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‘The Future Diary’ Review: What is True Love?

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Nailing a good thriller anime can be difficult. Since it’s a series and not a movie, the show has to keep things interesting by maintaining a careful balance of suspense, action, and softer character-focused moments that let viewers get to know the cast while recovering from all the tension. The Future Diary not only manages this balance with stunning dexterity, but it does so for a staggering 26 episodes.

Yukiteru Amano is a 14-year-old boy who suffers from severe loneliness. A social outcast, he spends most of his time keeping a diary about his surroundings in his cell phone. One day, while talking to his imaginary friends in his room, he expresses that he wishes that he wouldn’t have to be alone any longer. It’s at this point that one of Yuki’s imaginary friends reveals himself to be the actual God of Space and Time, Deus Ex Machina, and selects Yuki to be one of 12 participants in a battle royale to select the next god. Each participant is granted a diary imbued with unique future-telling powers that can aid them in either killing the other participants directly or destroying their diaries (which also kills them). Once a Dead End is triggered in someone’s diary, they’re almost certainly doomed.

Though using a tournament as a plot device is a somewhat common premise in anime, The Future Diary is just as much about Yuki and his stalker-turned-protector Yuno Gasai as it is about the actual survival game. Yuno is a cold-blooded yandere, someone who has no qualms about killing anyone as long as it means Yuki can live. She’s often portrayed as incredibly sweet, innocent and girlish in one scene before mercilessly cutting down enemies in the next. The show does a brilliant job of making the viewer as torn over her as Yuki is; she’s cute yet obsessive, unstable but a definite survival advantage. Her split personality, viciousness, and sharp-yet-demented mind make Yuno one of the most horrifying characters I’ve ever witnessed in any show. Yuki is acutely aware of how dangerous she is and constantly struggles with how he feels about her and how to handle her, something he does perhaps a bit too often throughout the show.

Image result for the future diary yuno gif

In fact, that’s my biggest gripe with The Future Diary: the protagonist. Yuki is undoubtedly one of the weakest, most completely incompetent main characters I’ve ever witnessed. He spends the better half of the story cowering in fear, crying, or running away while he lets Yuno protect him from harm. This makes for some truly spectacular showdowns involving Yuno, but it nevertheless makes Yuki feel nearly worthless by comparison. Yuki and Yuno are later exposed to what a true team dynamic is supposed to look like in terms of fighting and supporting each other, and the difference is night and day. He doesn’t fare much better outside of combat, either; whenever faced with a difficult decision or judgement call, Yuki’s inability to keep from tearing up or hesitating is nothing short of disappointing.

Aside from the odd misstep with Yuki, however, the rest of the cast absolutely shines with unique personalities, gripping motives and great character designs. The telling of every diary holder’s backstory is so well done that it’s hard not to sympathize with them despite their heinous acts in the present. The depth of characterization that’s developed within this single season is astounding no matter the number of episodes, and each participant’s story is genuinely worth experiencing for yourself firsthand.

The Future Diary excels in discussing key questions about the nature of humankind. Just how much do our past traumas shape our future selves? How far are you willing to go for someone you love unconditionally? What makes us care about a person? When is it time to let go? The show navigates these topics in depth and, despite its intensely graphic and unsettling nature, manages to give a little hope to those of us seeking a happy end. If you’re looking for something with an engaging plot, memorable characters and a truly terrifying look at what mental deterioration can look like, give this one a watch.

You can find The Future Diary on Crunchyroll here.

Brent fell head over heels for writing at the ripe age of seven and hasn't looked back since. His first love is the JRPG, but he can enjoy anything with a good hook and a pop of color. When he isn't writing about the latest indie release or binging gaming coverage on YouTube, you can find Brent watching and critiquing all manner of anime. Send him recommendations or ask to visit his island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons @CreamBasics on Twitter.

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 33: Coming into Maturity

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Anime Ichiban welcomes our anime waifu overlords, old and new. Join Matt and Kyle this episode as they discuss the return of the Goddess of Anime, Haruhi Suzumiya herself, then hop on over to the new virutal sensation that’s finally sweeping English-speaking nations: Hololive Vtubers!

