Mirai Nikki (2011) Review: A Twisted Bloodbath of a Love Story

Main characters from Mirai Nikki: Yukiteru "Yuki" Amano (on the left) and Yuno Gasai (on the right).
Main characters from Mirai Nikki: Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano (on the left) and Yuno Gasai (on the right).

Adapted from Sakae Esuno’s manga series, Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) tells the story of two middle school students, their love for one another, and their participation in a survival game to become the new God of Time and Space. For 26 episodes, plus an OVA (a special episode) that serves as an epilogue, viewers are treated to scenes discussing rape, scenes where rape is committed, bloody murders of children, fan service (material, usually of a lewd nature, added to a series with the intention of pleasing the audience) featuring 14 year old girls, a sex scene, and lots and lots of blood.

Interesting? Uh, well… let’s talk about it.

The show definitely does a few things right: as a psychological, supernatural, action, suspense/thriller romance, it makes itself appealing to a very broad audience. It also has a very strong female lead (Yuno Gasai) who, in addition to harboring multiple dark secrets, turns into a psychopathic killer at any moment—a character concept which, as Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight proves, tends to captivate viewers and provide much of the incentive behind watching films or shows that feature such people.

Especially considering the fact that the depiction of Yuno jumps back and forth between “just your average adorable middle schooler” to “raging, calculated, cold-blooded killer,” the juxtaposition is all the more striking and all the more interesting to observe. And with twist after twist flying at the audience, its use of the suspense/thriller genre keeps the show from ever having a “dull” moment.

However, Mirai Nikki’s emphasis on entertainment is exactly what creates a slew of multiple problems that lead the show to its own undoing.

Below is the opening sequence for the show:

Story and Structure

During the opening moments of the show, a young girl is seen trapped inside a cage while someone in the dark murders her with an axe. Shortly afterwards, the setting switches to a middle school classroom where the teacher warns his students to be careful on their way home as it has been “dangerous lately.” As the main character, Yuki, leaves for home, viewers learn that his classmates see him as a loner. Instead of hanging out with other people, he gives all of his attention to typing observations of the things going on around him in a diary entry on his phone, thinking to himself that he has friends though they only exist in his imagination.

Once Yuki gets home, he enters his imagination and speaks with his friends Deus (the God of Time and Space) and his servant Murmur. Yuki observes that Deus is creating a new game and Deus promises Yuki that he will give him a future where he is not lonely—Yuki of course gives this little thought since he believes it is all in his head. The next morning, however, Yuki receives a new entry in his phone diary, telling him the future events of the day, all of which prove to be true.

Deus, as featured in Yuki's mind.
Deus, as featured in Yuki’s mind.

Within the first episode, all the little details of the survival game are revealed: 12 participants, ranging from young to old, and holding very different statuses in society, all aiming to kill one another until one person is left to succeed Deus’ position of God of Time and Space. Participants each have a cell phone with a unique ability dealing with their futures (a.k.a. a “future diary”), and destruction of the phone, or otherwise death of the owner, means they are out of the game.

The premise certainly entails a great deal of action and suspense: identities of the diary owners remain hidden until they decide to reveal themselves, a diary owner can form alliances and subsequently betray their partners, and creativity in terms of forming a strategy to survive and kill the opposing party is a must. All of these elements are able to keep audience members at the edge of their seats because even though someone will inevitably die, what draws the most attention is not if but how the diary owners will reach their end.

However, because the show is so heavily invested in thrilling its audience, the idea that everything must be entertaining becomes a crutch. By this I mean that because the show spends little time on gradually forming its characters into realistic, complex people—which in doing so would most likely slow down the pacing—emphasis is instead placed on creating twists, making confrontation sequences fast-paced and detailed, and including fan service. And since the show decides to go on the latter track from the very beginning, Mirai Nikki eventually reaches a point where deciding to fully mold its characters is too late due to the plot being as far along as it is. Having little substance to work with, the show relies on prolonging conflicts and sexual situations in order to keep viewers’ attention.

