Reading Between Reviews: Mirai Nikki!

Mirai Nikki was one of those weird anime that many people watched, and loved, but some people just couldn’t get behind.

The series was very popular as a manga, enough to get its own anime that, again, many people loved!  Its main female character, Yuno, achieved notoriety for her delightful, thrilling, and strange Yandere personality, and the show displayed psychological thriller elements that kept many audiences hugely engaged.  However, how good was the show, really?

I have my own opinions of this show, and I remember it rather fondly, as the second anime I’d ever watched.  It was thrilling, engaging, but, looking back on it, I’m not so sure what to think of it.  Was it really as good as I thought?  Well, let’s find out.

For this review, and any review from here on out, I will be using a far more set-in-stone rating system- one that you can see for yourself here.  That being said, let’s check it out!

1. Story (6.4/10 – Average)

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Yukiteru Amano is a 14 year old kid who keeps to himself, and looks at life from the lens of an outsider.  Writing about the events of his life on his cell phone, his diary, Yukiteru has only one friend- the “imaginary” Deus Ex Machina, God of Space and Time.  However, his “imaginary” friend has some bad news- he is dying, and needs to appoint a successor in order to prevent the death of the world.

deusex

To do so, Deus sets up a “Survival Game,” with 11 other people, transforming Yukiteru’s phone into a “Future Diary,” giving him the ability to predict events in the future, and tying Yuki’s own life to his Diary.  The goal: survive, and kill all the others in the game.  Yuki doesn’t know what to do, until stalker, and classmate, Yuno Gasai reveals herself to be a participant in the game, and promises to help Yuki. Together, they do their best to survive, make their way to the end of the survival game, and find a way to get through it alive.

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This story is one that I have…mixed feelings towards.  Conceptually speaking, there’s so much potential!  Survival games, future diaries, an insurmountable mountain to climb, and a duo that has to fight the odds: it’s a perfect formula!  Except… I feel it tries a bit too hard to be thrilling.

The story has moments of brilliance.  Plot twists that work, build up that is intense, but there are just a few too many moments where details are revealed that simply come out of nowhere, or are unnecessary to the plot.  It gets so convoluted at points, and that development is not very well foreshadowed at all.  Betrayals happen that are never built up to, and only make sense with a decent amount of theoretical stretching- powers are introduced that, while cool, oftentimes don’t amount to much.  And the worst part is, there’s JUST enough of a logical thread there, that personally made me think, “wow, this was so close to being cool.”  And, from here, I’ve got to mention: if the characters were better, I’m certain that the story would have benefited a substantial amount.

2. Characters (5.4/10 – Below Average)

Yukiteru_Amano

As one might guess from the description of the story, Yuki comes off as kind of a wimp.  He’s a loner who relies on Yuno to do everything, the only ordinary man in a sea of supernatural, powerful people-which, honestly, could have been done better.  However, as a protagonist, Yuki fails.

His motivations, at points, make a lot of sense.  The fact that he is such a loser, such a weak guy in general, does haunt him, so it’s obvious that his character growth isn’t exactly neglected.  Rather, the growth Yuki undergoes is sporadic and inconsistent, and even at the very end of the series, it’s obvious to see that he’s still a weak guy.  And yet, he’s not even that engaging of a character- it almost feels like his defining point is his consistent helplessness!  His growth is never addressed in a strong, definitive manner, feeling more like a side point rather than an actual focus of the series, which I feel was a huge mistake.  What is good though, is that we got a wonderfully engaging character to counterbalance this.

YunoYandereFace
“Don’t worry, I will protect you.”

Yuno Gasai, the stereotypical example, the exemplar of a Yandere, steals the show, and makes Mirai Nikki something worth watching.  First of all, her design: let’s be real, it’s freaking good.  Long, distinctive, and relatively simple pink hair, a gothic charm, a mix of cute and psychotic personality traits, Yuno’s got all the parts of a fun character to watch.  She has supernatural strength and abilities, motivated solely by her love for Yukiteru, and honestly, her motivations, although rather simplistic, are enough for me to be content with.

