US Distributor: Funimation
Production Studio: Asread
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime Planet

Content Warning: Discussion of suggestive themes.

Since its premiere in 2011, The Future Diary has managed to claw its way onto a pedestal within the anime community. It’s regarded as one of those untouchable classics of near-universal acclaim. It leads one to question, though, whether it actually deserves its many accolades. It’s high time that we found out, as we stab deeply into the heart of this series. Be on guard, grab your cellphone, and ready the murder bag, because shit’s about to get real.

Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano, also known as “First”, is a wimpy toolbag of a main character. His singular ambition is record everything he sees into his phone diary.

This (understandably) creeps out everyone in his class.

Yuki’s other hobbies include hiding in his room and talking to his “imaginary friend,” god of space and time Deus Ex Machina. It isn’t long, though, before Yuki realizes that his invisible friend is very real, and that his life is about to change.

Deus, realizing that his own time is drawing to a close, needs a successor for the throne. To ensure that only the very best is able to assume the mantle, he creates a game to weed out the chaff. To keep things interesting, Yuki’s cellphone now sends him updates from the future. To win Deus’s game, he needs to kill every other person who’s been gifted a future diary. With that in mind, the one trait that made Yukiteru so special becomes moot. His observational and curious nature is made irrelevant by a magic cell phone that does everything for him.

Yuno Gasai, also known as “Second,” is hands down the best character in The Future Diary. Yuno has one thing on her mind, a happy ending with her Yuki. She will cut through, shoot, scheme, backstab, and straight-up murder anyone who gets in the way of that ending. Her madness is enchanting in way, because it’s never really hidden from anyone. Even the other players in the selection game don’t want to be around Yuno, and tell Yuki that he should leave her. Her backstory is tragic and interesting, with more than a few curves thrown in for good measure. Moreover, any time that the gang is backed into a corner, Yuno is right there to hack folks to pieces.

As a bit of an aside, I really adored Yuno’s English dub voice. Brina Palencia manage to make the character sound so adorably evil. Her performance made Yuno particularly exciting to watch, especially as the character started chopping victims to shreds. This does sometimes cause the show to become predictable, though. Events fall into a regular pattern, which sees Yuki fall into trouble, with Yuno being the only one to bail him out.

The Future Diary, in reaching for its over-the-top feel, often pushes the boundaries on character feasibility. While there are many examples of this throughout the show, I’d like to highlight a few characters that really stood out in this regard.

Let’s start with “Ninth,” Minene Uryu. She’s particularly fascinating partly due to her capricious personality, and partly due to her importance in the greater plot. In Ninth’s first scene, she’s dressed as a gothic lolita and is spraying Yuki’s school with bullets while knocking walls down with explosives. This is all done to draw him and Yuno outside into a minefield. The massive spectacle is resolved with Ninth getting a dart to the eye from Yuki, after which she retreats with the Escape Diary. Flash forward a few episodes, and she’s one of the duo’s closest allies. Her personality goes from murderous and looking for an easy mark, to freakishly helpful within the confines of the game. Moreover, her backstory is a bit hard to swallow. It’s hard to buy the fact that she was an orphan turned terrorist when she hits the battlefield dressed like a Harajuku reject.

Then there’s sweet, adorable, murderous Fifth. Reisuke Houjou can be likened to an awful doll brought to life from a fairy tale, or a crueler version of Kevin McCallister from the Home Alone movies. He’s the very incarnation of evil. Houjou is a troubled youth from an unstable home life, seeking little more than to murder people for his own amusement. No matter how accepting of that concept you are, the kid being a five-year-old genius who’s already an expert with traps is a bit too much of a leap. Stepping back for a moment, I have to ask: where did this kid get the time to master poisons and traps? Furthermore, what did he practice on? While Fifth is interesting to watch for the sheer shock value, his backstory really falls apart the moment you start to look beneath the surface.

This naturally leads to a discussion of Sixth, Tsubaki Kasugano. Kasugano is the maidan figurehead of the fictional Omekata religion, which is a faith that Reisuke’s parents both followed. Kasugano uses her body (and a massive Future Diary scroll) to control the minds of various groups of followers. Kasugano quickly becomes a deadly adversary, as she’s apt at using her minions as feelers or extensions of her own will. Her origins, though, are much like Fifth’s: plausible until you look closer. Tsubaki was used as a prophet by her parents, and later as a sexual sponge for peoples’ sins. It’s ludicrous and over-the-top, and stands as yet another example of the show’s tendency to amp every single character to ludicrous levels. As a result, much of the cast is reduced to little more than unrealistic caricatures.

And, since every player in The Future Diary is over the top, it dilutes the entire experience as a whole. Though the show tries to force empathy on the viewer, it’s nearly impossible to do so whenever something bad happens. This includes even the minor cast members, like Yuki’s father, who surely isn’t winning any “Father of the Year” awards any time soon.

So, with this in mind, The Future Diary is a study of characters. Two types of characters, specifically:

  1. Those waiting to be killed as bags of blood, and
  2. People with ludicrous backstories that are trying to kill anything that moves.

The Future Diary has moments of shining glory, like the awkward wedding episode and Yuno’s interactions with Yuki’s mom. Unfortunately, a few interesting scenes can’t make up for the tonal dissonance caused by random murders that must take place every ten minutes.

Truth be told, my younger teenage self would have loved The Future Diary. Yet, in the face of shows that pack both dramatic punch and invoke real feelings for its characters, it doesn’t connect with me today. I can understand why people would enjoy the series, but it really doesn’t feel like this landmark experience that should be so lauded. To sum things up, The Future Diary isn’t that “high art” title that people make it out to be. If you’re in the mood for an overblown bloodbath between a bunch of over-the-top characters, though, put down your phone and watch some Future Diary.