The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 147 – Mirai Nikki (The Future Diary)

Mirai Nikki 1

The week’s column covers a series rather special to me personally, because I am not as quick as other anime fans were in getting access to series online. This was the first anime series I ever legally streamed, back in 2011.

Mirai Nikki, which translates as The Future Diary in English (I always tend to refer to it in the Japanese), ran as a 12 volume manga between 2006 and 2010, written by Sakae Esuno. It later became a 26-part anime series, with one additional straight-to-video episode also released, between 2011 and 2012, and was also made into a live-action TV series in 2012. The series combines elements of fantasy, psychological thriller, and what I argue to be the “Death Game” genre in which the characters are forced to fight each other to their death. It is noted for being very over-the-top, featuring truly bizarre acts of violence committed by the most unlikely of people, and also featuring rape scenes which some viewers will find disturbing.

It begins with lonely schoolboy Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano. His only interests are writing a diary on his mobile phone, playing darts, and talking to his imaginary friends: Deus Ex Machina, the God of Space and Time, and his assistant Murmur. While they “chat” Deus says he will give Yuki a special gift. Yuki then discovers that his diary starts predicting the future. He uses his “future diary” to cheat at tests and avoid people he doesn’t want to meet.

But things start to become more troublesome for Yuki when he discovers that his classmate, a girl named Yuno Gasai, also has a future dairy, which she uses to track Yuki down no matter where he hides. Yuno reveals that her diary details Yuki’s movements every 10 minutes, thus leading Yuki to discover that Yuno is a stalker, and a very violent one at that. When they encounter a third person with a future diary who happens to be a serial killer, they have to work together to stop him which Yuki does by damaging the killer’s diary with his darts, thus killing the serial killer.

Deus then reveals his purpose. In 90 days he will retire as the God of Space and Time, and the replacement will be one of twelve people who have future diaries, each one predicting a different thing. To become God, they must kill the other diary users or destroy their diaries before the deadline expires, otherwise the world will end. As Deus believes Yuki is the strongest player, he is designated “First” and his identity made known to all the other players who remain anonymous. Yuno is “Second”, but does not want to kill Yuki – but she will happily kill anyone who tries to break their relationship. Yuki therefore not only has to figure out how to avoid being killed, but try to figure a way of controlling Yuno’s insanely violent urges.

As stated, the over-the-top action and violence are the most notable features of Mirai Nikki, combined with the central characters who are also playing the game. For example, in the second episode Yuki is attacked by the “Ninth” player, Minene Uryuu, a terrorist whose diary details escape routes and who plants bombs all around Yuki’s school, thus nearly blowing Yuki to kingdom come. In the end Yuki is helped by the “Fourth” player, policeman Keigo Kurusu whose diary reveals future crimes.

Later characters include a nearly blind girl worshipped as part of a cult who was constantly raped when she was younger, a dog trainer who uses his hounds as his weapons, and my personal favourite, a five-year-old boy whose diary is a colouring book and whose methods to try to kill Yuki and Yuno range from electrocution to poison gas.

Because of the content this series is not for everyone. It also has the problem of being released in the UK by Kaze, the least popular anime distribution in the country, and indeed the UK release has some issues such as misspelt subtitles and poorer audio quality leading to some people planning to import the American release. However, if you are willing to accept the over-the-top style, and play along with the more absurd aspects of the show, then Mirai Nikki is an exciting and entertaining watch.

Mirai Nikki, released in the UK as The Future Diary, is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Kaze.