‘Future Diary’ Revisited 13 Years Later

by Tito W. James

The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) is a 2010s anime series adapted from the manga by Sakae Esuno. The show follows an antisocial teenager Yukki, who’s inducted into a deadly game with his beautiful and mysterious classmate, Yuno. Each player in the game of death is given a diary that can give them messages from the future. The last survivor of the game shall ascend to the throne of Godhood. I recently rewatched the series uncensored plus the bonus episode included on the BluRay. My thoughts on the series have evolved over the past decade.

I was introduced to Future Diary by a friend during my first year in college in 2011. The series had a profound impact on me as someone who had never previously been into anime or horror. It was the first animated show I’d ever seen that had a “viewer discretion advised”  warning before the episodes played on Hulu. Additionally, in the streaming version, much of the blood and nudity was pixel-blurred– which only made the violence seem that much more frightening.

Future Diary is a provocative show. In some cases the series’ desire to push the envelope devolves into exploitative content that only exists to shock the viewer. However, the anime also explores some really unique concepts that would still never fly in Western animation. The core plot-point of Future Diary is that God is dying and he’s starting a Battle Royale to choose a successor. To a young adult living in America, where monotheism still holds a great degree of influence, Future Diary felt refreshingly blasphemous. It was surreal to see Western religion treated as fictitious mythology in the same way many monotheists view polytheism as mythology.

Future Diary also had some break-out female characters in Yuno Gasai and Uryuu Minene. While having a heroine that can “kick butt as much as the boys” is very much in vogue at the moment, it’s much rarer to see female characters who are downright terrifying. Back in 2011, this was the first time I’d seen female characters that were crap-your-pants-level scary. Yuno has popularized the archetype of the Yandere or “Sick Lover.” Her influence can be felt in series like Happy Sugar Life, the Yandere Simulator game, and many others.

Uryuu Minene is easily my favorite character. From her explosive introduction in Episode 2, to her character evolution throughout the series– Uryuu is a blast to watch. The logic of the series goes out the window to allow for Uryuu to have more screen time. In Episode 2 , she’s blowing up a middle school. Then, by Episode 16 she’s helping Yukki do physical fitness to impress his dad. This is one of the many examples of Future Diary’s multi-tonality at play. Ultimately, the anime is best at being entertaining and is willing to inject ludicrous humor and over-the-top gore to make the viewer laugh or gasp.

Not all aspects of Future Diary hold up. I experienced frustrations with the narrative when I first encountered the series and the rewatch didn’t make the bad episodes any better. Future Diary starts strong, gets lost in the middle, then ends strong. I feel like the show drops in quality with the introduction of Akise Aru, a mysterious white-haired boy, who’s accompanied by a trio of supporting characters. I suspect that Akise is an homage to Kogoro Akechi who’s supposed to be Japan’s equivalent to Sherlock Holmes. However, if you’re unaware of who the anime is homaging, Akise doesn’t make much of an impression.

What Future Diary succeeds at is delivering some mind-bending plot-twists (that I won’t spoil here). It’s these bold decisions that cement The Future Diary as a cult classic despite its shortcomings.  The story is at its best when it plays with the unique character dynamics of Yukki, Yuno and Uryuu. When those three are on screen– it’s magic. The series bonus OVA builds upon the ending of the original show and gives the series’ characters a greater sense of catharsis and closure.

Future Diary remains one of the most messed up series I’ve ever watched that I can’t help but love. It’s an anime that delivers a specific type of dark multi-tonality that many are still trying to emulate. Future Diary creator,  Sakae Esuno’s most recent work is the manga adaptation of Reign of the Seven Spellblades. Future Diary is now streaming on Crunchyroll ready to traumatize a new generation of anime fans. I can’t think of a better way to close this article than with Future Diary’s credits theme.


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