Taking a break from manga that was originally serialised in the Manga Time Kirara, I’ll be taking a look at a series I currently only own two volumes of. That manga is Akuma no Riddle: Riddle Story of Devil written by Yun Kouga and illustrated by Sunao Minakata. Just to make life slightly easier, I’ll be referring to it as Akuma no Riddle as that’s the name on the spine.
Akuma no Riddle started serialisation in Kadokawa Shoten’s Newtype magazine’s September 2012 issue.
There is also an anime adaptation by Diomedéa. You can find my review for it by clicking here.
Now, let’s take a look at the first volume of the manga.
All right, it’s blurb time:
From the creator of LOVELESS comes an all-new manga series that inspired the killer anime!
At Myojo Private School, an elite all-girls boarding academy, the Class Black is comprised of thirteen students, twelve of whom are assassins. Their prey is the thirteenth student, Haru Ichinose, an upbeat girl who vows to survive school and graduate unharmed! Enter Azuma Tokaku, a cold-blooded killer who transfers from another school to kill Haru.
What should have been a routine hit turns into a far more complicated affair as Tokaku is unable to pull the trigger on Haru. As Tokaku copes with her budding feelings, will she decide to protect Haru’s life from the other assassins or to end it before they do?
Already we have an inconsistency, just from the blurb. Haru Ichinose – first name, then surname. Azuma Tokaku – surname then first name, in traditional Japanese order. It’s a minor thing, and the blurb does just refer to them by their first names after giving both full names, but still…
This first volume contains nine chapters, and there’s no contents page to speak of. The first chapter is actually Chapter 0, so the last chapter in this volume is chapter 8.
Before the story starts proper, there’s a few colour pages featuring illustrations of various characters. First is Tokaku and Haru, second is Kaiba and Mizorogi-sensei, third is Isuke and fourth and finally is Chitaru and Hitsugi.
Chapter 0 is called ‘Prologue’, and it is exactly what it says. We are introduced to Tokaku and Haru in this chapter, though they aren’t together just yet. We also get a look at Class Black’s roster thanks to Haru.
Oh, Kaiba-sensei also appears in this chapter, being the one who chose to send Tokaku on the mission to assassinate Haru.
Chapter 1, called ‘Target’, introduces five members of Class Black. First is Isuke Inukai, second is Nio Hashiri. Haru and Tokaku introduce themselves after that. The last person present doesn’t introduce herself, saying she’ll take care of it after the sun goes down.
With introductions done, Haru hands out phone straps to the class – there is a mixed reception.
After class, Nio approaches Tokaku and suggests teaming up. She also throws away Haru’s phone strap, but Tokaku catches it and realises that she actually wants to keep the gift given to her – she considered getting rid of the phone strap, but something has made her change her mind.
Isuke shows up and gives her strap to Tokaku as well, and correctly identifies Haru as their target.
Haru remains in the classroom, and is happy to hear that the girl with the scar likes the phone strap. The scarred girl introduces herself as Mahiru Banba.
The girls get assigned to dormitories in pairs, with Tokaku being put together with Haru.
At the end of the chapter, Mahiru introduces her other personality – Shinya Banba.
Chapter 2 is called ‘You’re Mean’. Shinya had just stopped by to say hello, and takes her leave pretty quickly. Haru then literally bumps into Hitsugi Kirigaya, whom she immediately mistakes for an elementary school student. Fortunately, Hitsugi is accompanied by Chitaru Namatame, who explains the situation. Chitaru and Hitsugi also share a dorm.
Elsewhere, Isuke and Nio briefly discuss their taste in clothing before looking out over the sunset.
Haru and Tokaku are in room 1. Haru accidentally reveals some scars on her legs, and Tokaku demands to take a look. Haru isn’t very co-operative, leading to Tokaku flipping up Haru’s skirt to get a better look. Haru’s response is the title of the chapter.
Nio and Isuke hear the commotion whilst they are going to their rooms, leaving them wondering if somebody had already taken action against Haru. We also find out that Nio gets a single bedroom, whilst Isuke is in room 2 with fellow student Haruki Sagae.
Throughout her time in Class Black, Kaiba sends Tokaku different riddles on her phone for her to try and solve. She ponders the answer to the first one as Haru showers and sends a possible answer to Kaiba.
Chapter 3, ‘Roll Call’ is a mere seven pages long. It shows Tokaku and Haru meeting Haruki, who gives some Pocky to Haru and throws some at Tokaku when she refuses.
The title of the 4th chapter is ‘Business Notification’, in which Tokaku and Haru encounter Nio and Shinya.
