Review: The Future Diary

The Future Diary is a twenty-six episode anime that focuses on a game played with twelve participants where the winner will become a deity. With little to no knowledge of the series, I went in with a clean slate, which is rare for me. Would this anime prove enjoyable or let me down?

A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.

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Yukiteru Amano is the principle star of The Future Diary. A loner and (self-imposed?) social outcast, Yuki spends much of his time writing a diary in his cell phone about the events that occur around him and fantasizing about Deus Ex Machina, his “imaginary” friend and god of space-time. As it turns out, Deus is a real god, and invites Yuki and eleven other players to a game where the last one alive will take Deus’s throne. Helping out each player is an object called a Future Diary, each with different functions that help the user; Yuki’s for instance, tells him about upcoming events that will occur near him.

Shortly after the game begins, Yuki is approached by Yuno Gasai, a popular girl in his class who barely acknowledged him before. Yuno reveals that she’s in love with Yuki, and has been stalking him for some time with help from her Future Diary, a device which tells her what he is doing at every moment. The two soon become wrapped in a battle for survival with the other diary users, while struggling with their feelings towards one another.

This photo basically sums up Yuki and Yuno's dysfunctional relationship...without the violent aspect, of course.

This photo basically sums up Yuki and Yuno’s dysfunctional relationship…without the violent aspect, of course.

The Future Diary has a number of positive aspects. The very concept of the Future Diaries is quite interesting and well done. I liked that each diary had an ability that was sufficiently different from every other and mirrored the user in some way. Furthermore, for a series that involved a lot of future predictions, the writers managed to keep continuity relatively tight throughout. Each episode ended with a brief clip of Deus’s familiar Murmur interacting with characters from the series, and the majority of these were quite funny and gave some much needed light-heartedness to an otherwise dreary series.

Sadly, it’s there that the positive aspects of the series end. The character designs are relatively bland, and the animation, while not terrible, is nothing to write home about either. This factor becomes especially problematic during the fight scenes, which range from mildly entertaining to downright uncreative, when sometimes the characters movements feel jerky.

The characters are also a huge downfall of The Future Diary. Yuki is totally unlikable, a fact cemented by his rapidly changing characterization. One moment, he’ll stand up like a hero and try to do something selfless, and the next he’ll cringe in the corner like a coward when faced with a problem only half as difficult. His “love” for Yuno also feels alien to me: he spends the first half of the series noting that she’s insane and acting afraid of her, and rightly so. However, sometime around episode 15 he admits he loves her, for what reason I cannot understand. Nothing seemed to occur to trigger this transformation.

And yet she's totally crazy for him...

And yet she’s totally crazy for him…

Yuno, as the other main protagonist, is perhaps more problematic than Yukiteru. She’s literally insane, killing without qualms and torturing people for what she claims is her “love” of Yuki. Again, this romance makes little sense, though at least with Yuno they give a decent, albeit hasty and contrived, explanation during the final episodes. I can at least understand why someone might identify with the confused and wide-eyed Yukiteru, but Yuno is an awful human being, a fact the writers attempt to justify towards the finale, but fail to sufficiently accomplish said goal.

There are a few characters who are mildly interesting, but sadly they don’t get much screen time. Aspiring detective Aru Akise is a fun character when first introduced, but he quickly falls by the wayside, only to reappear for an inevitable (albeit somewhat badass) death. I also really like The Twelfth, a diary user obsessed with justice who tries to dress like a superhero but is often mistaken for a criminal because of his weird clothes and tendency to skulk around. Regrettably, Twelfth is killed off a mere three episodes after his introduction, providing a missed opportunity for someone who could have been a fun character.

Pictured: a character I actually liked.

Pictured: a character I actually liked.

The tone of the show, like the characters Yuki and Yuno, is quite inconsistent. There are hasty jumps between moments of absolute horror and violence to ones of relative calm and humor. This made the series feel like the writers couldn’t decide it’s ultimate direction: is it a dark series for adults? A funny show that younger teens can enjoy? Honestly, I’m not even sure who this series’s intended audience is, as the people at the right age (14) to relate to the protagonists are, in my opinion, too young for some of the seriously adult and f**ked up themes littered throughout.

Voice acting is, like the rest of the show, a mixed bag but generally not great. I feel both the Japanese and English voice actors gave it their best shot, but with such a shoddy script it’s hard to get into. I found Yuki and Yuno’s voices more bearable in the Japanese dub, whereas I liked how the majority of secondary characters sounded in English.

Perhaps I missed something in The Future Diary. The show definitely touched on some interesting themes about growing up and whether one should go to any lengths for love. Even so, I feel this anime is not worth watching. Though it has a decent first third, the remaining portion of the series is downright terrible at the worst of times, and barely watchable at best.

Pros:

-interesting premise

-a few cool secondary characters

Cons:

-main characters are totally unlikable

-characterization and plot are all over the place

-bland animation and character designs

-underwhelming voice acting from both English and Japanese main casts

Rating: 1.5/5

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Silverwolf

Moar Powah's very own Clark Kent.

4 Comments:

  1. I actually REALLY liked Mirai Nikki; sure the Yuki was unpredictable and was extremely brave and cowardly at different stages, but this inconsistency really mirrors the firing of a teenager's inner clay. People, in reality are more amorphous than we would expect, and I think the writers took note of this. Yuno was insane and the love between them was… unusual, but it is yet another instance of really quite a vivid caption of the emotion that is 'love'.
    Through the several ages, one of the most inconsistent ideas was, and still is, the definition of 'love'. Yuno and Yuki embody this in the quirkiness of their own brand of love. It is wacky and precocious yet endearing.
    And the ending- the ending was to die for: I was left in a sort of shock. I actually thought it was pretty sad, while being left satisfied with having witnessed a great series with clever writers.

    • I respect your opinion, but sadly cannot agree. Perhaps this just wasn't a series for me, but it just didn't click with me. Still, you've made some valid points about the mutability of the human experience, which I think is a central theme of the show. Whether or not they accomplished that is another matter entirely.

  2. Out of curiosity, what part of the character design of Yuno made you feel that she was a poorly designed character? In my opinion (not saying this is absolute fact, just the opinion of some random pleb) Yuno is likely one of the best designed characters out there, because of the complexity of the motivations behind her actions and the extent to which she takes her actions (killing people in absurd numbers; killing with little provocation and for strange reasons [they aren’t his friends]; totally psychopathic love for Yukki; etc.) make her one of the most interesting characters to watch and delve into. She is literally the embodiment of the yandere – she is used as the case example on the tropes website, since she literally is the definition of a yandere character.

    • Do you mean character design or characteristics? The design (visual) of Yuno is fine, though nothing spectacular compared to most modern anime, especially not to some of the other characters in the series.

      In terms of her persona, I found Yuno to be rather one-dimensional. I could understand her motivation, but couldn’t identify with it. The plot told, rather than showed, me that I should feel sorry for her, that her actions are justified, etc. As for tropes, I think that’s totally irrelevant to whether or not I found her as a strong character; in fact, if she adheres so strongly to one archetype, that’s all the more reason for me to classify her as I did: one-dimensional.

      Nevertheless, thank you for your feedback. I do acknowledge that this series clicks with a lot of people; I’m just not one of them.

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