Whatever else happens, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m not impartial when it comes to Mirai Nikki. The manga is one of the scariest, funniest, juiciest and more ruthless you’ll find in mainstream manga and I absolutely love it. So with that said, Asread has a pretty tough job on their hands to meet expectations.
I was optimistic but anxious in looking forward to this. The promo video from last year was fine for what it was – not a real OVA but a short teaser trailer – but didn’t tell us much about what Asread would do with the material. Their most famous works are Shuffle and the last two seasons of Minami-ke (which some hated, but I liked pretty well). The director is Hosada Naoto, who directed Shuffle but is more known as an animator. Screenwriter Takayama Katsuhiko has a long and solid record adapting manga and light novels. So it was a mixed bag – but really, Esuno Sakae’s manga is so good that all they really have to do is not screw it up. And so far, they haven’t.
It’s tough to review a show like this for me, because I want to view everything through the lens of what I know is going to happen. But I can’t, obviously – I’m going to have to keep spoilers out of my posts and you’re going to have to be considerate in hiding them in your comments. So what does that leave me to talk about? How the manga is translating, for starters, and the merits of the scenes covered in any given week. I think Asread did a pretty darn good job in the premiere at capturing the essence of what makes Future Diary the gem it is. I tend to think of Death Note as a very good pulp fiction that gets bogged down by thinking it’s something profound. Well, Mirai Nikki is a great pulp fiction that has no delusions of grandeur – it revels in the gloriously twitchy and absurdist escapism that it is.
So what do we have here? We have a lonely, socially awkward and physically immature 14 year-old, Yukitero Amano (Togashi Mizusu). Yuki spends his time writing diary entries on his cellphone, throwing darts at his seven dart boards and talking to his imaginary friends – the God-like Deus ex Machina (Wakamoto Norio, as if it could have been anyone else) and his elfin assistant Murumuru (Honda Manami). Except one day Yuki finds out they aren’t so imaginary, as Deus fixes his cellphone to tell the future. What could be better? Yuki knows when pop quizzes are coming, what the answers are, when the bullies are about to ambush him – he rules at life!
You needn’t have read the manga to know things aren’t that simple, and Yuki’s good fortune ends up looking more and more like a curse. Asread gave us a blisteringly-paced first episode, but in the process I think they did a great job giving new viewers a clear picture of what’s happening with the story. Mirai Nikki has two cours, unlike the adaptation of a manga almost as good as this one – Deadman Wonderland, which suffered terribly as a result – so it should be able to tell the manga’s story with a slightly more relaxed pace from here out. And even if you haven’t read the manga, you might know about the legend that is Yuno Gasai (Murata Tomosa). She was teased a little in the opener, but that’s all it was – love her or hate her, you won’t forget her. She’s become a brand name synonymous with the product – like Kleenex or Google. Yuno Gasai has become her own trope, and a verb too. Stay tuned for the next six months and you’ll find out why.
Apart from Wakamoto-dono, Asread has gone for a largely unknown cast here. A few modestly big names will be showing up, but I like the idea of lesser names as Yuki and Yuno – both because I’m sick of hearing the same 11 people in every role in every series and because I want to listen to what Yuki and Yuno sound like, not listen and constantly think of the star doing the voice. Both Togashi as Yuki and Murata as Yuno will take getting used to. Asread has chosen to play up the youth of the main characters – they’re only 14, and it sounds like it. Togashi was fine, and Murata started to grow on me by the end. It’s important with Yuno that the voice match the face, not the personality – and I think she’s off to a good start.
While there are small things I can pick out that I’d do differently – tone down the BGM, for example – on the whole I’m very happy. If this works, anime viewers are in for a hell of a ride – Mirai Nikki is gleefully suspenseful, relentless and trashy, and quite unlike any series we’ve seen in the last few years.
ED: エンディングテーマ「Blood teller」 by 飛蘭 (Faylan)