ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:00 - 23rd January 2016, by David West

Mirai Nikki: Future Diary

Abandon hope all ye who enter – there are spoilers herein! Yukiteru Amano is a loner who prefers to write his observations of the people and world around him in the diary he keeps in his cell phone rather than actually talking to anyone. When alone in his bedroom at home, he talks to Deus Ex Machina, a strange being that Yuki believes is just an imaginary friend. But Deus is the God of Time and Space, and he drags Yuki into a contest to find his successor. Twelve candidates are chosen to receive Future Diaries that allow them glimpses of the future in different ways and, at the bidding of Deus, they must fight to the death using their diaries’ precognitive powers to outsmart each other. With imaginary friends like this, who needs enemies?

Mirai Nikki is a dark and twisted tale of a supernatural survival game that takes a classic story premise in which a group of people are pitted against each other in a deadly contest. It’s been done before in Battle Royale, for one example.

In this case, the survival game unfolds in the setting of the fictional Sakurami City, where Yuki is in middle school. His classmate, Yuno Gasai, has been secretly harbouring a terrible crush on him for ages. Oh, and she’s another of the 12 Future Diary owners. And a homicidal maniac. Yuno will kill anyone who threatens Yuki and anyone who poses a danger to their relationship. All of the characters in the show are twisted in some fashion, but Yuno takes the cake – and hacks it into tiny pieces with an axe. In spite of the fact that Yuki witnesses her extraordinary capacity for mayhem, he is ready to overlook the dead bodies because he thinks she’s really cute.

It wouldn’t be quite right to call Yuki the hero of the story. He’s certainly the protagonist, but he’s often cowardly and his ambivalence towards Yuno doesn’t suggest a strong moral compass. Everyone in the series has their own agendas to pursue, and, in some respects, at least Yuno is upfront about what she wants – she is determined to love and protect Yuki, no matter what.

While Mirai Nikki has a fantasy setting, it still manages to be deeply improbable and illogical. The players in the survival game are referred to by their numbers – Yuki is The First, Yuno is The Second, and so on. At one point they are both framed for murder by another player and are forced to flee from the police. In the process, Yuki shoots one cop and Yuno slaughters a whole team of policemen. Then, when it emerges they were framed for the original crime, they are released. Despite all the dead cops and the fact they were involved in blowing up a hospital during their escape attempt...

The script is littered with these sorts of gaps in logic. Sure, Yuno has a homicidal streak, fine, but that doesn’t explain how she is such a lethal crackshot with a pistol, able to hit the one unprotected spot on a cop wearing body armour. In one scene, another contestant, The Ninth, is surrounded in a school yard. She lets off a smoke bomb, then seconds later emerges from the smoke on a motorcycle sailing through the air. So in the scant seconds while everyone was disoriented, the Ninth set up a ramp, ran off and got a motorcycle, started it, then charged it up the ramp and into the air. And did all this having just been stabbed in the eye.

Another implausible storyline sees Yuki and Yuno surrounded by the members of a religious cult who suddenly attack them because they’ve all been instantly hypnotised by some unexplained means. The problem is that series writer Katsuhiko Takayama has a habit of putting plot before character or logic, resulting in all manner of contrivances in the story. Some characters go to ridiculous lengths to set up red herrings that serve no purpose other than to confuse the viewer, without gaining the perpetrator any advantage over their fellow competitors in the process. One glaring example is that the Ninth is a notorious terrorist, but that doesn’t stop a cop falling for her and helping her escape custody.

There is a streak of sexual violence running throughout the series and no shortage of fanservice. One of the contestants in the survival game is a little kid called Reisuke. He winds up stabbed to death with a kitchen knife by Yuno, so it can all make for pretty grim viewing.

To lighten the mood, however insane that might sound, there are moments of comedy and romance. The first comes with the cop who falls for The Ninth, and second from the love affair between Yuki and Yuno – or Whiny and Stabby as they should be known – which sees them going on a date at an amusement park and later spending a day at a wedding expo playing at getting married. Aw sweet. Like all brides, Yuno should have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something covered in blood. These shifts in mood can be jarring, particularly in the face of the aforementioned sexual violence.

Production values are solid. The CGI is generally blended smoothly with the animation, although it’s very clear that Deus Ex Machina is a CG creation. Movements are fluid even when the screen is full of explosions, and the series makes dramatic use of lighting to accentuate the atmosphere.

Kinji Fukusaku’s survival game movie Battle Royale was never short of bloodshed, but that made serious points about society, control and power. This just seems to want to shock for the sake of it. Mirai Nikki is really quite a nasty piece of work, so if you want a shot of nihilistic and bleak horror, open up this diary.
SCORE: 3/5
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