Mirai Nikki Ep. 2: Unlikeable characters all around

Well, ain’t Yuki a winner? Some people have been making comparisons of Mirai Nikki to Death Note and I guess that’s possible. There is sort of a mind game — a mental chess match — between the various future diary owners that might remind one of the cat-and-mouse tussle in Death Note. For all of Death Note‘s flaws, however, I had a very clear idea of why I was watching: to root for or against Light. Personally, I rooted against him, but this isn’t important or rather as important. In my mind, it’s much more crucial that the line is drawn in the sand. In Mirai Nikki, there isn’t any sort of ideological struggle. It’s just kill or be killed. Eventually, there will only be one diary owner left standing and that person will ascend to Deus’s throne. In this case, it seems rather arbitrary to me that we are following Yuki at all.

What does Yuki stand for? For all the pathetic, introverted losers out there, I guess. I know I’ve always preached that protagonists need an arc — as a character moves from the start of the plot to the very end, he or she should change. For better or worse, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s boring if a character remains static throughout a story. This is why I excused Guilty Crown‘s loserish Shu because not every hero needs to start out on top. Still, there should be a limit to just how poorly off a character’s arc begins. I can’t find one redeemable quality about our boy hero in this week’s episode. He even knowingly takes advantage of Yuno’s sick obsession with him for his own protection. Yuki’s portrayal thus begs the following question: why him? Of all the heroes we could root for or against, why someone so wormy — so undeserving of any attention?

In the end, the characters drive the show so while Mirai Nikki‘s premise might remind one of Death Note, our two main leads remind me more of Deadman Wonderland. For the life of me, I could never understand why Ganta was the hero in DW. He was whiny and prone to tears at any moment — hey, just like Yuki! Plus, Mirai Nikki and DW do share this same schlocky mode of storytelling where the story “isn’t afraid” to shock the audience with the countless deaths of innocent people, especially children. If either show was making a deeper, grander point, I wouldn’t care, but there’s nothing of the sort here. There’s no doubt some of you will counter that it isn’t necessary for stories to have an overarching message in mind as long as they are entertaining. That’s true, but do you find mangled corpses of little children entertaining? Well, I guess to each his own.

Mirai Nikki and DW also share this sort of divisive absurdity. The latter had a monk who could kill you by strumming his mega-guitar. In this latest episode of Mirai Nikki, the ninth diary holder, a bomb-crazy terrorist in a mild gothic lolita get-up, holds an entire school hostage to get her hands on First, a.k.a. Yuki. Along the way, you get all those silly faces that — well, I wouldn’t say the anime invented them, but Higurashi no Naku Koro ni definitely popularized these twisted shoujo faces. Some people find them creepy; at best, they just make me laugh. Anime’s recent overuse of this style (see: C3) is just eye-rollingly lame. But speaking of eye-rollingly lame, here’s how Ninth makes her escape:

Your mileage here may vary. You might think this is all incredibly entertaining. The first thing I said when I saw her motorcycle escape, however, was “This is fucking stupid.” After napping on it, I’ll still stand by this sentiment. Nothing, however, perplexes me more than this giant crush on Yuno that everyone seems to have. Case in point, I watched the anime with the other Moe Sucks “bloggers” and Fin kept going “yuno tiem!” and “yuno ftw” on AIM. It’s very interesting how each of the aforementioned anime series contain a female counterpart who is defined by her twisted devotion to the male hero. Misa, Shiro and now Yuno are all obsessed with their respective man and boy heroes, but the audience seems to like Yuno most of all.

To me, she seems to have even less motivation for any of her actions when compared to the other two heroines. Her sick love is just hand-waved away as “Oh, that’s just the yandere trope.” I could maybe look past this if Yuki wasn’t such a goddamn loser, but there’s nothing redeemable about him! And so what if Yuno takes charge? She takes charge only for Yuki’s sake. We’re so starved for female anime characters that don’t constantly require male protection that Yuno might seem like a good compromise, but she isn’t. She may as well be Yuki’s God mode plot device that just so happens to own a pair of (middle school) breasts.

Will Yuki become less of a piece of shit in later episodes? Maybe. Will the anime develop Yuno’s character beyond “I really love this cockroach for no good reason because I’m yandere!” Doubtful, but it’s possible. But even if the best case scenario works out, there’s still the question of why I should give a damn at all about these two kids’ fate. Light stood for something. I didn’t like that something, so I rooted against him, but at least I had a position to stand in the sand; I was invested in the events of Death Note‘s story. On the other hand, I don’t care whether or not Yuki lives. The same goes for everyone else in the show; they’re all selfish pricks to me.

34 thoughts on “Mirai Nikki Ep. 2: Unlikeable characters all around

  1. Danny

    “Will Yukkii become less of a piece of shit in later episodes? ”
    you will be surprised. if they follow the manga you will see yuki becoming more, er, pragmatic with murder. He will also get a goal for becoming a god. but he still remains unlikable through out the series.

  2. Mere

    Yeah, I don’t get the obsession with Yuno either. I read the entire manga and she is a little cunt the entire way through.

    Sure, she’s cute, but she is fucked up beyond all belief.

  3. Flawnalyst

    Personally, the reason I like Yuki and Yuno (don’t understand why she’s so popular though) is because the story seems to be aware that they’re stereotypes and has fun with it. While it does make them unlikeable cut-outs at times, I never got bored by them.

  4. wanderer

    Wow, they got through that arc in a single episode? At that rate you should be getting about half of an answer vis-a-vis Yuno’s motivations in the next episode, but it’ll take until near the end of the show to disclose the remainder; the what you learn upfront isn’t enough to justify it.

