Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) Anime Review
In anime and manga, there exists a certain demographic (sometimes considered a genre) known as shounen, which translates to "boy" in English. Shounen anime is geared towards males aging from about age 8 to 17, though specific titles are usually written for a smaller age range. Shounen has proven for many westerners to be a sort of "gateway" into the world of anime, with highly popular series such as Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, and Attack on Titan falling under the definition. Aside from this fact, shounen anime has no traits which I would generally consider to be favorable. By this, I mean that the ridiculously slow pacing, suspension of disbelief, and pretentiousness that shounen often expresses aren't desirable to me from both an enjoyment and a critical standpoint.
However, these facts fail to prevent some others from disliking shounen, which I can respect to some degree, although I would highly disagree with someone if they claimed that the storytelling aspect of shounen was at the same level or higher than titles designed for a more mature audience. Then there is Mirai Nikki, a shounen series so overrated and over-analyzed by its fan base that I can't help but hang my head in shame the moment I see someone discuss its supposed "intelligent themes." Yes, I know that this is a very shocking and rebellious statement considering the massive following that Mirai Nikki has in the west, but I hope that in time you will at least understand my point of view.
Mirai Nikki is a 26-episode action anime series released in 2011-2012 (with a one-episode OVA following the main series) and developed by Asread, a studio known also for their work on the Corpse Party and Shuffle! titles. Mirai Nikki is based on a manga series written by Sakae Esuno from 2006 to 2010. The story follows a 14-year old boy named Yukiteru "Yuki" Amano as he is suddenly thrust into a battle royale type scenario where he must kill the other contestants involved so that he will become the new god of space and time, since the current one, Deus Ex Machina, is dying. Yuki is given a cell phone, which also serves as a "future diary" that allows him to view the thoughts that he is going to record in the future. Each of the contestants in this battle royale has a future diary, with each of them having different uses and methods of displaying their information to the user.
Yuki soon meets a girl the same age as him, named Yuno Gasai, who is also a contestant in the battle royale. The two then decide to work together to defeat the other players, though Yuki soon learns that Yuno is oddly infatuated with him near the point of insanity, which he finds especially unsettling.
Yukiteru "Yuki" Amano is initially portrayed as an introverted, frail, and indecisive loner. His character is similar in many ways to Shinji Ikari, the protagonist of Neon Genesis Evangelion. I should add that these two characters not only behave similarly, but also look similar, and, on top of this, are also the same age. However, there is a very important trait that distinguishes them: the fact that Shinji has an apparent reason for his personality, whereas Yuki doesn't. Also, Shinji changes mentally throughout Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Yuki remains almost exactly the same during the show's entirety, which is in contradictory of the adage that states that "feeble protagonists will eventually change for the better." To me, this is a large issue with the writing of Mirai Nikki because I don't understand how the audience is supposed to relate or care about a protagonist who has little to no desirable traits within their entire existence as a character.
Yuno Gasai is seen as the signature character in Mirai Nikki, being at the center of most of the show's promotional material. In many ways, Yuno greatly contradicts the identity of Yuki. She also has come to be a definitive example of the "yandere" character archetype. A yandere is characterized by a psychotic temperament (yan-) which is accompanied by their love for the protagonist of whatever that they are involved in (-dere). Along with this, Yuno shows a great deal of determination in her actions, making her seem as if she is the "true" protagonist of Mirai Nikki, since most would easily find her to be far more interesting than Yuki. Still, this tendency of persistence that Yuno has makes her feel like the only driving force at times, making her the object of a lot of shoddy and absurd plot convenience.
The only other character that occurs throughout most of the episodes, Minene Uryuu, is defined by the fact that there is absolutely nothing that is coherent about her character. She starts off as an antagonist, but then decides to change her allegiance for no apparent reason. Furthermore, Minene feels as if she has no valid personality, and that almost all of her actions and dialogue just seem to serve whatever purpose the writers decided she should do with no noticeable continuity in her character. She, like Yuno, has the power to dramatically change the story line at any point, making her a living deus ex machina.
All of the remaining characters are so shallow that you could describe each of them in only a few sentences, because someone thought that it would be a good idea to throw in a mass of characters with barely any personality instead of making the world of Mirai Nikki feel believable in any way.
At the exposition, it is not clear exactly why Yuno is so obsessed with Yuki to the point at which her future diary is a recollection of Yuki's actions and not Yuno's. As stated earlier, there is nothing interesting about Yuki. Seriously, the writing could have made him at least a little alluring by giving him a dark backstory or something. Instead, we're forced into believing that Yuno is obsessed with Yuki near the point of insanity for no reason. Another thing is the god of space and time, Deus Ex Machina, who is said to be dying at the beginning of the show. So apparently, this means that, within the context of Mirai Nikki, a god can die of old age, even though he is the god of space and time, which should give him the ability to at least increase his own life span in some way.
