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Mirai Nikki: A Manga about Insanity and the Future
Mirai Nikki, future diary, is a manga turned anime in the survival horror genre. Its premise, simple. God is about to die, and has to find an heir. He chooses 12 candidates(all Japanese, because God is racist that way) and gives each the power to see into the future in some fashion. Then the candidates are left to fight among themselves until one remains, and that is the new god, free to do with the world as he or she pleases. Along the way there will be murders, cruelty and some peace and beauty in between.
The Main Character Amano Yukitero
Our main character is called First, his real name is Amano Yukiteru. He is unpopular and without any drive to change that. Predictably his life changes when he gets involved in the game and several people come to kill him, but like many modern anime hero, Yuki(as he is called) for large parts of the story has problems mustering up the strength and courage needed to fight back. He is a kid, often useless in battles and often crying. Some may find this annoying, but I sort of like it. And it would be unfair to say that Amano never does anything, after crying for large parts of the action scenes, he often mans himself up for the climax.
Yuki's diary reflects his preferred position as a bystander. It will give information about random things happening around him in the future, but never says anything about himself or his own actions. Yuki is not initially interested in becoming God, but this changes once his parents are killed.
The Insane Gasai Yuno
The other main character is Gasai Yuno. She is in my opinion the most interesting character of the show, sometimes she make me sympathize, sometimes she seems incredibly awesome, sometimes I can not help but respect her dedication, and more often than not I am screaming at Yuki to get away from this madwoman as she is clearly a murderous psychopath.
Gasai Yuno is a woman who loves Yuki very much, to put it kindly. This stems from the fact that Yuno felt her life had no purpose, but Yuki managed to give her one. Gasai is, in contrast to Yuki, extremely good at killing, wielding any weapon with ease. She also has no qualms about killing other people when it comes to protecting Yuki and her relationship with him, in general she has no respect for human life. She is often paranoid, considering to kill Yuki's mother before the mother approves of Yuno. The details we are later given about further paints a picture of a very unstable person. Her diary tells her about what will happen to Yuki in the future, which fits with her obsession. She may be the standard example of the “yandere”, a violent girlfriend trope from Japan. However, her violence is never portrayed as something good, and we get an explanation for how she became what she became. She is an excellent character, no matter how depraved she is.
And here a little scene from the first episode of Mirai Nikki, where the diary holders all decide to make Yuki their target, and Yuno decides to protect him.
Plot and Betrayal
So these two set out to protect themselves from the other diary holders and in Yuno's case, kill all the opponents so that Yuki can become God. As Yuki is the first to manage significantly change the future, the other diary holders come after Yuki and Yuno. The duo's diaries make for a powerful combination, Yuno seeing Yuki's future, and Yuki seeing everything else. Yet the most consistent source of conflict is the relationship between these two. Yuno's love is creepy and all-consuming, her violent tendencies unacceptable. Yuki tries breaking up with her several times, but his own weakness means that he has to depend on her time after time. Thus he is caught between being the lover of a lunatic or having to face people after his life on his own.
This is not made better by a recurring theme in the story: everyone betrays Yuki. His friends, his father, a policeman he got to know, they all want to use him and then throw him aside. This is one of the things that drives Yuki back to Yuno, as insane as she is, she will never try to kill or betray him. However, she will do rather horrifying things to him in her attempts to keep him safe. In the later parts of the series, this is slightly reversed, as Yuki starts tricking other people, and in some ways take on the same role as his previous abusers.
Changing the Future
Much of the show's focus is on changing the future, naturally. All of the contestants will get a “Dead End” flag when their death is certain, and some details surrounding the cause of death. Changing this flag is difficult, even with the diaries, and especially when you have to defend against the other holders, who are also changing the future using their diaries. It seems that most of it makes sense, though, but it gets even more complicated when time travel is introduced later in the show. This leads to the one glaring plot hole I have found: why the Eleventh locked himself in the vault the first time around. I will not try to explain my problem with this here, though, and one plot hole in such a strange mess of a story line is pretty well done.
The show is definitely on the gruesome side, we see rape, excessive violence, torture and of course murders, murders, murders. Luckily, the show knows to put some happy and funny scenes into the mix, to not make the dark tones too suffocating. Many of the side stories are engaging while still furthering the plot in some way. There is also the interesting detective-story focusing on Akise Aru, a friend of Yuki and who has a crush on the main character, and one of my favorite gay characters in manga. He is trying to find out who Yuno really is, and later becomes her enemy. His calm demeanor in the most horrid of situations made him both funny and a great asset.
Many times I found myself hating Yuno, and even more often Yuki. They have their flaws, but the show is great in that it recognizes these character for what they are, they do not try to hide them or justify them. It is not so much in what you portray, its how you portray it, and the writers recognize how terrible these two are, how wrong they are for each other. And yet, they both have their moments when I can not help but love them. Question is: why did I cheer when Yuki and Yuno got together in the ending?
Mirai Nikki is a great manga and a great anime. Watch it, if you can stand the gore and the at times infuriating main characters.