Future Diary

Amazing concept, strong start, increasingly incoherent everything afterward.

I'm going to be casually talking about serious spoilers for the manga, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you might not want to read this. Mind, basically all the spoilers that matter are also things that make no sense and don't work on any level at all, but hey, maybe you'll enjoy the story anyway and have spoilers hurt your experience.

It's theoretically possible.


The basic premise of Future Diary as first presented goes thusly:

There is a being named Deus, whom the male protagonist thinks is his imaginary friend of no consequence. In short order it turns out he's very, very real, in the form of him kicking off a death game where the survivor will be his heir and run the universe after he dies, with the protagonist -Yuki- as one of the contestants in this game. The gimmick of this particular death game is, we're told, that every contestant has a Future Diary; a diary that takes their pre-existing diary habits and then projects them forward 90 days into the future. Thus, contestants are in a battle of wits where everyone involved can literally see the future, with clear rules for each Future Diary holder that organically make each of them unique and interesting in their approach to the battle.

The very first battle, while it occurs improbably quickly and has some other janky elements to it, is overall a pretty good realization of this premise.

The rest of the story...


One of the earliest sequences is a major sign of Things To Come; a famous 'terrorist' has planted hidden, remote-controlled explosives all over Yuki's school in the less-than-24-hours since the Future Diary game started, having somehow deduced this is the correct school, acquired the explosives surreptitiously, planted them across the school without being detected and with zero assistants (Note that several of these explosives are buried mines where the ground shows no signs of disturbance. That takes time), and she's explicitly memorized the exact locations of all these explosives. This is layers of impossible and the story chugs right along and hopes you won't notice.

This is far from the only time explosives are acquired and deployed in improbable or impossible circumstances, and more generally is representative of how the rest of the story doesn't hold up to the barest hint of scrutiny.

'Terrorist' lady herself, in spite of being probably the third most important/prominent character in the plot, is never properly contextualized. Her label of 'terrorist' seems to be just a weak attempt to 'explain' her access to explosives. What acts of terrorism was she performing before this Future Diary stuff started? Dunno. What was her goal with them? Dunno. What drove her to these ends? Well, we're given a tragic backstory with dead parents and stealing to survive on the streets as a kid, but none of this is ever connected to her terrorism, and in fact a detail in there is that her parents died in the Middle East, with her present when they died. So why is she an infamous terrorist in Japan? If her backstory has anything to do with her terrorism, shouldn't she be off in the Middle East, trying to kill whoever she blames for her parents' death? In general, why is such a critical character so unclear even by the time everything is said and done?

Similarly to the improbable bomb usage, characters repeatedly suffer egregious injuries and then shrug them off. In several cases, they suffer injuries that by all rights should be lethal, and it's just momentarily debilitating. Inexplicably, only Terrorist Lady ever has injuries that stick -and even those are mishandled! There's a genuinely good moment early in the story where Yuki tries to destroy her Future Diary (You die if your Future Diary is destroyed, see) and she hurls her body to intercept the dart he's throwing, ending up with a dart in her eye. Next time we see her, and from then on forth, she's got an eyepatch over that eye... because someone else pulled her eye out of its socket sometime after that confrontation. We get to see said eye, and it shows no damage beyond being outside her head. So having a dart heavy enough to break a cell phone lodge into her eyeball left no marks. Somehow.


Another recurring issue with the plot is Inexplicable Fanatically Loyal Minions, used repeatedly to let the opposition throw bodies at the protagonists. This pretty much never makes much sense, but two in particular stand out as intensely baffling; one Future Diary holder is a cult's 'toy', as in her purpose in the cult is to be kept in a cage and raped repeatedly. Nonetheless, they're apparently her minions for the purposes of the story. No explanation offered. The second case is a Future Diary holder being a mayor, where 'mayor' inexplicably means he has legions of well-armed and armored fanatically loyal men willing to risk their lives without explanation and kill kids without a peep of conscience, with no evidence of him, you know, running a city. Particularly bizarre is this isn't even a Corrupt Cops storyline taken too far, as it's an explicit plotpoint that these murderous thugs are not the police. I have no idea what they're meant to be, aside Generic Supervillain Minions.

Then there's the issue that at multiple points in the plot people visually identify a Future Diary at a distance, not by seeing the info written in it but... just because. Never mind that Future Diaries can be cell phones, laptops, ordinary notebooks, or even old-timey scrolls! No explanation is offered for this. We're not told Future Diary holders get a sixth sense to let them know a Future Diary is a Future Diary, or anything. They know because the plot needs them to know, and who cares whether it makes sense for them to know?

