Friday, August 23, 2013

Future Diary First Impressions

I am taking a break my Endless 8 marathon to bring you my first impressions of Future Diary. Even though many have praised the series, it is that time again. Time to prove that I have an opinion of my own. I must warn you: my reaction is not as good as my peers, and I have often been looked at askew for going against the grain. Still, I feel I need to speak my piece, no matter what others may think.

First 5 and a half minutes, and I'm totally lost. The opening scene has this Yuki kid OD-ing on cyanide, and this Yuno girl looking him over. The theme song feels like some sort of maniacal Hans Zimmer piece, and there is an alarming amount of black, white, and red.

Other people apparently don't care about Yuki's diary. Hmm.

He goes home. He apparently has a link to a god named Deus ex Machina. Just so you know, a clip of this, under its original title Mirai Nikki was labeled a clip that got people to watch. The clip was, for me, one that made me NEVER want to watch, since I had no idea what was going on, the clip explained nothing, and it didn't give me any desire to find out. I'm still having these sort of feelings watching this on a whim.

Deus then takes control of Yuki's phone, saying that he can give Yuki the ability to see the future. Six minutes. Not a shred of explanation or backstory as to how Yuki knows a deity.

Now we're on the streets? There's a woman there? And she's dead. What was the point of that?

Seven minutes. Now Yuki has a day plan on his phone that he didn't type. What?

He just brushes this off before going to play darts.

Now he's having breakfast while a news report of the murder is on TV.

He looks at his phone again, and he appears to be catching on.

Wait, no, he calls it a freaky coincidence. Yuki, you're an idiot.

Now he's seeing people that his phone said he would. Yuki is surprised at this.

At school, he has a math pop quiz with the answers. You know, most schools in the US have banned text messaging because of this sort of thing, under penalty of your phone being confiscated.

He then catches on that it's not a coincidence. No, you think?

One of Yuki's classmates says he aced the test.

The rest of the day goes about with every event playing out exactly how his phone says it would. I'm personally surprised his phone is functioning this well at texting when I can't even get a message through when mine falls below a certain number of minutes.

There were detectives asking about the serial killer? You know, I want to know what's going on with them. I like crime-related anime like Death Note and Detective Conan. Why not make tracking the serial killer the story instead of this dog piss about a kid's omnipotent outbox?

Then, Yuki finds out Deus is real. Most of us already knew that. He reveals that if Yuki's phone breaks, so does he, and life as we know it. ... That's nuts! You're telling me that this schlub and his 7-Eleven phone have humanity in hand?! That's even more nonsensical than Haruhi Suzumiya and her antics I'm in the middle of recapping! (sigh) Ten. Minutes. In.

Yuki is amazed at this. Not me. I find this to be a ludicrous element to make an anime about, which is saying something given what the genre lends itself to.

Apparently, everyone at school is not happy with Yuki, and it turns out he and Yuno got the top scores on the test. Yuki even got a perfect score!

Yuki continues rattling off the contents of his journal. I'm surprised he's managing to keep up the details of his life so well when I had to delete my Twitter account because of excessive spam from mail-order brides.

Yuki says he'll have a way to coast through life if he keeps his phone in good condition. Funny, as I've gone through several phones in the past 7 years, and I've ended up with mouth-breathing stalkers, people asking me for fungi, and telemarketers telling me the warranty on my vehicle is expiring even though I have never owned or driven a car, or even had a license as of this writing.

Oh, and apparently the episode title is "Sign Up." So far, I'd rather decline. There is not a smidgen of explanation or context for what's happened so far.

There's another test, and Yuki is the only one doing well from getting the answers from his phone. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!

All of a sudden, Yuno shoots a mean look at Yuki, which Yuki says is weird. No, weird is when you arrive somewhere 10 minutes early. This is a Philip K. Dick fever dream!

Yuki then starts describing Yuno in a way that's very creepy.

Later that day, Yuki has arrived at Dead End, and says to himself, "What the Hell is going on?" That's a question that many people have asked while watching this. I've been asking it for the past 13 minutes.

Yuno then approaches Yuki, saying she knows he's at Dead End. She's the killer! Alarmingly, many fans have cited her as one of the key factors of watching this anime; seeing her as a veritable young woman. Well, I'm just seeing a sadistic psycho bitch. Nevertheless, Yuki is running for his life.

As he runs home, he thinks there must be an explanation. If only we were that lucky. 14 minutes, and I feel like I'm watching the pitches for at least 7 different anime.

Yuno corners Yuki in the elevator, and it turns out she has a cell phone as well. You have got to be kidding me. These phones can tell the future and they all look like cheap Tracfones? My old Motorola Atrix is more advanced than that! People on the bus with their iPhones and Droids are more advanced than that! Hell, even the damn Transponder Snails from One Piece are more advanced than that!

So, she leaps onto Yuki and... kisses him? Damn it! If you want to set up a dystopian fight to the death, don't include scenes and tone shifts like this! You have to keep your outlook consistent from scene to scene! You can't have scenes like this when you want to portray a world without hope! IT DOESN'T WORK!

It turns out she's not the killer, but it's someone else known as "the Third." It's a woman. I'm calling it now. They say it's a man, but one of the detectives had a look in her eye and the same pink hair.

