1 Disc Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD (Distributor: Kaze UK) Running time: 314 minutes approx.
We’d all like to be able to predict the future, be it to choose the winning lottery numbers, ensure the weather is perfect for a special day or to know the results of big sporting event prior to a trip to the bookies. But what if this ability was just as dangerous and everything you knew would lead to your death? Would you still want to know?
Yukiteru Amano isn’t the most sociable of boys, preferring to confide in the diary on his mobile phone then socialising with his schoolmates. At home, Yuki imagines an alternate world run by his friend, the God of Time and Space Deus Ex Machina and his tiny assistant Miss Murmur. One day as Yuki is walking to school he notices a new diary entry he didn’t write outlining a number of events all of which then play out in real life exactly as written.
Feeling empowered by this Yuki is shocked to learn Deus is in fact a real God and Yuki is just one of twelve holders of a Future Diary, part of a survival game in which the holders must kill each other off until one remains standing. In verification, Yuki is approached at school by the smitten Yuno Gasai, acting as bodyguard for when their teacher, another Diary Holder, tries to kill Yuki!
Labelling this a sort of Death Note for the mobile phone generation is a little spurious but then again not too far off the mark in terms of the prescient control one possesses over another person with a simple sentence. Creator Sakae Esuno has managed to craft a unique and tense psychological cat and mouse game that works on its own merits to ensure such comparisons like the one above are superficial at best.
Transplanting the supernatural manipulation of death from a note book to a mobile phone widens the scope of possibilities of extemporaneous parries and resolves, but Esuno’s work lacks the moral centre of Death Note with this straight up “kill or be killed” concept albeit one with a strong feel for strategic psychology.
Yuki is the archetypal milquetoast hero, a snivelling child who needs rescuing more than he plays the saviour, so it is a good thing he has Yuno to look out for him. Or it would be if Yuno weren’t as mad as an entire psychiatric ward full of psychopaths, so besotted with Yuki after a throwaway promise to marry her that she will kill anyone who even dares inhabit the same universe as him.
Unfortunately for Yuki the other ten Diary Holders are equally off their rockers too, some adopting alternate persona to match the nature of their dairy, like the Justice Diary holder, a blind man who dresses up as a superhero with a giant eye for a mask. Other wholesome folk looking to win include an abandoned young girl turned cult leader, a police detective trying to balance out the evil in the game, a psychotic orphaned boy and a female terrorist.
Since the diary is the key tool of this game it is the main target for the players to destroy; once the diary is gone, it’s bye bye holder. Not all dairies are phones either – cult leader Tsubaki Kasugano’s is a scroll while killer kid Reisuke Houjou has a colouring book, limited to morning, noon and night entire only.
With the battles sometimes lasting just one or two episodes there is something of a “villain of the week” feel to this series but with twelve participating players all needing to be taken out, this format can’t be helped. Part of the mystery is finding out just who the Diary holders are since we only meet them in silhouette form at the beginning, and often it is not always the obvious person.
Not everyone is immediately vanquished and unlikely alliances are formed either for protection purposes or the common goal of eradicating a particular individual. Minene Uryuu for instance loses an eye at the hands of Yuki but later ends up working alongside him and Yuno, thankfully without any harem-esque implications. Minene is still a player of the game however, so she could just as easily turn on either of them at any time, if she could only find a way to outwit the power of the diaries.
Much of the focus of the thirteen episodes in this first set is on the Survival Game and fleshing out the main characters, while the other driving story is the relationship between Yuno and Yuki. Depicted as an obsessive stalker from the onset, Yuno could prove to be just as dangerous to Yuki as she is a protective asset. All it takes is for one cross word between them or for an outside influence to create a rift and Yuno could just as easily slaughter Yuki as she might disembowel anyone who interferes.
This creates a wonderful underlying tension to scenes which are otherwise portrayed as cute and conventional teenage romantic fluff, complete with genre staples, such as the amusement park date, for the sake of comic relief. Conversely, the violence is often unpleasant and quite graphic in places, not to mention disturbing when a four year-old child is involved or the depiction of abuse towards some of the female characters.
Studio Asread are responsible for the production and the show is rich with detailed back grounds and vibrant colours. The animation is fluid and while not all character designs are particularly distinctive they are given strong personalities. For Blu-ray fans having thirteen episodes crammed onto one disc may sound horrid by the picture quality holds up very well.
Admittedly there has been a frustrating wait for the release of Mirai Nikki: Future Diary in the UK with a number of delays but it has been worth it. With the shock ending to this half, let’s hope part two isn’t too far away. I’ll just check my diary. Uh oh….
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Clean Opening 1
Clean Ending 1
Rating – ****
Man In Black