One thing that horror fiction needs is a good motif. A common one over the years is humanities use of technology.
While most of the worlds population have cellphones in their pockets, the idea of phones that can predict your death hasn’t been done to often (aside from One Missed Call but that was god awful).
However, this technology is used to a great degree in the anime Future Diary.
The Future Diary is an anime series directed by Naoto Hosoda and based upon a manga series written by Sakae Esuno. The manga ran originally in Shonen Ace.
The series follows high schooler Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano. Yuki spends much of his time on his own as he doesn’t make friends easily and even his mother spends most of her time working.
The one person he does interact with is an imaginary god of space and time called Deus EX Machina.
Yuki does have one thing going for him as he notices almost everything that happens near him. He calls himself an outsider and copies down what he sees on a diary on his cell phone.
One day after class Yuki finds out that Deus isn’t really an imaginary friend but really a god. Deus then rewards him for his diary use and entrusts him with a future diary.
The diary tells him everything that will happen to him in random intervals.
While this might sound like an amazing secret he soon finds out that this power doesn’t come without a price. Yuki is one of 12 other future diary users and in the end there can only be one.
Dues started this survival game to find his replacement. The 12 users must use their diaries to kill each of the other players.
An added twist to the game is the users diaries. Each one is different and gives them information depending on the type of diary they keep. However, if the diary should be broken the user will die with it.
Once one diary user plans to kill another a Dead End is issued on the target’s diary. While there fate might seem predetermined the knowledge can stop their death and keep them going in the game.
While Yuki is a easy choice for last place he’s soon followed by a fellow classmate named Yuno who reveals she’s a future diary user as well.
Yuno is a smart attractive girl who’s seemingly obsessed with Yuki in every way and will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t get killed, even if that means dying herself or any others around them.
Over the series the 10 other users reveal themselves each with their own diary’s with it’s own specialty according to the person.
We soon meet a ace cop, a terrorist with a eye for explosives, a cult leader and a traumatized young child to name a few.
Yuki and Yuno start to grow closer the more the game goes on, but will they end up being the final two and if so, who will be the one to survive?
At a glance Future Diary shares a number of plot elements of another popular anime title Eden of the East. However, the two are different in their approach.
The romance of this story stems from an almost Stockholm syndrome like situation where Yuki is afraid to make Yuno angry for fear she won’t protect him, but over the course of the series he seemingly ends up falling for her on his own.
Also making this title different is the fact that plot develops quite regularly over the course of the 26 episodes.
While Eden of the East was a love story with a convoluted poorly told story Future Diary has a strong narrative that interests the viewer and keeps them watching.
Each character is developed and given their own reasoning for their actions.
However, to say that Future Diary is just a love story wouldn’t be true. While there is a large element of romance, most of the story features horror elements.
Many of the characters are put through traumatic events that are played out through either the events of the plot or in flashback.
These elements really show off the better parts of the show as each event in a character’s life affects their motivations. This is no clearer than with Yuno herself.
Her story leads into some uncomfortable areas that give an insight into who she really is and why she’s so fixated on Yuki.
It’s these motivations that end up making the show so enjoyable.
It’s clear that the creators of Future Diary wanted to tell a good story and spent a lot of time setting-up solid characters and plot elements to make the ending mean something. The show uses the romance elements as a way of advancing characters and it feels natural to the overall story.
While the series looks like it’s a strong blending of romance and horror fiction, the series does kind of go off the rails near the end.
I’ve written in the past that show’s like Evanlelion play by their own rules and Future Diary tries to something similar. The show’s final moments move into some Matrix like areas that might leave a few viewers scratching their heads as to how they got there.
Another thing you can hold against the show is it’s use of stock sound cues.
Over the course of the show a number of dramatic things happen and their met with some weak sound effects. The cues, seemingly taken from Final Cut cerca 2000 take the air out of some of the moments and make them almost laughable.
Adding to uninspired sound cues, I couldn’t help but notice that several characters look similar popular anime characters.
For example one of Yuki’s classmates, Aku bares more a resemblance to Kaworu from Evangelion. Additionally the terrorist character Keigo looks a bit like Revy from Black Lagoon but with Purple (ish) hair.
However, this could just be chalked up to insanity induced by spending hours of watching Breaking Bad, Evangelion and Future Diary all at the same time.
Despite the subpar sound cues and lookalike characters Future Diary is a good title. It’s interesting, dark and has its fair share of plot swerves that’ll keep people interested.
The Future Diary was produced by studio Asread and was based upon a series of manga titles written by Sakae Esuno and published by Kadokawa Shoten and Tokyopop. The series is licensed by Madman Entertainment (Australia), Funimation (North America) and Kaze UK.
A OVA episode was also produced in Japan called Redial however it hasn’t been translated and brought over to North America. Additionally a live action series was also produced in Japan. The show features a bit of a different plot but still uses many of the same plot elements.