Part 1 of 4: A Condensed Review
The Future Diary (or Mirai Nikki) is one of my top 30 favorite anime and the best of all the death game or battle-royale anime series, imo. I have a lot to say about this anime, so I wrote a condensed review of the series, a post addressing critic complaints, a Yukiteru character analysis, a yuno gasai character analysis, and a short discussion of themes in the series.
First is the review. I like to give anime series ratings on a scale of 1 to 10. Based on my enjoyment of the show, its story, characters, and themes, I give it a 9/10. But that’s an “emotional” rating. The Future Diary is of course lacking and flawed in some ways, so I’ll review this series from a more rational perspective. We’ll take a look at the story, the art, the sound, the characters, and my personal enjoyment of the show.
Story: 8/10 “Excellent”
People often dismiss the plot concept by saying, “We already have good battle-royale or death survival game anime.” But a show’s genre is not a legitimate reason to criticize it. Just as “Isekai” has become its own genre in the 2010-2020 decade, so has “Sabage” (survival game).
Nearly all the Sabage anime have similar opening concepts: there is an extended death match between all the contestants for some kind of reward. There are typically 7 to 20 contenders. The protagonist is usually someone who isn’t as strong as the others or got pulled into the game against their will. Mirai Nikki meeting these genre specifications does not make it an unoriginal anime, any more than Log Horizon is unoriginal because it’s about a man transported to a fantasy/game world.
The story is one of the most amazing elements of Future Diary because 1) it’s an exemplary model of a death-game anime; 2) it’s a character piece focusing on the psychology, history, and redemption of Yuno Gasai; and 3) it has numerous profound themes throughout. Some people who watch the show get caught up in criticizing its “edginess” and forget that there are truly deep and original elements of story and character right in front of them. For one thing, I’m referring to the fascinating and toxic psyche of Yuno. (I’ll discuss the themes and the stories of Yuno and Yukki in section 3.)
Let me touch on why Future Diary makes a top-class thriller and representative of the survival game genre. First, what makes a good thriller? The movie or show should be exciting and move at a fast pace throughout. It should have characters that are psychologically fascinating if not immediately likeable. Drama, violence, and insanity should be present, partly to catch attention, but mostly to highlight important themes. These include as disillusionment, the cruelty of humans, the significance of death, the absurdity of reality, and the necessity of self-defense.
There should be one or two plot twists that throw viewers off, plus an underlying mystery which isn’t resolved until the near the end. If the conclusion isn’t a happy one, it should at least be one that fits the themes and overall tone of the show.
Mirai Nikki met all the above criteria. It also serves as a great representative sample of survival game anime. An anime with some archetypal elements isn’t bad, as long as it has some original and thought-provoking content as well. Future Diary had plenty of that, in my opinion. There aren’t many other shows that are unafraid of using character death and extreme violence to highlight themes. Those themes and the broken character psychologies aren’t flushed out to the same extent in other shows. The reveals about Yuno, her motivations, and her memory may not be truly original, but they are handled in an original way.
Animation and Art: 6/10 “Fine”
The character designs are great and the stylized but still very “anime” art is enjoyable. Striking colors are used all over, and I like to see this in dark shows. The actual animation is about average for its time, which means it’s good, but has nothing that makes it stand out. There’s little creativity in the way things are done. The fight scenes are choreographed and planned well, but don’t look smooth in animated execution. The over-the-top expressions of characters in long still-shots can be irritating. The positive animation elements that bring it just above average are the incorporation of old-fashioned, stylized CG with Deus, and the quality animation seen in the opening songs.
Sound: 8/10 “Excellent”
The soundtrack for Mirai Nikki was magnificent. As everyone in reviews of this show generally agrees, the first opening was fantastic, but in the middle of the series, it was switched with second song not nearly as impressive. I base my sound rating on (Japanese) voice-acting and instrumental soundtrack, though. A particularly great or particularly terrible opening will only have so much effect on my score. I absolutely loved the work of the seiyuu in the Japanese audio. Every character was on-point. If you are strangely and easily annoyed by high-pitched voices, Yuno’s voice will be aggravating, but I still don’t recommend the English dub. It’s completely appalling.
As for the instrumental soundtrack, I was genuinely pleased with it. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at describing the sounds of music, but I’ll try. There are tracks with soft but unsettling music and electronic beats. Some pieces have fast drumming, and some have entrancing vocals. The faster-paced tracks are full of electric-type music and sounds, classic horror effects, some metal, and sometimes underpinnings of keyboard.
One of the main themes is mostly strings like violin played in a quick, creepy, and repetitive way. A piece that I found inspiring was #5 of OST 3. It’s used for big moments, like when Yukki gives Yuno breath in episode 8 so she can go up the stairs and finish off the Fifth.
Most of the music is either thrilling or scary for intense fight scenes and horrifying moments. The creepiest track sounds like a music box and plays at episode endings or mysterious moments. There are also some very gentle tracks, like the piano one that plays during sweet or emotionally heavy moments. (Example: episode 12, just before Yuno activates the stun grenade to knock out Kurusu). There are a few upbeat, happy pieces too, like the one where Yukki and Yuno are at the amusement park in episode 3, or the one that plays when they are spending time with Hinata’s group in episode 9.
