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Mirai Nikki: A Critical Analysis Part 1 (Episodes 1-2)

Good day to all readers! In addition to a couple other posts and projects in the works, I have decided on making some content about Mirai Nikki (Future Diary). There will probably be at least a dozen posts in this series, if I have as much to say as I think I do. The point of this series is to analyze Mirai Nikki from a slightly more critical standpoint than what I'm used to. Although the series has obvious flaws, I'm still a big fan of Mirai Nikki. So I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself this way. To be clear, the goal isn't to hate on the anime, but just to practice a little skeptical analysis. In all likelihood, I'll end up defending the show more than I mean to. Please bear with me.


Let's begin by analyzing the first three episodes of Mirai Nikki. I will write my thoughts in the order they occur to me, so this first post might be a bit disorganized. Future posts should have more of a regular format, but for now, it's an experiment. Let's rant!


Note 1: This analysis will mention many spoilers; however, I won't be recapping the events of the episodes in any detail.



 

~Episode 1: Sign Up~


The opening scene in the first episode makes little sense to those not familiar with the important reveals in the last few episodes of the series. As someone who has watched Mirai Nikki at least ten times, I'm very familiar with the events of the finale. I paid close attention to the scene showing the first Yukiteru's death, as well as the next scene showing Yuno killing the second world's Yuno. There were no major mistakes or gaping plot holes that stuck out at me. I did randomly notice something minor, though. The second Yuno's shout of "yamete" (meaning stop) was out of sync with the ax strikes that killed her. The sound direction is generally good in Mirai Nikki, if I remember correctly, but this is a mistake.


The scene shifts to Yukiteru at school, typing in his cell phone diary. I found a subtitled version of Mirai Nikki that translates what's actually shown on the phone screen, so it's mildly interesting to see him describe his surroundings. It's also interesting that, as he walks home monologuing in his head, Yukki notes that he didn't used to be like this. He was apparently normal and perhaps even popular in elementary school, but by his own admission, he kept turning down the offers. By the time he was fifteen, people no longer ask him to hang out, and he's regarded as weird and lame.


According to Yukiteru, he refused social interaction because he was comfortable being an observer in life. But I think it's more accurate to say he was afraid of being an active participant in life. Considering that there was family trouble at home that led to a divorce, it's possible Yukki has a lot of internalized self-doubt and anxiety.


Next let's address Yukiteru's interactions with Deus. It's rather strange to me that someone could believe Deus, Murmur, and their large round room are simply "imaginary." One would normally assume they were hallucinating since it's so vivid, and the "imaginary friends" are capable of conversation and independent actions. Maybe Yukki has been, for a while, more unhinged than I previously believed. He also says this imaginary world is all he has. Everyone says Yuno is crazy, but fewer people realize Yukiteru is as well, in his own way. Deus' company and the random diary are the only things keeping him alive.



It's a little strange to me that Yukki wasn't more unnerved about the diary writing itself early on in the next scene, but that's alright. He was reasonably shaken once he found out the diary was predicting the future. However, the shock and dread apparently turned into bliss pretty soon. That joyous reaction of his is actually pretty realistic; a kid who feels like a loser all the time is suddenly on top of the world. Of course he'd be selfishly delighted as he uses the Diary to make perfect grades, dodge bullies, and become recognized.


The parts of the episode showing Yuno's introduction are extremely well done. The famous elevator kiss was epic. The music was awesome. Things are also explained pretty well about Yuno's Future Diary and what it does. Then there's the showdown on the rooftop where Yuno and Yukki have to quickly work together to defeat Hiyama, the serial killer/ homeroom teacher.


This is where I need to make the first major note about absurdity. It's extremely unlikely that Yukiteru's dart could have pierced and cracked Hiyama's flip-phone. The precision is possible, certainly. But even if the dart was one with a steel alloy tip (and they do make those), it wouldn't have sufficient weight to break the hard plastic on the back of a cellphone.


Now of course, nearly every anime has some absurdity, and most anime fans are alright with that. You may notice a suspicious trend where unrealistic or impossible things only annoy people when seen in anime series they already dislike. Conversely, all things implausible are ignored or overlooked in one's favorite series. I'm a bit more self-aware than that, so I acknowledge that despite loving Mirai Nikki, it is often absurd. Whether or not you can handle the level of absurdity required for a particular anime depends on your personal preferences. For me, Mirai Nikki's implausible events are part of the fun.



After Hiyama (Third) is defeated, Yukiteru is summoned to a meeting with Deus and the other eleven Diary holders. Deus explains the basics of the life-and-death survival game. In case this becomes important later, let me make a note that the Future Diaries can make predictions up to ninety days in advance. There's also one other small mistake here. Marco, the Seventh, says he's heard of Yukiteru and knows that he dispatched the serial killer. There's no way he could have known that with his own Future Diary, since it only shows things related to what he and his lover Ai are doing. We can, however, excuse this little mistake by assuming that Deus or Murmur mentioned the information to Seventh prior to Yukiteru joining the meeting.


That sums up my notes from the first episode.

 

~Episode 2: Contract Terms~


This is the episode where Yukiteru and Yuno face off with Ninth, Minene Uryuu, at the school. Before we get there, we also have an opening scene of Yukiteru being creepily harassed by Yuno, as she sends him forty texts in one night. This is not the first nor the last time I will say this, but Yuno is a terrifying, toxic abuser. There's nothing cute about her behavior at any point. I still enjoy the character of Yuno for various reasons, but I'm not one of those fans who will excuse her monstrous abuse of Yukiteru.


