I anticipated a storm of Yuki-hate when looking forward to this episode of Mirai Nikki, and though I’ve intentionally avoided visiting the usual places where such things are debated I’m fairly confident I know what it sounds like – “Yuki’s an idiot. Yuki should die. Why doesn’t Yuki trust Yuno? Yuki’s such a f**ing coward!” I’m not going to say those feelings are invalid, but I would offer an alternative view as to why Yukkii behaved the way he did this week. I think that if you look at Yukkii’s behavior over the first seven eps, you’ll see that what he craves more than anything is normal. He’s never been normal. Home isn’t normal – where’s Dad, first of all, and Mom is a bit of a female Peter Pan with an ecchi complex. School isn’t normal – he’s so painfully shy that he’s never had a friend, and spends all his time writing entries (which are never about himself) in his diary. And all that was before said diary turned into a magical talisman that made his entire life a death match with eleven people who either have to kill him or die trying.
This, for me, is fundamentally why Yukkii resists surrendering fully to Yuno. He “trusts” her, in that he believes she wants to protect him. But the one thing he wants most is what Yuno can never give him – normalcy. She can’t be a normal girlfriend, though that doesn’t stop him dreaming she could – that’s why he was so happy on the day of the amusement park date (and so broken at the way it ended). Yuki always wants to do the right thing, although it isn’t always the best thing for him, and he resists Yuno’s cynical, violent solutions to every situation. The problem for Yukiteru is that pretty much every time Yuno offers a course of action based on paranoia and violence, she turns out to be exactly right. Intellectually he knows this, but emotionally he resists it. Yukkii doesn’t want to believe in a world where Yuno’s way of thinking is the right way, because in such a world he can never, ever be normal.
In that context, Yukiteru can hardly be blamed at being a little giddy when his first day at his new school seems to be going a lot better than he expected. We briefly see a silhouetted diary holder ask Deus for permission to loan his diary to another, then jump immediately to Yuno and Yukiteru, walking to their new school. After a rough start with his old tormentor Ouji “King” Kosaka (Shiraishi Minoru), who tries to blame him for the bombing deaths at their old school, Hinata Hino (Matsuoka Yuki) and her pal Nonosaka Mao (Yukana – finally another “name” seiyuu) come to his defense and, despite a Yukkii-induced wardrobe malfunction, new friendships are formed. An after-school adventure to a local crime scene plays out like fairly typical early-teen hijinks (yes, visiting murder scenes is a step towards normalcy for our hero) until Hinata goes off on her own, and everything starts to go all wrong again. Very wrong, as Yukkii’s diary leads the children to Hinata’s dismembered body and a pack of menacing dogs with orthodontic enhancements.
It’s as this point that we meet the most interesting of the new characters introduced this week, Akise Aru (Ishida Akira). Akise fancies himself a boy-detective and knows an awful lot about Yukiteru, which has the expected impact on Yuno. However, he does lead the kids to safety in a watchtower, with the dogs literally nipping at their heels. Yukkii now must face yet another decision – follow Yuno’s advice to let the others distract the dogs while they escape, or reveal his diary by using to tell the others where the dogs will attempt to break in. Meanwhile, as the politics of their situation play out “Lord of the Flies” style in the tower, a strange man (Hiramatsu Hirokazu) feeds his dogs steak and 30 year-old wine as he dines on cup curry in a control room, watching a monitor where five targets are being tracked.
I don’t think anyone should be surprised at what Yukkii chooses, or what the result is – both are perfectly in character and predictable. Hinata being alive and announcing that she’s after Akise’s diary, now I admit that was tough to see coming. The explanations for that (and Akise’s missing bicycle seat) will have to wait, but it was fascinating to see the dynamic of that group play out. If anyone was reminded of Evangelion in this episode I wouldn’t blame you, as I know I was. With Ishida-san – who also voiced Kaworu – playing Akise and Togashi-san’s Yukiteru sounding so uncannily like Ogata Megumi’s Shinji, the echoes of the Shinji-Kaworu relationship were all over this meeting, right down to the physical familiarity Akise shows towards Yukiteru. Akise is all calm, reason and logic – such a marked contrast to Yuno’s powerful animal ferocity – and Yukkii is clearly drawn to that.
This is an important moment for the series, as the character dynamics in this episode are quite different than any that have come before. This arc marks the first time that non-diary holders are intricately involved in driving the plot, and events take on importance for reasons not directly related to the execution of Deus’ game, but for how they impact Yukiteru and Yuno psychologically – though the game and diary holders are certainly right in the middle of it too. I would say this is probably the most character-driven arc of any so far, and in some ways the most “realistic” – by Mirai Nikki standards anyway.