What better way to occupy oneself during the increasingly bleak pandemic apocalypse than with a show that proudly bears the DVD cover tagline #You’re all gonna die? As a medic, I have become increasingly frazzled by the growing horror that has erupted not just in my country, but all over the globe. There’s a sense of dread that this bloody virus will never go away and we’ll never return to normal. So I’ve mostly been working, sleeping and trying to stop my kids from cannibalising one another in their boredom and bickering. One recent weekend, I turned off my phone, ignored the millions of Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and email messages vying for my URGENT ATTENTION and focused on mentally healing. With a ridiculously OTT anime about violence and boobs. Honestly, I feel so much better now. Though that may be because where my conscience used to be, there is now a hollow moral vacuum excavated by Yuno Gasai and her array of sharp weaponry.
Towards the tail end of last year, I contributed to AniTAY’s decade in review series with a detailed overview of 2011's anime. One show I’d been unable to source legally was Mirai Nikki: The Future Diary because the KAZE UK physical release was out of print and the streaming rights had long since lapsed with the demise of streaming service Anime On Demand, which was absorbed into Animax UK, which subsequently closed leaving all of their shows without a legal viewing option in the UK. A similar fate met shows like Tiger and Bunny and Persona 4: The Animation. Thanks to sites like CEX and Music Magpie, I managed to track down some very expensive secondhand DVD copies. I could not find blu-rays anywhere. These discs were only released here 4 years ago, but KAZE were notorious for under-serving the UK in terms of unit volume, hence their absurd scarcity. Note that Crunchyroll streams the series in North America for all you lucky colonials.
Based on a 12-volume manga published between 2006 and 2010, this is a 26-episode TV series. Only 10 volumes of the manga were ever translated and released in the West by Tokyopop before the print manga bubble burst and several publishing companies closed. So the anime is the only legal way for western fans to witness the end of the story... except it isn’t because in 2013 a final/epilogue episode 27 OVA was produced that was not included in any of the western releases. This is a story without a definitive ending in the West. Unfortunately this is a fairly common occurrence for western anime licenses. For years the OVA episode of Elfen Lied was unavailable, and Attack on Titan has multiple OVAs bundled with Japanese manga volumes that have never been released legally here. Only after 11 years have the final 3 episodes of Bakemonogatari become available for streaming, but only on Funimation, and only in the US and Canada.
Future Diary belongs to the relatively small but popular anime “death game” genre. Last season we endured the pale imitation Darwin’s Game that I struggled to wade through, and this season we’re moistly enjoying the bonkers Gleipnir. Until recently, this wasn’t a genre I was familiar with, though a couple of years ago I did go through a Danganronpa phase and played through every game in quick succession (including Ultra Despair Girls) and binged the part 3 anime. I loved the twisty-turny nature of those games, and although structured very differently, Future Diary does strike a superficially similar tone. Much like in Danganronpa, a disparate bunch of colourful characters are forced into a game of kill-or-be-killed and crazy hijinks ensue.
Main viewpoint character Yukiteru Amano is a weird 14-year-old kid who keeps a diary on his phone where he constantly annotates everything that happens around him. Unsurprisingly, he’s a loner with no friends. Yukiteru has a strange “imaginary” garbage CGI friend called Deus Ex Machina (about as subtle as an entrail-encrusted sledgehammer) who he meets regularly in what appear to be daydreams or visions. It turns out that Deus is quite literally God, but as he’s going to die/disintegrate soon, he wants to appoint a successor. What better way to do this than choose some random strangers, grant them supernatural precognitive powers via their mobile phones and make them kill each other with the intention of the winning sociopath becoming the New Omnipotent Deity Over All Existence? Sounds like a winning plan with no flaws, right?
So Yukiteru is drafted and his phone becomes the titular “future diary” in that it now tells him what is about to happen in his vicinity in the near future. If something bad is destined, he can use the foreknowledge to alter events and the diary entries subsequently change. This is a fantastic story concept and my head was practically reeling with the potential implications for plot development. Future Diary does not disappoint in this regard - the central conceit is well thought-out and the ramifications explored in logical, if deranged fashion. Complications arise when the other diary users appear, each with their own future-knowledge enhanced phones with abilities matched to their personalities.
Yukiteru’s phone comes with one major drawback - because he’s such an insecure wet blanket, he never writes about himself in his diary, only about his surroundings. Therefore his diary is little use for self-protection. Thankfully, Yukiteru has a terrifying pink-haired yandere stalker-girl who kept a diary intricately recording his every movement, so with her new “Yukiteru diary” he can rely on her to keep him safe/be intimately aware of his every future bowel movement. Yes, this pink-haired demon girl is the source of blood-drenched memes and gifs the world over - she is Yuno Gasai, and she is by far the most entertaining aspect of the entire show. Just one utterance of her “Yu-ki!” pet name, with the raised inflection on the second syllable is enough to make the blood of even the manliest man run cold. She is the towering epitome of the “don’t stick your dick in crazy” trope.