This is all frustrating, but then there's the point that the story flat-out contradicts its own premise. The '8th' Future Diary holder, when she shows up, has a gimmick where anyone can become a Future Diary holder by connecting to her Future Diary server whatsit. What does this have to do with the explicitly stated initial premise that your Future Diary is an extrapolation of your previous diary habits? Nothing, that's what. When we get to the '11th' Future Diary holder the plot suddenly retcons things to pretend that in actuality this dude worked with Deus to come up with a set of Future Diary roles that would be distributed among contestants, which is a sad attempt to justify him having the just-plain-cheating-and-it's-not-even-interesting power of his Future Diary directly showing him the contents of other people's Future Diaries so he gets to basically hard-counter their future-seeing... and I call it sad because it's blatantly irreconcilable with everything that has happened prior to this point. Am I seriously supposed to believe that, completely coincidentally, all three of the following were true?

1: Yuki and 11th happen to both know Deus long before the death game ever starts.

2: 11th happened to make a Future Diary special snowflake power of 'the diary is about random minutia happening around you, but never directly addresses what you're doing' to be passed out to a random contestant.

3: Yuki happens to be probably literally the only person in the entirety of Japan who actually writes his diary in this manner.

That's just for Yuki, note. For the first half or so of the story, every Future Diary holder has their Future Diary conform to their pre-existing idiosyncratic diary habits. Which is more natural: that their Future Diaries are based on their personal habits, or that a complete stranger happened to come up with a set of Future Diary gimmicks that happen to match up to the people Deus selected -because while Deus never tells us precisely what factor causes him to select candidates, it's made quite clear that it's something on the order of 'only some people have the right kind of soul to become a god', not that Deus is picking people because they conform to a previously-made Future Diary role.

That's layers of improbable coincidence, and 8th and 11th's arcs aren't even interesting enough to justify putting up with how big a hole they blast into the story by existing.

More generally, the story's quality rots away as it progress. We get clear, explicit rules on how Future Diaries work at the start of the story, and the farther the story gets the more they get completely forgotten about -for example, Yuno (A major character I'll be talking about a lot, but not just yet) has her Future Diary operate in ten minute intervals. Yeah, later in the story that goes away completely. This is true of a lot of the rules -and it's not like there's so many they're hard to keep track of, or that they're counterintuitive, or anything like that.

A related point to that is that we're told at the beginning that Future Diaries go out ninety days, yet quite bizarrely nobody ever takes advantage of this. At the beginning of the story, characters will sometimes check as much as a full day ahead, but by the end of the story even an hour ahead is unlikely to happen. Forget a month, let alone three of them.

But... these are mostly 'mechanical' problems. I find mechanical problems with a narrative frustrating, but while I'm less willing than most to look past such problems, I can if the core narrative is good enough.

Which brings us to talking about Yuno.

Yuno is Future Diary's second protagonist, and she's honestly around 90% of the reason I put up with the story to the end, as she's something fairly unusual: a yandere character that isn't rapidly, blatantly villainized by the story. Specifically, she's obsessed with Yuki, and was obsessed with him well before the death game started, to the point that her diary -and in turn her Future Diary- is an every-ten-minutes update on what's going on with Yuki. Because she's a stalker, you see.

But from right out the gate the story positions this as a positive quality to some extent: they're both contestants in a death game where only one can live, so Yuki having someone obsessively devoted to him is a pretty big leg up in a fairly terrible situation (How else would one make an ally of another contestant without constantly worrying the alliance is just a way to get close to you to kill you?), and indeed Yuno is quite explicit from quite early on that she's willing to die for him. In conjunction with more meta signals making it clear that she's the other primary protagonist of the story... like I said, she's not immediately, blatantly villainized. Unsettling, to be sure, but not the villain of the story.

So: interesting!

Unfortunately, this only holds up so long as the story refuses to properly contextualize Yuno. Who is she, other than Yuki's stalker? What kind of life has she led to take her here? Why is she so devoted to him? So long as these questions go unanswered, she manages to be compelling... and then we get the answers, and they're uniformly botched.

A lot of this comes back to what's probably the single biggest 'twist' of the story: that the Yuno we're seeing is a different Yuno from what one might expect. The whole thing is a complicated, convoluted mess, but in short: there's already been a death game, Yuno is the survivor of that death game, it turns out that when Deus indicated the new god would be able to do whatever they wanted with reality this was a significant overstatement, and specifically gods in Future Diary can't bring back the dead... but they can travel back in time. So Yuno does exactly that so she can do the Future Diary death game a second time and this time make sure Yuki doesn't die.

In broad concept this is a bit silly and convoluted, but sounds sensible enough. The actual execution, though...

