I’ve said this before, but I think the breakneck pacing that the adaptation has left for itself in the home stretch – just under three chapters per ep, give or take – actually works to its advantage. Mirai Nikki is at its best when it doesn’t give you a chance to breathe. It’s not so much a story as a sensory assault, making you laugh and shocking you and horrifying you and surprising you, all in turn. It’s better reacted to than analyzed, and an episode full of unpredictable and outlandish events like this one is a real thrill ride. This is like a great trashy novel or pulpy action flick, the kind people love but prefer not to admit it to their more “sophisticated” social circles.
Of course, any episode featuring Minene is going to have a head start, and she was very much the star here. Minene is a very good manga character who made the transition to anime perhaps better than anyone in the cast – somehow seeing her in motion (and with Mai Azawa’s voice) multiplies her appeal by a factor of ten. With so few pieces left on the board every move is critical now, and Minene always seems more at home taking the fight to enemy than waiting for it to come to her. To that end she’s taken it upon herself to try and take down Eleventh’s supercomputer, the HOLON III (third in Japan in processing power behind the JSDF computer and the one tallying the Saimoe votes). John Bacchus reveals himself to be a man of foresight – he’s got his endgame plan very much complete in his mind, and it involves blackmailing Eighth into letting him link her Blog Diary into the HOLON, thus turning everyone in Sakurami City into apprentice diary users.
It’s interesting to look at the contrasting styles of all the remaining diary owners. Ninth is the woman of action, fearless and hard to read. Single-minded Second and newly-resolute First are more or less an open book to us by now – almost. Eighth seems genuine in her disinterest in “winning” and trying only to do the best she can for her children. And then there’s Eleventh, who speaks with admiration about past citizens of fascist regimes and empires who were “touched by God”, using this as his rationale for giving them the diary power – he wants to make them a master race (a loaded term if ever there was one). What we didn’t know until this week was that Bacchus had jobbed the system – he was the one who came up with the concept for the future diaries, working in concert with Deus. The goal? To “evolve” the human race by giving some a taste of divine power. Not only was Eleventh in on the creating of the game itself, but he designed the prototypes under which every diary’s powers fall – and gave himself the “Watcher Diary” with the ability to spy on all the others. It’s as if Rupert Murdoch’s wet dream came true.
Clever Ninth is the one who figures this out, eventually, by noting that Bacchus was able to predict her actions but not Nishijima’s. While her initial plan was able to destroy the HOLOS at the university – because Nishijima turned on his fellows – it turns out that there are two more HOLOS, at the top of the massive (and oddly named) Quad Towers, of which there are two. Nishijima has only one price to ask for his help – for Minene to bear his children. The scenes between them are both very sad and very funny, as it becomes clear just how socially broken Minene is. Nishijima may say he wants her “pretty much” just for her body, but his actions say otherwise. He even gets Akise to recruit Kosaka, Hinata and Mao to help out, but the best laid plans don’t always work out, and Bacchus proves himself to be very careful and resourceful opponent – with tragic results. While nothing that happens in a story where nothing is off-limits should be a total surprise, it’s nevertheless sad to see how cruelly fate treats Minene. In some ways she’s the most complicated and conflicted character here – guilty of terrible atrocities yet capable of great kindness (even to chipmunks). For all the directness of her fighting style, her motives remain a real mystery.
This turn of events isn’t a total accident of course, and one of the two other key developments this week is tied into this. If anyone doubted Yukiteru’s newfound steel, his actions this week should go a long way – not only did he absorb Akise’s bombshell and decide to stand by Yuno anyway, but he and Yuno had been waiting in the wings using Ninth as a stalking horse – “bait”, as she calls it. They show themselves to be the ones thinking as many steps ahead as Bacchus is, and apparently willing to do whatever it takes to bring him down. The other big reveal was that Murmur was shown to have been plotting against Deus – and Deus to have known about it all along. The web of deceit grows ever more tangled, and Eleventh isn’t the only one with an endgame scenario laid out.
This is pretty much classic Mirai Nikki in my view, and it really succeeds by holding true to its dedication to the absurd. And it doesn’t discriminate – the scenes with Mao’s diary and between Minene and Nishijima are extremely silly and quite funny, and they exist side by side with the over the top violence and intrigue. As long as it’s absurd, it’s all good. And it doesn’t hurt that some of the legendary seiyuu in the cast are getting a chance to shine. Wakamoto-san has been used sparingly so far as Deus, but he’s clearly the right man for the job – the voice of God, indeed. And Hashi Takaya is proving a brilliant choice as the complex and difficult John Bacchus, getting his low-key megalomania with a twist of sardonic humor just right. Asread can’t take the credit for turning Yuki and Yuno into wildcards so late in the game – Sakae Esuno gets that – but they have managed their transition very well. After some hiccups in the middle, I’m back to thinking Asread has a good handle on getting this right.