(Warning: Spoilers for Akuma no Riddle)
I love Akuma no Riddle from the bottom of my heart. Based on enjoyment alone, I would rate it 9/10, though as a critic, I’d put it at 7.6/10. It’s action-packed, and full of wonderful character art, animation, and interesting, strong main female leads. And of course, it’s a yuri/ shoujo ai series. Just to add one more reason, well, Tokaku is a fucking badass knife-fighter. I mean, look.
If you haven’t seen it, Akuma no Riddle or Devil’s Riddle is about Tokaku Azuma, a female assassin, protecting and falling in love with the girl originally meant to be her target, Haru Ichinose. Including Tokaku, twelve apprentice assassins arrange to attend Haru’s school and be her classmates. Each assassin was told to kill Haru, and in return, they may have a wish granted by an extremely rich and powerful organization. Tokaku has reservations about killing, however, and has yet to assassinate anyone. After only a short time in the dorms with Haru, Miss Azuma decides to switch sides and become her protector.
There were many complaints about the last episode of Devil’s Riddle, mostly due to two reasons. 1) Aggravation at the fact that none of the characters in the show die, even though it was suggested that they did earlier on. 2) Confusion about why Tokaku and Haru tried to kill each other near the end, or thinking the scene had no point because both girls survived. As for the first item, that’s a fair enough reason to be disappointed in the show, since it takes away from the thrill and some potentially powerful story elements. That’s why I’d rate the story aspect as only 6/10. But saying there was no point to the scene of Tokaku and Haru attacking each other is a misunderstanding– there was a very important meaning for the characters.
It was revealed in the last episode that Haru is what’s known as a Queen Bee, a special existence who gives off pheromones that make people want to love and protect her. Accordingly, the ultimate challenge for any aspiring assassin is to kill the Queen Bee. Tokaku was horrified by this discovery, because it could mean that her love for Haru was only based on pheromones, and that she hadn’t been acting of her own free will. After beating the last assassin in a knife fight, Miss Azuma turned to face Haru, to find her shakily pointing a knife at her. Tokaku then brandished her own weapon, and the two charged each other with the intent to kill. Why?
There’s one possible reason that’s very practical. The last assassin had been masquerading as Tokaku, and though the real Tokaku won, Haru may not be able to tell if it’s really her. The room is dark and misty. That explains why Haru pointed her knife at Tokaku, but it doesn’t explain why Tokaku would take up her weapon against Haru. So, again, why?
Well, Miss Azuma is a very independent person. She hates being controlled. It was hard enough for a quiet, guarded person like her to become affectionate and open with Haru, and now she feels betrayed because there’s no way to prove with alone words that Haru isn’t manipulating her. Trying once to kill Haru is the only method of ascertaining whether Tokaku’s love is real and whether her decisions have truly been hers. Haru genuinely loves and understands Tokaku, so she probably guessed what Tokaku would do if she found out about her being the Queen Bee. Thus, she prepared to attack once the other assassin had been beaten.
In case you want to know what actually happened, Tokaku stopped Haru’s knife with her free hand, using her knife-hand to expertly to stab Haru. The blow should have been fatal, puncturing Haru’s lung; for a short time, Tokaku thought she really did kill her lover, and began crying from the agony. But it turned out Haru had a titanium rib that turned the knife away, so she managed to survive. After that, she and Tokaku go back to normal with their relationship– which is proof that trying to kill each other was something they decided on to prove their love.
So, while I don’t think it’s romantic, Tokaku stabbing Haru is interesting from a psychological standpoint; furthermore, it gives insight into the mentalities of both main characters. Haru proved to herself that she would die for Tokaku, and Tokaku proved to herself that she loved and obeyed Haru of her own free will.