Fourteen-year-old Yuki Amano is a hermit in the making. Rather than interact with others, the unsociable middle school student prefers to observe life and jot down anything notable on his mobile phone journal. Crikey, what a masochist. Who would want to chronicle their entire autobiography on a cellular device? Just typing short Twitter messages on an iPhone is already cumbersome enough. I suppose he has abundant texting practice, as the only person he speaks to is an imaginary friend named Deus Ex Machina. What Yuki doesn’t realize however is that Deus Ex Machina isn’t actually make-believe. He is in fact a bonafide deity with power over time and space!
The opening episode of Future Diary (known as Mirai Nikki in Japan) begins with Deus Ex Machina revealing to his teen pal that he is a supernatural entity. He demonstrates this by upgrading Yuki’s phone. Rather than detailing past events Yuki’s journal now has a soothsaying feature, which accurately predicts what will occur in the future. Yuki isn’t the only recipient of a “future diary” though. Deus Ex Machina has bestowed spoilerific journals to a dozen humans and decreed that they should battle to the death, in order to determine who will replace Deus as the new god of time and space. Evidently divine beings are fond of Hunger Games like competitions.
If I had to pick who would win the Deus Ex sponsored Battle Royale Yuki would be bottom of the list. A hapless dweeb, who is moderately good at darts, shouldn’t fare well against rivals whose ranks include a terrorist bomber and a posh loon that commands a pack of carnivorous canines. Thankfully for our reclusive protagonist he has attracted the services of an unlikely bodyguard. Classmate Yuno Gasai is a fellow competitor in the life or death elimination tournament, but she has no desire to harm Yuki. The pink haired beauty is in fact infatuated with Mr Amano and has been stalking him ever since he jokingly suggested that they should wed. Somehow I doubt that he would have uttered those sentiments had he realized that Yuno is an unhinged serial killer.
Much like dating a smoker, courting a psychopath is generally undesirable. Poor Yuki has no say in the matter though, as Yuno possesses a diary that receives updates pinpointing his location on ten-minute intervals. On the plus side being partnered with a protector who is adept at disembowelling others can be advantageous when ten assassins are on your trail. No one likes a clingy girlfriend however, especially when your possessive main squeeze thinks that murdering family and friends is a reasonable solution for securing some quality alone time with her man.
Future Diary (Collection One) gets a rating of five stars from me. The series is shaping up to be one of my favourite animes of all time, so fingers crossed that the second half maintains the quality showcased in this DVD set’s thirteen episodes. As a fan of Death Note I especially appreciated the script’s paranormal elements, the shows’ colourful cast of characters and its rollercoaster ride of suspenseful twists and turns. It’s fun seeing how Deus Ex’s twelve handpicked participants vie to outsmart each other, which is no mean feat when you consider that they are all capable of foretelling future events. Alliances are formed and people double cross each other with the regularity of a Conservative Party U-Turn.
Despite my praise, squeamish audiences may want to give Mirai Nikki a wide berth given that it features visceral violence, rape references and a painful scene of ocular extraction. It’s amazing that the ERSB gave this series a fifteen-age rating, when you consider that Oreimo was rated eighteen merely for having a few adult gags. It’s not all macabre though, with the after credit skits featuring Deus’ impish sidekick Muru Muru being particularly funny. Unconventional as it may be, I also thought that the Yuki/Yuno romance was cute at times. The pair complements each other quite well. Yuno does a fine job of shielding Yuki from the consequences of his naivety whilst Yuki serves as the couple’s moral compass.
One concern I have with the UK release of Future Diary is the prolonged gap between instalments. A quick search on Amazon reveals that the concluding chapter is due out in July (although I suspect it may come out even later given that Kaze products have a reputation for suffering delays.) That is quite insufferable when you consider the doozy of a cliffhanger that collection one concludes on. You don’t need a Nostradamus brand mobile to prophesize that sales will be lost, as impatient viewers resort to importing from abroad or worse yet stream the finale via less than legal means.