Now that’s what I call a time skip…
I’m just going to address the elephant in the room straight ahead – yes, they changed the ending. Except they didn’t, really. But they did. Manga readers will know what I mean.
Anime-only viewers – did you understand that ending? Did it make sense? Here at the end of all things, I thought it would finally be safe to spoil away – but no, Asread and Hosoda-sensei have foiled me yet again and put me in what amounts to a unique position as a blogger – unique in my history as one, anyway. I really don’t want to spoil this for you if you haven’t read the manga but I think some context is necessary here. Simply put – the ending is mostly faithful – to a point. But there’s a section of the last chapter – an epilogue – that for whatever reason, Asread elected not to animate. So why not just blab the details to you, now that the series is over? Well, first of all you might want to go ahead and read that, and why should I ruin that experience for you? But there’s also that funny little message at the end of the anime – “Next Project!!” An announcement is rumored to be coming during the 7/29 (the date is obviously not coincidental) “Mirai Nikki Live World” event.
So here’s how I see it. Go ahead and read the final chapter if you want to, and while I’d love you to read the whole manga and appreciate the differences, you can feel safe in assuming that things are materially quite faithful right up until the epilogue. But then again, this new project is very likely an anime sequel of some sort as the live-action is old news at this point. It could be a movie, or “Mirai Nikki Mosac”, or “Paradox” (basically MN with Akise as the protagonist) – but the changes Asread made could very easily be interpreted as being executed for the purposes of setting up an anime-original sequel. So if you’d rather be unspoiled under the assumption that could happen, you might want to avoid the manga ending. As is, I’m going to talk about the anime ending only, and if you want to discuss the manga ending in the comments, go ahead – but please use spoiler tags.
The hilarious part is that Asread took what was already a highly controversial manga ending (which I liked, BTW) and made it even more controversial with the change – so you have an ending sure to split both manga readers and anime-original viewers, for different reasons. I’m going to talk about what I liked first, and there was a lot of it. The main thing is for me, the episode emotionally connected even more than the manga’s version did – from Yuno’s heartbreak at seeing her Third World self untainted by the darkness that was consuming her, to Yukiteru’s conflict at finally having the happy life he’d dreamed of with his parents, but knowing in his true heart that it was all a lie, and the quiet innocence of the Third Yuno, it was all very effective. Terrific work by the voice cast here, especially Murata Tomosa as Yuno and Togashi Misuzu as Yukiteru.
Perhaps my favorite part of the finale was the way Hosoda took one of the best parts of the last manga volume and worked it into the finale, only better. Esuno-sensei used the last volume (the intercut between the “ending” and the epilogue, as it happens) to thank the members of his support team individually, a very classy move. Asread gave us a really powerful montage of all the diary holders in the Third World, and singled out the seiyuu as they did so. Really stylish and well-done, and a very nice coda for all those characters. And really, the Third World represents a triumph of the butterfly effect and the power of love. We see the impact small changes have on the future magnifying like waves as they travel across the surface of time (much to Murumuru #1’s chagrin) but we also see what Yukiteru was able to accomplish as a result of his love for Yuno. The romantic in me prefers to think that Yuki was finally able to see the true Yuno – effectively the Third Yuno – trapped inside the warped shell of insanity and hatred that her experiences had built around her.
There’s a lot of Evangelion in Yuki’s ending, no question, the same sort of musing on the nature of reality and the bubble of unreality we construct around ourselves to try and be happy. Ultimately Yukiteru gave up his happiness and was willing to give up his life itself to make a place for Yuno – despite being inured to killing he couldn’t bring himself to kill her, and asked her to kill him so she could return to the Second World as God and restore order. He was also prepared to accept this fate as punishment for what he’d allowed Yuno to lead him to do, but selflessness being the theme here, Yuno – perhaps moved by the sight of herself before she and her parents became the hateful people they would become in her world – instead decided to sacrifice herself. Obviously the whole drama here, built around Yuki trying to scream out Yuno’s name, was much more impactful in anime form, and Asread did a really nice job with this scene. The music and animation was dramatic, but not so much so as to overwhelm the drama inherent in the moment itself.
