as they end. I’ve been disappointed thus far in how the relationship between Tokaku and Haru has developed. They’re outwardly closer than they’ve been previously but we haven’t really seen any actual development between them in terms of coming closer to understanding each other and the outcome of the cynicism versus idealism dynamic between the two. Ultimately I feel like Akuma no Riddle isn’t a terrible show but it is one that has left far more potential on the table than most shows ever had.