Mirai Nikki Ep. 1: Let’s look into the future to cheat on a math test!

Man, how sweet would it be to able to anticipate future events? You would be God-like, no? I just have one question: why is the story about a middle school student? The premise sounds kind of cool, but I’m sitting here watching an introverted dweeb use his powers to cheat on his math quiz. I notice that a lot of people are looking forward to Mirai Nikki, so obviously, you guys don’t seem to have a problem with this. I dunno — for me, I guess the characters’ age just takes the wind a bit out of the anime’s sails. You could call this prejudice or whatever, but middle school students don’t often strike me as potentially complex characters.

Oh well, putting the children aside, Mirai Nikki does start off better than most shows. The first episode starts en media res, followed by a murder, followed by an expository voiceover from the main character, only to be followed yet again by another gruesome, blood-splattering murder. And what Mirai Nikki does here isn’t exactly revolutionary or original, but at least it attempts to hook us in. The anime doesn’t just info-dump; it intersperses some visceral scenes into the introductory episode to keep our interest. So y’know, kudos to that.

The first episode isn’t without its flaws though. I do think the pacing is a little too fast, but then again, this beats a slow burner any day. Or maybe Blood-C‘s bitter taste is still lingering in my mouth. In any case, if the plot’s going to collapse on itself, let’s go down in a blaze of glory. The more serious flaw in the first episode, however, is that the animation seems rather shoddy. The 3-D Deus Ex Machina, a.k.a. the God of space and time (I wonder what Kant would say about that), isn’t poorly designed; I just don’t like the world around him. Everything seems to be covered in a pink-purplish light that just looks lazy and, more importantly, ugly. I don’t suppose that’s a carry-over from the manga — where I assume everything is black and white — is it?

And it’s always strange to me when you’ve got these bizarre-looking gods and they all have the same dumb, old Japanese man voice. You couldn’t give me some incomprehensible alien language accompanied by subtitles instead? This is just a minor complaint, but it’s hard to buy into the mystique of these perplexing beings when they speak a human language (often fluent Japanese) like the rest of the normal characters in the show. I’m reminded of the shinigami in Death Note all speaking the same language — all sounding like dorks. Thank god anime has never attempted a legitimate Cthulhu anime; it would probably have been given a stupid voice too.

It also makes me laugh to see the stalker girl plant a solid kiss on the hero (who kind of sounds like Renton from Eureka Seven, a.k.a. a dweeb) right off the bat. We can’t even get a hug between normal couples in other anime series (coughHanasakuIrohacough). Apparently, the only way to kiss a girl is if she’s a nutjob. Isn’t it depressing that people have to be deranged — and in this case, a yandere — in order for there to be any physical contact in anime?

And I really could’ve done without the entire sequence following the serial killer’s death. All Deus Ex Machina does here is explain the rules, the nature of the game and spell out the fact that the participants can change their futures. First, we’ve just seen the main character avoid death and thereby change his future. Second, the nature of the game is nothing the audience couldn’t have surmised. If I know that there are three future diary owners, it’s natural to think that there could and would be even more. So in essence, the last five minutes is just the anime spelling everything out to the audience as if we’re blithering idiots.

Technical issues aside, Mirai Nikki is interesting enough for now to keep watching. And I like the little comedy epilogue at the end. It is kind of like an anime version of outtakes, but I also kind of see it as like a palette cleanser, i.e. reminding the audience not to take the story too seriously.

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31 thoughts on “Mirai Nikki Ep. 1: Let’s look into the future to cheat on a math test!

  1. alsozara

    Agree with just about all of this. What’s more, it all felt strangely bland, or dull for how much was going on. I can’t put my finger on why though. Perhaps it’s a lacking soundtrack?

    Definitely getting some Death Note vibes, will be interesting to see how they handle the mental chess game, so to speak, between the different diary holders.

    Your comment about physical contact in anime is hilariously (depressingly?) true.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Hm, now that you mentioned it, I can’t remember a thing about a soundtrack. Oh well, doesn’t bother me too much. As for the mental chess game, I don’t suppose it’s possible for one of the participants to change identities, become a hikikomori and just never come out of his or her room.

