Amano is your completely typical loner who struggles with social interactions so spends most of his time writing a diary on his phone where he documents things that happen around him (not things he does because he does very little). He has two imaginary friends that he talks to when he’s alone at home and everything is kind of fine until one of his imaginary friends gives him phone the ability to see the future and it turns out he isn’t the only one with this ability and his imaginary friend isn’t so imaginary.
Future Diary is one of those stories that goes for an absolutely cool premise. Phones that tell the future, a death match to see who can become a god, crazy pink haired chick who has a major obsession with the main protagonist, etc, etc. The set up is just screaming that this show is edgy and cool. And in honesty, if you just watch the first two episodes it kind of pulls off the kind of tone it needs to sell this. Unfortunately, while the series has some truly spectacular moments, what it doesn’t have is cohesion and good pacing and the characters, while they fit into their assigned roles well enough, don’t really do enough to carry the downtime in this plot. So what we are left with are sensationalist moments that stick in your memory and a plot that ends up being wafer thin at best.
That isn’t to say Future Diary isn’t a fun ride. If you just want to buckle in and watch the diary users hunt each other down and then pick each other off in increasingly violent ways than you will have a lot of fun with this story even if the ending does leave you wondering a bit (though I’ll talk more about the ending later). Each diary user has enough individualism both in their personality and in the way their diary operates to bring something fresh to the table and other than Yuno and Amano, none of them stick around long enough to become boring despite a lack of depth to their personalities. Although, the fact that they are all just a little bit broken and crazy certainly raises some questions.
At the heart of this story is Deus Ex Machina (yes, that is the name of the character). He’s one of Amano’s imaginary friends but it turns out he’s actually a god and he has set this game in motion in order to find a successor. Which of course raised a number of questions:
01. Why can’t the god just choose a successor? Why does he need some elaborate game to determine who it should be?
02. Would you really want the lone survivor from a brutal death match actually being given that kind of power because even if they weren’t messed up to start with, surely you suspect they are going to be by the end?
03. Was the selection of all of these highly flawed individuals actually deliberate as a message that everyone is actually crazy and they just need a catalyst to send them over the edge or is that just wishful thinking that maybe there was more thought put into the cast than just what would be interesting on screen for the episode before the inevitable death sequence?
None of these questions get reasonable answers though there is some attempt to justify the game as a means of selection. However, considering Deus is at the centre of everything that happens, he’s an almost non-character. Even when Amano first introduces us to his imaginary friends it is Mur Mur who gets your attention as Deus is a decidedly passive character.
Which doesn’t stop him from painting a target on Amano’s back before the first episode is over. Deus declares, in front of all the other diary users, that Amano is his favourite to win the game. Um, did you want him dead? Or being a god did you already foresee how the game would play out regardless? Or am I once again just trying to find logic in something that is inherently just a cheap excuse to send all of the other members Amano’s way which certainly speeds up what could otherwise be a very slow story if we actually had to wait for Amano to figure anything out.
Speaking of Amano, as the main character he is rubbish. I like the idea of socially awkward loner being forced into this life or death situation but he is far too pathetic and his co-dependence on Yuno is problematic from the start (even before we knew just how crazy she was). More importantly, Amano fails time and again to grow as a character. Characters being pathetic early on is fine and understandable, but not learning and repeating similar mistakes over and over just becomes tedious.
Yuno on the other hand has become a running joke. She’s just so incredibly over the top. While she certainly has good reason to be deeply scarred, as a character she’s more of a caricature and it becomes very difficult to take her seriously as either a love interest or a threat (though clearly for the story to work we need to see her as both). By the way, if you have an issue with her tying Amano to a chair to protect him and then attempting to kill off the friends he has somehow come across throughout this story then you should probably pass on this story.
Moving on from the characters, the story itself is pretty standard for most of the run time. Introduce diary user, see their particular trick or trait, run around for a bit, confrontation, brutal death scene. There’s variations and at times the story introduces more than one diary user or builds in temporary alliances to shake things up, but ultimately the object of this story is just to knock down the players. The occasional interference from Deus or Mur Mur also breaks things up, and front and centre we have the tragic story of Yuno and Amano playing out. All of this works well enough, even if it isn’t amazing in terms of narrative.
Where the story goes off the rails is right at the end where we find out this is not the first time this death match has played out. The previous winner wasn’t happy with the way things ended and after acquiring the power of god created another reality, replaced themselves, and decided to given themselves a do-over. It certainly explains a few things and actions taken by the character and it is a nice idea for a twist but when we see how this match ends and what the winner does it all just seems like this story is trying too hard to justify itself rather than embracing that it is really just a popcorn worthy show.
If you haven’t already seen Future Diary and you enjoy a story with a bit of violence, action, and a mild-psychological thriller element, then you will probably get quite a kick out of watching this series. However, if you aren’t a fan of that style there isn’t much else here to look at, unless you really want to know why Yuno is the craziest character ever.
I’d love to know what you thought of Future Diary.
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