One other note: Mirai Nikki is sometimes accused of glorifying the stalker's position, but I don't agree that this happens. Look at the way the opening scene is designed. It's supposed to be like a horror movie. Yukiteru's stress and absolute dread are contrasted with Yuno's eerie smile as she incessantly types text messages in a dark hallway. Nothing about this scene, at least, romanticizes stalking. Instead, stalking is depicted as sickeningly terrifying.


Now about the first set of events at the school, I think the execution was decent but not perfect. It's believable that Yukiteru would have no idea what to do when confronted by Minene, after she told him the shocking news that the man he killed last episode was his homeroom teacher. Things then escalate quickly with the first round of explosions set off.


The presentation of Minene is a little bit difficult to warm up to simple because it's so bizarre. Not only are her clothes absurd, but she's a psychopathic terrorist who blows up schools. It's almost not believable how evil she is. However, I hold that Minene's introduction was intended to be this way. Mirai Nikki is a bizarre and over-the-top anime. There is never any subtlety. If you aren't prepared for this or it rubs you the wrong way, you'll naturally have a lot of issues with this anime; but I, for one, enjoy the wild ride.


Next let me say that I'm not only interested in the psychology of Yuno and other (arguably) psychopathic characters. Yukiteru's mind is also of great interest to me. Therefore, the moment where he decides to use Yuno to survive this situation was significant. His choice clearly made him uncomfortable, but it was the best way to survive. Who can blame him? If there's one thing Mirai Nikki does well, in my opinion, it's portraying the mental and emotional struggles of the characters. Again, it rarely does this with subtlety, but it presents fascinating character psychology nonetheless.


Trying to survive an intensely stressful situation can sometimes make you realize important truths about yourself or the world. Yukiteru realized and acknowledged he had been living in fear in his life. He became an observer and not a participant because he was scared of being hurt by others. That's a strikingly common narrative and it makes Yukiteru quite relatable. But the realization of his weakness brought little more than shame, which can often cripple people even more. In my opinion, Yukiteru has no business loathing himself and calling himself a worthless person; he obviously deals with intense social phobia and other issues that make life harder for him. And the fact that he was able to admit his problem is laudable.


In this episode of Mirai Nikki, Yukiteru's guilt over using Yuno and living his life in fear actually does have an impressive effect by the end. He's able to face the Ninth in a direct confrontation and win against all odds. However, I would argue that shame and self-loathing rarely produce such outcomes. By and large, they keep people in the quagmire of fear and depression for even longer. We'll see this with Yukiteru, too, as the series goes on.


Now let's look at what happens after Yukiteru was betrayed by his classmates. (For the record, just as I can't blame Yukiteru for using someone else to ensure his own survival, I can't fault the teachers and school-kids for turning him in to save more lives in exchange for one.) Anyway, Yuno loses it and goes berserk. She escapes the classroom where she's being held, and by running through the school to get back to Yukiteru, she sets off more motion-sensitive bombs in the halls and classrooms. Yuno is well aware this could (and probably did) cause more casualties. But in her mind, the moment everyone betrayed Yukiteru, the moment they all became enemies. It no longer mattered to her whether the other teens in school lived or died. This shows well the full extent of her insanity. She fears nothing. She cares for no life except that of Yukiteru. This is indeed a terrifying combination.



Yukiteru finds temporary hope that Fourth, the righteous police chief, will protect him. However, just like the others in school, Fourth decides to sacrifice the few to save the many. He intends to kill Yukiteru and then himself to satisfy Minene's demands. However, the situation quickly changes with Yuno's arrival. Yukiteru's willingness to die for being "worthless" made Fourth want to give him another chance. So he urges Yukiteru to take action and prove himself. This is a rare occasion when our protagonist truly shines. He charges through the minefield and brutally gouges out Minene's eye with one of his darts.


The crazy terrorist still manages to escape, in another example of anime absurdity. She sets off smoke bombs from under her skirt, grabs a motorcycle out of nowhere, and somehow gets past the police barrier outside the school too. Yeah, that's ridiculous. Putting that aside for now, Fourth starts an alliance with Yukiteru and Yuno. And once more, we see examples of the insanity of both Yukiteru and Yuno. The former is smiling, happy to be alive, despite all the casualties in school that should have banished any sense of victory. The latter, Yuno, is looking weeks ahead in her Future Diary and blushing as she sees the prediction that she will have sex with Yukki. These kids are insane. That's the end of the second episode.

 

~Takeaways from Episodes 1 and 2~


My observation and analysis so far is limited, but shows some important trends. To make it brief and simple, I've put my notes in a table format.

Criticisms

Positives

Neutral Observations

Instants of absurdity

Thrilling and fast-paced

Yukiteru is as mentally ill as Yuno, in different ways

Generally over-the-top

Intriguing character psychology

Emotionally fragile main character

Minor audio mistake (Yuno's death in episode 1)

Excellent music and voice-acting

Stalking is portrayed as horrifying

Minor writing mistake (Marco's line in episode 1)

Impressive, well-directed visuals (for 2011)

No explanation for Deus starting the survival game

Creative characters and their Future Diaries

As you can see, there are some elements of this anime worth critiquing even early in the series. Overall, though, the first two episodes are impressive. They make a strong start to a bizarre but exciting anime. But if you can't appreciate the over-the-top aspects of Mirai Nikki, you may not enjoy watching it. Thank you so much for reading and feel free to comment your thoughts as long as they are not rude or aggressive. I hope you join me next time for the analysis of episodes 3 and 4.






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