Akuma no Riddle, Vol. 1

By Yun Kouga and Sunao Minakata. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Newtype. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

I admit I wasn’t paying too much attention to this when it was licensed. I hadn’t seen the anime, and “yuri in a girls’ private school’ has come to mostly mean cutesy fluff or cutesy angst. There’s certainly some angst in Akuma no Riddle, but it avoids the cutesy entirely, as the cover might suggest. Instead what we have here is a sort of survival game manga, but where almost all the stars are capable of taking care of themselves. And at the center is Azuma, a young girl who is not as cool and stoic as everyone thinks she is, and seems to be missing something essential – perhaps a killer instinct.


This is another case where the cover design was changed at the last minute – the cover you’ll get has different typeface than the one above. In any event, Azuma is a star student at an academy devoted to assassination. She is being sent by her eccentric and somewhat nasty school administrator to another private academy, where she’s to join a class that technically doesn’t exist. Her goal is to assassinate a certain girl. Of course, neither she or we are told who the girl is, but it becomes pretty obvious right off the bat. As the volume goes on, we meet the rest of the cast, all varieties of young, female, and no doubt tragically broken girls who are there to kill said one person. And Azuma, who has her own past to deal with which makes her, as the manga puts it, an assassination virgin, has to decide which side she’s going to be on.

There is a strong sense of plot and character here, which is surprising given the entire volume is basically given over to just introducing about half the cast. Azuma is likeable in her awkward aloofness, and you can see her struggling to understand emotions that come easily to everyone else. Haru is adorable, outgoing, a fluffy bunny sort of person, and has an amazingly tragic past, and I’m not suite sure if the series if going to make her a shining beacon of hope of shatter her like a glass egg. Of the other girls we get a sense of, there’s an “arrogant bully” type, who ends up being our first attempted killer. There’s a girl with what appears to be multiple personalities. And there’s Nio, the only attendee of the class who originated with the school itself, and who is easily the most irritating character in the series to date – deliberately so.

Of course, looking at the credits I shouldn’t be remotely surprised that I enjoyed this so much – the story is by Yun Kouga, author of Earthian, Loveless, etc. She’s not doing the art this time around, but the artist gets her basic aesthetic, so that’s OK. I’m not quite sure where the series is going to go after the end of this volume – I suspect we will be getting an “And Then There Were None” type culling of the herd, so to speak – but ideally I’d like for Haru’s idealism to at least stick around a little longer, if only to avoid the series ending with a giant pile of corpses. Oh, and the yuri in this so far is mostly nonexistent. Doesn’t matter, recommended anyway.

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