      Reply
  2. idiffer

    need to check this out. i remember reading a little of the manga and being bored to tears. hopefully animation rectifies this. the physical contact thing reminds me of vandread, which i sat through almost solely because i wanted to see the couple’s relationship play out. what i got after 24 eps or so was them holding hands in a scene full of pathos.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Hey, man, wouldn’t want to corrupt that virginal girl. Some otaku might want to make her his waifu.

      Reply
  3. hurin

    I read the manga. Don’t worry about the main character not being complex. He isn’t complex now, he becomes so.

    I had been wondering how much censorship this series would get, the manga contains torture, mutilation, child killing, rape and underage sex, (but very little nudity) and I don’t know how much of that can be shown on TV.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      He isn’t complex now, he becomes so.

      Well, we’ll see if our conceptions of ‘complex’ lines up.

      the manga contains torture, mutilation, child killing, rape and underage sex, (but very little nudity)

      Wait, people like this manga?

      Reply
      1. hurin

        He starts out as useless but gradually becomes more competent, at the end of the manga he has become a whole different person.

        The focus is primarily psychological, although he realizes the girl is a complete psycho, he can’t survive without her stalker diary, and is forced to stay with her. I think people like it because he is forced into situations where he has to kill or be killed, it’s not something he wan’ts to do. Still as you probably noticed one of the diary holders is a small child, but as in ‘Highlander’ there can be only one.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          There’s just something unsavory about the idea of sticking kids into life or death situations unless there’s some poignant social commentary to be made.

  4. Marow

    Really looking forward to the following episodes since this is supposed to be great. At least the first episode didn’t let me down.

    I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we had an older protagonist and didn’t get the rules explained. Real survival stuff.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      You’d actually think this series would try to build some mystery and hold off on the obvious unlike a show like Blood-C.

      Reply
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  6. A Day Without Me

    Actually, my major issue with the voice for Deus ex Machina is that its the same guy who voiced SHINING SAOTOME in Prince-sama, so I just see him when he speaks. It’s mildly amusing, but doesn’t really help with the tension in the plot.

    Reply
  7. Seinime

    Oho, you made a great suggestion there. I’m guessing things would be totally different with an adult. Suddenly I’m reminded of Death Note for some reason…

    I don’t suppose that’s a carry-over from the manga — where I assume everything is black and white — is it?

    I don’t know why they made it purple for the imaginary world. Black and white would’ve made it better, or at least in my opinion. Purple just seems…odd. It was black and white in the manga, yes.

    This is just a minor complaint, but it’s hard to buy into the mystique of these perplexing beings when they speak a human language (often fluent Japanese) like the rest of the normal characters in the show.

    Well, it is supposedly from Yukiteru’s imagination, after all. Although with a better imagination, an alien language would work better. But I guess they’re simply too lazy trying to make up a language or get proper speakers (darn you, Ikoku!)

    Isn’t it depressing that people have to be deranged — and in this case, a yandere — in order for there to be any physical contact in anime?

    Indeed…indeed it is.

    And I like the little comedy epilogue at the end.

    For a serial killer, he sure is paranoid.

    Solid anime so far. Hope they don’t go too fast and leave the viewers who haven’t read the manga spinning.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Suddenly I’m reminded of Death Note for some reason…

      Well, Death Note had its own problems. The cellphones and the last man standing sort of deal actually made me think of Eden of the East. Don’t take that comparison seriously though. Just sayin’.

      the color and Deus’s voice

      Well, he thought it was his imagination. But apparently, it’s more than that. So I dunno, maybe being the God of space and time means you have to give something up and this guy gave up a really good interior designer.

      Reply
  8. wanderer

    I read this manga this past summer; it’s good airplane or beach reading material (as long as no one’s looking over your shoulder…it eventually becomes almost comically, I dunno, “wicked”). I don’t think the show will be worth watching-and-criticizing on a weekly, episode-by-episode basis but once it’s wrapped up I’ll probably blitz through it just to see how it turned out animated; out of curiosity I did check out the first episode, and it’s a bit more promising than I would’ve anticipated.

