Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mirai Nikki'

Now I'm sure that many of you have heard of Mirai Nikki, or 未来日記, as one of the brand new anime that is out this fall season. One day while I was loitering, I mean browsing, tsutaya I saw a whole wall proudly displaying all 12 volumes and it got my interest.

Usually I'm not much of a seinen, or young men, manga type. Call me a women, but most of the plots and action sequences are just way to bloody for me. Seeing things are you suppose to be inside of you outside of you is, in my opinion, one of the most disgusting things even. Hence why I never aspired to be a doctor and going to medical school.

I will admit that I almost stopped reading after the 3rd chapter, but I decided that I would read it if it killed me; which of course it didn't. By the mid point I was glad that I kinda forced myself to sit and read it. Esuno-sensei builds an intriguing plot and layers his characters and their developments well through the story. Of course there are points that have been done before and, to me, there was a little over kill in certain places, but all together it fits and builds a story that makes the reader think a little instead of brainlessly reading.

One of the obvious plot points Esuno used was extremes. There are extremes all over this manga, from the plot, to the characters, and to the scenes. Below is a small essay that I wrote about the levels of extremes that are presented in Mirai Nikki, and Mirai Nikki only.

Over the last 10 years there has been a strong increase in pop culture references to the views Japanese adults have on Japanese youth through the use of Survival games as a main plot line. The 2000 movie “Battle Royal” is a prime example of this. The director, Fukasaku Kinji, directed the film because of his own memories from working in a factory after World War II. The plot starts with a class of 15 year olds going on a field trip only to be gassed and left to kill each other on a remote island by their gym teacher. Their gym teacher turns out to be working for the government and he is tired of how self-centered and weak Japanese youth has become in the last 20 years. I noticed this theme strongly while I was reading 未来日記, Mirai Nikki, or Future Diary in English, over the past few days.

This paper will focus solely on Mirai Nikki, written by Sakae Esuno, ran in Shounen Ace for 4 years from 2006 to 2010. It is a strong seinen manga that shows clear views of how Esuno views Japanese youth as being weak minded and unable to make decisions for themselves. Esuno sets our story in a rather normal family setting, but the color choices set off the views of the story. Black and white clash on the cover, giving it a stark newspaper like feeling, which adds to the sense of futility and choices that weave through the Survival game plot. Esuno is asking his audience, “What would you do if this was you?”

The main plot line of Mirai Nikki is that 12 people have been picked by the God of Time, Deus Ex Machine to participate in a Survival Game. The person who succeeds in killing all the other players will become the next God of Time. To help these characters is a “Future Diary”. A Future Diary is an evolved form of the players normal keitai, or cellphone, diary. As the name states, the diaries show the players the future that the players can then find ways of change or use as strategy throughout the game. Each player's Future Diary is different in the way that it gives the players hints. Whenever a player is going to be eliminated the the future, the diary will state who, how, and when the player will day and cast a “DEAD END”. This gives each character a fair playing field and a chance to change their fate in the game. The main protagonist, Amano Yukiteru, is thrust into situations where he has to make painful, and ofter deadly, decisions to win the game.

There are many readers of this series that would find it hard to get past the rather gruesome nature of this story. Mirai Nikki is designated as a seinen, or older teen, manga and with that designation comes more provocative and adult themes. Esuno creates a series that, while it uses a younger protagonist, causes all ages to learn about growth and self awareness.

Use of extremes play heavily throughout the plot line and, more specifically, with the characters. Each character embodies a different circumstance that has been taken to a much higher level, which in turn characterizes their Furture Diary during the survival game. For the purposes of this essay, I will put the characters in order of their “numbers” during the series. Amano Yukiteru, The First, who is a socially awkward 8th Grader from a broken home. His parents have divorced and his Mother is hardly home, leaving in moderate isolation and basically living alone in a family size house. At school he is “The Observer”,the strange kid that sits in the back of class that nobody really acknowledges. His only real psychological issue would be self-made loneliness. To contrast him, Gasai Yuno, The Second, is the daughter of the Japanese elite, and as we later find out, the victim of extreme child abuse. Yuno's character can be used as the measurement of extreme in this story. The more that Yukiteru gets involved, emotionally and strategically, in the store the more extreme events and revelations Yukiteru's character has to deal with. The next level of extreme is Hiyama Takao, The Third, who turns out to the a serial killer that has been plaguing this fictional town. Kurusu Keigo, The Fourth, is a police detective with a son dying of heart disease. Harmless 4 year old Houjou Reisuke, The Fifth, was born to parents that later became tragically involved in a New Age cult. Cult leader, Kasugano Tsubaki, who is later revealed as having been used as a sexually in the cults rituals. The tag team of Mikami Ai and Ikusabe Marco, The Seventh, are lovers that have both been abandoned by the parents as children. The most harmless of the players, Ueshita Kamado, The Eighth, is the manager of the orphanage that The Seventh live in together. Uryuu Minene, The Ninth, is a terrorist that was left to fend for herself after her parents were killed in what looks to be the Middle East. Tsukishima Karyuudo, The Tenth, loves his dogs more than himself and gives his diary to his daughter when he finds he has a stalker. The most diabolical of the players, John Balks, The Eleventh, is actually the mayor and theoretical inventor of the “Future Diaries”. He proves to be the most powerful and dangerous of the 12 players. The last player, Hirasaka Yomotsu, The Twelfth, is a blind man who wishes to bring justice to the world on a slightly unbalanced scale. He also dresses up in a super hero costume and even brings out a Power Rangers type justice team. These 12 players all bring a different type of personality, “Future Diary” and extreme to the game. As they revolve around each other and continue eliminating the other players from the game, they bring about more and more extreme circumstances and events.