It’s just such a shame- if Yuki were a bit stronger of a character, their dynamic would have been a joy to watch.  Because Yuki is weak, however, we are stuck with a continual process of Yuno saving Yuki, of Yuki crawling back to Yuno, that provides no tension, no character growth, and an ending that feels as disappointing as it is random.

Mirai Nikki 21.mp4_snapshot_21.58_[2012.10.28_22.50.16].jpg
Side character, Akise Aru
Finally, to wrap the characters up, almost every side character is vaguely forgettable.  There is one character, Akise Aru, who is fun, surprising in what kind of a twist he provides to the story, but apart from him, who is there?   There’s a guy who’s a power ranger rip off, a vaguely defined terrorist, a small chibi, superpowered girl?  They are not memorable, and despite points where Mirai Nikki attempts to characterize them, it’s not done very well.

There’s a writing rule that comes to mind- “showing, not telling?”  Yes.  That’s basically it.  Mirai Nikki tells us the sad pasts, the sad motivations of certain characters, without ever showing how that affects them in the present day.  It’s a very simplistic amount of growth, and sadly, the characters don’t have the charm to play it off or compensate.  Because of all these reasons, it’s clear to me that, apart from Yuno, the characters of Mirai Nikki are easily the weakest part of the show.

3. Art/Style (7.6/10 – Good)

Phew.  Got the negative stuff out of the way.  Now, I can talk about the good stuff of Mirai Nikki: its stylistic choices.

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I’ll just say that overall, its art style, its music, its overall mood and presentation, is pretty well done.  Artistically speaking, at its best, the show can be damn pretty when it wants to.  The animation is solid, for a 2011 anime, and honestly, I simply can’t find anything really to fault it on.  It’s colorful when it needs to be, dark when it needs to be: it just works really well.

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Musically speaking, I find that, much like the series itself, it has great high points, but doesn’t stick out very often.  The music does lend itself to some rather solid emotional moments, as well as heart-pumping, adrenaline filled actions, and in these stand-out portions of the show, I personally think the music excels.  However, apart from these moments, I find it to be rather simple, and sadly enough, there isn’t any singular piece of music that makes me think of the series.  For some great shows, (Code Geass, Clannad, and FMA come to mind), there are musical segments that just make you think of a moment, and bring back the good memories.  Mirai Nikki, despite having some great pieces of music, simply doesn’t have that in its soundtrack.

That being said, its first opening song, Kuusou Mesorogiwi, is actually really awesome.  So.  Gotta take that into account as well!

Finally, gotta talk about the mood of the series.  Overall, it feels very…dark, very oppressive.  There are some very cheerful, happy moments, but the show does manage to provide some sense of constant tension that is done relatively well.  Because of the nature of the show, you’re always wondering, what will go wrong?  What will happen?  It’s done well, and honestly adds a good amount to the style of the show, so, no complaints here- it’s done solidly, and that’s all i can ask for.

4. Personal Enjoyment (7.0/10 – Decent)

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Here, I have to provide a little bit of bias. Mirai Nikki was the second anime I’ve ever watched, and at the time, I thought it was great.  Plot twists everywhere, crazy, thrilling situations, and an unconventional love story, I thought it was really good.  However, as the years have gone by, I’ve realized many of the flaws the series has, and ultimately, it just wasn’t for me.  Thinking deeply upon it, I found that I still found the series enjoyable, absolutely, but only if you’re willing to accept the logic the show provides.  Think a bit more deeply, or disagree with a few core points the show offers, and one’s enjoyment would…tend to lessen, in my opinion.

All in all, Mirai Nikki is… an average show.  It looks decent and sounds decent, but it’s bogged down  by a story that feels a bit clumsy, relative to other anime and lack luster characters that, for the most part, lack any depth whatsoever.  The two exceptions here, Akise Aru, and the stereotypical Yandere, Yuno Gasai, are hugely engaging, fun characters to watch, but they’re not enough to make the show…anywhere above average.

Final Rating: (6.25/10) Average

Recommended If:  You are a newcomer to anime- it’s a pretty good introduction to the world of anime.  Also, if you’re fine with having a main protagonist who’s kind of a wimp, and want to watch one of the best Yandere characters in anime.

 

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