Review for Mirai Nikki: Future Diary - Complete Collection 1
It’s odd how perceptions can be coloured by merely tangentially related events. Mirai Nikki, also known as Future Diary was originally streamed to the UK on Anime on Demand. I tuned in as regularly as that intermittent service allowed, and quickly developed a morbid fascination for this uber-violent exploitation anime. But around this time, Anime on Demand went from a trial, free for all service to putting everything behind a paywall, which meant that I only watched the first few episodes. That left something of a negative opinion of the show with me. Then Kazé announced that they had the home distribution rights, and subsequently announced a home video release... in 2012. In between that time and now, Funimation have dubbed the show, released it in two parts on DVD, then a complete series DVD release in 2013, and most lately a complete series Blu-ray on 3 discs back in 2015. Kazé have been announcing release dates and pushing them back for a couple of years now, which makes the fact that I’m holding the check disc for Part 1 in my hand somewhat hard to fathom. Kazé still aren’t making it easy for UK fans, as while we might be getting part 1 now, we’ll have to wait until July at least for part 2. With this kind of treatment, I’ve only really been sort of, kind of, looking forward to Mirai Nikki: Future Diary.
Yukiteru Amano is an atypical middle school student. He doesn’t socialise, he keeps to himself, preferring to think of himself as an observer of life, not a participator. He notes his observations in a diary on his phone, but otherwise sits at the back of his class in school, trying to avoid interaction. His real life is his imaginary life, in his imaginary world, with his imaginary friends, Murmur and Deus, the God of his world. Then one day, Deus announces that he’s planning a new game, and asks if Yukiteru would like to play. The next day, he learns that his imaginary world wasn’t his to begin with, and it wasn’t quite so imaginary either when he starts seeing entries in his diary for the future. That’s good for passing exams, and it’s even better for avoiding bullies, and it would be good if that was all it was.
For Deus’ game is a survival game, and eleven other players have been invited, given future diaries of their own. They each have to use their diaries to find and identify the other players and kill them (or destroy their diaries as the players and their diaries are now as one), and the last one standing gets to be the next god! Yukiteru gets a chilling example of what that means when the next day; he looks at his future diary and sees a final entry, a Dead End. Fortunately for him he has a guardian angel of sorts in classmate Yuno Gasai. She’s actually another player of the game, but her diary only tells the future of one person, Yukiteru Amano, and she’ll do anything to keep her ‘Yukki’ alive. She’s been stalking... in love with Yukiteru since the start of the year, hence her obsession with chronicling his life, and consequently her future diary centres on him alone. This might be the best way for Yukiteru to survive this game, only Yuno’s more than a little... unhinged.
In another move not likely to induce enthusiasm in anime collectors, Kazé opt to put all 13 episodes of Part 1 on a single dual layer Blu-ray disc. As you might expect, we’re missing out on stuff that was on the US release.
1. Future Diary
2. Contract Terms
3. Broken on Arrival
4. Manual Input
5. Voice Memo
6. Silent Mode
7. Answering Machine
8. New Model
9. Block List
10. Family Plan
11. Service Terminated
12. Out of Range
13. Unknown Number
Mirai Nikki gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, and 13 episodes into one Blu-ray do go. Certainly there were no immediate problems with compression and the like, no sign of digital artefacts beyond the usual banding issues, which once again were more prevalent in the darker scenes. The image is clear and sharp throughout, the colours are strong and vibrant, and the animation smooth and detailed. Mirai Nikki is one of those shows that can switch from bright, chirpy and playful to dark, and ominous at the drop of a hat, and that tells in the animation style, with pretty and generic character designs, with a fine line in unhinged and crazy expressions. This is also a show which doesn’t resort to animator self-censorship, and it can get pretty gory at times. I thought the eyeball scene in Deadman Wonderland was bad...
The images in this review were kindly supplied by the distributor.
You have the choice of PCM 2.0 English and Japanese, with English and French subtitles locked during playback. Of course the English track must be a downmix, given that the original Funimation dub is available in 5.1 Surround on the US DVD and Blu-ray releases. I went with the Japanese and the dialogue was clear enough, the action coming across well, generally the expected experience from an anime audio track. The music for the show is quite special, especially the incidental music, quirky and not quite appropriate, but surprisingly effective. The Funimation dub is solid enough, and thankfully they didn’t try and emulate the Japanese voice actor performances. For one thing, Norio Wakamoto is a one-off as Deus, but Yuno especially would sound weird if the English voice actress tried to match the Japanese. As for the subtitles...
Kazé and their stupid subtitling! This is a company that still hasn’t figured out how to show multiple captions on screen at one time, either on Blu-ray or on DVD. Around episode 8, I got tired of seeing all these phone screens full of text, and having to infer the meaning from what the characters said out loud. I switched over to the English dub to check, and sure enough the text translations are there. It’s all the more confusing because a lot of text is translated in the Japanese version, so you might suspect that all of it is. But no, many of the text translations are in the English dub only. And of course there are no subtitles for the songs.
