Full Series Review: Mirai Nikki/ Future Diary
Introduction and Summary:
In Mirai Nikki, known by the English title Future Diary, a number of random people are chosen and given cell phones (or in some cases, a "diary" in another form, such as paper), and each one has certain supernatural abilities. Usually, this means that the diary displays certain pieces of information that the owner of the diary could not know by ordinary means.
The catch? All of them are being pitted against the others in a fight to the death. The reason for this is that the diary makers want to see who is the most worthy of possessing the powers of the diaries.
Yukiteru is our generic anime protagonist, who spends about half the time fighting and the other half of the time running away, crying, and getting other people to fight for him, but because he at least occasionally shows some goddamn balls, he's not as annoying as Shinji from Evangelion. But, the series is probably most notable for its inclusion of insane yandere character Yuno Gasai. She's in the supportive girlfriend role in the story, madly in love with Yukiteru (who she calls Yukki in the Japanese version and various pet names in the dubbed version).
But, that's not all there is to her character. Yuno is so crazy and scary sometimes that the audience begins pretty quickly to doubt if she's really motivated by love or just insanity, if she's really love-crazed or just plain evil and controlling. She's the character who really makes the show stand out as unique.
Review and Analysis
Like many shows with the Battle Royale plot, Mirai Nikki explores the concept of being forced to kill someone you love, or someone you consider a good friend. I think the prevalence of this kind of plot in anime is probably linked to Japanese culture, specifically bushido. With its Confucian influence, bushido or "the way of the warrior" prescribed obedience and loyalty to one's lord. Unlike in Confucianism, bushido however is a hierarchy that places the warrior at the pinnacle of society.
This power comes with it the responsibility, however, to honor one's duty above any sort of personal friendships or attachments. Basically, if I'm friends with a samurai in clan B and I'm a samurai in clan A, that can be well and good, but only until the lord of clan A and the lord of clan B get into a fight with each other. Then, I also have to accept that killing my friend is a duty required of my position. Bushido was the dominant ideology in Japan for hundreds of years, so there's no reason to think it has gone away completely in modern times, even though they don't have the same kinds of social structures in place anymore.
Mirai Nikki is also interesting when one tries to analyze the character Yuno Gasai. There are many interesting and well-developed side characters in this series, but Yuno is frankly the one with the most interesting back story and the most unusual personality. Her dramas take up a lot of the viewer's focus in the show. The cool thing is that you can never fully trust or understand her, but you can never fully hate or condemn her either; she swings back and forth between good and evil actions, between justified and unjustifiable deeds. Interestingly, she seems to have a warrior's instinct and cunning, making her more rational and less emotionally driven than so many other anime girl characters. But, she is, on the other hand, damaged psychologically, traumatized by her past, and driven by a weird kind of obsessive, possessive love. The dynamic pull between her emotional side and her rational side, as well as between her loving side vs. her threatening side, make her an interesting character, to say the least.
But it's not just Yuno who is interesting here, Mirai Nikki introduces a lot of characters with a lot of complexity and interest. While Battle Royale and The Hunger Games do not take the time out to give you motivations and personal histories of all the characters involved in the melee, Mirai Nikki does, setting it apart from other stories with a similar plot. It's also interesting in that the characters aren't trapped in a remote location, like the island in Battle Royale. Their "ring" is the entire world (not literally like in G Gundam, but you know what I mean). This is interesting because they have so much freedom and so much more is at stake. Civilians are involved. It's a lot more like fighting a real war with real consequences.
Are there flaws, sure. The "magical cell phones" setup seemed needlessly complicated, for one. It's also weird because they can predict the future and change it, which is a bit illogical (because, if you can change the future, then it's not really by definition predictable). But I liked Mirai Nikki a good deal for being so emotionally captivating. It has some interesting characters, and as a story it takes a familiar plot setup and tweaks it in some very compelling ways. So I would recommend this series, especially to fans of action, suspense, and thrillers/mysteries. It's not the kind of series that's super deep like Ghost in the Shell, but it is plenty entertaining. I would consider it closest to Death Note, in that each episode has a lot of that same feeling of drama and suspense.
Spoiler Warning: This clip is from pretty late in the series, but I think it gives you a feel for the drama and suspense I was talking about:
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