Yuno is apparently keeping tabs on Yuki. So, we're just up to stalking. We haven't gotten to the psychosis, bloodshed, and disregard for shoes yet.

Yuki is surprised at this, but Yuno has updates on him every 10 minutes. 15 minutes, and I feel like I've attended a test screening for a movie that hasn't gotten advice from audiences on how it could be fixed. Let me tell you, I could probably talk about my ideas until my voice gave out.

Yuno says it's a love diary. Yuki then says all this makes her a crazy stalker. Hey! Don't point out the discomfort of the premise and its sociopathic heroine! That's my job!

Yuno then mentions a survival game that they're part of. 16 minutes and we're just now getting to this? You know, it's never a good idea to advertise that aspect so heavily when it doesn't even show up for most of the first episode!

Yuki wonders when this will start making sense. I think it's sometime around when Hell freezes over. Yuno then mentions that it's a fight to the death. I know Battle Royale is popular, but this goes beyond merely ripping it off. This runs headlong into directly stealing from it!

Now they're on the roof, partly to run, but mostly so Yuno can watch the sunset. Yuki thinks he's dead if he follows Yuno. In Deadman Wonderland, which has a similar premise; I could get behind Ganta for his incarceration of a crime he didn't commit, and behind Shiro for her childlike optimism to offset her fighting prowess. I want them to succeed whenever I watch/read that. Here, I've got a dillweed and a psychotic wench that will probably get repetitive strain injury and enormous cell phone bills more than any glorious title or skill to survive. They are simply not likable or interesting people. I'm personally surprised that people find Yuno more appealing than Yuki. I don't find either of them to be appealing in any way.

So, Yuno plans to confront him as Yuki looks at his darts. That's not a him, it's a her!

Yuno asks Yuki if he's feeling lucky. ... You know, it's times like these I wish there was a statute of limitations on how many times media can reference classic Clint Eastwood movies. Yuno Gasai is not Dirty Harry, as much as she'd like to be.

The Third reaches the roof, and we get a flashback that says a Future Diary is both a weapon and an Achilles heel. So, there's one piece of backstory after 18 minutes of anime. I'll take what I can get at this point.

So, Yuki throws a dart into the Third's phone, which, by their cockamamie rules, will kill him. The Third then shrivels into himself like a black hole. I admit that's actually a pretty creative way to die.

Of course, Yuno is disappointed that there was no blood. The friend who convinced me to watch this anime is convinced that Yuno isn't a sadist. I disagree, given that she seems to enjoy screwing with Yuki and is excited at the prospect of grisly death.

Yuki then demands to know what's going on. That's a demand I've been making for this whole episode, and it's effectively fallen on deaf ears.

Now, we get to this part. That clip I mentioned? I'm just now finding out it's from this very episode, the very first episode. Generally, when your first episode is this hard to follow and tells you next to nothing about what's going on; it's not likely to make people want to keep watching. I'm personally surprised that this scene got so many new viewers when it should have, by all means; alienated them instead.

Deus then explains the concept of the Future Diary further, or at least tries to. I cannot comprehend a thing Deus is saying. It's a bunch of pretentious, faux-Shakespearean jargon and didactic, proselytizing rhetoric. I am personally surprised that people accuse the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels of this dialogue when this is far more guilty of it, and people have said nothing about it; even praising it.

Deus says the winner of his contest will take his place. Yuki tries to comprehend what's going on, knowing he had no real hand in his victory. Yuno then says she will protect Yuki. That's it. I'm done with this.

I really did not enjoy this. I found this to be a nihilistic and incoherent mess. Even in moments where this anime tries to go for sick humor, Future Diary is spectacularly joyless. Even though Deadman Wonderland has a similar premise (and even has its manga published in the same magazine as this), the difference is that Deadman Wonderland has a much better grasp of when to go for broke on depicting a situation without hope; and when to lighten the mood. This is helped by the fact that Ganta is given more solid characterization as being framed for the mass murder of his middle school class, and I like it when he rises to the occasion with the odds stacked against him. Yuki is so standard that you could swap him for any given shonen protagonist and it wouldn't affect the story at all.

Now, what of Yuno? People who enjoy this anime have put her on a huge pedestal. I'm sorry, I simply cannot stand by her as a female lead. Back with Deadman Wonderland, Shiro may also be very powerful and psycho, but she has a wonderful optimism to balance it out. She's revealed to have spent much of her life in the prison a test subject; and saved Ganta from a mad dog by doing an imitation of their favorite superhero, Aceman. Even after she broke his favorite toy of Aceman, after she saved Ganta, they fixed it and bonded over pudding. In key moments, she pulls off similar deeds for Ganta with the same presence. Yuno mood swings so much that I'm not convinced she wants to protect Yuki so much as kill him herself, and wear his skin as a dress.

With taking a relatively simple premise and making it so convoluted and giving it such a winded narrative, then giving little to no subtlety, context or explanations on top of all this;you have a gargantuan sci-fi abhorrence that I will not willingly watch again. I'm going back to the Endless 8 after this. I also think I'll watch From Up on Poppy Hill again to wash my hands of this disappointment of quantum proportions.
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