    It’s definitely a story for which much of the enjoyment comes from not knowing what happens so it’ll be for the best if I don’t say much, but here’s some commentary going into it.

    The manga was recommended to me as the spiritual successor to Death Note. That proved pretty accurate, and unlike Death Note the plot of Mirai Nikki actually seems to have been mapped out ahead of time; as a consequence the manga avoids Death Note’s eventual structural issues, but at least to my taste still suffers from issues of pacing and, especially, tone.

    Additionally, Mirai Nikki has a clearer thematic direction than Death Note, but I found the print version wasn’t quite up to really pulling off its apparent thematic goals: the tone was often inappropriate to the broader thematic goals and the storyline doesn’t quite lay adequate groundwork for those goals, either. I’d compare it to a failed Chandler or Hammet novel: pulpy fiction, has some potential to transcend the genre, but doesn’t quite pull it off. That said it isn’t something that’s completely unsalvageable, and at least in the first episode some of the sequencing has been patched in ways that suggest the anime adaptation might wind up improving a bit on the original (hence the “more promising than anticipated”).

    Some other parting observations:

    The main duo’s ages really hurt the story’s credibility, no getting around it. That said, the story that winds up getting told relies too much on contrivances that wouldn’t really work if the main duo were much older than they are — I think you could make them into first-year college students and that’d be an improvement, but that’s about as old as they could be without some radical story revisions. Some of the thematic stuff also depends on the main duo being young (youths, futures, obvious themes are obvious). It still really hurts the story but it is what it is.

    Also, as a heads-up: there’re definitely too many diary holders, and about 1/3 to 1/2 are pretty weak; about the first 30-40% of the manga had a lame monster-of-the-week feel as the crappier diary holders get taken down (and several of them are honestly painfully stupid). If I were an editor I would’ve ordered the lame ones to get cut, but again it is what it is. As a completed manga it was pretty easy to flip through those early lame parts pretty fast, but as a weekly anime I suspect you’ll be in for a bit of a grind for a long while.

    I’d like to tell you there’s some turning point where the credibility issues go away and it gets unambiguously great but I can’t; at least in my case it was more that I hit a point of homeostasis where I was used to the overall absurdity — aside from the age issues, as some of your other commenters have mentioned, it gets comically dark/twisted after awhile, though in print it comes across more Fargo-esque than “serious” — and there were still enough twists and turns to keep me turning the pages to see how it ended.

    Should probably turn out entertaining if nothing else. Un-Go starts later this week if I recall correctly.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      unlike Death Note the plot of Mirai Nikki actually seems to have been mapped out ahead of time; as a consequence the manga avoids Death Note’s eventual structural issues,

      If we’re to concentrate on the plot, maybe, but Death Note had charismatic characters going for it. Misogynistic subtext and a poor second half aside, it was fun to root for either Light or L, depending on whose side you were on. It remains to be seen if any of Mirai Nikki‘s characters are likeable.

      That said, the story that winds up getting told relies too much on contrivances that wouldn’t really work if the main duo were much older than they are … Some of the thematic stuff also depends on the main duo being young

      Well, if we could change the characters’ ages, we could also presumably switch up the themes. I’d still prefer an older cast and thus a suitably older set of issues and themes.

      though in print it comes across more Fargo-esque than “serious”

      That’s high praise to even put any manga in the same sentence as a classic Coen film! As an aside, I watched Fargo first when I was pretty young (in middle school) and I simply couldn’t understand the appeal. I watched it later in college and it’s like “Whoa, this is great!”

      Reply
      1. wanderer

        Yeah, one of the many flaws in the manga is that although Yukiteru narrates the story and is largely the reader’s point-of-view, it’s really Yuno’s story, with everyone else just living in it. Yuno I found to be comic and morbidly fascinating, but if she doesn’t hold your interest you’ll be out of luck.

