Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the Future

2011's The Future Diary is one of my favorite anime from the past few years. And with the release in Japan of the epilogue OVA The Future Diary: Redial, now is the perfect time to take a look back at what makes The Future Diary such an amazing ride.

Good – A Gripping Premise

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

The Future Diary is the story of a middle school boy named Yuki who one day finds that his cellphone diary tells the future. But his is not the only one. Eleven other people hold a future diary of their own. There is one catch, however. The last one of them alive will become god.

This is an excellent setup for the show. Not only does it have an interesting sci-fi premise but it also has a conflict that guarantees tense action from start to finish. More than that though, each diary tells the future in a different way—be that how to escape any given situation or everything a certain person does in 10-minute intervals. Thus, Yuki must not only discover who the other diary holders are but also what aspect of the future their diaries show in order to defeat them.

Good – A Yandere Heroine

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

But while Yuki is the main character of the series, it is Yuno who steals the show. She is smart, beautiful, strong, agile, driven, and a fellow future diary holder. She is also a violently obsessed stalker who is willing to kill anyone around Yuki that could even possibly get in the way of their "love." In other words, she is the quintessential obsessive Yandere.

In fiction, Yandere characters are almost always villains. By their very definition they are prone to kill, if not the hero himself, then everyone around him. But in a world where anyone and everyone is a potential enemy—and a good number of the people getting close to you are actually out to kill you—a Yandere suddenly becomes not only a heroine but also the one true ally you can always count on. Her violent paranoia is suddenly a boon; and while it does constantly cause more than its share of problems, it is also the only reason that Yuki lives past his first encounter with another diary holder.

Watching Yuno's unpredictable madness unfold is easily the most captivating aspect of the series—and the mysteries that surround her origin are nearly as much so.

Good – Wide and Varied Cast

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

The other members of the cast are interesting in their own right. Each diary holder has a unique and interesting background ranging from serial killer to international terrorist to police officer to self-proclaimed hero of justice.

But by far the most interesting character outside of Yuno is her rival Akise, the most excellently realized boy detective this side of Death Note. Like Death Note's L, Akise is a master manipulator able to think dozens of moves ahead. The games of mental chess between Yuno and him over the fate of Yuki make for many of the series' most exciting moments.

Good – Sometimes Parents Are Just Horrible People

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

One of the other interesting aspects of The Future Diary is the role of parents in the series. Yuki's parents, for example, are a carefree workaholic and a desperate gambler. Yuno's are a physically abusive, controlling mother and a father who works long hours to avoid the problems at home. Among the other characters, parents range from scam artists and religious zealots to those who abandon their children in public areas. The best parents seem to be the ones who have died before they could turn into horrible people.

Over the course of the show, many of the cast are forced to confront the fact that some people are just not cut out to be parents. And the various ways they each deal with this fact really serves to explore and develop their characters.

Mixed – A Both Satisfying and Unsatisfying Ending

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

[Please skip this section to avoid spoilers on the ending.]

The climax of The Future Diary is rather well done and the scenes in the credits that showcase the fates of the surviving characters in the time after the series’ ending is a welcome bonus. However, Yuki, the protagonist, is completely left out of this. He is instead relegated to his own downer of a post-credits ending—which itself finishes on an emotional cliffhanger. It is a painful tease that raises countless questions and answers none.

Of course, this unsatisfying cliffhanger is the entire reason for the creation of the recently released The Future Diary: Redial OVA (which we will get to next week).

Bad – Mass Murder, No Consequences

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

Five episodes into the series, and Yuno's body count is so high it's insane to think that even having an ally on the police force could keep her out of jail. By the midway point in the series, both Yuki and Yuno look to the world like violent terrorists. And by the start of the final arc, they have both committed mass murders in very public places.

Yet each time they are somehow able to return to a normal civilian life. It is laughable how utterly incompetent the police must be—not to mention the press.

Random Thoughts

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

I watched The Future Diary for the second time when writing this review, and I was greatly pleased to see how well it held up. Just as in a second viewing of Modoka Magica, knowing the series' major plot twist going in makes every episode interesting in new ways as you watch the actions of certain characters in a completely different light. It's rare to find a series with such great rewatchability.

Final Thoughts

Mysteries, Murders, and Diaries That Tell the FutureS

The Future Diary is an excellent sci-fi anime. The concept is intriguing, the characters are deep, the mysteries are complex, and the flaws are minor—at least if you are able to suspend disbelief. If you like supernatural mysteries like Death Note, death game stories like The Hunger Games, or enjoy time travel tales, you'll no doubt have a great time with The Future Diary.

The Future Diary can be watched for free with English subtitles by those living in North America on Funimation and Hulu.