First of all, no reason is given as to why Yuno never tried talking to Deus in the past. The death game is an entirely arbitrary means of selecting the new god, and while it's implied Deus has a limited pool of people that can act as heirs it's never suggested that some cosmic force demands he shove all possible candidates into his contest, and certainly not that it has to be a death game. Yuno could've gone back in time and tried to convince Deus to do something that's not a death game. Or she could've convinced him to not include Yuki in the list of contestants. Bam, problem solved with zero drama attached.

So Yuno doesn't try out either of the blatantly obvious answers. Okay, well, maybe I'm wrong and there is some unseen cosmic force enforcing these -oh wait the final ending of the story involves Yuki and another Yuno managing to both ascend to godhood and go back to rescue the Yuno we've spent most of the story with. So no, that headcanon is invalid.

Alright, fine, what does Yuno do?

Oh, she murders this timeline's version of herself, takes her place at school, and murders her parents while she's at it.

Wait, what?

Why would Yuno do this?!

This is baffling enough on its own, but when this detail come out, the characters who end up in the know consistently treat Yuno's behavior as appalling-but-logical, as if the only issue with her actions is that they're morally reprehensible, but are otherwise obviously logical and if one didn't care about ethics of course one would do exactly that in that situation. No one treats this as baffling, insane, purposeless behavior that, you know, happens to also be morally reprehensible.

The really sad thing is that the story wouldn't have to try very hard to get me to accept Yuno doing this. Yuno murdering herself because Yuki Is Mine would make a twisted sense and if that was ever suggested as a possibility I'd nod along with the story and go 'yeah, that sounds like Yuno'. The issue is that the story just... treats this completely insane course of action as something obviously logical, albeit horrifying.

The fact that the whole thing is insane also makes it even more stark that Yuno didn't try the obvious, sensible ideas. In fact, Yuno explicitly rails against 'the world' for being 'unfair' by being built so she has to choose between her survival and Yuki's! Which falls completely flat since this problem is trivial to address and Yuno just inexplicably chose to murder her past family including her past self instead of doing a sane thing.

These are not trivial failings: the entire emotional root of the story is based in Yuno devotedly sacrificing entire realities (Because we're told the future a time traveler abandons collapses into nothingness after they leave) to try to save Yuki, but the murder of her family and insistence on playing out the death game But Better This Time and whatnot is all blatantly unnecessary. There's nothing tragic here: there's just artificial stupidity.

A related point: I mentioned earlier that the story establishes that the dead can't be brought back, but hey, whaddya know the true final ending directly and explicitly contradicts that. Again: this is not a trivial problem. Literally the entire story demands that Yuno can't use her new divine powers to magic Yuki back to life. Having the ending reveal that, well, actually she totally can and just... didn't... then why does even a single shred of the story the audience reading exist?

There's a bunch of secondary issues connecting to all this. For example, the story spends a fairly long period teasing the whole 'the Yuno we know is a time traveler' thing, with various hints suggesting that she's not the real or original Yuno but has identical fingerprints/knows insider secrets/etc... and inexplicably not a single character ever suggests the extremely obvious possibility that maybe this Yuno is an identical twin. Even though that's what any real person would suggest in this situation, instead of treating it like an impossible-to-explain mystery. Or there's the more mechanical detail that there's a scene where Yuno uses the phone of her self from this timeline to trick people into thinking they've destroyed her Future Diary when they haven't... which even if I accept that people can identify Future Diaries on sight, this runs into the problem that Yuno murdered her alternate self before the death game started, and therefore her alternate self's phone isn't a Future Diary. So if everyone does have the magical ability to identity Future Diaries on sight? This trick wouldn't work. And if they don't, then it still wouldn't work because then any idiot would know she could do the exact same trick by just getting a hold of a phone that's the same model as the one that was made into her Future Diary. There's no way to make this work.

Then there's the point that the story tries to wring drama out of the idea that the Yuno Yuki knows isn't the 'real' Yuno... even though Yuki had no idea who Yuno was and had, in fact, more or less never interacted with her prior to the death game starting. Like yes it eventually turns out that she's actually a time traveler who murdered the local Yuno and that's all kinds of horrible and that stuff would be a good thing to wring drama out of (Ignoring how completely nonsensical it is, anyway), but at the time the drama is actually happening what it's about is pretending that it somehow matters to Yuki that Yuno 'isn't the real Yuno'. That doesn't mean anything to him! He's never known another Yuno! The only ways it could matter are all indirect and are topics the story never suggests Yuki is even marginally aware of the possibility of! (eg if some creepy stalker is impersonating a classmate to get closer to Yuki, that would raise some concerning questions... which Yuki doesn't ask, not even in his own head)

Which is particularly problematic in conjunction with the fact that long before this drama happens Yuki sees that Yuno's house has corpses in it, and manages to talk himself into looking past that. Why is the possibility that the Yuno he knows isn't 'the real Yuno' somehow worse than "my stalker has murdered probably-her-parents-given-I-never-see-signs-her-parents-exist-and-the-bodies-are-in-her-house, which is rather concerning given this is information on what she does to people she loves, of which I apparently fall under the banner of"? No explanation is offered: this is treated as self-evident, which it most certainly is not.

