Battle Royale meets mobile phones. . .
Every so often, I hope to come across an anime series that impresses me so much that it warrants its own blog post. Mirai Nikki, or Future Diary, is going to help me test this idea. This 26 episode series, based on the manga by Esuno Sakae, very recently finished airing in Japan and was widely received positively in both Japan and the west.
Amano Yuki is a reclusive high schooler who records everything he sees around him in a diary on his phone. His imaginary friend, Deus ex Machina, presents him with a special diary mentioning a ‘game’ to find a new god. The next day, Yuki’s phone is filled with his own entries spanning across the next 90 days. Deus is not an imaginary friend – he is the umpire of a dangerous game – and Yuki is one of 12 diary holders competing in this life or death match. To win, the opponents’ phones must be broken. Dead end. One of the other contestants is his seemingly cute but unbalanced and dangerous stalker, Gasai Yuno.
At first, this looks like a very predictable show. Introduce a new diary holder who is out to kill Yuki, flesh out their story for one or two episodes, kill them, repeat until it’s just odd couple Yuki and Yuno left. Partly true, although some characters have a lot more staying power than others and the path things eventually go down is something that I certainly couldn’t have guessed in the first half of the series. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can guess the ending, or at least all of it!
Mirai Nikki has two major strengths; its characters and suspense. It only makes sense that the other diary holders will be at least interesting and, having looked around online, some of them have a larger fan base than the main characters. Case in point, Deus’ wonderfully commanding booming voice belongs to Norio Wakamoto (the Japanese equivalent of Sir Patrick Stewart) but my personal favourite is Ninth, Uryuu Minene, an angry terrorist complete with eyepatch and explosives who is surprisingly the most likeable one in the show. Yuki is a wet blanket hiding behind crazed murderess Yuno. It really is a ‘girl power’ show.
The very nature of the show means that it’s going to be suspenseful. Lots of dramatic deaths, chase scenes, emotional trauma and violence. It has elements of shows like Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, which flit between cutesy school girls and axe-wielding blood-splattering murders. The good news is it’s not just a run-of-the-mill death match series as it really does have a lot of layers. There are lots of other characters involved; Yuki’s school friends, his parents, Yuno’s mysterious family. . . the list goes on.
I was hooked on this show from the first episode. It’s explosive and dramatic but it still retains this sense of emotional conflict. How long can Yuki rely on Yuno to kill his enemies? What is the secret behind the game? Will people outside the game as the players bid to become god? And, of course, who will win?