I’m unable able to communicate well what the music sounds like, but I can tell you that it’s unusual and memorable. It creates the needed atmosphere for each scene perfectly, as well as helping portray the moods of characters and the gravity of certain events. Usually, when you watch an anime, you’ll either clearly remember the music after it’s over, or you won’t have much of an impression of it at all. If the latter, it means the music was poor or didn’t move you emotionally. If the former, it means the music succeeded in every way; I felt it was just so with Mirai Nikki.
Characters 7/10 “Good”
Do you like broken people? Do you like seeing people who go to extremes? Are you simultaneously horrified and thrilled by psychopaths? Would you enjoy a cast that could all justifiably be in a psych ward? If any of the above are true for you, you’ll love the characters in Mirai Nikki. I’m not even being facetious here. I seriously love the characters in this show, and not just making fun of them. I take each of them seriously, for the most part. Maybe it’s because I have had periods of mental instability and time in the psych ward. Maybe it’s because I love psychology, and Future Diary gives me a great way to psychoanalyze a very broken cast.
Reviewers will sometimes say that the characters are completely unrealistic and absurd, but that’s only true when you compare them to neurotypical people (or characters). If you’ve had much psychology—learning in the field as well as from the textbook—you know that people as “crazy” as the cast of Mirai Nikki are real and can be found in any society.
It’s impossible to label a fictional character with a wholly accurate psych diagnosis, but in general, here’s what I mean. Yukki has every anxiety disorder in the book, including Panic Disorder. Yuno has symptoms of a dissociative disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder. Twelfth experiences schizophrenic delusions of grandeur. Sixth is a tragic case of a young girl reacting to trauma and abuse in reprehensible ways.
I could go on with the character examples, but I’m trying to keep this brief. I have encountered many people with personality disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and assorted delusions. Some have or would resort to nefarious acts like assault, murder, terrorism, abuse of authority, abuse of power, and more—though the ones in psych wards are (usually) kept stable with modern medications, group therapy, individual therapy, and monitoring. If they go really nuts, they go to prison.
The crazies aren’t as uncommon as you think. We’re here, we exist, and yes, we’re rather absurd characters. But we’re people too, of course.
The focus is on Yukiteru and Yuno, but most of the cast is developed well enough considering how little screen time some of them received. The majority of characters fit into somewhat typical categories, but they bring their own quirks and interesting stories to the table.
Yuno isn’t only memorable as the crazy yandere; she is so much more. Yukki is more than just the wimpy character—so many factors went into his broken psychology and continue to break him. Like a real person, he struggles to improve, but rarely succeeds in the same way those peppy Shounen protagonists always do. Hating himself as much as audiences seem to hate him, Yukiteru even calls himself “scum.”
The characters were primarily what made Future Diary so intense, memorable, and enjoyable for me. But that’s not to say there aren’t faults with this aspect of the show. Some characters are hard for “normal” people to take seriously (like the Ninth), others are a bit too predictable (like the Sevenths), and others still are sadly underdeveloped (such as the Sixth, and Hinata). The show could have made Yukki more appealing while still portraying him as an insecure person. Furthermore, audiences would have appreciated a more neurotypical character to balance out the “crazy” one. That being said, I still consider the handling and development of characters in Mirai Nikki to be 7/10, “Good.”
Enjoyment and Other Aspects: 9/10 “Outstanding”
Myanimelist.net includes the category of “enjoyment” as a way to judge and rate an anime. I think this is a great idea, but I add a little something more. The “enjoyment” grouping consists of any aspects relevant to me or my interests which are not included in the other four categories above.
Here are some examples of “Other Aspects” I like to see: gender role reversal, strong female characters, LGBTQ characters, characters with mental illnesses, character deaths, dark themes, Shounen ai, Shoujo ai, close-combat fight scenes, knife fights, a detailed magic or psychic power system, fascinating fantasy creatures, mythical beings (like gods), medieval weaponry, aliens, time travel, and existence of multiple universes.
Of course, Future Diary doesn’t contain all of the aforementioned features, but it would be strange if any one anime did. (Haruhi Suzumiya comes pretty close though!) The point is that Mirai Nikki had more than enough of what I wanted to see, and I enjoyed the f*** out of it. Imagining how it could be better is actually tough. (If I had to complain, I suppose my inner psychologist wanted to know more detail on the type and frequency of abuse Yuno suffered. Plus, I’d have liked more realistic body types for the women.) Well anyway, my ranking for Enjoyment and Other Aspects is 9/10.
I calculate my overall score for an anime by rating the five categories above, adding up the ratings, and dividing them by five. Doing so, I come up with 7.6/10. This means I consider Future Diary somewhere between “Good” (7/10) and “Excellent” (8/10). I highly recommend watching it, but with two notable warnings. If you are one of those people who don’t like to see titty nipples in anime (gasp!), consider not being such a prude– I mean, sorry, consider watching a censored version. Secondly, I do not under any circumstances recommend the god-awful English dub. Avoid it like the plague.
Other Posts About Mirai Nikki/ The Future Diary
The Future Diary: Critic Complaints
The Future Diary: Thematic Analysis
Yukiteru Amano Character Analysis
Yuno Gasai Character Analysis Part 1
Yuno Gasai Character Analysis Part 2