If given the power to see through time, what would you do? Help mankind advance civilization, or exploit it for personal gain? Or perhaps you’d use it to compete in a battle royale wherein the victor will become the new god of space and time? This is the situation facing Yukiteru Amano, an introvert who has been thrust into a fight for his life in a twisted game created by an omnipresent being. Yuki and the other characters in Future Diary are equipped with special devices that allow their holders to perceive the future in different ways. Within the context of the Survival Game, combatants must use these Diaries to track down and kill their targets in order to move one step closer to the ultimate prize.
Yuki’s life is ruled by his cell phone. An antisocial sort, he eschews close friendships in favor of writing down every moment of the day in his phone’s diary. At home, he spends the afternoon isolated in his room with his imaginary friends Deus Ex Machina, the god of space and time, and his childish assistant, Mur Mur. In a spirited conversation, Deus ponders what Yuki might do if given the the gift of foresight. The next morning, Yuki discovers that his diary is filled with entries from the day that is yet to come. His Future Diary has its perks, such as helping him pass exams, until it causes him to become the target of a local serial killer. Aided by classmate and fellow Future Diary user Yuno Gasai, Yuki successfully defeats the killer by destroying his cell phone. Yuki and Yuno are then brought to the court of Deus, who introduces twelve participants to the Survival Game, a contest created to determine who will become the next god of space and time.
Future Diary is a dark action adventure with overtones of a psychological thriller. Its characters, Yuki especially, are complicated souls who suffer from personality disorders that are heightened by their reliance on their Future Diaries. This gift turns a homeroom teacher into a serial killer, gives sight to a blind vigilante, transforms a child into a psychotic killer, and changes a lovey-dovey couple into a murderous tag team. Yuno stands out amid this sea of insanity: she looks like a normal girl with a sunny disposition until she reveals a dark, malevolent, and thoroughly insane persona, prone to extreme violence towards those she perceives as threatening Yuki, a.k.a. “Pookie.” This poses significant problems for Yuki, as he must balance a life-or-death struggle against Survival Game contestants with Yuno’s homicidal tendencies and fragile mental health. In short, there’s a whole lot of crazy in Future Diary, but there is a method to each character’s madness. Each participant in the Survival Game has experienced a traumatic event that caused them grief and molded them into the people they have become.
Even more fascinating than the complex characters are their Future Diaries, each foretelling the future in a different way. Yuki’s phone is a standard foresight device, alerting him to events that will transpire throughout the day. When Yuki is discovered by another Diary user, his entries detail his death followed by the phrase “Dead End.” To avoid his fate, he must act in a manner that will disrupt time, change the entries, and keep him safe. This results in a unique game of cat and mouse wherein participants do not immediately know if they are the hunter or the hunted. Furthermore, no two Future Diaries are the same. Yuno’s appropriately stalker-themed Diary displays Yuki’s events, rather than her own. Minene Uryu, a deadly terrorist with a penchant for explosives, uses a Diary that provides detailed escape routes from any situation. Likewise, the appearance and function of each Diary is related to the quirks and qualities of its user. Tsubaki Kasugano, a blind temple priestess, consults a rice paper scroll Diary with entries that describe what her followers see. Four-year-old Reisuke Houjou uses a picture book that details his actions in the morning, afternoon, and night in childlike scribbles. The concept, design, and function of the Future Diary makes me love this series; it is extremely creative and keeps the viewer guessing as to how Yuki will engage the other Future Diary users.
Sensitive viewers should be aware that Future Diary is a dark and violent show. It doesn’t take long for the blood to flow throughout a multitude of unpredictable scenes of violence. In an episode that has stayed with me, Minene attacks Yuki’s school. Using explosives to blow up classrooms and hallways in order to trap Yuki in a corner, she shows no concern for the collateral damage caused by her attacks. While there is no explicit blood or gore in this particular episode, it is still rather uncomfortable. The episode featuring Reisuke is especially grim, given its focus on a child’s efforts to electrocute, stab, and poison Yuki and Yuno.
Oh, Yuno. Time and time again she proves herself to be the most dangerous character in the series. Her stalker behavior is already frightening and the fisheye lens zooms in on her eyes at their craziest, making her appear all the more damaged. Her actions are motivated by the fact that her diary lists “Happy End” at the conclusion of the Survival Game. Although the mystery of her behavior is eventually revealed, shaking the series to its very core, first time viewers will may grow frustrated as they try to make sense of Yuki and Yuno’s increasingly complicated relationship.
Given the timey-wimey nature of time travel, it is easy for such stories to become convoluted. Future Diary is easy enough to follow, even with twelve different Diaries involved. The English language dub doesn’t depart too much from the original Japanese script, though purists will likely switch to the Japanese track, given the English reversion’s liberal use of foul language and tired Western idioms. Future Diary’s mid-series change-up takes the viewer in a different direction as it introduces colorful new diary keepers, actual friends for Yuki to hang out with, and Yuno’s increasingly psychotic behavior. Comedy is few and far between as moments of levity are often cut short by sudden seriousness or acts of violence. The show’s funniest moments are reserved for a post-credit short that involve Mur Mur’s interactions with Diary keepers before and after events of the show have transpired.
Filled with a great deal of intrigue and suspense, Future Diary is a well-executed time travel thriller that offers a great deal of unexpected twists and turns. A lively second half allows the show to stay fresh for the duration of its twenty-six episode run.
Future Diary, Part 1 and 2
directed by Naoto Hosoda
325 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD
Company Age Rating: 17+
Related to: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) by Sakae Esuno