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(Dio and I are trying a new posting style, similar to that of Orion and Guff.)

Warning: Watch out for falling Yandere
One of these two characters is a good guy. Take a guess as to which.

DTZ: Random blog surfing occasionally reveals unexpected delightful results. Take today, for instance. Today I visited Derailed By Darry to find a wonderful post on manga, of all things. I don’t read manga online as much as I watch anime, mostly due to my preference of holding a book in my hands, but his description of Mirai Nikki set off a number of “interest” flags in my noggin. To quote directly, it is “one part Death Note, one part Survivor, one part Higurashi, one part Murder Princess, one part Aa! Megami-sama.” I would disagree on a few points: instead of Survivor, it’s more The Apprentice (or if you must do an anime/manga comparison, Gash Bell) and I’d leave off Aa! Megami-sama due to its actual lack of haremness. The rest is there, though, and it’s surprisingly good fun.

Dio: Having not seen or read Megami-sama, I don’t know what to say on that one. But I agree with the rest so far. Although a lot of its tone reminds me of the Shin Megami Tensei games, particularly Digital Devil Saga and Persona 3. What we have here is a basic tournament/death match here, of gimmick style. But the gimmick in question is one I have never run across, and it is fascinating for it.

DTZ: The plot is fairly simple: a god named Deus Ex Machina decides to create the ultimate reality show: 12 people who have been keeping diaries get special diaries that show them the future and are put into a deathmatch over who gets to be his successor. Poor Yukiteru, Deus’ apparent favorite and a keeper of a cell-phone diary regarding the world around him, is unwittingly thrust into this game, and ends up having to ally himself with the cute, intelligent school idol Yuno, who happens to have been stalking him for the past year. What results is a sequence of absurd, over-the-top encounters with serial killers, terrorists in Goth Loli maid outfits, deranged mikos and justice loving weiroes with bags on their heads.

It’s not as stupid as it sounds, believe me. The art is nothing unique, but it’s not too bad. The writing falters here and there with weirdness, but for the most part its solid. But the real strength of this series is its colorful and berserk cast of diary-wielding lunatics, each with their own stories and nifty diary tricks. You wouldn’t think a diary with entries about the future would allow for a diverse set of abilities, but each diary is based around the person’s writing habits, which actually leads to a great variety in the future sight tricks, creating neat prediction duels. But the predictions themselves aren’t the only part of the encounters, or that would just turn the series into dueling Xanatos Roulettes. No, the future diaries only serve to complement the already absurd traits of the characters, creating a dual effect that makes the encounters not just sort of cerebral, as the diary users dodge fate as much as they can, but also decently action packed.

Dio: The Xanatos Roulettes comment was mine. See TVTropes for explanation. What we have here is characters that theoretically can use their powers to predict the future to create complex, unwinnable scenarios. But the limitations are just too severe. So instead, what we have is a mixture of fast thinking and speed reading, as we watch characters with different aspects try to react to the changing scenario with their short term knowledge. For example, we have a character who is a criminal, a bomber. She always focused her diary on charting her actions, tracking what she needed to do and how she escaped, making a useful log of what shes done so she never forgot it. This turned into the Escape Diary. It has no power in combat, she relies on her natural tenacity and nasty wits for that. Instead, its her last resort, the one way she can always escape from a match that hasnt gone her way.

But to me, the most fun is the feeling of Fate. There is a scenario common to all diaries. It is called Dead End.

DTZ: Ahh, the Dead Ends. The ticking time-bomb hanging over every situation. The Dead End is a prediction that shows up in the Future Diary of the diary user most likely to fail the encounter with their current resources and path. It is such a strong prediction that it is nearly impossible to break free of one short of a miracle. The first TWO Dead Ends of the series end up in the hands of lead Yukiteru, first against a serial killer and second against the Bomber Dio mentioned. In both cases, he would probably have died with his current resources; his diary rarely records events that pertain to him in specific, but rather the world around him, and so he wouldn’t be able to zig when he should zag.

Dio: The Dead Ends MIGHT actually be even worse than that. Although they may be a “you will probably die”, Deus, god of being a complete and awesome dick, actually implies that they are to mean the final end. They are supposed to indicate the idea that in this encounter, death is a certainty. In the t wo Dead Ends, they were broken each time not by our hero, but instead in the hands of our wonderful crazed Yandere girl. Nothing like having a stalker who’s diary is “what youre doing every ten minutes” to know exactly what is going to happen to you. Sure, she herself gains no use from that diary, but the girl seems to have a truly bizarre set of morals, so does it really matter?

DTZ: Oh gods, Yuno. Yuno, the aforementioned yandere stalker, has such a commanding presence in this series she may as well be its main character. Cute, intelligent, and about as terrifying as Arc 6 Rena WHEN SHE’S NOT FLIPPED THE PSYCHO SWITCH, Yuno is both delightful and actually somewhat fascinating. Lots of questions already surround her, due to a number of revelations on the source of her stalker behavior and that strange room in her house. The room, in particular, is a huge plot point enigma. Not only is it a mess with three withered corpses inside, but the moment Yukiteru enters it EVERYTHING ABOUT THE EVENT SEEMS TO GO HAYWIRE.