An example of how conflicts are prolonged can be observed in the way characters at times agree to participate in games that they have no incentive to take part in. For example, in a gambling scene between one of the supporting characters, Akise Aru, and an opposing diary owner, the diary owner does not have to agree with Aru’s proposition because they hold the very thing that Aru wants while Aru has absolutely nothing to offer in exchange. However, instead of simply killing Aru as the diary owner wishes to do, they agree to participate in Aru’s mind game, and while mind games are interesting for viewers to observe, in this case, there was no reason for the opposing diary owner to agree. This is one of the most glaring examples where the show adds material for the sake of extending a conflict rather than being logically consistent, and unfortunately, there are quite a few moments that are even worse than this.

The first moment in the show where Yuno's secret is hinted at.
The first moment in the show where Yuno’s secret is hinted at.

In terms of holding the audience’s attention, the show is definitely entertaining, but only to a certain extent. Eventually it reaches a point where the plot becomes so muddled with fantastical twists that it becomes impossible to take the show seriously. This is especially a disappointment since the show deals with such dark subjects like rape and murder; despite both being a part of our world’s reality, their seriousness becomes trivialized—or the viewer becomes desensitized—by the fact that rape occurs, or almost occurs, on screen for several different characters at multiple times, while blood is splattered all over the show in practically every episode. Granted, the fact that the show’s premise requires the killing of other characters does make the appearance of blood an inevitability, but to depict the deaths as brutally and graphically as they are, and to involve the slaughter of so many people outside the diary owners themselves, seems to be more for “shock factor” rather than to heighten the seriousness of the act itself.

With regards to pacing, it picks up within the first couple episodes, but towards the end becomes so dragged out as the show continuously brings back or prolongs the lives of earlier characters either for the sake of introducing new twists, or in order to hash out any previously unexplained plot points that happened along the way. The structure of the show is thus very generic for a thriller, and the subjects it deals with are not treated with the amount of tact necessary to take them seriously. Ultimately, Mirai Nikki has little else going for it other than keeping the viewers in suspense.

Characters and their Development

The main characters of the show are introduced within the first episode: Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano—the hopelessly naïve, cowardly, loner middle school boy who views himself as a failure and depends on others to protect him; and Yuno Gasai—the calculative, twisted, murderous middle school “beauty” who does literally anything to protect the boy she loves more than life: Yuki. While these two characters certainly do not comprise the entire cast, the remaining members receive so little development that most of them only appear as crazed murderers and hardly much else.

In fact, almost all of the other diary owners seem to follow a set formula: introduction, attempt(s) at murder, their backgrounds are shared, and finally they die. And even when viewers learn about what made the diary owners become willing killers, the show delves far into their past and refers to a single event as the thing that forever changed them. The issue with this is that it takes a very simplistic cause-and-effect perspective of people, and viewers who are looking for a more realistic depiction may point to this as a fault of the show. And as sad as it is to say, neither of the two main characters are significantly different in terms of their portrayal.

Part of the reason for this is because instead of using the time in between confrontations with the other diary owners to add to the characters’ development, the show devotes that time to sexualizing its young female characters, and when they do it, the situations are so ridiculous that it is blaringly obvious the staff of the show is aiming to hook male viewers rather than take the time to create a well-developed story.

One of many ridiculous instances of fan service within the show.
One of many ridiculous instances of fan service within the show.

If you add this to the fact that characters who were previously committing horrific acts perform sudden 180s and appear far more humane than in their prior crazed depictions, as well as moments where characters just pull down their pants out of nowhere and start urinating nearby others, you realize just how hopeless it is to expect any realistic “depth” from the show. And most of the time, even the characters they do decide to keep around only end up being exploited more for the sake of titillating the audience or providing another cheap twist.

If there is one redeeming part about the characters in this show, it would probably have to be watching Yuno, not only for her unpredictability, but because underneath how obsessive and insane she is portrayed, there is still that one remaining fragment of her that showcases at some point in her life, she was far more human than what she has become. And while other characters certainly realize what was most important to them during their dying moments, Yuno is one of the rare few who seems to realize the metamorphosis she has personally undergone before she has to make the choice between life and death. One significant drawback to mention about her character, however, is that her “love” for Yuki seems to stem out of nowhere; she simply develops a crush on him that grows into a dangerously obsessive yearning without any explanation as to what exactly it is about him that makes him so different from everyone else.

