One of the coolest aspects of manga are the high concept ideas that set up rules and then let the creators play within those rules. It was one reason why I loved Death Note so much; so color me tickled when I heard about the concept behind Future Diary. Is it another hit series or for that matter: is it good?
Future Diary Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
In a lot of ways Future Diary, recently republished by Viz Media, is a combination of The Hunger Games and Death Note. The former due to a game of life and death being played, the latter because there is a god intervening with humanity to set up the rules.
In this series a young boy in grade school named Yuki is a bit of a slacker who keeps a diary on his cell phone. He writes down the events of each day and seems to be more interested in writing in the diary than actually interacting with classmates. This is a basic setup of a loner character, which I’m sure everyone has felt like during their childhood at some point. Yuki accepts his fate and owns up to the fact that writing in his diary nearly every moment of his day is is life now.
Writer and artist Sakae Esuno doesn’t spend a lot of time developing and fleshing out Yuki, which is probably on purpose. The more vanilla and flat he is the easier it is for the reader to superimpose themselves into the story. The real focus of this book is the wild setup and the constant reiteration that Yuki is lonely and maybe, just maybe, he won’t be such a loser by story’s end.
Even in the bathroom?!
He does have some friends though, although they are imaginary (at least he thinks so, anyways). One of these friends, named Deus Ex Machina, turns out to be a honest to goodness god. Deus does something to Yuki’s phone and now his diary shows him the events of the next 90 days all written in his voice as if he wrote it himself. Once he wraps his head around this Yuki discovers a girl also has a cell phone of her own, but hers only tells her what Yuki is up to. He quickly deems her a stalker and is creeped out. Through her though a miracle is made and his life is saved.
After this, Deus decides to mix things up a bit and proposes game. In this game only a handful of people have a diary of their own and that diary can predict the future in some specific way. All the diary holders must fight to the death and by simply breaking a diary holder’s phone, the person is killed. The last man standing takes Deus’ role as God.
Last I checked friends don’t put you into death by combat games! The story quickly establishes a few things. The major element is Yuki’s stalker, who is for some reason head over heals in love with him. She will stop at nothing to save him, even if it means preventing another diary holder from blowing him and their entire school to smithereens.
“This girl is weird,” is how most young boys think of girls everyday.
Yes you heard that right, in the first volume of this 214 page manga, an entire school is held ransom and a character retrofits it with bombs. She will detonate the thing so that she can take out Yuki even if it means hurting innocent people. A bit of a heavy subject for American’s I’m sure, but thankfully the series has a very light hearted and fast paced tone. It’s a wacky book to say the least. Yuki’s “stalker” is way over the top, to the point where she’s practically psychotic. We only have Yuki’s perspective though, so maybe she’s not as insane as we think, but as well rounded characters go she’s a walking obsessed girl and nothing more. It’s hard to take the character and her actions that seriously then since she’s not portrayed in a negative light. Esuno paints her sympathetically and even honorably in her obsession of Yuki. This helps make the dynamic between the two more of a puppy love situation than an unhealthy one.
While the rules and concept aren’t that complicated the book tends to reiterate what powers each character has a bit too much for my tastes. This might be due to the book looking to be read by all audiences, but by the third time Yuki explains his power I was starting to feel a bit annoyed. This of course, might be due to the book originally printing as shorter segments, but as a volume it can become redundant when Yuki’s stalker tells us she can see Yuki’s future.
The art in this book is of very high quality with great detail, layouts and energy when energy is needed. I also particularly like Esuno’s design of Deus, who is huge, hulking, yet somehow light and awe inducing.
Now that’s cool!
Is It Good?
This volume sets up the story, the concept, and the players quite well. It’s a lot more light hearted than both The Hunger Games and Death Note, but the concept is nearly as interesting. If you read this and it doesn’t make you think about what it’d be like to have the ability to see the future you probably only care about today. For everyone else who look to tomorrow, this book is for you.