For this episode of Anime Ichiban, the SHITSUMON! topic will have the duo diving into recently released Aggretsuko Season 3 and The Great Pretender and explore how the two shows work with mature themes.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions and what we’ve been up to
23:33 – The Return of Haruhi Suzumiya(‘s light novels)
37:23 – The Debut of Generation 1 of Hololive English Vtubers
53:07 – Minor news roundup: (Shenmue anime announced; Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Part 3 movie debuts to huge success; KyoAni fire updates)
58:35 – SHITSUMON! How does anime portray mature themes in its storytelling?

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 32: The Art of Following a Formula

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry.

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diary of our days at breakwater

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry and that the crew digs into along with how a series can effectively perform within its genre conventions.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions
12:28 – Legacy piracy site KissAnime shuts down
28:45 – AT&T reportedly looking to sell Crunchyroll
43:27 – Galapagos Syndrome: Is anime in danger of losing its global identity?
58:41 – News Reel
1:02:20 – SHITSUMON! How do shows perform effectively and still entertain in genres whose formulae are already well known and expected?

TRACKS

Intro – “Cagayake! GIRLS” by Houkago Tea Time (K-ON! opening theme)
Outro – “Tsuri no sekai e” by Umino High School Breakwater Club (Our Diary at the Breakwater ending theme)

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Anime

‘One Piece: Stampede’ is an All-Star Behemoth Buckling Under Predictability

Does One Piece: Stampede sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

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As the fourteenth film in Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece saga, One Piece: Stampede was released in 2019 to critical and financial success. As a big-budget commemoration of the anime’s 20th anniversary, Stampede has lots to live up to, from successfully stamping a momentous two decades, to satiating the hype of a passionate global fanbase. Does it sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

It’s party time at the Pirate Fest!

The Pirate Fest, a grand gathering of the sea’s most infamous individuals, is underway! At the festival, the Straw Hats compete with their Worst Generation rivals to retrieve a treasure of Gol D. Roger. But behind the scenes, festival organiser Buena Festa and legendary pirate Douglas Bullet are scheming something sinister.

Cutting to the chase, One Piece: Stampede soon kicks into an all-out battle against said Douglas Bullet, with Luffy working with friend and foe alike to fell his opponent.

Much like Dragon Ball Super: Broly, also animated by Toei Animation, each frame of One Piece: Stampede is a treasure to behold. Fluid animation and colors spell eye-candy magic, and the odd bit of 3D animation isn’t (too) visually jarring.

One Piece: Stampede nails its mission statement of lightning-paced popcorn entertainment to a tee. Goofy shonen films don’t have to transcend ‘awesome action and silly superpowers’. Rather than shooting for the moon and coming up short, Stampede settles for smashing the sky. With white-knuckle fights and satisfying character moments conveyed with a zippy pace, One Piece: Stampede assuredly brings what fans want. And whilst not as developed or memorable as other film baddies (One Piece: Strong World’s Shiki or One Piece: Z’s titular Z), Douglas Bullet is terrifyingly tough enough to tick the boxes.

Playing It Safe

Whilst the ‘playing it safe’ ethos of One Piece: Stampede succeeds on the surface, the imaginative innovation of One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is missing, and the excess of characters prevents the possibility of channeling the simplicity of One Piece: Dead End Adventure. Stampede works as anniversary celebratory bombast but isn’t the series’ smartest, and with the core of the film occurring in a single spot and under dull skies, location fatigue rears its head.

For some, the draw of One Piece: Stampede is its constant character cameos. From the instantly recognizable to the deep cuts, it’s a fun gimmick for fans, although the absence of big names like Kuzan and Jinbei are noticeable. Some cameos fall on the side of groan inducing-ly forced, shoehorning a requisite Zoro fight, or overtly shouting to audiences “Remember them?!” Having no effect on the story, these cameos are clunky and break narrative immersion.

Far from the worst of One Piece’s wildly varied films, Stampede is what it needs to be. It lacks the creative spirit of One Piece’s heights and is dampened by its inconsistent cameo execution, but it’s a fine anniversary celebration for one of manga and anime’s, if not the world’s, best works of fiction. For the uninitiated, it’ll be like an avant-garde acid trip, but for those clued-into Luffy’s antics, it’s a barrage of ballistic glee!

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