The main concept of Mirai Nikki was very exciting during its exposition because I thought that it was going to explore some engaging concepts with the future diaries. Unfortunately, this notion takes a back seat to the intense amount of nonsense that is soon to follow. Here, the series once again works against its own logic by completely sweeping aside the fact that the characters have the ability to see the future. Being able to see the future should allow you to not be surprised by anything, but the audience is led to believe that the characters are surprised by certain events because they are "too lazy" to look at a device that should eliminate all or most forms of surprise.
Next, it seems that nearly every character that forms an alliance with the protagonists eventually betrays them out of nowhere. For example, Keigo Kurusu, a diary user and a police captain, initially decides to team up with Yuno and Yuki. Somewhere in the mid section of Mirai Nikki, he abruptly decides that he wants to kill both of them because his son is dying from an incurable disease and the only way to fix this would to be to become god of space and time (which doesn't make any sense because the god of space and time couldn't even continue his own life if he wanted). There are two major things wrong with this. For one, why did nobody know about this before? Secondly, why would this information cause Keigo to instantaneously do a 180 flip from a generally considerate person into a ruthless, potential killer? Likewise, why did he decide that it was imperative that he kill the people who he was aligned with first, and not the others whom he has no connection with?
Throughout the remainder of the series, more events happen similar to the previously mentioned one, but they seem to become increasingly preposterous to the point at which there are so many plot holes and character inconsistencies that it becomes difficult to even enjoy the show, let alone take it seriously.
This is further evidenced by the supporting characters in Mirai Nikki, whom the audience is supposed to care about when something bad happens to them, while we are given minuscule amounts of info detailing them and they have no discernible personality. All of this adds up to one of the most flat and hollow conclusions that I have ever witnessed in an anime. In the middle of all of this, I'm not sure what the theme of this anime was supposed to be. Sure, there's this weird romantic subplot that comes up at the very end, but none of the characters are dynamic, and whatever message that the writers might have been attempting to indicate ends up futile since the events that supposedly symbolize these messages are void of any compassion or depth whatsoever (i.e. how Yuki and Yuno's relationship has no meaning behind it and Yuki learns virtually nothing by the end of the series). Some of these attempts almost succeeded, but became overshadowed by how wonky and borderline-binary some of the occurrences end up feeling.
What's even worse at this point is that the show is still taking itself seriously at this point despite the massive wall of plot holes, lack of compelling or believable characters, (except maybe Yuno) relationships, or events. As a reminder, just because something is "over-the-top" and "you didn't expect what was coming next" does not mean that whatever you're talking about is of good quality.
Animation & Sound
The animation in Mirai Nikki always felt to me as if it didn't really fit the events it was portraying, as the high color contrast didn't match the repeatedly frightening scenes. Other than that, I had no issues with the animation quality, other than the animation budget increasing unexpectedly during the last few episodes (though this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just feels out of place).
The sound was nothing too impressive, excluding the first opening and closing pieces, which I felt emphasized the themes of the show very well with their action-inspired atmosphere. On the other hand, the second opening is an absolute monstrosity- mostly due to its incoherent English lyrics and overall inability to deliver even a fraction of the amount of adrenaline that the first opening depicted. There is an English dub for Mirai Nikki, though I highly prefer the Japanese audio because I think that the English voice actor for Yuno didn't do the greatest at portraying the moe aspects of the pink-haired yandere, while the Japanese voice actor managed both the cute and psychotic part of her. This being my sole problem with it, I think that the English cast did just as well or better than the Japanese one, but perhaps the English dub could have done without all of the unnecessary swearing that didn't exist in the Japanese dub.
Mirai Nikki is a massive misstep from a narrative standpoint. It tries to be "dark", "mature", and enticing, but this is offset by the fact that barely anything actually makes any sense within the context of the writing, and that it often goes on tangents where it attempts to be humorous which further harms the credibility of the points that are "dark." The characters are another problem entirely. The show tries so hard to make the viewer think that the characters have some kind of deep connection, but in fact, there is no logical evidence that these supposed connections exist, and most of the characters are so shallow to the point at which the audience has to force itself into thinking that there are three-dimensional, stimulating characters involved in order to fully comprehend what the writers were trying to convey. I think that the overall quality of this show would have increased if it had only about 13 episodes, since it would have drug out less and it would've felt less forced.
Mirai Nikki is a common example in the case of "enjoyment does not equal quality." Sure, maybe the ridiculous set pieces were enthralling to some, but arguing that it can be enjoyed for anything more than the "wow" factor is silly, as the show proves time and time again that it cannot form a coherent narrative, let alone a fascinating one. With that, I highly suggest that anyone looking for a character-driven story should skip this one, as you will probably want to tear your eyes out of their sockets by about the twelth episode.