You have the choice between English and French menus, and the disc autoplays trailers for Dragon Ball Z Kai and Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan depending on which language you choose.
The only extras on this disc are the textless credits.
In comparison to the US release, we miss out on two dub commentaries, a couple of Omake, and a bunch of trailers for the show.
Survival games aren’t exactly a rare genre in anime. It’s only been a few months since I reviewed Danganronpa, so you begin to notice the commonalities and the tropes, and you start looking out for what makes a particular series unique and worthwhile. Mirai Nikki really is neither, although it is enjoyable to watch after a fashion, in a Death Note crossed with Deadman Wonderland sort of way. But Mirai Nikki really only has the one unique selling point, and how much you engage with the show will really boil down to how much you appreciate the Yuno character. Certainly anti-heroes are a selling point in certain forms of entertainment, and having the protagonist of the show team up with his stalker to play a survival game offers intriguing possibilities. With Yuno cute as a button, but murderously unhinged, it could offer an appeal, or it might be a turn off. In these thirteen episodes, the first half of Mirai Nikki, I did buy into the Yuno character, but the direction in which the series seems to be heading at the halfway point could potentially put me off.
Mirai Nikki really does feel like Deadman Wonderland crossed with Death Note. The Death Note aspects of the show most certainly are the Future Diaries, although they aren’t exactly a murder weapon, more a tool to facilitate the violence of the game. The game starts with twelve players, each of them with a diary that shows future events, although the diary is tuned to the character’s personality, and doesn’t have to be a phone or an electronic device at all. Yukiteru sees himself as an aloof observer, so his diary will tell him about everything except his own life. Yuno is obsessed with Yukiteru, so her diary only tells his future. A police detective’s future diary offers case notes for crimes yet to happen. A terrorist’s diary tells her the optimum escape route at any one time. Of course once a path leading to a player’s death is embarked on, from which they cannot escape alone, the Dead End flashes up on their diary, giving them a countdown to their deaths, and perhaps a chance to change the future. It’s as versatile and as imaginative as the Death Notes, but in execution, the writing is lacklustre, and it can’t match the smarts, or the characterisations of that show. There’s certainly no Light Yagami or L in Mirai Nikki.
Comparisons to Deadman Wonderland come in the show’s violence and darkness. Mirai Nikki certainly isn’t shy about showing its violence and the consequences, and it’s even more graphic and uncensored than Deadman Wonderland was. Most of its characters are damaged goods, and in this half of the series, you’ll see children turned into killers (its protagonists are middle school students, younger than the usual high school kids we normally get in these shows), there’s eyeball stabbing, gouging, there’s child rape, serial killers, death and dismemberment, and cyborg dogs. This is a show that revels in its violence and gratuitous gore as much as any exploitation movie. The thing is that it lacks the satire that made Deadman Wonderland so enticing to watch. There is no sense of a society gone wrong here, there’s no message to be had from Mirai Nikki. This is a show that you watch primarily for the blood and gore.
It also feels uneven and a little contrived to me. We have twelve players in the game, and the series is structured so that Yukiteru and Yuno pretty much encounter them one at a time, from episode to episode. If a certain player survives the encounter, they may crop up again, but the show pretty much plays as a series of mini-arcs, and they feel loosely connected together. So given the situation that the characters are in, it seems a little odd for them to try and return to their normal lives following the most recent episodes of blood-letting and mass murder. Realism is rarely a factor in shows like this, but Mirai Nikki demands more than the usual suspension of disbelief.
Where this series hangs is whether or not you can be invested in the Yukiteru Yuno relationship. She’s the classic, unhinged, bunny-boiling, stalker type, so in love with Yukiteru that she’ll kill to have him, and she’ll kill to keep him safe. That’s not normally the kind of girl a sane boy would go for, but Yukiteru’s in a situation where he’s fighting for his life, and crazy help is better than no help at all. It doesn’t hurt that Yuno is cute, and when she’s on planet Earth, nice to talk to, and when she does go psycho, she’s doing it all for him. In that kind of pressure situation, two against the world, it’s understandable that he develops feelings for her, and you do begin to warm to them as a couple, embrace the possibility of a happy end for them. Of course this being a survival game that only one can win, means that such a happy end is unlikely in the extreme, but you can hope. And the series does develop this in a positive way until episode 13, where it all goes a little Misery.
Mirai Nikki is fun, and it has some great production values to it, great animation, unremitting on the violence, but it’s hardly a classic of the genre, and not an essential anime. Which is good for my wallet, as I’ve already imported anime from the US and Australia because of Kazé’s approach to subtitling, and Mirai Nikki’s subtitles are another instance where this may as well be a dub only release. Waiting for the second half of the show is going to be a pain too.