Dio: She embodies the darker half of this series. Without the harsh, crazed elements of Yuno, and some of the other characters (coincidentally, im sure, all females so far), this would read like a rather bizarre shonen, a variation of Gash Bell. A good series, but one in its own respects. Instead, what we have here is closer to a Bokurano tone. Just 9 chapters in, and we have dismemberment, rape, serial killing, collateral deaths of dozens, suicide bombing, and a room full of corpses. And thats what makes this one so great. I usually dont run with the ‘dark is good’ but in this one, it makes a more frightening atmosphere, one that draws you in. Odd, since two of the three MAJOR deaths so far have been bloodless in their final execution.

DTZ: This bloodless death comes from one of the conditions of killing: if a diary is damaged, the damage is reflected and magnified in the user. The main character, who uses dartboard darts to skewer diaries, has killed two people already this way, causing them to implode as a huge hole suddenly appears in their body. The only player of the game that has died a bloody death is the 12th, Yomotsu, a justice-loving blind weirdo with hypnosis skills and a bag over his head. His keen sense of hearing is what betrays him in his all-too-short encounter with Yukiteru and Yuno, and he ends up with his head being removed messily from his shoulders by Yuno’s ax. It’s a shame, because despite being so bizarre one must wonder what Deus was thinking when he selected him, he was actually a fairly fun character of near Pappilion-levels of absurdity.

Dio: The members of the game are referred to quite extensively by a numbering system that had been given to them by Deus. Yuki is the First, Yuno the Second. It hasnt been made clear in the 9 chapters read so far, but it is implied that these numbers indicate the order of recruitment to the game. Yuki, as the one who was able to converse with Deus before the game, though he believed it to be an imaginary friend, instigated the game in Deus’ mind, and became the First. Deus seems to have some affection for Yuki, more than once noting the fun effect the boy had on the game. So, if one imagines an Agenda behind the game, the next person selected was Yuno. As the Second, she seems to prefer devoting herself to Yuki, and using her (extremely useful) diary to protect him. Yukis lack of a sense of self makes his diary useless for anything pertaining directly to him, instead only noting events very dryly. But Yuno, with her calculated, obsessed observation of Yuki, has a minute by minute update on what he might do. Going on from here, the Third was a serial killer, and the first enemy faced. His actions forced Yuki to rely on Yuno, and revealed much of the game to him. There is too great a deal of deliberation on this, so I find myself wondering on the next in the sequence we know, and the current end of the sequence (after 4, the fifth is skipped for now). He seems to have a protective role, but I’m not sure.

DTZ: The 4th, Keigo, is something of his own enigma at the point we’re at. At first, he’s presented as the second ally to Yuki, a detective with a diary that literally acts as a policeman’s black book, giving him insight into the events of the future as though he already investigated them. He claims to be disinterested in the actual Throne of God, but instead wants to “End the conflict,” and is said to have an interest in catching the assortment of criminals and crazies as a balancing trick introduced by Deus. Dio and I don’t buy that. Putting aside some of his more ambiguous actions, he flat out made a deal with the 9th, Minene the mad bomber terrorist, as Yuki and Yuno were facing off with 6th and 12th. Plus, his number is 4th. The japanese have that whole death superstition surrounding 4. He’s gotta be evil. (Though I’m not certain if the reading that carries the connotation of death in 4 carries over to the ordinal 4th.)

Dio: To round out the ones we know, we have the 6th, a horribly abused cult leader young girl(or possibly their sex toy, its weirdly ambiguous) who uses her followers as eyes and ears, since her diary co0nsisted of writing down everything they would tell her. The 9th, the mad bomber mentioned repeatedly, a thoroughly horrible and evil person, but not unlikeable despite it all, and the tragically short lived insane 12th, the blind man who believed himself a hero of justice. These three are the only ones who have suggested goals that they had for their position as the new Deus. The 6th, bitter with the world, wished to erase it. The 9th, with a mind tempered in a miserable, dark past, refuted the existance of god and wished to kill him, removing God from the world. And the rather simple minded, earnest 12th, was a friend of justice, so it wouldn’t be too hard to extrapolate his own world. But the others are mysteries. The 3rd, we never got far enough in his head to know what he thought other than kill stab slash. The 4th, he keeps to himself, which is suspicious. And neither Yuki or Yuno seem to have a clear, or at least stated, goal yet.

DTZ: So in the end, what do we have overall? What I see is a surprisingly clever and unique dark shounen series formed from a mash-up of absurdities and featuring a diverse and wonderful cast of characters, with my new favorite Yandere standing on top. What say you, Dio?

Dio: Well, what I say is, while I’d love to see an anime made out of this, my mind returns to Bokurano. I loved that series at the start, and when I read the manga I loved it even more. But as time went on, and I realized the anime was both diverging from the plot due to time and content, and watering down some of the dark, but important, elements to it, I became jaded. This series is a very clever Dark Shonen, and I have every intention of reading more. However, I don’t know if I’d like to see an anime of it unless the manga was already finished, or they knew exactly HOW it was going to finish. But leaving that behind, I give it a definite seal of approval.

DTZ: Yes, let us hope that if it does get an anime it allows more of the manga to appear first, if not all of it. A good anime studio could do some pretty fun stuff with this series, but let’s let it play out first. Seal of approval, granted!