Moreover, her character seems to lack a personality for almost the entire show. By this I mean that whenever she appears on screen, she is either warning Yuki that danger lies ahead for them, or murdering everything within sight, or trying to tell Yuki how much she loves him and will do anything to protect him. It is actually almost hard to believe that she is human because she seems to represent more of an impulse rather than an actual person. Occasionally there are moments when it seems like there is more to her than simply being a killer, as she can be embarrassed, happy, sad, or frightened, but these are emotions that anyone can experience, and the only thing she has that is truly unique to herself is her undying love for Yuki.

In terms of Yuki’s character, while certainly more human-like than Yuno, he may be the most frustrating to watch for viewers because of how dependent he is on others to save him every time his life is in danger. And while he later begins to take more risks, even other characters acknowledge how useless he is on his own. The use of static characters is certainly not always a bad thing, but especially when the main hero is portrayed as cowardly and indecisive as Yuki, it is very likely to deter viewers from enjoying the show. Furthermore, since Yuki is an idealist who struggles to cling to the belief that people are not just robotic killers but are humane somewhere deep down, it makes him seem incredibly out of place among a cast of ruthless killers. This aspect of his character, however, may divide a lot of viewers’ opinions since having a character with a greater sense of humanity than the others may be viewed as a positive thing. But one thing to consider is that when the vast majority of the show is filled with bloody, graphic, inhuman acts, having a “voice of reason” may come across more as shallow rather than having the moral depth that viewers might expect.

In short, the characters in Mirai Nikki are portrayed far more simplistically than actual people, so expecting any realistic depiction or development from any one of them is pointless. And whatever depth the show does attempt to convey comes across more as a wasted effort than a successful execution.

Yuno acting upon one of her murderous impulses.
Yuno acting upon one of her murderous impulses.

Aesthetics and Conclusion

Overall, the animation quality is decent enough that the action sequences are fluid and entertaining, and even though the color palette for the show is highly varied, the most memorable ones of the show are probably Yuno’s bubble-gum pink hair and the amount of blood-red that appears in each episode, let alone the show as a whole. It is also a bit unfortunate that the most frequent expression to appear on most characters’ faces is that of a crazed lunatic, but if you are a fan of bloody suspense thrillers, then you will get exactly what you asked for.

In terms of music, it is practically all some electronic blend, occasionally employing orchestral instruments for eerie moments or “pump-up” action sequences. And as a general warning for people who are squeamish about mature material, this show features vulgar language, sexual situations, as well as dark/disturbing themes.

For veteran anime watchers: If you are looking for a show that is character-driven or within the bounds of realism, then steer clear of this one. However, if you are a die-hard anime fan who is just looking for some mindless entertainment, then you will probably enjoy this show.

For non-anime watchers: You really do not need to have any prior experience of watching anime to understand this one. If you are a fan of horror or the suspense/thriller genre in general, you will probably enjoy the show, but do not expect anything really intellectually stimulating or spectacular from it.

Rating:

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Graduated from the University of Connecticut with a major in English. I'm a lover of literature, film, and anime, and I can be followed on Twitter @AlanPolozov

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42 Comments

  1. Adnan Bey

    When I saw this in the pending section, I was just waiting for it to come because, get this, I personally love the show. Fan-service? Maybe. Lack of character development? Perhaps. Not a bad thing when one considers the fact that there is only so much they can do in one season with the typical 26 episodes. The OVA was a while in coming and before that, the ending was very inconclusive. We needed that OVA. The existence of the OVA as an OVA and not the last episode only goes to show us that the show could have used some cutting… and it chose fan service.

    I disagree with the part about Yuki being the lone voice of reason in a sea of chaotic blood because this is somewhat justified in the end (without spoiling anything.)

