Anime

Mirai Nikki: Did its flaws ruin it?

My last anime post was about Mirai Nikki (and yes I’ll continue to call it by the Japanese name as it flows way better to my ears) and so will this one be, as I’ve just finished it and it wasn’t 6 years ago that it came out and all new conversation certainly isn’t irrelevant. But this will be more of a wrapping-up post (i.e. SPOILERS) as I delve into  both what was lacking in it, with a special focus on the symbolism and how it relates to the Roman pantheon, which is one of the more fascinating aspects of the show for me. It doesn’t always use it in the right way, which adds to my perception of it being a show that is clumsy and full of plot holes yet is still a very enjoyable outing and one I’ve rated an 8 because when I’m enjoying a show as much as I enjoyed the episodes of Mirai Nikki, plots not being perfect take a back seat. Additionally, given the premise, it’s a lot easier for plot holes to creep in so I’m a little more forgiving. That probably makes me one in a million as far as reviewers go. Thing is, if I’m satisfied with the ending, and I was, a very satisfying ending that opens up tons of existential questions and had a good time watching, I’m not going to pick the anime apart and knock it down a peg just because it had several moments of ‘why don’t you just kill him you had the perfect opportunity’ because I understand that it’s done for drama and if anything it gives me more to talk about in the end. It had a bit of a haphazard way of tackling the plot but I’m not claiming it’s a masterpiece. However, because I could notice them but wasn’t put off by them, the flaws interested me. So I am going to go through those plot holes and evaluate why they might harm or hurt the show, in contrast to my last post, which mostly talked about it in relation to the rest of the community.

What I am going to do with this post is go one by one through a number of things about the show that could be flaws and evaluate whether or not they are flaws:

  1. Yukiteru himself

The first thing that struck me about this show once I had watched the first episode and seen the premise laid out to me was, was this kid the right choice to lead the anime? He looks very childish even as far as anime protagonists go and is even voiced by a woman, which means his high voice means he lacks any kind of gravitas. Not that that’s necessarily bad, I can point to Nagisa Shiota of Assassination Classroom for a protagonist who also had those two qualities and was a pretty excellent lead. But Nagisa was helped by his position in a comedy, with Yukiteru in a life-or-death thriller, his unassuming character works against him as you get continually frustrated by his uselessness at defending himself. On the plus side, this first makes it all the more awesome when he finally grows a backbone and takes the game seriously, I have very few complaints about him after he struck back at the people attacking his dad, and secondly we are constantly reminded of just how dependant upon Yuno he is, but it is not the most enjoyable part of the show and his nerves being very present for the first two-thirds of the series may put a lot of potential viewers off. I’d call him a drawback to the series, were he a couple of years older, while we would have lost his realistic jitters, we’d have gotten a bit more competence a bit earlier on and that would have helped matters.

2. Yuno

Now this isn’t a bugbear for me because I absolutely loved Yuno and will defend her to the death, she was the major draw of this anime, but I sense that so much of the anime being centred around a psychotic unhinged lunatic may alienate some people. Which just makes you guys the weird ones, who doesn’t love a YANDERE? (as we must call her as she is obviously the primal archetype of that word which supposedly so neatly explains away every character motivation she has) Thing is, while she is probably the character most would think of if you said ‘yandere’ through this series’ willingness to give no fucks with her lines and actions,  her character motivations are surprisingly noble (and/or, tragic) for a trait that is supposed to be villainous. Given the worlds she went through, the fact she felt she needed to base her entire character around loving Yukiteru and getting ready to marry him speaks volumes about the potential problems of traditional Japanese culture as voiced by an absurd extremity, along with being horribly tragic. But her excessive violence can seem a bit offputting so I can see why she puts people off but I wish that wasn’t the case, she was electric on screen and I was always hanging on to her words, whether she sounded deranged or cute. I don’t think she was honestly a flaw, she’s pretty much the selling point that stands this anime out from the crowd.

3. The premise – was it original and were there problems with execution

The fact that I can instantly make comparisons to other anime may be a problem for Mirai Nikki, it uses a form of magical notebooks that result in owners of them hunting each other down like Death Note, while pretty much any good battle royale or even series where anyone can die in general can be drafted in as a comparison given the story’s willingness to kill and this results in Mirai Nikki feeling rather derivative. The introduction of alternate timelines at the end just adds to the weight of ideas that the anime is overflowing with and could arguably use refining a couple such that various parts of the plot did not feel like such a Deus Ex Machina. Which is an obvious joke but I feel that the chances of the author choosing to name a character that way without it being an attempt to cover himself for using said ‘frowned upon’ literary technique are rather low. Which would be fine if Mirai Nikki were a comedy, which it only is in a few moments and that’s mostly situational Yuno absurdity more than the genre of the anime being comedic.

