Sometimes you just have to take the good with the bad.
Akuma no Riddle seems to be determined to be a high variance show. Riddle has demonstrated a propensity for wild swings in quality from week to week and even within a single episode and this one was no different. I’ll start with the good in the interests of not being too much of a downer. First of all, if nothing else, Akuma no Riddle consistently gets the spectacle portion of things right. The verbal taunting of Isuke towards Tokaku and the insane brute force of Mahiru really managed to put on a show this week. If you came to see pure insanity and girls trying to kill each other, grab your popcorn because you certainly got what you wanted this week. We got Isuke throwing Tokaku out a window, Mahiru smashing down bathroom stalls calling “is anybody there?”, epic knife fighting and more wanton destruction with a sledgehammer than you could ever ask for. Great stuff if you’re into that kind of thing.
I also really liked the choice to pair up Mahiru and Isuke because the former’s combination of pure power and insanity and the latter’s cunning and sharp tongue created a nice contrast and made this arc work on a level the previous ones hadn’t. In cutting back and forth between the two the show managed to keep things fresh while also not losing any momentum from scene to scene. Whoever was in charge of the big picture writing for this arc did a really great job.
I also was happy to see more of Tokaku’s backstory. This episode did a good job of tying up Tokaku’s character arc as she came to accept her past and dealt with her own inability to kill (or so it would seem). The ability to string together an idea like this across multiple episodes was something that had been sorely lacking early on in Riddle so it was nice to see them actually go somewhere with this rather than just leaving it behind. The surreal scene with Tokaku’s Mom where Tokaku decides that it’s okay to kill if you’re protecting someone precious to you was kind of odd but I think it worked for the most part even if the overall point wasn’t particularly clear. In a show like this, beggars can’t be choosers and as far as character growth goes it was pretty decent, I guess.
They say that if you get the big things right the little things will tend to fall into place so that probably means this episode was pretty good right? We have two compelling villains, a great sense of spectacle and some nice backstory/character development, what could go wrong? It’s never a good idea to ask that with this show because every time you do something seems to go awry. The most glaring issue with this episode was how cheap and convenient the way Haru and Tokaku escaped their pursuers was. I first got a bad feeling when Haru managed to slow down Mahiru by hitting her in the forehead with a cell phone. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be thrown off for a few seconds if I was hit in the face with a flying flip phone but I’m not a crazed maniac wielding a sledgehammer. For a character presented as pure power with little in the way of thought or reason, I have a hard time with her being that easy to stun. Things only got worse when Tokaku seemingly randomly pulled a taser out of the heel of her boot. I’m all for cool gadgets like that but it seems awfully convenient that she have that right at that moment after giving no previous indication of having any kind of weapons like that. It might not be any less arbitrary if they showed us that she had it before but at least I wouldn’t feel as out of nowhere as it did.
The worst example of this, however, came in the aforementioned scene where Isuke throws Tokaku out a window. Once Tokaku falls out the window, there are really two options for where the show can go with this. If the fall is easily enough to kill anybody then Tokaku should be dead and Isuke doesn’t have to worry about it and can go take care of Mahiru and Haru. If the fall isn’t necessarily enough to kill Tokaku, Isuke should immediately go down to finish the job before Tokaku can recover. There really isn’t any excuse for Tokaku to live and for Isuke to not bother checking on her. You can have one or the other but having both really undermines Isuke’s status as the cleverest of the assassins. The actual way Tokaku foils Isuke’s plans was fine but the path taken to get there left a lot to be desired.
To avoid going out on a sour note, the scenes that followed Tokaku taking care of Isuke were quite good. We got some heavy yuri subtext between Haru and Tokaku in the moonlight, followed by a hook for next week’s assassin and finally something new was revealed regarding Nio although what the heck we saw is anyone’s guess. It does answer the question of why Takechi freaked out in episode three after cutting Nio’s shirt. It’s a good way to set up next week’s episode which I can only assume will be yet another mixed bag.