    • CriticalOtaku

      That’s totally fine 🙂 and I’m actually kind of flattered that you were looking forward to my article being published, so thank you for that 😀 . I can see where you’re coming from in terms of the fan service in the show, and I personally don’t mind a little bit sprinkled here and there, but only if it moves the plot forward—anytime it’s featured just for the sake of keeping viewers’ interest, it definitely takes away a little bit from the integrity of the show. I do have to say though that I have seen several other anime that only have 20 something episodes to work with (among which include Hyouka, Steins; Gate, Oregairu (which only has 13 episodes), and even Durarara) where the writers are able to do A LOT with character development while staying within the spirit of the genre they’re presenting. So personally, I think saying 26 episodes is not enough for character development is a little weak of an argument. Then again, Mirai Nikki may have originally set out with the intention of being a show purely for entertainment’s sake, and if that is the case, then it did a pretty decent job because even I was enjoying the show up until around episode 15 or so. I also thought that my discussion on Yuki’s character would divide people’s opinions, so you are more than welcome to disagree; I was actually hoping that it might spark some discussion in the comments section so thanks for starting that 🙂 and thank you for the read!

      • Warning: Minor spoilers

        I was searching for some dark themed anime whereby I stumbled upon this article of yours. It was 2am already yet I set off straight. Unfortunately, I only read the 1st part “story and structure”. Not exactly blaming you.

        4 days since and I’ve just finished the damn series. What irks me is that why does the bloody author chooses the idiot to be the protagonist. I can’t even find an angle nor reason, as to the help he is getting from the rest; when they have better reasons and are certainly more capable.

        I should have read your entire content first but was afraid it reveals too much. Now that I have, your opinion is justified and I’ll go wait patiently for Psycho Pass 2. Happy writing!!

        • CriticalOtaku

          Thanks for the read and the comment! And for future reference, I never include any spoilers in my reviews. Also, since you mentioned that you were looking for a dark themed anime, I highly, highly recommend Shinsekai Yori.

  2. In some weird way, this anime reminds me kinda of Fate/Stay night. 

    • CriticalOtaku

      I personally haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve heard, I think I know where you’re coming from. Thanks for the read!

  3. The only thing I liked about this anime was it’s ending,other than that I felt like I was in a constant struggle to finish this anime cause of its boringness through out most of it.And when the main charecter,already forgot his name, started to act as a big shot I just could not take him seriously.

    • CriticalOtaku

      I definitely know what you’re talking about in terms of Yuki acting “tough-guy”-ish. After seeing so much of him in the show, it just felt really jarring. Thanks for the read!

  4. cyndike
    0

    Through the entire show I was starting to notice alot of charachters are similar to the evangelion cast

    • CriticalOtaku

      XD I still have quite a few anime to watch and neon genesis is definitely on that list; I’m really hoping it’s better than Mirai Nikki. Thanks for the read!

  5. Good review. I remember loving this show until a certain episode, where everything just went to shit. Side character playing detective and whatnot. So much potential wasted by the sudden puncturing of a million plot holes. Seriously, when shows try and do the “time-travel” thing, even within the context of the “rules” that are presented, the writers somehow manage to leave gaping flaws, contradictions, impossibilities, etc. behind them. The exception, of course, being Steins; Gate. I found only one mistake in that masterpiece. Liked your review on that too.

    • CriticalOtaku

      Thank you so much for reading my reviews 🙂 . And I completely agree, the fact that they drag out this show as much as they do just proves how much they wanted to cover up as many plot holes as they could. Hehe, and time travel is always a tricky business to get into for a show or film.

  6. kinda sounds like eden of the east

  7. Future Diary is my favorite anime so far. The only problem about it is the ending. The ending could not have gone any worse. WAY too many plotholes.

  8. Jordan

    I had heard bad things about the show so have been avoiding it. 😛 Nice review though. I like how you go into detail about WHY its bad.

    • CriticalOtaku

      Well, yeah 😛 ; I rated it pretty low so I have to have substantial reasoning as to why I did. One of the revision notes I received actually helped with that a lot and I’m pretty happy with the way it came out. Thanks for the read and comment Jordan 🙂

  9. Mary Awad

    I read some of the manga and had to stop. I think it’s trying to be Elfen Lied and just kinda failed. My brother loved it though and I know a lot of people that think Mirai Nikki is amazing so maybe it’s just a taste thing (?). Fun article! Nice one~

    • CriticalOtaku

      I think it very much is a taste thing–the great thing about anime is that it usually has something for everyone, which is true for any artistic medium really. But yeah, if you like a certain show then odds are there’s always gonna be someone who doesn’t like it. Thanks for the read and the comment Mary!

