In the years I have watched anime and read manga and otherwise comported myself as though I was born of Japanese lineage, I have rarely found the gem such that I found in the show Mirai Nikki, or Future Diary if you’re watching the dub like a schmuck. But, one sentence into the review and I’m already ahead of myself with interjecting opinions. Back on course.
The plot of Mirai Nikki is fairly easy to understand if you’ve ever watched an old movie by the title of Battle Royale, or the American bastardized version The Hunger Games. A small group of people are plucked from their everyday lives and then thrust by a clandestine observer to take part in an all-out killing fest, winner take all. In this battle, the prize of which being the literal thrown of the universe, each of the participants are given the ability to predict and change the future. This power is relayed to them in the form of entries to a “diary;” these diaries being the shows namesake. Not a concept that is outstanding on the surface, but once you delve in it makes for complex fights. You see, each diary is different, ranging from the ability to foresee random events pertaining to those around you, to being able to see where ever one of your henchmen are at all times. And as the old saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.” Or, in this case, death.
By far the characters are what make the show. Namely the relationship between two key characters, but we’ll get to that later on. At the same time, it worked against the show at times. Certain characters at times felt forced and nonorganic. Decisions were made without reason or explanation, and some events had a very, “Because the writers said so,” mindset about them. A few key events, which are meant to portray the entire basis and reason for a character’s actions, are told once and then never revisited. This didn’t happen much and when it did it wasn’t too severe, but it bares mention, because it turned me off to the show on occasion.
This is, at its core, a horror anime. Yes, it has sprinkles of romance and action, but when a (SPOILER) four year old child is getting a knife through the chest, it’s pretty dang horror centered. (END SPOILER) And the second staple of the horror genre, second to plot and what’s happening, is what it looks like. Think about; how terrifying would Saw or The Purge be if they were told through the drawings of children? Not at all. That having been said, the animation team that worked on Mirai Nikki did a fantastic job. Whether it was because of the realistic blood or the some of the faces the characters made, I felt like I needed to have my light on during many episodes. Character design, however, felt lacking during some points. While those integral to the plot moving along are given a lot of concern, non-relevant characters exist in that stand still frozen in time stance, even though one of the main protagonist is very clearly moving. This annoyed my perfectionist side, but it was easy to ignore if you pay attention to something else.
Oh, my God, the sound. Where to even begin. I am not a musical person, but the opening theme to Mirai Nikki is such an amazing song that I can ignore the fact that I can’t understand a bloody word being said. A mix of a cathedral choir and a hard rock band, it is unique to say the least. And the sounds and music for the episode itself fit in flawless according to my eardrum. Both the tempo and the beat fit perfectly to what was happening; whether it is a heart pounding battle between two combatants, or a heartwarming scene of dialogue between two newlyweds. One thing I can complain about: I watched this show in the subbed format, because I watched before the Funimation release of the dub. And if I have to listen to the main heroine, Yuno, say Yuki’s name in that ungodly high pitched voice, I am going to murder something small and adorable, because it is unbearable after a while.
Now that we have all the bases of the show covered and with all threatening of innocent small lives out of the way, on to what made the show great. Be warned the following two sections are heavily weighted with my own bias, because it is my opinion.