        In re Fargo: yes, Fargo is fantastic. In re: the Mirai Nikki, in this case it’s just a shorthand for “if you hear a written description you’ll probably get the wrong idea”. So yeah, through the course of the story and its backstory all kinds of horrible things happen, but the real emphasis is elsewhere (mostly on the Yukiteru/Yuna dynamic).

        In re ages: further discussion is best deferred until it’s over, but unless the anime does something radically different I think by the end you’ll see what I meant; the downside of being thematically coherent is it makes it hard to make changes without making other changes, etc., all the way through. Thematically I didn’t find it to be all that much about “youth themes” per se, just that the plot events that feed the thematic elements require younger characters to work well. That said the age thing is definitely a huge liability from start to finish, and it gets worse before returning to just “bad”.

        In re: overall, it’s definitely a work that’s smarter than it seems on the surface, but again b/c of the spoiler risk it’s hard to be too concrete. A non-spoiler example is that you may have missed the point of the math test:

        The teacher is the serial killer / third diary holder; presumably, his diary told him he’d murder the 1st diary holder that afternoon, but didn’t give him the specific identities (none of the diaries are that powerful). So the math test is how he flushes out his targets: he actually does put some fresh material on the exam — the whining kid was right! — but our dense friend Yukiteru blithely uses his cheat-sheet to ace the exam anyways, thereby exposing himself as a likely diary-holder (I forget if the anime mentions his grades had previously been poor…). This is never spelled out explicitly in the manga, so I’m not spoiling some big reveal here.

        That said, nothing else I can think of is as subtle and clever as this plot point. I get the sense the author realized almost no one was catching that and decided to ramp up the obviousness of later plot points. It also points up some of the weaknesses of the future diaries as plot devices.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          A non-spoiler example is that you may have missed the point of the math test:

          Not really. We’re talking apples and oranges here. You might be impressed with how the event is used to flush out Yukiteru, but I’m not really concerned about that. My point is that the scope of the anime is limited by the characters’ age. You could use a future diary to do so many things. Using such a distinct life advantage to cheat on a math test thus feels rather lame, regardless of how cleverly it is used by an opponent to locate Yukiteru.

          Imagine if Inception had been about getting a good grade on a math test, i.e. plant an idea in the teacher’s mind to postpone the final. I know it sounds silly but that’s my point: anything regarding children is is often going to be silly to adults. Sure, Nolan could still make it all seem very clever, but you do lose a little something when dealing with the world of children.

          I see an interesting premise in Mirai Nikki being squandered on the medium’s penchant to center everything on the youth and youth-related events. And if someone tells me, “Anime is for children,” I’ve been told that Mirai Nikki is full of murders and rape so… yeah.

          Anyway, if the mangaka can design a clever scheme like this with a math test, it stands to reason that he can do the same with any other subject. So really, I don’t agree that the anime depends so much on the characters’ age. This would presume that the characters’ age is the only variable we can change while everything else is fixed into place. Rather, I think the premise of the anime is the only thing that can and should remain unchanged. So I don’t get the following sentiment:

          just that the plot events that feed the thematic elements require younger characters to work well.

          If we can employ older characters, wouldn’t that also necessitate a change in the thematic elements to fit our story? I’m going to assume the answer is yes, so what’s the problem? It’s not as if thematic coherency depends on the subject matter of the themes, just that the themes stay true from start to finish.

        2. wanderer

          I’ll meet you halfway, I think.

          There’s almost certainly a story you could write that’d make better use of the future diary / survival game concept. That story’d inarguably benefit from realistic ages and would inevitably wind up with different themes, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Done right it’d probably net out better than Mirai Nikki did, but I’m not clever enough to guess at what that’d be like.

          That said, at least for me it was the thematic elements that elevated Mirai Nikki from “comically trashy, ludicrously pulpy pulp fiction” to “comically trashy, ludicrously pulpy pulp fiction that’s worth discussing a bit”, and aging the main duo would make it a bit messier to address those themes.