Our protagonist, Yukiteru, is displayed at the beginning of the story as being a pretty typical Japanese middle schooler. He's shy, classified as a loner by his fellow classmates he keeps to himself in the back of class. We later learn that Yukiteru is rather unmotivated, indecisive and is mostly coasting through his life. He doesn't have any friends and logs all his observations of those around him into his cellphone diary. The most extreme part of his life is when he throws a dart in the morning to predict how good of a day he is going to have. Yukiteru makes a perfect character to show growth as he is faced with the extreme decisions he has to make throughout the series.

When extreme events are used in a literary work it is to use it as a reference for a certain time and how the main characters react to them. Yukiteru goes through such extreme events as being targeted by a serial killer, having his school blown up by a terrorist, his first murder, the death of his parents, and so on. Many of the events and circumstances in this series are putting the reader into that extreme mindset. These plot points, while very entertaining and emotion provoking, also lead into issues that we are dealing with in the modern world. A couple examples are these are: terrorism, New Age cults, child abuse, child abandonment, and funding for the needy. The use of the New Age cult was the most interesting of choices for Esuno to make. After the Tokyo Gas Attacks in 1995 most Japanese are very weary of the “New Age” religions. Putting one into this series and having one of the game players, The Sixth, to have been sexually abused by one and then to have another player, The Fifth, have parents that being involved with the same cult and be killed is a strong negative extreme in Japan. This event is the real start of Yukiteru's move into actually playing the game and understanding the true nature of the other players. The death of Yukiteru's parents is the true climax of Yukiteru's transformation to a full player in the Survival game as he finally wants to become God to bring back his parents. It is only reveled later that this is a useless wish. Before this event he heavily relied on Yuno to make decisions and to come up with plans for eliminating the other players. Another of Esuno's more poignant images is “The Twin Towers of Sakurami”, a clear invoking of the 9/11 Attacks in New York, NY. That level of extreme terror sets up the story for the final stage and the revelations that are exposed. The use of these two images is a strong showing of how much terror and extreme are used as a tool for change and renewal. As these events progress there is a correlation with Yukiteru's involvement in the game and his ability to make his own decisions.

The final extreme that is used in Mirai Nikki is time. The passage of Time and it's unending properties have always fascinated writers and scientists alike. From the very start Time is a strong central theme in the series. The Survival game is brought up by Deus because his time as God is coming to an end. Then there are the diaries themselves that relay information about and through time, and from there we learn that time comes into play as the deadline for the end of the game comes upon Yukiteru and Yuno. Each player is also affected by time in some way. The Fourth must beat the time his son has left to live, The Eleventh fights for time he thinks he has while locked in the Gasai Bank vault in the Twin Towers, Yukiteru and Yuno are confronted with the date the game supposedly ends, all these events and sub-plots help compound and show how compressing time is. Time constraints and history are thrown around the whole story until the end. After Yuno commits suicide and Yukiteru becomes God he leaves himself floating for 10,000 years after the end of the game because he cannot create a world without Yuno in it. Esuno uses time in this series to showcase how you must be living in the moment and not take time for granted. When Akisu Aru's character is confronted with the fact that he is only a data observer for Deus he uses his own strength of will to overcome it and Deus makes a comment about how he was truly living in the moment. Esuno is showing the reader that making longterm plans is a good idea, but if you also have to be able to make decisions in the heat of the moment as well. That is when your true character and personality are shown. Then there is the reversal of Time that Yukiteru and later Yuno uses to create a parallel world to replay the game again.

As the plot continues, Yukiteru is brought face to face with his indecisiveness and it brings the reader into the mindset of thinking how they would react to the same situations. Indeed, Esuno wanted to send that message to Japanese youth. In an interview he gave to a French blogger in 2009, Esuno stated, “But what I wish is that my story leads readers to think of solutions themselves with the hero and encourage them to do the same in life”. Each of the twelve players has moments in the series where they are faced with a decision of kill or be killed. Each reacts differently to this decision. For example, Minene, The Ninth, makes her first decision as a young girl having to steal bread to survive. Then there is Keigo, The Fourth, who is fighting to become God so that he can wish for his son to be completely healed. How would you react if you were Yuno and being horribly abused by your parents?Or how would you change if you were being sexually abused and used by a New Age cult like Tsubaki? What would you wish for if you won the Survival game? These are all questions that Esuno puts forth to his readers to reflect on for themselves.

Esuno masterfully puts together many themes and events to create a story that is both thought provoking and entertaining. His uses of extreme themes, time, and modern issues leads the reader on a path that he wants to lead us on. Yukiteru as a main protagonist urges young readers to connect with him and hopefully grow and learn something from by the end of the series. Esuno's uses Yukiteru as an example for Japans youth to find their own voice and their own voice. By putting the reader in Yukiteru's mind he is able to pull the reader into thinking about how they would react to different situations.

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