Home > Episode Reviews, First Impressions > Future Diary Episodes 1 and 2 – My Own Worst Enemy

Future Diary Episodes 1 and 2 – My Own Worst Enemy

Two seasons ago, Deadman Wonderland gave an example of a traditional shounen action show being taken in an extremely dark direction, while still maintaining the core concepts of its inspiration. Last season, Kamisama Dolls took that same type of story and modified it for the seinen demographic: not just aging up the cast, but also subtly subverting and challenging the basic themes of an overused plotline.

Future Diary predates both of those works, but almost feels like a combination of the two. Like Deadman Wonderland, it’s far darker and more lurid than your standard shounen fare. Like Kamisama Dolls, it takes a story type traditionally used for one demographic and targets it at a a different one. But Future Diary ages down rather than up, taking traditionally seinen plot tropes from series like Battle Royale and Death Note while changing the age of the lead to something shockingly low.

The end result is a series that is high on concept and perhaps a little low in its execution. Taken purely as a shounen show, however, it’s looking to be far more interesting than Deadman Wonderland was.

The socially isolated protagonist is a common character trope in manga and anime, mostly due to audience appeal. His self-imposed isolation is openly condemned by the second episode, though, which is decidedly less common

The show centers around middle school student and general loner Yukiteru Amano. Amano isn’t bullied or ostracized by his peers, but has rather chosen to withdraw from others into his own little world. His only form of interaction with the outside world is by keeping a detailed phone diary, logging everything he sees.

Amano also has what he considers to be an imaginary friend, called Deus ex Machina. Amano doesn’t talk to others all that much, so apparently he’s never been able to compare notes and realize that imaginary friends don’t come with their own pocket dimensions and annoying mascot characters. When Deus reveals that he really is a god of time and space, Amano is appropriately wigged out.

Muru Muru, Deus's pint-sized assistant, is far too cute looking to fit in with the general tone of the show. At least they found something useful to do with her omake endings

Deus gifts his friend with a “future diary”—exactly the same as his normal phone diary, but with entries out to 90 days in the future just as Amano would have written, all completely accurate. Deus forgets to mention that he gave the same gift to 11 other people, who also keep detailed phone diaries, or that the other 11 have all been told that the diary holders are in a battle to the death, the winner taking Deus’s place.

The first episode is Amano coming to that rude realization when another diary owner, who is also a serial killer (and Amano’s homeroom teacher) figures out Amano is a diary holder due to the latter’s sudden string of “good luck.” Amano is only saved by classmate Yuno Gasai, whom, it turns out, is a psycho stalker with eyes only for him.

Destroying the phone diary is just as effective as killing the the owner outright, which gives Amano a bloodless way to take out his first opponent. It's still notable that he has to kill someone in the premiere, as many series would balk at that for full series runs

There are a lot of places to look for holes in the plot if one is so inclined. Why would class beauty Yuno wind up obsessing over the biggest loner in her school? Why didn’t Deus tell Amano about the battle royale condition of the diary, like he did with everyone else? What prompted Deus to contact 12 people, mostly Japanese and seemingly all in close proximity, to offer up his powers in the first place?

Do any of these questions keep Future Diary from being entertaining? Surprisingly, no. Some of that comes from a story too busy to give the audience time for questions: Future Diary’s pace is best described as “blistering,” without the slightest inclination to stall for time or drag out its narrative. The manga on which it is based just wrapped up this year, which means the 26 episode adaption will likely cover the entire story.

Perhaps I shouldn't complain about Muru Muru too much given the character designs of many of the diary owners look to be just as silly. These are the sort of concessions to the target demographic that I wish didn't have to be made

The main draw of a show like Death Note is seeing two geniuses match wits with each other in increasingly complicated schemes trying to predict the other’s moves; Future Diary substitutes genius with cheat codes in the form of the diaries, but has so many players, all scheming, using and being used by each other, so as to complicate things immensely. It will be difficult for the show to hold the story together, but so long as it does, it should be ruthlessly fun.

The series also is unflinching in portraying humanity in a very dark light. Thus far, revealed diary owners include a terrorist, a serial killer, a crazed stalker, and an unsociable loner; there is one guy who seems decent, but it’s probably just an act meant to forge a temporary alliance. The show also is perfectly willing to go overboard with violence, as when said terrorist comes to Amano’s school and starts blowing up classes full of students.

Another point of comparison to Deadman Wonderland: Future Diary isn't above slaughtering schoolkids en masse, or making them slaughter each other

Yet the normal breadth of humanity isn’t much better. Eventually Amano’s own classmates turn on him, handing him over to the terrorist to save their lives. They feel guilty about doing so, but no one lifts a finger to save him. And then Yuno wrathfully blows those same students up, as her mad dash to rescue Amano also trips the motion sensors for several classroom bombs. She has not the slightest remorse over it.

Amano himself snaps by the end of the episode, finally seeming to grasp the kill or be killed nature of the game that even his confrontation with a serial killer didn’t hammer home. Even before that, he deliberately decides to placate Yuno, pretending to love her, in order to cement her loyalty. It’s a move both entirely sensible and entirely cynical, and one which doesn’t speak well of him.

Amano's choice to cultivate Yuno, despite actually thinking she's creepy and dangerous, is a practical move which places his own survival over pesky ethical considerations. Knowing that he'll eventually have to betray her to survive makes it all the more duplicitous

Not speaking well of people is, as I said, one of the points of the show. Each diary embodies the particular flaws of its author, and is thus a weakness as much as a strength. Amano’s diary is a dispassionate account of everything but himself, showing his sense of isolation. Yuno’s is a diary only of Amano and whatever he’s doing, showing the depth of her obsession. Amano only got into the game in the first place because he was too busy burying himself in an imaginary world rather than being a normal student.

A standard expectation of shounen shows is that the protagonist will continue to grow and mature for the better. Amano is already developing far outside his old comfort zone, but my initial impression is that his character arc will be as negative as it is positive. There’s a sense that the only way Amano will get out of the hole he’s in is to dig ever deeper—even as we know there will be some moral reckoning eventually.

The terrorist bomber loses an eye to Amano, but gets away with her life. I'm a bit curious where she was hiding a motorcycle in the middle of an open field, but that's one of those plot holes I suppose I'll just have to look over

Waiting for things to go increasingly pear-shaped is going to be one of the main appeals of this show. If that doesn’t appeal to you, or you don’t think you’ll be able to get over the various ways in which the show tries our suspension of disbelief (starting with the premise), you probably won’t be able to enjoy it much. For everyone else, strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

You can watch the episodes here and here.

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