The pieces are slowly but surely starting to come together on Mirai Nikki as we close out the first half of its run. Despite the fact that the break came after episode 12, this ep actually marks the halfway point – and while we’re in the middle of a very important arc, it still feels like as good a pivot as anywhere. With Fourth dead, the new battle lines are beginning to be drawn – both inside the game and among outsiders – and we’re starting to get a little look inside the game from the perspective of Deus and Murumuru, an angle that hasn’t gotten too much play unless you’re really good at reading between the lines of the omakes.
Of course, what’s largely a puzzle is just what Yuno is up to and why. While she’s always been erratic and seemingly crazy, Yuno has also seemingly always had Yukiteru’s best interests at heart. In the face of that, we see some very confusing and troubling events as the two of them take a road trip so he can show her the stars. Instead, she appears to drug him with tainted soda, and he ends up tied up in the basement of an abandoned hotel in a run-down onsen town as Yuno sits on a “throne” in her delicates, the pair of skulls she’d smuggled in her duffel on either side of her. That image of Yuno smiling beatifically is an iconic image of sheer insanity, with no animation tricks needed to belabor the point. When it comes to animating Yuno’s disorder, less is more.
While Yuno’s motives are unclear, what’s emerging more clearly than ever is a battle of wits and wills between she and Akise. The latter has joined forces with Nishijima, who gives the boy a lead as to where Yuno and Yuki might be headed. He recruits Hinata, Mao and “King” Kosaka to help the search, using the free hotel passes he’s been given by Nishijima as bait, and they track the pair to the resort town, full of closed resort hotels in various states of disrepair. Akise is clever and knows that Yuno has predicted their pursuit, but that doesn’t stop the foursome from getting into trouble when Yuno appears to lure them into a trap using fake texts from Yukiteru. Akise knows they can’t be from Yuki, but thanks to Kosaka’a dim-wittedness the two boys and Mao end up locked in an underground room filling with gas (it was – less convincingly – concrete in the manga) while Hinata lies unconscious, having gotten there first and apparently run afoul of the Yandere Queen.
The other thread at play this week is the increasingly nuanced relationship between Deus and Murumuru. There are indications that Murumuru is playing the role of a wild card in the game, seemingly unknown to Deus prior to the events of this week. She clearly had a role in the events that led to Kurusu’s death, telling Deus that she speeded things up because “they need to pick a replacement before Deus is relived of duty”. Interestingly, she offers a wager to Deus – Murumuru picks Yuno as the winner. Deus, for his part, sticks with what he announces was his view all along – his money is on Yukiteru.
While this wasn’t the most exciting episode of the series, I think it was a rather good one. It had the advantage of adapting some strong material, but also made some changes that seemed to improve the overall impact. It was more briskly paced, and crucially increased the roles for the other kids, especially Hinata and Mao. It was interesting – and I think it will pay even more dividends in the second half – to see an ep that focused almost entirely outside Yuki and Yuno, and even Minene. In addition to a little inside look at Deus and Murumuru we got a look at how Akise thinks strategically, and some nice detail on Hinata and Mao. Two things are clearer than ever – Hinata is crushing hard on Yukiteru, and Mao is crushing hard on Hinata (even trying to snap cellphone photos of her bits under the bath water). As for Kosaka, he obviously thinks an awful lot of himself – and doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of thinking apart than that.
As for the omake, not much new ground was covered but we did get heavily censored fanservice. If you’re going to have censor bars anyway, at least red police tape saying “Happy!!?” is more interesting than most…