    By the end of the story Yuno’s reasons and motivations are largely understandable (and by the end she’s even something of a sympathetic character, albeit Medea-esque); her reasons are comprehensible, but not admirable, and the comprehensibility makes her more horrifying, not less.

    To have much more to say I’d have to start watching the episodes instead of waiting until it’s over to marathon it. I’ve mentioned before that at least in print you can flip through stuff really quickly and this helps gloss over the stupider parts; in animated form trickling out weekly this’d be impossible to do and the stupid might be (probably is?) too much to take. I still found it interesting at the thematic level but when I think concretely about what happens it’s pretty much 100% stupid from start to finish (even when it’s clever it’s stupid).

    The only thing I can think of to add right now is you’re right about unlikeability, and it’s only going to get worse as it goes.

    1. E Minor Post author

      By the end of the story Yuno’s reasons and motivations are largely understandable

      If I’ll even make it that far. I’d probably agree with you that this story works better as a page-turner. Waiting a week just to see Yuki blubber over his own personal failures while people actually die around him (and, indirectly, because of him) isn’t exactly my idea of entertainment.

      1. wanderer

        As a manga I think it took maybe 4-5 hours, tops, to read. It winds up having interesting things to say about the burden of memory, the price of happiness, and the consequences of deceit. It also brushes on the difference (or lack thereof) between going through the motions and actually doing the thing, the ways in which obsession with the past can unravel one’s future, and just how eager people can be to willfully overlook flies in the ointment.

        Throw in recurring motifs of abandonment — god abandoning his creation, parents abandoning their children, etc. — and dilapidation — everything in its world is somewhere between run-down, decaying, or outright disintegrating — and the whole shebang takes on more of an apocalyptic feel than many explicitly apocalyptic works.

        That all impressed me, but spaced over 6 months in weekly installments it’s got to be harder to overlook the numerous glaring flaws.

  5. draggle

    It’s not the mangled corpses themselves I find entertaining, but the excitement that leads up to their creation. It’s more of a thriller: what crazy shit are they going to pull next? You keep turning the page / waiting for the next episode to find out. I guess it doesn’t work for everyone though.

    Yuno’s obsession actually does have an explanation, but it only comes out near the end of the story. I don’t know though, does falling in love with someone always require an explanation? Yuno is clearly mentally unhinged, so…

    I agree about the motorcycle escape. That was stupid. And Yukiteru is a selfish prick. He does become less pathetic over the course of the series, although perhaps not more likable.

    Anyway, yuno ftw

    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s not the mangled corpses themselves I find entertaining, but the excitement that leads up to their creation.

      I find the former exploitative.

      I don’t know though, does falling in love with someone always require an explanation?

      It’s not a binary yes/no sort of thing. You don’t need to scientifically outline Yuno’s innermost thoughts and desires, but just a hint of why Yuki means so damn much to her wouldn’t exactly hurt.

  6. Marow

    So this will be more action than suspense, I guess? Awwww

    At least Yuki is mildly interesting. “I have to use her”. Haven’t heard that in an anime before.

  7. thearbee

    I have a choice here: to read this manga and watch this anime, or read Battle Royale because someone told me, “Mirai Nikki is TOTALLY like Battle Royale”

      1. thearbee

        Mithra: I’m halfway through the manga right now. :)

        E Minor: That was what I replied to that someone. I do not see the difference.

  8. Mira

    A lot of the things in this episode didn’t make any sense and while it’s fine to do things for entertainment’s sake, you’d think the show would be a little wiser to hide the discrepancies. Anyway, I agree with the unlikable characters bit, it’s kind of like reality tv. The show might be crappy and manipulative but at least give me someone to root for!

        1. E Minor Post author

          Ah sorry, I misread your last comment. If no one emerges soon as a worthy candidate to root for, I certainly hope this will be a short series or things are going to drag….

  9. Fading Sun

    Watching this episode almost made me want to believe that the studio realizes how terrible the anime is. And now they’re just putting tonnes of ridiculous shenanigans like the motorcycle for entertainment purposes. I have to admit though, I’m not dropping this purely because of how much laughter I get from watching it.

  10. Meredith Guill

    I never understood how she got a motorcycle out of thin air…Oh well. The Ninth, Minene, actually ends up becoming one of my favorite characters towards the end of the series. She’s pretty awesome.

    1. E Minor Post author

      Regardless of how she does it, her escape just feels cheap, y’know? Her opponents have gained the upper hand! How will she escape? By pulling a motorcycle out of nowhere. I mean, if anything can happen, there’s really no drama. Cornered in an alleyway? Just, uh, whip out your mini-helicopter.

      1. Meredith Guill

        I don’t get it either. I mean, their diaries are supposed to let them see the future in the way they wrote them, but I don’t remember the diaries giving people magical powers to pull vehicles out of their pockets.

        1. E Minor Post author

          Ah well, maybe the anime is making a nod to the old days of magical hammer space (or whatever it’s called).

  11. Ryhart

    Can you expand the reason why you rooted against Light (from Death Note) I’m pretty interested in your opinion why his justice was wrong (not the usual answer because killing people is bad).

    1. E Minor Post author

      Well, I’m not going to write a super long comment on the subject. I’ll just say that everything wrong with Light is indicative of everything wrong with utilitarianism, the death penalty, exceptionalism, etc.

  12. Anony

    Actually there’s a reason why she’s so easy when it comes to killing people and protecting Yukki… Unfortunately you’ll know about that at the end of the series xD (how do i know? I read the manga).


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