Mirai Nikki, based on the manga series of the same name which ran from 2006 to 2010, was one of the more popular animes of Fall 2011, and Spring 2012. The premise of this hit show is as follows: Thirteen players are chosen by Deus Ex Machina, the God of Space and Time. Each player is given a unique diary that reveals, to its user, some information relating to the future. They are then told to kill one another until either a single player remains, or until the world ends on the 90th day of the contest. The prize for this contest: becoming God.
Plot / Setting
Mirai Nikki kicks off early, with the survival game beginning in the very first episode, after Yukiteru Amano, the protagonist of the series, begins to discover how his own diary works. The game quickly opens up, blossoming into an entirely more violent affair. First a serial killer targets him, giving him a chase that culminates in a rooftop showdown. After that, a terrorist bombing occurs at his school, and it's really just all downhill from there for poor Yukki.
Yukiteru's diary is the Random Diary, which details his immediate surroundings. The diaries of the other players all do something different, however. There exists one player whose diary details ongoing criminal investigations in the city. Another player has one -- The Breeder Diary -- that describes the lives of his dogs (I promise this is more interesting than it sounds.) Perhaps most interesting of all the diaries, is the Yukiteru Diary possessed by the obsessed yandere, Yuno Gasai. This diary reveals our protagonist's every action, which plays into the fact that Yuno is a stalker in love with him.
Its clear from the beginning that some of the diaries are quite good, while others are less so, but the variance of the diaries and characters portends an exciting chess match to come. The problem: no such chess match occurs. Partially this is caused by a number of characters being relegated to a single episode. A single episode to be used in, to be thrown away in, and to die in. I couldn't help but feel that the plot would have been a lot spicier if some of these chaacters had instead been allowed to interact with one another in a more organic manner. The larger problem is that the focus of the series shifts almost entirely away from the survival game towards the unhealthy romance between Yuno and Yuki.
DeathNote this is not.
A larger problem, still, is that that Mirai Nikki tries to be more intelligent than it actually is. It attempts, at times, to portray its characters as both cunning and clever. This fails because the show's own logic is weak. The rules that the show is playing by are fuzzy at the best of times, and are at other times broken entirely. Failed attempts at being smart keep Mirai Nikki from rising to its own potential. There are twists and turns along the way that keep things exciting, and the ending is actually pretty good, but this could have been something special. It could have been a modern classic. And instead, it's just... not.
Phew. I almost don't know how to proceed with this one. There are a couple good characters to be found in Mirai Nikki. Yuno Gasai takes "crazy yandere stalker bitch" to an entirely unprecedented level, and in doing so carves out her own little spot in the ever-growing canon of anime pop-culture. This has to count for something -- and she's certainly the most dynamic element to be found in this anime.
On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Mirai Nikki's cast is made up of two-dimensional, flat characters. It's already been said that a number of them are introduced and killed off before we can even begin to contemplate caring for them. However, those that aren't quickly butchered for the sake of some action, are given a chance to present further flaw in the show's writing: they are inconsistent. By the end of the show, the number of characters we see switching sides. From good-to-bad, from bad-to-good, and from good-to-who-cares, it becomes laughable. And that's to say nothing of the complete psychological paradigm shifts of certain characters.
Now, I don't want to be too judgmental here because I actually like some of these characters, flat as they may be. Hinata Hino is the girl who raises dogs. I like Hinata. She's cute. Minene Uryu is the girl who dresses like a nurse and blows things up. I like her too. She's a badass. I'm not going to pretend these characters are particularly deep though, because they're not.
On the opposite side of the coin, however, there were several characters who stood out as being actively disagreeable. As if insult to injury, these characters were typically given plenty of screen time during which they didn't die. I would keep hoping for it, and it would keep not happening. Here is a tip for any would-be mangaka: When there exists a character whose only distinguishing trait is that he or she repeats an obnoxious catchphrase, it's time to cut that character out of your work.
At the very least, pick a better catchphrase than "Shining moment!" What does that even mean?
Art and Sound
In terms of both art and sound, Mirai Nikki excels It would be incorrect to describe it as being an "action anime", but when scenes of action do occur, they look very good. Use of color is also excellent. Even so, Mirai Nikki's best artistic attribute is that its characters all exhibit immensely vivid facial expressions. To some extent, this shows up in each of the show's characters, but its most readily apparent in the violently bipolar Yuno Gasai, due to her large emotional range. It should also be mentioned that Yuno's voice acting is quite impressive, thanks to the wonderful talents of Tomosa Murata, a relative newcomer to the industry. Here's hoping that she lends her vocal range to many more roles in the future.
Music may be the show's absolute best quality. Throughout episodes, background music is able to subtlety manipulate the levels of tension viewers experience -- and as a bonus, it usually sounds pretty good. Openings and ending themes include works done by Faylan. More excitingly, there are no less than three featured songs by the ever-phenomenal Yousei Teikoku: Kyouki Chinden, Kuusou Mesorogiw, and filament. It's always a treat when an anime is able to procure the works of such a great band, and Mirai Nikki was able to do that.
Mirrai Nikki received overwhelmingly positive acclaim. By all accounts, it didn't deserve such acclaim. It is not that good. On the other hand, its certainly not a bad show either. It's worth watching, and might even be described as "above average." There's way more cheese than I like with my anime, and I am still somewhat flustered by all the wasted potential it had as far as its storytelling goes. The idea they presented at the beginning was so immediately inviting, that the show that followed just failed every test in living up to the expectation. The deceptively high agglomerate review scores didn't help in setting a reasonable expectation, either. Even so, my feelings towards this one: generally positive.
Final Score: 7.0 out of 10.0