Future Diary – Review

by Miguel Douglas


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Amano Yukiteru, a middle school student, is a boy who has problems making friends. He thinks of himself as a bystander and will always write down everything he sees in a cell phone diary. Tormented by solitude, Yukiteru began to imagine things like a friend called Deus Ex Machina who is apparently the Lord of Time and Space. Seeing Yukiteru’s miserable state, Deus gives him a new ability. His diary will now record events that will happen in the near future. Yukiteru is then forced to participate in a game in which the winner will become Deus’s successor. Should Yukiteru lose the diary he will be dead, and there are quite a few other scrupulous players participating in this very deadly game.

Stemming from the manga by author Sakae Esuno, Future Diary presents a darkly twisted tale of survival taking place in what is known as the Diary Game, a game where outwitting the other opponents is not just encouraged—it’s an absolute necessity to survive. Esuno paints this horrific landscape with considerable ease, bringing about the brutal nature of its characters and the devious intricacies of the game itself. With savage depictions of death and bodily destruction being showcased within Esuno’s manga, director Naoto Hosada handles the animated version of Future Diary in a considerably less impacting way visually, all the while staying true to the deranged atmosphere that the manga series is known for. Future Diary is not necessarily a series that is light in what it chooses to show; its issues are mature and frequently unapologetic in its presentation of lunacy in its most basic and revealing form. The series could’ve easily become a showcase for savage violence without much purpose, but Hosada follows closely to Esuno’s source material, drawing upon the psychological framework of its characters in promoting its narrative rather than absolute violence.

This is what makes the series thrilling to watch—with its abundance of insane and diverse characters, the series never really gets lethargic during its course as a show. The plot is constantly moving forward, providing an assortment of increasingly bizarre situations in which the characters find themselves struggling to survive within. The suspense that the series offers through each episode is encompassed by the simple fact that these characters are literally in a life or death struggle, with each of them having to make painful and often times barbaric choices in order to just survive another minute. The series doesn’t diminish this important aspect, promoting its causality for mere survival as a tangible element of the dangerous game these characters have been placed in. There is no moral judgment expressed by a majority of these characters, which really explores the lengths of insanity when it comes to judging at the actions of an individual. Most of the characters within the show convey some characteristic of being mentally disturbed—whether it stems from a horrific past incident or simply because they like to inflict pain—the series is one that looks extensively into the psychopathic faculties of its characters.

This is perhaps most appropriately seen within the character of Yuno. With her crazed love for Yukiteru remaining a constant presence within the show, she exhibits an absolutely frightful possessiveness over him—clearly residing within the framework of being mentally unstable, perhaps afflicted with borderline personality disorder. She manipulates, exerts violence, and even murders for the preservation of her relationship with Yukiteru, often times with a searing sense of glee to accompany her devious actions. Her partnership with Yukiteru remains an important element to the narrative, in which even Yukiteru falls upon manipulating Yuno to a degree as well—even though its mostly from the perspective of him simply wishing to appease her murderous appetite. Their contrasting pairing provides the series with some odd humor as well, as viewers will slowly begin to see just how destructive their relationship truly is. The series works in Yukiteru as the only relatively normal character within the show, which allows us to see just how strange the other characters are in relation to him. Considered a loner by his own accord, Yukiteru is viewed as an individual willing to showcase some moral clarity towards his actions in an environment that doesn’t necessarily advocate for it. We begin witnessing just how emotionally involving the game is, with Yukiteru conflicted over making the right choices with the overtly persistent nature of Yuno never leaving his side.

But with such a narrative that allows for and relies upon the rearrangement of events given the usage of prescient cellular phones, the outcomes it presents may appear to be contrived plot devices rather than plausible solutions. For example, the series frequently focuses upon the hopeless situations in which Yukiteru finds himself in only to miraculously allow for some unforeseen adjustment to the way the Diary Game is played in order to save him. Some of these resolutions just seem entirely too farfetched to be believable, with the better part of them being viewed as simply illogical excuses to get a character out of a dire situation. This even coincides with the likes of certain characters that exhibit superior intuition in order to escape from such dreadful circumstances—which doesn’t make the feasibility of their actions very conceivable. For a series where a multitude of character arcs are being showcased at any given time, Future Diary’s complex plot succeeds primarily through its clever execution—for the most part. The series somewhat struggles when its narrative adheres to the aforementioned plot resolutions, which may irritate some viewers looking for a more intelligent approach towards these inconveniences in its story. Besides this setback though, Future Diary’s narrative remains consistent in retaining a great sense of mystery surrounding the motivation of its characters as well as Yukiteru’s final outcome.

While Future Diary is definitely not a series for everyone—those not willing to venture into the dark recesses of humanity need not apply—the series does a fantastic job in following through on its unique premise. It’s a series that remains suspenseful all throughout every episode, offering an excess of viciously demented characters, a likeable protagonist, and an involving narrative regarding the manipulative needs of human beings. While the series isn’t nearly as violent as Esuno’s manga, Hosoda’s interpretation does adequately reflect upon the savagery that commences in the form of the Diary Game, a direction that should please readers of the manga series. This isn’t a pleasant game these individuals are participating in, and the series makes sure to elaborate on that element in a significant fashion. With a diverse range of characters that are seemingly accustomed to such cruelty, the series remains grounded through the distinctive relationship exhibited between Yuno and Yukiteru—mainly due to just how strangely unsettling it is at times. This element culminates in a series that is eerily humorous in moments but always aware of its solemn nature, resulting in Future Diary ultimately being a highly entertaining, uniquely executed, and horrifying view into the struggle for survival amidst a quest to become God.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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  • Ali

    I really enjoy this show because of the insanity of humans being showcase. Perhaps the oddest thing I liked about this show is Yuki himself. I think that he better represent how you do a weak character correctly. At worst I felt annoyed by him but for most part I was sympathetic towards him because he was the most normal person participating in a game populated by less than sane people. I also felt that the diaries were used more as plot devices to keep the protagonist alive more often than clever usage of the diaries to get out of a death flag. I found that the most interesting thing of the show is Yuno. She literally is the girlfriend to die for. I found it fun trying to figure her out and was surprised when my guesses about her were correct.

  • Miguel Douglas

    @Ali: I really liked Yuko too, mainly because he was the character that the viewer could relate to the most IMO. Yuno…she’s definitely one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in awhile and a really enjoyed her development later in the series. Do you have any plans to watch the live-action Mirai Nikki drama series?