Later on, Tokaku has a shower. Haru folds her clothes up neatly for her, and decides to keep her scars covered to prevent Tokaku from taking an interest in them again. She also asks Tokaku not to hate Haru even if she finds out about her…
When class starts, four more students are introduced. They are Shiena Kenmochi, Otoya Takechi, Suzu Shuto and Kouko Kaminaga. Kouko quickly claims the role of class of president.
There’s one member of Class Black who hasn’t transferred in at this point – we get a brief moment where she talks about transferring in with her principal. Her surname is Hanabusa, and it’s clear that she demands a lot of respect.
During class, Tokaku leaves and Haru tags along. Nio takes the opportunity to announce that there will be a secret orientation to reveal who their target is, but she’s sure that everyone already knows.
‘The World is…’ is the title of the 5th chapter. At Isuke’s suggestion, Haru arranges to have some tea in her room with her. Tokaku decides to go out and leave Haru to enjoy tea with Isuke in peace, but not before she shows her one of Kaibna’s riddles.
Haru comes up with an answer for it, and Tokaku uses her suggestion. Turns out that Haru’s suggestion is correct, despite Tokaku’s disbelief. On her way out, Tokaku bumps into Isuke and tells her that she stinks.
In chapter 6, ‘A Spell So You Can’t Die’, Haru and Isuke settle down to drink some tea together. However, Isuke’s plan is to make the first attempt on Haru’s life using sedatives she’s put in her tea.
We learn a bit about Isuke in this chapter – she is the adopted daughter of a gay couple. Eisuke Inukai was a hitman, and her biological mother wwas one of his targets. After he done the deed, he took in Isuke, giving her that name.
After the flashback, Haru falls unconscious, though not without muttering the title of this chapter.
In the hallways, Tokaku encounters Haruki who pretty much tells her that Isuke has probably done Haru in. Tokaku goes to return, but Haruki grabs her – this provokes a Tokaku to draw a knife.
Meanwhile, Isuke starts to fill the bath.
Apparently, ‘Something Smells Unpleasant’, or so the title of chapter 7 would have you believe. We see Kaiba’s second riddle, before Tokaku rushes back to her room. She finds Isuke in the process of removing Tokaku’s clothes, revealing her heavily scarred upper body.
Tokaku places Haru on her bed, and Isuke lets her know that Haru is the target of everyone in Class Black. Isuke has heard rumours about Tokaku’s skill, and she challenges her.
Haruki encounters Nio in the hallway, with the latter telling her that Haru has killed many people. Haruki’s impression of her was different, and she noticed that Tokaku was leaning towards her as well. Nio then makes the mistake of mentioning Haruki’s family, resulting in her being thrown to the ground.
Back in room 1, Tokaku covers Haru’s scars with her shirt, ignoring Isuke. Isuke doesn’t take too kindly that. She also checks her phone, after receiving Kaiba’s second riddle.
The final chapter of volume one is the 8th, called ‘You’re a Virgin, Aren’t You?’. Isuke tries approaching Tokaku, only to get backhanded. Isuke tries throwing the recently boiled kettle at Haru, but Tokaku protects her. Tokaku is able to get Isuke to the ground and at knifepoint.
We then find out that the title of the chapter actually refers to killing, rather than having anything to do with sex. Isuke retreats, and we see a flashback to Tokaku’s past that involved a shrine and the reason for hesitation when it comes to killing.
After that, Tokaku wakes up. Haru had recovered from being drugged, having built up an immunity. Tokaku has many questions for Haru, but Haru is more interested in why Tokaku saved her.
Haru reveals that she knows everyone in Class Black transferred in, in an attempt to kill her. However, she swears to live and graduate from the class.
Tokaku has many emotions regarding this, but she ultimately decides that she will switch sides and act as guardian for Haru. The chapter ends there.
There’s a few sketches of the characters at the end, with some information on them.
That’s the first volume of Akuma no Riddle, which pretty much serves as an introduction for everything. We get the Class Black members’ introductions, and how Haru and Tokaku started to bond. There’s a lot to take in with all the characters, but Isuke becomes the main focus what with her attempt on Haru’s life.
Of course, Haru and Tokaku play the largest roles, being the main protagonists.
One grip I’d have about this manga is having the character’s full names in Japanese order (surname first) and then referring to them by their given names. It doesn’t detract from enjoying the manga, but those who are fairly new to the whole manga thing might suffer from some confusion because of it.
Japanese honorifics remain intact – whilst I’d expect them in an anime in its native language, having them in an English translation seems a bit odd. I don’t mind it, since having teenage characters refer to each other as ‘Miss whatever’ or rough equivalent would also be odd.
Still, an intriguing start to the series, with the suggestion that Haru has a lot more to her than a cheery personality and several more assassination attempts to look forward to.