Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Future Diary Review

The Future Diary, or Mirai Nikki as it is known in Japan, is a show that I always heard lots of starkly different things about. Whenever I saw it brought up on various places on the internet people either said it was fantastic or garbage. Naturally, hearing such conflicting opinions about a show really made me want to watch it and now that I have I can very clearly see exactly why opinions are so divided. The Future Diary is the very definition of a mixed bag and the end result is a show that is incredibly close to being something really special but falters too many times to look over it's numerous problems.

I want to start this off by highlighting the positives of this show, as it does a lot of thing right. The strongest asset to be found are the characters. The two main leads, Yuki and Yuno, are really fantastic protagonists in really different ways. Yuno is just plain interesting to watch. To put it bluntly, she is nuts. In what I can only describe as Annie Wilkes from Misery cranked up to 1000, Yuno's sudden turn from adoring girlfriend to psycho killing machine on a dime makes watching her very entertaining because she is so unpredictable. You really have no clue what she is going to do next which also helps the story because you can't really say what is going to happen next because of Yuno. She is also quite a tragic character as we see from numerous flashbacks as well as what we discover in the last few episodes. Yuki, on the other hand, is a great character because of the arc he goes through. At the start of the story, Yuki is pretty much identical to Shinji from Evangelion. He's whiny, spineless and doesn't do a whole lot other than feel sorry for himself. However, he slowly over the course of the series, as Ninth puts it, "Grows a pair". By the end of the series he is really kind of cool, being willing to fight for what he loves. The development is done very well and feels natural throughout the course of the series. What solidifies the characters to me is also the relationship the characters have. I went into this show fairly blind, I didn't really know anything about it other than the basic premise of a Battle Royale style tournament so I was quite surprised to discover the show had a fairly substantial Romance element and it is just very well done. The love starts off as very one sided but slowly but surely the characters get closer together in a way that feels incredibly natural. This is somewhat thrown off by the story though as something happens at about the halfway mark that really should have put a huge dent in the romance but in a mere two episodes, things are all hunky dory again which felt incredibly rushed, much like the rest of the story, but I'll get onto that later. Unfortunately, the characters don't fare so well outside of the main two. The supporting cast are, for the most part, fairly insubstantial, with two of the characters, Hinata and Mao, feeling like they are mostly there for fanservice. Akise Aru is the only one who really feels meaningful in terms of how he fits into the story but a lot of the time he feels like a plot delivery service than a real character.

Where The Future Diary really starts to fall apart is its story. Going into this, I wasn't really expecting a complicated story. The premise is simple, a bunch of people have diaries that can see into the future, last man standing wins. I never could have predicted what an absolute convoluted mess the story would become in its latter half. I'd say that, for the most part, the story is actually pretty straight forward for the first 14 or so episodes but, despite the show having nearly 30 episodes to tell its story, even the simple part of the story felt very rushed. Things would happen with little to no explanation that often left me questioning how or why they were even happening. Characters will have unexplained powers or change allegiance at a moments notice and it left me asking questions the show would never answer. However, despite this, I could still get by at this point. My issues with the story would increase ten fold as the show moved into its second half. The questions I had in regarding to the plot were mounting to the sky and there were multiple episodes where I legitimately had no clue what was happening or how it related to the story. This got especially bad when the story introduces elements towards the end that get especially hard to follow, and the ending to the show was especially bad in terms of not knowing exactly what was happening or why. I will say, at time of writing, I haven't seen the Rewrite OVA but I feel that if I let that affect my opinion of the show itself it would be unfair as the OVA came way later and isn't even legally available in the UK or the US and I want to judge the show as I saw it, on its own merits. I hope the OVA might be able to remedy some of my issues with the story but my hopes aren't high. As I said above, this show's strong point is its characters and I feel if they put all their stock into that, giving them even more time to develop and build the relationship between the two in exchange for a simpler story which ignored all the out there, convoluted plot that happened in the second half then this show would have been way better for it. That said, despite the story being incomprehensible at times, it was never once dull. This is definitely one of the best thrill ride shows I've seen and I was never bored. If you can just turn off your brain and not question or contemplate the story one iota, then you can probably get by.

Art and animation in The Future Diary is generally pretty good. Nothing here is going to blow you away but it looks better than average and the action scenes are especially well animated. I also really liked the varied character designs that the show had going on with the characters being very easily identifiable, even by their silhouette, which I think means the character designer did a very good job. The music in the show was decent but nothing really stood out. I did, however, really like both OPs and both were very well animated and had great songs although I did find myself preferring the more heavy and chaotic sounding first OP. Something that stood out as a negative in this area was the stock stingers they would use to punctuate some events. I had heard these from a ton of stuff before and were clearly just bought rather than made and they kind of took me out of it, the same way something like a Wilhelm Scream would. I watched this show dubbed and I thought the English voice cast did a superb job but seeing at this is a Funimation dub, that's kind of expected. They always seem to have the best dubs.

Watching The Future Diary was an incredibly frustrating experience for me. It was a show that always felt like it was on the cusp of being something truly outstanding and amazing but it was needlessly bogged down by so much over complicated story I can't help but feel like the plot soured the experience on the whole. It's still a relentlessly entertaining show that never bored me for a second but it could have been more if it had just put the story in the background a little more and focused on its strongest asset. Its characters.


Original Publish Date: 18/12/15

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