Released by production studio asread, Mirai Nikki (未来日記) is the adaptation of the popular manga. Directed by Hosoda Naoto, it’s a debut long-awaited by fans. As a brief disclaimer, I’m not familiar with the manga so I can only talk about what I’ve seen via the anime.
Sakurami Middle School student Amano Yukiteru (Togashi Misuzu) keeps to himself and has virtually no friends, rejecting personal contact with others in favor of compiling a journal of his daily activities and events on his cell phone. His self-imposed strictly-observer lifestyle is rooted in his habits from childhood, making him a life-long loner. His emotional withdrawal from society is so complete he has even fabricated imaginary friends out of boredom and sheer will: Deus Ex Machina (Wakamoto Norio), Lord of Time and Space, exists within the plane Yukiteru conceived from his imagination but is able to manipulate circumstances in the real world. As such, he catalyzes events, even wars, for his own amusement. Did I mention he’s a god? (Did I mention he’s voiced by the great Wakamoto Norio?) Deus promises Yukiteru something more interesting and sets the stage for the latest “game,” which involves his cell phone diary.
The next morning, Yukiteru awakens to find journal entries for the day already written. Doubting its authenticity, he spends the following days testing its contents, in many cases taking advantage of the information (e.g. acing tests, upping his class rank). Later, Deus cautions Yukiteru with a vital warning: the journal (essentially, his cell phone itself) becomes one with the owner and loss of the journal means loss of his future -in other words, if he loses his phone, he will die.
Shall we play a game?
Although Amano says little and avoids interacting with people as much as possible, he attracts the attention of Gasai Yuno (Murata Tomosa), a beautiful, popular classmate who excels academically and is admired by their peers. After school, Yukiteru finds evidence Yuno has knowledge of his imaginary world and immediately makes another shocking discovery: his journal has reached a Dead End: the entries have stopped. He looks up just as Yuno appears, cornering him alone in the classroom. Panicking, Yukiteru flees. As he leaves the schoolgrounds, his future is changed, causing the journal to be rewritten with new entries. Despite evasive tactics and his best efforts, however, he cannot escape from Yuno, who reveals her secret: Yuno also carries a cell phone journal, which tells her everything about his activities and whereabouts every ten minutes. She’s been watching “Yuki” to save him from death at the hands of the serial killer and Third Future Journal owner, currently hot on their trail, and to protect him in the Survival Game.
Although terrified of Yuno, whom he deems a complete stalker, he reluctantly follows her plan as they lure the killer onto the roof. With Yuno’s aid, Yuki uses his darts to destroy the killer’s journal, which not only kills him but also seems to erase his very existence as well.
Furious, Yuki questions Deus, who reminds Yuki he is part of a “game,” the first of many participants. Deus then formally introduces the game and its rules to all the Future Journal holders, with the players’ identities kept secret from each other as a necessary condition: each party is in possession of one Future Journal, which lists entries 90 days in advance. Although the journals distort time, journal entries are subject to change dependent on the individual actions of the journal’s owner. Thus, advised beforehand, one can alter the course of their future by taking a different course of action than what was originally laid out. A Dead End is reached if a third party acts upon their future to eliminate them from the game, which naturally must be avoided to stay alive. Each player must rely on their own journals to discover the identities of the other players while protecting their own to advance in the Survival Game. Last man standing will succeed Deus as god and claim his throne as Lord of Space and Time.
Acknowledging his unlikely victory over the Third Journal owner, Deus chooses Yuki as most likely to win the Survival Game. The gesture attracts unanimous jealousy among the rest of the players as Deus adjourns the meeting. Mortified, Yuki slumps to his knees just as Yuno appears behind him, promising she will protect him.
A post-credits omake reveals Third Future Journal owner and serial killer Hiyama (Yuki’s homeroom teacher) had already “died” multiple times, inadvertently killing himself by destroying the journal in ignorance when being recruited into the Survival Game by Muru Muru. Born to lose?
Episode 2 opens as Yuki desperately tries to figure a way out of the Survival Game but without anyone he can turn to for help. Initially he dismisses the idea of consulting with Yuno, who had been texting him repeatedly since their last encounter, but in the end decides he needs her help after all. Before he can consult with her, he has the misfortune of being discovered by Uryuu Minene, a violent, bomb-toting sociopath and Ninth Future Journal holder. Having planted bombs throughout the school, she holds the entire student population hostage while putting Yuki and Yuno on the run, trying to avoid detection as each side tries to alter the future to their advantage.
Eventually Yuno figures out she and Yuki need to use their journals together in tandem to compensate for each other’s journal’s inherent weaknesses and stand the best chance of survival. When Yuno suggests they meet up with the rest of the students on the other side of the school, Yuki embraces the opportunity to seek their help, having acknowledged to Yuno how much he has wanted friendship and acceptance. However, his classmates betray him to Minene to save the rest of the students, apprehending him and confiscating his cell phone. And although Kurusu Keigo, police investigator and Fourth Future Journal holder, arrives on the scene, putting pressure on Minene, she ultimately forces him to choose between Yuki and a school full of hostages.
Although the opening act of Mirai Nikki provides fleeting glimpses of Yuno’s deeply-disturbed, psychotic nature it doesn’t truly manifest until this point. To reiterate, I haven’t read the manga and before the anime’s recent debut I had only general knowledge of the basic premise and the characters, but she is a character whose reputation precedes her. As I understand from various sources, we haven’t seen anything yet in regards to the full extent of Yuno’s yandere personality. Sacrificing dozens of fellow classmates, those who had betrayed Yuki’s friendship, she leaps down to distract Minene and guide Yuki through the minefield towards his Journal. Their classmates do what little they can to help by raining anything they can get their hands on down on Minene.
Yuki makes a dash for Minene, readying a dart to pierce through her Journal, but she dodges and instead catches the thrust of Yuki’s attack in the eye. Kurusu also moves in to apprehend Minene but she creates a smokescreen and uses her Escape Journal to avoid capture. Kurusu warns Yuki the other Future Journal holders will continue to target him and offers to team up with Yuki (and Yuno) to form an alliance to work together to stop the killing and end the Survival Game.
The first couple episodes have put Mirai Nikki off to a strong start, and while it may be too soon to talk about it, I’m looking forward to how the anime production team handles Yuki’s character “development” in later installments. Yuki’s fear of and uneasy reliance upon Yuno is something that he will eventually have to deal with. Trust is something easily misplaced and under the worst circumstances (or in the face of the possibility to become a god), it’s not hard to find the worst in human nature. However, adversity breeds extraordinary and unexpected things. If Yuki can survive the Game maybe he can gain what he’s longed for for so long (re)building relationships with people around him. Good luck, kid.