So all-around the foundation of the story just plain is not there.

But even before we get to all the background information necessary to see that Yuno's core story is insane nonsense, the story was still managing to be obviously, frustratingly wrong in regard to Yuno. While I said that the story doesn't immediately and obviously villainize Yuno, that's a bit misleading.

Specifically, a recurring problem for the first half or so of the story is that the story clearly intends for the audience to take a lot of the things Yuno says and does as irrational stalker behavior that no sane person would go along with... where the vast majority of these things are objectively correct in this situation. For example, she pushes Yuki to not trust other Future Diary holders, which gets presented as equivalent to a possessive girlfriend discouraging outside relationships so she can hoard her boyfriend to herself...

... but this is a death game. Of course Yuki shouldn't be trusting the other contestants in a game where everyone is trying to kill everyone else! This isn't possessive, clingy, jealous behavior! This is common sense, and the fact that Yuki is so reluctant to go along with it makes him look like an idiot, or at least like he has no survival instinct.

Examples like this left me perpetually aggravated by Yuki's willful stupidity and irritated the story wanted me to be sympathetic to his willful stupidity instead of sympathetic to Yuno's frustration at his refusal to listen when his life is on the line and she's trying to make sure he doesn't die.

In turn, a consequence of this is that when Yuno finally goes full-on psycho, slipping Yuki sleeping drugs so she can kidnap him off to an isolated building and manacle him to a chair, not even letting him leave for bathroom breaks... it felt completely unearned. It was clear the story saw this as a natural extension of her behavior up to this point, that we're supposed to nod along at how she's always been a creepy obsessive stalker who was more interested in owning Yuki than in looking out for his best interests...

... but no, not really.

Yuno flooding Yuki's email with messages at an insane pace? Yeah, she's trying to make sure he doesn't die when he's in a death game. We're meant to take this as more evidence of her being an obsessive stalker, but this is 100% reasonable in the circumstances, and if I were Yuki in this position I'd be quite happy to have a stiflingly stalker-y bodyguard devoted to my survival. What with the fact that if I were him there would be people actively trying to kill me.

Yuno's comparative willingness to hurt and kill in Yuki's defense? Potentially alarming in the long haul, except wait they're in a death game where only one of them is going to survive. There is no concern that they're going to marry, have kids, and then Yuno stabs him when they get into a fight over something minor. Furthermore, it's only extremely late in the story that we're told that gods can't raise the dead; as far as Yuki understands things, Yuno's willingness to murder might be a bit alarming for how quickly she's adjusted to their new circumstances, but hey the plan is to undo all the damage once Yuki is the new god. Is this evidence Yuno is a psycho... or is it evidence Yuki is squeamish and needs to get over himself? In conjunction with how he's willfully stupid in not-even-slightly-arguable ways, it's pretty difficult to justify the interpretation that's charitable to him.

For that matter, Yuno kidnapping Yuki, in addition to feeling narratively unearned, is a little too easy to interpret as her finally giving up in frustration with trying to reason with Yuki since he's so dead-set on being a suicidal idiot who won't listen to her when she makes perfectly reasonably points about how he needs to not get himself killed. That lets the sequence function as organic on the character level, but it pretty much completely inverts the intended mood of the scene: we're clearly meant to be horrified for Yuki's sake, not feeling relieved Yuno finally implemented a solution that bypasses Yuki's suicidal idiocy.

So yeah. Pretty much everything about how Yuno is handled is broken from start to finish.

As a final failing, our 'villain' of the story, Muru-Muru (Whom I've never mentioned before because even though the endgame presents her as the villain of the story she's 100% irrelevant), is never contextualized. She traveled with Yuno back in time to egg on Yuno's inexplicable actions, and much of what goes down is claimed to be Just As Planned on Muru-Muru's part, but what her goal could possibly be is never clarified. She's messing with The Game, and that's all we're given. Why? What for? No idea! The narrative doesn't care!

Seriously, there's a great concept here, but the actual execution is an incoherent mess with massive holes basically everywhere from the word go. I only stuck it out because Yuno is a yandere character that wasn't treated as cleanly villainous and that's exceedingly rare, and it still ended up being a frustrating read because the story insisted on framing Yuno as Obviously Sinister And Wrong in sequences it was completely inappropriate for, and then flipped to wanting us to be sympathetic to her once her actions had stopped making sense!



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