  10. Reasons why it’s almost Deadman Wonderland:
    1. Whiny Protagonist
    2. Fuckin’ Crazy Sidekick
    3. Half of the story
    4. Characters: Crow-Minene, Ganta-Yukiteru, Shiro-Yuno, Roh-Aru, Owl-Kurusu, Wretched Egg-Deus Ex Machina and a couple more….. 

  11. Prewitt
    0

    I loved this show! That last twist actually made the show for me. I just love how this show manages to keep a real sense of mortality with the characters, reminding you constantly that despite their new found powers, they’re only human. Also, Yuno is the most lovable psycho ever…

  12. For a thriller is wasn’t thrilling at all…pretty anit-climatic

  13. I loooooveed Mirai Nikki mostly because I am a psychotic teenager, but I found this anime extremely enjoyable (except for when we find out certain things about dead people and resurrection and when those group of friends come in) but my favorite character is by far that one psychotic toddler! I love the story that comes along with him, and he thinks so deep and if he was older, he would’ve been able to kill both Yuno and Yuki and would end up winning. It’s just since he’s so young, he didn’t have the strength to win. 

  14. The anime was pretty shitty IMP. The main characters were too dislikable so it made the show hard to watch

  15. hayden dim
    0

    Personally, I sometimes consider this a comedy show. There were times where the writers tried too hard to make it “dark”. Also characters were rather (very) weak with the exception on Yuno who had her entertaining times…but she’s still a really really anoyying character who’s way over the top.

  16. Kilgore
    0

    Mirai Nikki was a fun watch however I feel the the series would have better if it was more fast paced with fewer episodes because some of the parts or the show I found unnecessary and somewhat annoying (gay scene)

  17. I’ve just finished watching it and I did enjoy it. It can be a bit of a mess in parts with oddly inappropriate anime tropes thrown in seemingly randomly – but her, Yuno, she’s completely spellbinding! 

  18. McCaggers

    Interesting review! I watched this show not expecting anything. I found the characters really over the top but I kept charging through to get to end. Great summary!

  19. Actually I enjoyed this series in each and every second of it.(well at least that’s the case for the most part cough*shitty ending*cough). But seriously if we wouldn’t count that part i would totally give at 5 stars simply because of (not just yuki) that WTF – moment you have every two seconds because the WTF-moment is what really is so fucking great it makes it worthwhile to watch and that is what makes this series what it is. A condensed ball of huge amounts of plot twists and plane madness. Besides you will enjoy yukis and yunos development in their relationship xDDD

  20. Bobo Bond
    0

    This show gets a lot of hate but it really is worth the watch if you are into slasher/thriller shows.

    At the very least it’s worth experiencing since Yuno is quite possibly the best written yandere that you’ll ever see. I have a feeling the show was pretty much made to tell a story where such a character could exist almost, since it does have some rather serious plot issues towards the end of it (though the ones revolving around her are still awesome).

  21. Camille Brouard

    Started watching this in our AnimeSoc; I was really excited about the concept and beginning episode, but then the fanservice and overdone character stereotypes and some terrible animation choices (I mean – number 8, come on!) really put me off in the end. The best thing is that it’s really fun to make fun of afterwards. Especially Yuno!

  22. Symphogear

    The show is an entertaining train wreck. It doesn’t slow down ever, which makes it both fun and frustrating to watch as the show takes some ridiculous turns in its attempt to keep the viewership engaged. Tonally, it never really hits the right balance of gratuitous violence and hijinks comedy, so it can be incredibly jarring sometimes. The characters are entertainingly over-the-top insane, but it really stretches their believability as people so I could never get emotionally invested in them. Also, while her psychotic shtick was entertaining at first, Yuno is one of my least favorite characters in any anime. She’s a completely deplorable human being, and the fact that the show ultimately tries to paint her as a sympathetic heroine simply disgusts me. She’s the amalgamation of archetypical extremes, pushing the yandere archetype to the point that she is no longer relatable or endearing.

