Recently I have been making my way through Mirai Nikki and rather enjoying myself in this admittedly imperfect but fun bastard lovechild of Death Note and Fate/Zero (airing at the same time as F/Z but apparently being more popular). The reason? I saw it in the top 10, at 9th, of the MyAnimeList popularity chart and unlike the rest of the list, I’d never heard of it, or even its English name, Future Diary, which sounds clunky so I am staying with Mirai Nikki. Not even once. I frequent anime boards reasonably regularly but I could not recall coming across that name, while even the others in that top 10 that I have not watched, Fullmetal Alchemist, Tokyo Ghoul, and Code Geass (and Naruto but the likelihood of me watching that now is minimal), I’ve heard of through reputation and will get around to them soon.
Because I like the unknown in anime and I had no preconceptions of what I was going into I chose Mirai Nikki for my next catalogue series to see why it was so popular, and apparently well-liked if an 8/10 is anything to go by on MAL. Though to counter that it is the third-lowest of the top 10 and it’s a general rule that anything less than 8.5 will have some haters. Maybe I’d never heard of it because not enough people liked it to talk about. Maybe I’d just been unlucky?
I quickly realised upon watching it that this was that anime with the super yandere girl, though I had never associated it with the name, I had seen pictures of her scattered here and there – though I don’t think that counts as me being aware of it as I had no idea what I was seeing when I saw those pictures, and clearly I didn’t think enough of it to look it up either. This made me that much more excited for the story as I knew some scary times were ahead and while the premise is hardly original, it does combine most of my favourite genres, thriller, time travel, supernatural and the fact there’s a numbered list of characters to work through – even though they’re all so assigned arbitrarily. And there’s a big connection to Roman mythology, even the names: Yukiteru & Yuno are so obviously Jupiter and Juno, and some of the other characters, Minene being Minerva and Ueshita being Vesta are similarly straightforward. Some of them have cleverly hidden it but I’m sure it’s all in the Japanese translations, each one of the Diary owners is named after a God (some of them in meaningful ways, like the dog hunter being named after Diana, some in less meaningful ways, like that kid being Ceres for… some reason) and that explains the reeling off of the Roman pantheon in the first opening song. Romans are fascinating to me so that’s basically another reason to like the anime. It’s not perfect, I see where the plotholes are and there are a fair number of them but the anime keeps me engaged such that the plotholes aren’t distracting and I’m enjoying it, which is enough for me as far as a piece of entertainment goes. As a critic, I’ll probably rate it a 7 or maybe an 8, it depends how I feel about the end. But I’ve certainly enjoyed going through it.
But the crux of my point here, and what I want to find out, is that I’ve barely seen anything discussing it in my time in the anime community. Similarly popular shows out at about the same time, Steins;Gate, Fate/Zero, two of my ultimate favourites, are widely talked about. Sword Art Online is nearly as old and I think we’re all pretty much over discussion of that series. What little I see of Mirai Nikki, and I’ve only seen it by searching for it, has people complaining about Yuno (when she is the most wonderful character of this whole show and certainly its signature one). Certainly many anime are left in the dust each season as we go forward but for a popular one to fall so far behind in discussions seems off to me. Indeed, another one just a bit lower in the MAL popularity chart, from the same time as Mirai Nikki, Ao No Exorcist, I’ve heard even less about. May have to check what that one’s premise was. But I’m not sure why. There’s certainly a lot to discuss, whether it’s in a hatedom like Sword Art Online, or on a positive note, the intricacies of the game, the unique character of Yuno and it certainly wasn’t short of fans to build the discussions off of. Maybe I’ve just been frequenting the wrong anime boards, I don’t look at MAL’s in-house one all that often and it’s possible it’s frequently mentioned there but I’ve rarely seen it on Reddit, which is the one I most hang around on because of a fairly friendly and chill bunch of users. I’d never seen any of the anime youtube community talk about it, even though it’s a bit old they talk about other old shows all the time and I’ve been through several of their catalogues at times when I’ve been bored – and yet I’d seen mentions of Tokyo Ghoul and every one of the 8 anime above it exceedingly regularly. It’s possible I missed loads of discussion because I wasn’t familiar with the name and discredited it but even now it seems way less popular than the rest of the top 10.
Perhaps it was an of-its-time show that by its very nature felt derivative, supercharged yanderes aside, one element not being able to carry a show, and then once it ended talk went back to the classics that would survive the test of time because they didn’t feel derivative. At least, not so much. Mirai Nikki might have a lot of popularity according to the stats, but it seems to feel hollow.