On the other hand, its huge variety in plot settings and genres leads to an anime that does really have something for all escapist fiction aficionados, I certainly never felt bored with the variances in setting each episode brought. It’s not something that I’d say is necessarily good but that’s my rationalisation for enjoying the absurd mishmash of plots that it came up. The central core of the premise itself is reasonably original, as far as I can tell no one else has done a big show about phones telling the future but its huge connections to others weigh it down.

The execution at times left a little to be desired, I recall far to many times when Yukiteru could have easily been killed or had his phone broken were it not for the incompetency of the villains, to say nothing of a couple of weird timeskips such as the confrontation with 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th and 11th in their cars going unresolved with everyone deciding to drive away without trying to murder each other.

Additonally, the Ninth herself, though not quite significant enough to do her own section, her character varied so wildly through the anime I felt it a little jarring, from a deadly terrorist in her first appearance to a reluctant helper against Fourth to being all but on Yukiteru’s side by the end, it was somewhat hard to take seriously. Her big episode towards the end where she ‘died’, and her actions during the final helped fix some of the damage that had been done to her character, but that middle part really felt off given the danger she presented at first. It felt like she was introduced as an antagonist but the writer liked her enough to make her heroic without going back and toning down that first introduction. Perhaps life gets screwy when you’re in a survival game. And maybe a terrorist isn’t the most consistent person on the planet. But I’d have thought Minene would have been ruthless enough to be a threat throughout the series and certainly not a character who could help the ‘good guys’.

But on the whole I enjoyed the pacing and those tended to be things I noticed on thinking back and reading up about the episodes rather than distracting me during it – so for premise and execution I’d say, flawed, but not enough to ruin it.

4. The symbolism

Finally, I want to talk about the great influence of symbolism upon Mirai Nikki. See, I think it’s wonderful that the show uses heavy draws upon the Roman pantheon to build its world and contextualise the characters, I love Roman religion and ancient mythologies, especially when they impact upon stories, so in a way, this was a huge bonus for me to find in the show. But on reflection, I can’t help but wondering what the symbolism actually meant, and whether it was added for any reason other than to have symbolism in the story.

Each character, at least the participants within the Future Diary game either has a name that looks like a corruption of a Roman god’s name (Yukiteru-Jupiter, Yuno-Juno, Minene-Minerva+Neptune, and those three (not neptune) are the Capitoline Triad, guys, isn’t that awesome as they’re the three main leads, right?) or has meaning in their Japanese name. Hinata’s a good example, her name means ‘sun’, therefore she’s Apollo, and not part of the survival game despite being one of the main 12 in the pantheon, Tsubaki could also be Apollo although she’s more likely to be Proserpina with her relation to Ceres (the 5th) and then I guess Pluto isn’t in the traditional pantheon, neither is Vesta in many cases and in the Dii Consentes, Bacchus definitely isn’t, so it balances out. Additionally Yuki’s parents are named after Rhea and Kronus, Jupiter’s parents in mythology. This is all very interesting for me, I’m a big fan, but what does it all mean? Is the objective to provide a ‘what if’ scenario based upon the Roman gods, are they named this way to give the series more gravitas. What I’m asking is, is it just a meaningless quirk of the series to add more interest to itself?

Roman religion itself didn’t have much of a concept of monotheism, although certain cults did start to overtake the traditional religion later on in Roman history, and given the characters are all fighting to make themselves the only god it could be a tale of how the Roman gods react to the changing times, should there only be able to be one god. Deus himself has no Roman counterpart while Murmur being a demon of Goetic origin places her within Judeo-Christian canon, which might again point to this being a changing world, if you were very generous. As far as the main characters are concerned it adds a feeling of certainty to Yuki and Yuno’s relationship, although it’s not all that noticeable anywhere else. Minene in particular acts nothing like the god she’s representing and the other Diary holders vary, Eighth is pretty close, Eleventh has maybe one or two aspects that tie him to Bacchus while Fifth and Third are only very superficially like portrayals of Ceres and Vulcan, though that’s no doubt hindered by their short amount of screen time. But then, despite the haphazardness, were the symbolism a direct repeat of Roman stories and character motivations it would have also not done anything interesting with the opportunity. And there are similarities and more interpretations you can come up with if you dig deep enough into Roman mythology – in my research for this I came across a Reddit post comparing Akise to Hercules. In short, it’s a very interesting part of the anime, I don’t think it’s the most meaningful symbolism can ever be, after all, you don’t just make symbolism by playing a match game with your characters and going ‘there, there is your symbolism’, but it certainly heightened my interest.

For me, these flaws didn’t really ruin Mirai Nikki (as I’ve probably made clear), I was enjoying it way too much to be bothered, but I did notice them which is why I made an effort to put this post together and rebut them in a way.

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