So let’s start things off with my short review of The Future Diary: I loved it! When all was said and done and the final disc reverted back to the main menu, I knew this was one anime I would be revisiting time and time again. But my reaction to the series as I sat through it this first time was far more complex than that three-word response indicates. In fact, there were times while I watched that I found myself downright disappointed or disturbed by it in ways that I feared would prevent the story from achieving what I knew to be its potential. But in the end, it exceeded even my earliest expectations to become something quite special indeed.
The series centers on a high school boy named Yuki: one of a group of twelve people who receive as a gift from god (known as Deus Ex Machina) a diary that foretells the future. These future diaries are ultimately part of an elaborate contest in which the twelve must use their diaries’ individual powers to murder one another until only one remains. The victor then will be granted godhood and replace Deus Ex Machina as the ruler of the universe. In short, it’s battle royale by divine mandate!
At first, the introverted Yuki seems an unlikely candidate to participate in this game, but his stalker and fellow future diary user, Yuno, intervenes on his behalf and Yuki quickly finds himself the favorite to win. Unfortunately, this results in him becoming the target of the other users’ first assaults. Thus, the previously friendless Yuki must rely on the aid of Yuno and an ever-expanding group of friends if he is to survive. Although it is superficially an action series centered on battles to the death, the series’ thematic core is focused on issues of love and friendship. We follow Yuki as he tries to maintain relationships with Yuno and his pals even as he fights to attain godhood, which inevitably strains these relationships, often with disastrous consequences. Due in no small part to this central focus on the dynamics among Yuki, Yuno, and Yuki’s friends, the series reaches an incredibly satisfying (if incredibly complicated) conclusion—one that I won’t spoil here, I swear.
The primary complaint I had about this first viewing of the series though is ultimately that the writers, drawing on the original manga by Sakae Esuno, rely far too heavily on comic relief—specifically comic relief that problematically comes in the form of Yuki’s enemies. I found it impossible to laugh at characters who present Yuki with a very real threat of death, which left me scratching my head as to how the writers intended the characters to be received. Because not only does the comic quirkiness of the other diary users fall flat as a result of their status as murderous antagonists, but it also seems at first to diminish the series’ overall suspense. However, while this was indeed a significant problem for me as I sat through the series’ 26 episodes for the first time, I found that this choice ultimately made total sense in light of the series denouement. As a result, I can give Future Diary nothing less than overwhelming praise for wholly engaging and exciting me, and for delivering even where it seemed it would not.
Future Diary is now available from FUNimation Entertainment in two, separately-released DVD sets each collecting 13 episodes dubbed into English by the studio’s ever-terrific English voice actors (FUNimation consistently provides the only dubs I can actually stomach). Special features include commentaries, trailers, and two “omake” episodes, and the Limited Edition version of Part 1 includes two Future Diary Valentine’s Day cards.