Anime review: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)

Mirai Nikki by Esuno Sakae

Imagine a show that didn’t just “jump the shark” but became the very shark itself during its 26 episode run. Created by manga artist/writer Esuno Sakae, and animated by Asread, Mirai Nikki is an utterly over-the-top, insanely great series that consistently delivered with twists carried out by deus ex machina characters riding a trainwreck of a plot with reckless energy that absorbed every fatal flaw of narration and obliterated them to smithereens.

Mirai Nikki is a balancing act between high camp and the absurdity of classic anime tropes, a dialectical negotiation between the two poles that ebb and flows each episode. Most bloggers failed to note this, and chose to highlight only one pole, only to exaggerate its virtues or vices, which deep sixed their critique.

The reason its absurdity succeeded where many others fail because Mirai Nikki established fantastic premises and contrivances, yet remained well-written and consistent in sheer implausibility by sticking within those bounds. When other shows establish clear conditions and then flagrantly ignores them for convenience, they are shoddily written with inconsistencies.

Synopsis: A standard battle royal set in Japan where twelve competitors are selected to participate in a game with mobile phones that predict the future and the last person standing becomes the next “Lord of space & time.” However, the fact that the competing Future Diaries only predicted a possible future, rather than tell it, made for high drama.


Yukiteru in a less-than-derpy moment

Yukiteru Asano: a socially awkward 14-year-old whose neuroses and psyche became a Rorschach inkblot test of the audience. Being closer to the anti-hero of the spectrum of protagonists, he was less than ideal character for the audience to identify with. However, where clones of Yuji Everylead the Bland ™ populate the landscape of anime, Yukiteru was a self-aware wimp who wanted to break free from his loner habits. His Future Diary was a random one that passively recorded the events around him, but nothing about himself. That missing gap is filled by Yuno’s stalker diary, which consisted solely of information about the object of her obsession.

Yuno amid the carnage

Yuno Gasai: the indisputable Queen of all yanderes, Yuno struck a fine line between dere dere and yanderu, and switched between them smoothly. Most important, her dere was authentic, not some cheap stand-in for a deeper complex. That alone supercharged every “normal” moment as a fraught one with tension.

The reason the main leads played off each other so well was the deep tension between Yukiteru’s naive yet earnest idealistic desires (friendship & loving family) and Yuno’s paranoid, cynical intuitions. Then again, Yukiteru lacked the convictions his ideals required, and Yuno’s cynicism spurred her violent tendencies, constantly exaggerating the tension with each passing episode. Yukiteru believed in the best of people and wanted to make friends and save everyone, but he did not have the necessary character. Moreover, he could not truly trust Yuno, despite the fact that she was a realist whose cynical intuitions were almost always right.

This tension was one of the strengths of the show – what Yukiteru wanted, Yuno could never give him, despite the fact she often saved his life. Yuno was named after Juno, the Queen of the Roman pantheon. It is worth noting that Juno was transposed from the Greek Hera, the most jealous of all goddesses in mythology. More interesting is how Yuno turned out to be Yukiteru’s anima, the feminine inner personality that helped the male subject to open up emotionally and evolve.

There are many other intriguing characters, such as an albino as the world’s greatest boy detective and an purple-haired atheist terrorist bomber who wears hot pink maid uniforms, but I’ve already said too much.

Conclusion: Mirai Nikki is a masterpiece of execution that surpassed its less than stellar technical merits (animation) and improved on the source material (the original manga, was full of plot-holes that ended up being the plot itself). While there certainly are other shows with better production values, stronger characters or stories with greater impact, personally, none of them were as addicting or as much fun. I found myself refreshing the nyaa page every Sunday night for the fansubs. So, I recommend this thrilling rollercoaster ride – as long your level of suspension is held relatively high and your analytic tendencies are kept at a safe distance, then you are guaranteed a visceral thrill rush.

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...a philosophisticator who utters heresies, thinks theothanatologically and draws like Kirby on steroids.

4 thoughts on “Anime review: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)”

      1. Alright, finished. I think you're spot on about everything.


        The tension between Yuno and Yuki was definitely very prominent. It was there from episode 1 all the way to episode 26, and worked so well because we don't know about Yuno. "Could Yuno be trusted?" is what I've been thinking about the entire time I was watching the show. It's one of the really hard questions to answer, even after you know who she is.

        Episode 12 had a big moment, because it made a really good case for the answer being "yes". Near the end of the episode, Fourth held Yuno captive with a knife to her throat, and Yuki had a gun pointed to them. Yuno's diary said that Yuki would miss his target, and hit Yuno, killing her. Despite that, she told him to shoot so that Yuki could escape from Fourth. This shows that Yuno truly did want him to be safe.

        Although we did hear Yuno's thoughts about protecting Yuki earlier than that, we never truly found out that Yuno cared about Yuki before that moment in episode 12. I thought it was a huge moment for so early-on in the series, if you take notice of what happened.

        One of the things that Mirai Nikki did better than anything is pacing. It only lets you know so much about Yuno so often. It would always give hints as to her past. We see from her character that she is tough, and more importantly, always has incredibly accurate premonitions, which in itself is a big sign that she had experienced something similar.

        One particular foreshadow that I thought was brilliant was when Yuki told Yuno that he wouldn't live without her, and would rather die with her, and Yuno whispered to herself "this again".

        I'm very fascinated by this show. The story was great, but it was the way it was presented that really drew me in. I'm looking for more Mirai Nikki stuff.
        There will DEFINITELY be something else. Another episode, an OVA, I don't know. The manga went slightly farther than the anime, but wish it hadn't, as the anime ended with a phenomenal cliffhanger that's open to great speculation. Point is, the story isn't over in the anime.

        And the likelihood for a sequel is looking beautifully high. "NEXT PROJECT" means Mirai Nikki 2.0.

        Will there be an episode 27?

        1. Thanks for the lengthy response, Daniel!

          Your answers (episode 12) is also cynically exploited in Episode 25, when Yuno tries to psychologize their love, that she loved Yukiteru only because he gave her a reason to live, and he would've fallen in love with anyone who protected him.

          However, that cynical interpretation rang false or hollow, because after surviving the first game, Yuno could've tried anyone else, and Yukiteru did not fall for others who did protect him.

          As for the "next project" since it's from Asread, it might be an OVA or the supplemental material from Paradox or Mosaic. I'm hoping for an anime-original. 🙂

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