  23. Jemarc Axinto

    As an avid anime-watcher I gotta say that Mirai Nikki was brilliant in how ridiculous it was. I never really found myself rooting for anyone at any moment in the show but it was delightful seeing how their lives were all so messed up.

  24. keylay

    The biggest issue I have with Mirai Nikki is definitely the character development. Yuki’s failure to step up as a man, lack of a spine, and inability to live up to expectations reminded me very much so of Shinji Ikari from NGE. While Yuki’s continued failures and repeated blunders throughout the show annoyed me, it was also kinda reassuring to find a character that I could personally relate to. Yes it was frustrating, but at least it was a change of pace from the cliche character that starts off weak but gains power through sheer willpower or a magical blessing. Yuno, on the other hand, is an entirely different case. I think the author was trying to justify her level of insanity with the treatment she received from her parents, but the show did not show this relationship well. If we had an entire episode devoted solely to Yuno’s relentless torture during those abusive years, maybe there would have been more accepting views towards her insanity. Also, and others may disagree, if her and Yuki had more of a memorable first interaction, other than a promise made over an assignment, maybe I would have “fan-girled” more over their relationship. I guess you could argue that Yuno was so emotionally traumatized by her family, that a promise even of that magnitude meant the entire world to her. Regardless of the disappointing character development I witnessed, I still greatly enjoyed the insanity of this anime. It’s at least worth the watch.

  25. I enjoyed the show a lot more than you did, which I guess is lucky for me. I do have to disagree with you about some parts of Yuno’s character, however. I don’t agree that she’s a series of impulses without any substance, and I would argue that her personality is well-developed. She’s a 14 year old girl with die-hard determination, high reasoning skills and intelligence. She can be exceptionally manipulative at times, and wants to please those around her. Additionally, her crush on Yuki doesn’t come out of no where, although it does grow exponentially from the smallest of interactions. That said, it’s not unusual for a crush to grow out of control at her age and doesn’t seem so unreasonable when a survival game is introduced.

    That said, I do agree with your points about cause-and-effect character development. However, I also think cutting out the fan service wouldn’t necessarily rectify that. Maybe replacing the fan service with character development for the fan serviced characters would have been an improvement, but then again, they’re catering to their audience.

  26. I actually enjoyed this show because I watched the film right after that had a more satisfying ending. It did lose mass at parts and I definitely would have ditched out off i hasn’t already been pay the point of no return. I’ve seen much worse get a lot more praise.

    Kid with a golden bat huh… Dumbest thing ever.

  27. I enjoyed the review ^-^ thanks for that. Personally though, I loved the show- I thought it dealt with some really realistic yet tragic topics (like the ones you mentioned) but the humour was light enough to keep things relatively bearable. I quite liked the supporting characters a lot, especially Minene, it was interesting to find their backstories but I agree it did turn into something repetitive. Upon reflection however, the show certainly did sexualize young girls (after all, they’re only meant to be fourteen) which was unnecessary and harmful. On another note, I quite liked Yukki- he was wimpy but that was part of his character, I enjoyed seeing him maturing throughout the show. Above all, I liked the contrast between the 12 competitors in the OVA and the show, it came to show that their evil was made not born.

  28. I thought the actual concept of the diaries etc was interesting, but the execution of it was so terrible, it became a pain to watch halfway through. Saw this review and agreed with basically everything, especially the problems with plot logic.

    The only other feature i was interested in besides the psycho girlfriend was the possibility that Yukki was the creator of Deus – I was wondering if he actually imagined such a entity into being… and if that meant he was a lot more than he appeared. The further i watched the show the less likely such a twist existed…

    I rolled my eyes through the rest and the only reason i watched to the end of season 1 is because i hate leaving things unfinished. Read the episode summaries for episode 14 to the finale on wiki hoping it gets better, but no. It really doesn’t seem worth watching season 2.

  29. Jonny
    0

    idk personally i worked through a lot of the plot holes and thought it did a good job covering them up in the end. The ending was a little meh. It was a lot of anticipation but didn’t really give me the feeling of loss I was expecting. There were a few unexplained things that I just couldn’t work out though. Don’t know if they were plot holes or negligence from watching all 26 episodes without stopping.

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