Nov 012011

There have been moments where Future Diary has teetered on the edge of awesomely exploitative trash. There’s the home room teacher who turns out to be a serial killer. There’s a high school that gets held hostage by a chick in wannabe, off-the-rack Lolita fetish garb with a thing for bombs. All of this sounds cool on paper, and when you see it taking place it’s even cooler, but all these little details are held back by two nagging details:

The lead characters are horrible.

I get that this Yuki kid is meant to be the audience surrogate. He’s the every-man who’s been thrust into this convoluted game at the bemusement of the GOD OF TIME AND SPACE, and we’re supposed to relate with these outlandish situations through him. Yeah, that’s cool and all. I may be that wackjob that doesn’t need a “normal dude” to get into a story like this, but I’ll grant the series its need for such a character.

I also get that Yuno is meant to be your typical magical girlfriend stereotype. She inexplicably loves the main character despite their being nothing obvious about him that would bring about such absolute, infinite devotion. She’s the audience surrogate’s fail-safe, there to make sure any annoying plot points that might hurt him never become anything more than speedbumps. She’s Belldandy with a meat cleaver– Senjougahara if she actually did something with her school supply arsenal.

But do they have to be so fucking annoying?

Seriously. All Yuki does is cry. Sure, he’s thrust into all manners of fucked up situations, but does he have to cry at the drop of his ugly sock hat? Even Shinji had some spunk to him and knew when to seethe with anger or disobey orders. But Yuki is from that generation of anime lead characters who only paid attention when Shinji went full hedgehog. He forgets that despite all of Shinji’s whining and complaining, he sometimes did shit and did it willingly. Thus far, Yuki has thrown a dart at a cell phone and opened the door to a burning room. When faced with his schoolmates being blown to smithereens, all Yuki did was cower while his magical girlfriend and the nutjob cop who stood by and let the kids get blown up did all the work. And when he finds out that his pink-haired personal bodyguard has a room filled with rotting corpses, he does nothing about it. He knows full well that this chick is well beyond bonkers, but he can’t bring himself to tell the far more rational (if still kinda fucked in the head when you pause to think about it) cop buddy of his about it. Yuki has gone well beyond the harmless, kinda pathetic lead character that can help “ground” a series and has become damn annoying.

But I will give him this: He’s shown some clever moments of gallows humor. The bit at the theme park where he pretends people on rides are falling to their deaths was hilarious. And the big in the latest episode where he callously tossed that frog into the water, only to have it be eaten by that koi, was the right kind of nasty. This kid needs to have more moments like these and fewer moments of fucking crying.

As for Yuno, well, she’s just damn grating. She shifts from stalker-you-always-dreamed-of mode to slasher-movie-villainess mode with nothing in between. She’d be a far more interesting character if her highs and lows were tempered a bit or if she were in constant crazy mode. As is, she plays like someone asking you if you want to hear their fingernails scratch across this chalkboard or this other chalkboard. Neither is the least bit pleasant and neither is uncomfortable in an interesting manner.

But this show’s doing some thing right. I’m really digging the cop dude that’s teamed up with our annoying lead kids. So far the dude seems to be on the side of “let’s fix this mess the best we can” like the kids, but like Yuno he isn’t above letting a few bystanders get it. His diary lets him in on the actions of criminals, so he knew full well what the terrorist chick was doing at Yuki’s school. But it seems like he also knew that if he interfered too early, his plans to take the bomber chick wouldn’t work as well. The dude was willing to let some innocent kids bite it if it meant solving the larger case at hand– the whole “let a few die if it means more will live” shtick. And what’s cool about this is that we didn’t get a whole lot of moralizing on his decisions. It just happened and we were left to form our own opinion on the dude. Are we sure we can trust this dude? If he could stand by and let these kids die, can our leads fully trust this guy? Is he just as dangerous as Yuno or any of the other psychopaths participating in the game? Unlike every other character in the series, his motivations aren’t totally clear, and that contrasts nicely with all of the clear-cut characters we’ve seen.

And then we have this “hero of justice” dude who’s all about hypnosis. The whole “I wanna be a real life tokusatsu hero” shtick ain’t new or anything, but what’s cool about this dude is that despite his desires to be such a hero his self-made costume doesn’t look a thing like a hero‘s costume. The thing not only looks like that of a villain from one of these shows, it looks like that of a combat goon– a mook– a Putty. This dude may not realize it, but his choice of costume has doomed him to failure because he looks like the cannon fodder from the shows he loves. That’s a nice visual twist to his gimmick, letting us in on the fact that he’s not a hero or a villainous mastermind. Hell, he isn’t even a monster-of-the-week. He’s just that costumed extra who gets smacked around by the hero week in and week out. It’ll be interesting to see if he remains through the course of the series, becoming the punching bag of the heroes while they worry about more important and more threatening villains.

It’s these touches that are making me watch this series. If this were any other straight-up action/thriller/whatever series, and we had Yuki and Yuno as the leads, I’d have ditched this thing after the first episode. But it does so many other things right that the damn annoying leads are counteracted. At least thus far.

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