At the beginning, Yuno appears only slightly unhinged - she seems to be a sweet girl, only a little intense. Pink hair should always be a warning in anime-land, however (much as it probably should be in real life), and after episode 3 we (and Yuki) begin to understand the depths of this girl’s obsessions and drive. It’s difficult to talk about this without getting into spoilers, as this is very much a show you want to experience as fresh as possible. So compelling and ridiculous is The Future Diary, driven by its crazy characters and escalating insanity, I felt urged to keep watching long after it became mentally dangerous to do so. I binged the entire show within 2 days. Each new episode twisted the screw further down into the depths of madness, Yuno gets more and more dangerous and unhinged, yet also strangely more sympathetic. By the end I was cheering her on to win over her man, and the death game, and only feeling slightly conflicted that I was rooting for a sociopathic murdering femme fatale. It’s a strange show that makes you want to shake the perfectly acceptably freaked-out protagonist and say “just get with the pink-haired crazy girl, dammit.” I guess as my daughter repeatedly says, I’ve always been drawn to the crazy ones. My wife’s hair was previously purple, after all, only a minor step down from pink in the Yandere Female Derangement Scale.
I’ve written before about anime girls with personality disorder features, but Yuno is probably the closest I’ve seen to a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) sufferer, although she is a massive caricature. In regards to the DSM V criteria for diagnosis: most obviously, she exhibits frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, especially in regards to Yuki. Her relationship with Yuki demonstrates a pattern of instability and intensity characterised by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation. She expresses chronic feelings of emptiness, and frequent inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger.
When I worked in psychiatry, my senior consultant described patients with BPD as carrying around an umbilical cord still attached to their belly button, with the end primed to insert into whichever person they attached to next. During that period of attachment they would be intensely dependent on that person for attention and validation, and would almost idolise that person, build them up and treat them incredibly lovingly. When their idol inevitably made a “mistake”, the adulation would quickly turn to abuse as the fear of abandonment took over and the BPD sufferer would attempt to exert extreme control over that person, perhaps with emotional blackmail, threats of violence or otherwise. Eventually once the BPD sufferer had been completely rejected by their idol, they would completely disengage, appear completely emotionally numb and seek the next person to plug their umbilical line into. To me, Yuno seems very much like the person with the umbilical line, and poor Yuki is the one into which the line has been plugged. Relationships with BPD sufferers can be like exhausting rollercoasters, with non-BPD partners questioning their own perception of reality due to the constant gaslighting and feeling of walking on eggshells.
BPD sufferers are sometimes disparagingly classed as “drama queens”, but that misses the point. These are people who need help with emotional regulation, but intimate relationships are the completely wrong context to seek this. No partner will ever be able to “fix” them. Often because of past abuse, or adverse family circumstances in childhood, they struggle to form healthy attachments and require years of psychotherapy before they can learn to be happy. Because of the “drama” that follows them, plus the fact they tend to have “big” personalities, no wonder lurid anime shows like Mirai Nikki heavily feature these kind of characters. Anime fans like me love the “crazy girls” even when we know that in real life it certainly isn’t healthy for people to act like that. However, when it comes to writing a “death game” story, the last kind of characters you want to populate it with are a bunch of boring type-C personality accountant types. Although I love the character of Yuno Gasai because she drives the plot, is entertaining to watch and is cute, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to meet her in person.
The rest of the characters all have their mental issues, but none make as much of an impression as Yuno. “Domestic Terrorist” Minene Uryu is fun, but her continual side-switching makes her hard to get a handle on and I suspect the author used her more of a way to get plot components into place than as a consistent character. There’s a bunch of Yuki’s other classmates who have varying roles, mainly to be disposable tools for Yuno, and the rest of the diary holders fall into fairly common character tropes. Yes, this show lives or dies by its main female character, as mainly (is this really a SPOILER for a death game show?) most of the other characters die. The last few episodes are a relentlessly plotted avalanche of revelations and insanely escalating events that really need to be watched all in one go. There is no way I’d have coped watching this week to week. Even with proliferating alternate timelines, dimension-crossing and theological insanity the show manages to stick the landing if - and only if - you track down the final episode 27. The final show on disc 6 - episode 26 - is a conclusion of sorts, but it is very bittersweet and seems unfinished. This is NOT a complete story without the OVA.
Anyway, I’ve now exorcised the ghost of Yuno Gasai from my system, so if I’m to follow the advice of my trusted AniTAY advisors, I guess all that’s left for me now is to watch Big Order. What could possibly go wrong?
Mirai Nikki: The Future Diary DVD Part 1/2 and Part 2/2
Director: Naoto Hosoda
Based on the manga by: Sakae Esuno
Region 2 PAL
Rating: BBFC 15
UK physical release: 22 Feb 2016 (vol 1), 11 July 2016 (vol 2)
Original Japanese TV broadcast: October 10 2011 - April 16 2012
OVA Future Diary: Redial: broadcast: June 19th 2013
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