What makes it:
As mentioned before, what really makes this show is the characters, and more importantly the relationship between the main protagonist, Yukiteru, and his psychotic stalker, Yuno. The show spends its entire run, starting at the ten minute mark of the first episode, and ending just moments before the conclusion of the final episode, building these two up and then crashing them down. Rinse and repeat this cycle, ten or so times, and they have a love fit for a play by Shakespeare; a tragedy to be sure, because, again as mentioned before, this is a death match is last-man-standing. Why does this make it a tragedy: well, if you aren’t so gifted in the whole connecting dots arena, that means that at the end of the day, either one of the two lovebirds is going to have to fall to one of the other contestants or one or the other will have to take their fellows life. This is a stated fact throughout the series and it creates tension, because of how our gangly and pacifist main character Yukiteru doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance before Yuno, who is, at best, an insane sociopath who would kill for the fun of killing. Yes, if you haven’t seen the meme of her, Yuno possess a rather interesting split personality; flipping between a cute and innocent girl who wouldn’t hurt a fly, to a talented and collective murderer who can hold her own before both superior numbers and situations. This leaves Yukiteru helpless before the road block to becoming the God of Spacetime that Yuno presents; his only saving grace being that Yuno is completely, and at times creepily, head-over-heels in love with him. She kills for him; many of those killings being those who are not a part of the Game. It is this that brings about most of the stories suspense and the ultimate climax. I guess you could say that she would even kill herself for him. *Cough cough it’s a trap*
Another good thing about the show I wanted to briefly give mention to was the variety of it. I went in expecting that all the diaries would do the exact same thing: predict the future. Most were phones, but that’s a small quam. Not only did the diaries come in different formats, they do dramatically different things. One allows the user to predict how to escape from virtually any situation and another allows the user to create Diary holding henchmen. This was just something that I liked because of the freshness and how I wasn’t expecting it. Plots twists that I did not see coming (which is rare) was another good thing about the show, but doesn’t deserve extreme mention.
What broke it:
This is the most difficult section I can do, because I don’t want to spoil anything. But, the section must exist, so I’ll do it anyway and try to keep away from any major plot spoilers. However, before we begin, be warned that this section cannot remain absolutely spoiler free, by its simply nature. So, if you don’t want minor spoilers, skip to the final say.
Let’s starting with the first one that hit me during the show: the characters. Yes, I know that was what made the show good. However, some of the characters worked against the show at times. While none of the actions or choices made was done willy nilly and without motivation, the presentation of those motivations could have been more refined and explained. As I mentioned before, the story does address why characters do what they do, but it is mentioned exactly once and unless it’s important for something further down the road, don’t expect to hear about it again. Also, the timing of these motivations bothered me, because it forced contradictions to past episodes. A side character will be loyal to Yukiteru and then in the span of one episode, maliciously see to his demise with all the power he’s got because his son, never mentioned before in the series, has come down with a sudden and extremely convenient case of incurable disease and the only way to fix it is to kill everybody and become God. These actions contradict this character’s previously stated morals that he is based on; in a previous episode going so far as being willing to kill him if it meant others lived. This violent shift in morals and tones of the interactions was so charring that I felt lost as to what was going on at certain points. Another, a trained mercenary and terrorist since childhood, spends an entire episode running around the city with Yukiteru and his pop-out-of-the-woods father for no real stated reason. This is despite the aforementioned terrorist losing a goddamn eye to Yukiteru. And in her big moment of heart change, when she is stalking Yukiteru in effort to kill him, what does she say? “Remember what you did to my eye?” Would have been convenient if she remembered that a couple of episodes ago, when Yukiteru was without his diary, without his girlfriend protector, and tired to the point of collapsing and you with multiple grenades, knives and an overall superior knowledge of the way in which to go about killing a person over the middle school boy opponent you face. You know…because you’re a terrorist!
The other major plot twist I won’t even touch on. Suffice it to say, based on the 24 episodes I watched, the ending was unsatisfying; so much so it is the one reason out of everything that really hurt this show’s final score in my opinion.
With all its strengths, Mirai Nikki is one of the strongest and best put together anime I’ve seen to date; a fantastic deconstruction of the last man standing idea. However, the ending, which is paramount to that idea, was either rushed, not thought out enough, or just plain stupid. I don’t know what, but something happened with that. Taking that into account, along with the story, animation and sound, I have meticulously ended my personal score for the fall 2011 anime Mirai Nikki at a 8.9 out of 10, with a strong recommendation to watch it, to about anyone who I could think would ask. Even despite its flaws, I am still pumped for the release of the English dub so that I can re-watch this show and listen to it in my native tongue. With fantastic sounds, realistic animation and a storyline that will keep you both interested and guessing Mirai Nikki is not an anime that you want to miss!