          So, I’m just going to have to say “let’s take this up again when it’s over”. The ages are painfully sucky and hurt the overall story in many ways big and small. In print you can just flip past stuff but as a week-by-week thing it might be too much to take.

          Oh well.

        3. E Minor Post author

          That said, at least for me it was the thematic elements that elevated Mirai Nikki from “comically trashy, ludicrously pulpy pulp fiction” to “comically trashy, ludicrously pulpy pulp fiction that’s worth discussing a bit”, and aging the main duo would make it a bit messier to address those themes.

          My only qualms is whether I can look past all the trashy portions to focus on the themes. Aside from the young age crippling the characters, there’s also that exploitative nature in which children are being forced to endure horrific acts just to shock the viewer/reader. We’ll see, however, how far the adaptation is willing to go.

  9. idiffer

    well, this seems promising. finally, amongst all the other crap this season.
    this show made me think, unlike, say, penguindrum. but i can see a few major things
    that are already or might go wrong.
    1) there are no ironclad rules, except 1 (kill phone – kill person)
    + a guideline (kill each other, it’ll be fun!)
    no set times the diary gets an entry, varied levels of uncertainty about the time
    an event in the diary will happen. ultimately its deus ex machina that decides all of this.
    his name is funny because he is literaly the trope “deus ex machina”.
    this all allows for some nasty possible “lucky” ways out of conflicts.
    death note had rules and the shinigami didn’t control shit nearly as much as in mirai nikki.
    that’s what made it fun for the shinigami and the viewers.

    although the fact that entries can be changed by
    any of the holders by their actions, allows for some interesting twists.
    at any given moment the future can change, awesome.
    2) seriously, a survival game? again?!
    3) all the players, eccept the yandere and main char, are enjoying the game. of course the god chose them so
    probably, but then why’d he choose the helpful yandere and main char, when he could choose a serial killer to
    complete his ideal set of players? it would be so much more interesting if some players had other objectives,
    like stopping the game…
    4) there are more than 10 blood thirsty or crazy folks who write diaries? in the same city???
    well, at least 3 of them are…
    random thoughts.
    1) i want to overanalyze now. this and death note seem to be carrying a message, that all gods
    are bored off their asses and have nothing better to do, than make ppl kill each other.
    deeper still, they want to say the christian god is like that too and we are all playing a game
    set up by him. also they subtly say he’s a bored sadistic prick. now that’s deep…the vatican
    is probably working to get these shows off the air and store shelves as we speak…
    2)i really hope teh romance subplot works out. the kiss boosted my hopes up sky high.
    3) like the darts hobby.
    4) why is the yandere obsessed about some boring unsociable douche? this isn’t a harem, is it?
    5) is it me or did the explanation for the autistic behavior suck balls?

    Reply
  10. idiffer

    i didn’t say he was. i meant the christian god is similar by extrapolation. that’s just how deep it is…blows the mind, right?
    but LOL. deus – christian. that would be way cool.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Shrug, I’m an atheist, but I wouldn’t go so far as to judge the Christian God by some secondhand accounts. Even if it exists at all, it’s not like we could know anything about the being aside from the junk that self-important blowhards love to proselytize.

      Reply
  11. idiffer

    dunno, i just really wanted to have some fun. that’s why i wrote that. i don’t seriously think this has anything to do with the christian god. apparently i’m bad at humor))

    Reply
  12. inushinde

    Aside from Deus Ex’s slightly jerky CG, I didn’t find much to complain about with the episode. I agree that it seems a bit out of place to have a middle school child as a recipient of the future diary, but I don’t see it as too much of an issue. As long as it moves along at a good pace and doesn’t crap out like the Deadman Wonderland adaptation did, I think it’ll be just fine.
    It’s certainly gotten off to a good start, at least.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I didn’t mean to imply the anime would be shit or anything. I don’t do grades, but what I’m criticizing amounts to a difference between a good show and a great show. And at the moment, how many of us would like to claim that Mirai Nikki is a great show?

      Reply
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