One question you have to ask yourself is, would Yuno have done what it appeared she was going to do when Fourth fired that gun – and Murumuru #2 (now you know what the Band-aid was all about) stopped time, and the bullet? I think Esuno-sensei intentionally left that vague – my own feeling is that Yuno, while not unmoved by what she was seeing, had already given up all hope for redemption for herself and would have killed the three of them. It was only Yukkii’s arrival that inspired her to what she saw as a redemptive act. It could just as easily be argued that she knew Fourth would shoot her before she could kill her Third World family, and simply wanted to die – ultimately, we’ll never know.
And even more ultimately, we’re left with a few certainties. Murumuru #1 is now (fittingly) a strap for Yuno #3’s cell phone – a phone on which she’s decided to keep a diary. And it seems that while Yuno gave her life for Yukiteru, in the end she cursed him to the worse fate of the doomed pair, for now he’s existed for 10,000 years as a lonely God, forever 14, with only “his” Murumuru for company. She likes her Master, but she’s bored having read the same manga thousands of times already. Yukiteru ex Machina is too sad to be bored – if he can’t create a world with his Yuno in it, he feels no need to use his powers beyond what’s necessary to keep this World functioning. Perhaps this is the fate of all Gods, a lonely existence removed from contact with those whose existence depends on them. And so we leave them,Yukiteru and Murumuru, where it’s always July 28, alone with a manga and a forever unchanging cell phone diary. Or is it…
I love Mirai Nikki, and watching an anime of a series you love is always a scary prospect. As odd a series as this is, I really wasn’t sure how it would make the transition to anime. It’s highly visual, even in manga form, and full of non-stop action and suspense. So on paper (no pun intended) it seemed like a natural fit. But it’s also a highly individualistic series that reflects the very peculiar narrative style of its author, and I worried that somehow Esuno-sensei’s magic would be lost in translation. As to studio, Asread wasn’t my first preference but neither did that fill me with dread. As always, the choice of writer and director is more important than the studio, and things seemed to be in pretty good shape there.
In the final analysis the most important question for me as a manga reader is, am I happy with the adaptation? And the answer is a resounding “yes”. There are things I would have done differently, but taken as a whole I think this was a resounding success (and hopefully the “Next Project” means it indeed was). There are many things that were flat-out better in the anime version – for example, the character of Ninth, Uryuu Minene, as voiced by Aizawa Mai. I always liked Minene, but a good manga character became a great anime character, stealing virtually every scene she was in (and way to go, getting a “Good End”). Among the many nods to Evangelion in this series, the anime Ninth felt a lot like Misato Katsuragi to Yukiteru’s Shinji Ikari. It could easily be argued that she had the most comprehensive arc of any of the characters in the series, or at least that it was on a par with Yukiteru’s. When things started to spiral out of control Minene was a splash of cold water in the face, a no BS dose of common sense from her skewed perspective. She was great.
I think Esuno, from the beginning, wanted to make Mirai Nikki a deconstruction of the tropes that pervade anime – taking all the things otaku love and others complain about and making them the center of his story. The magical girlfriend (except this one is a psychotic killer), the deux ex machina, dead characters reborn, alternate worlds, body doubles – effectively, Esuno took the shark, stuck a leather jacket on it and put it on a motorcycle. And the means he chose to explore this idea with was a kind of re-imagining of NGE – a look at morose and self-absorbed adolescence, taken to it’s karmic and practical extreme. This became even more apparent in the anime via the clever use of Togashi Misuzu’s very Ogata Megumi-like (she played Shinji) performance, and pairing it with Ishida Akira as Akise. If Minene filled the Misato role Akise certainly filled the Kaoru one, and this is another example of how the anime was able to cleverly take something that was subtle in the manga and make it that much more alive.
I’m not going to say this series was a technical masterpiece, or that Asread is a studio to rival P.A. Works or Production I.G. with their lavish animation. But for this trashy, absurdist comic book come to life, they may just have been the right choice. What the animation lacked in fluidity and detail it made up for with wit and style, creating a look that was both faithful to the manga and uniquely it’s own. More importantly, Hosoda and writer Takayama Katsuhiko made unconventional but ultimately brilliant decisions with regards to pacing, flying through the middle sections of the manga and giving them a breathless, exhilarating quality while in the process saving themselves enough time to slow down and really savor the last arc. Those middle sections are best reacted to rather than analyzed, a visceral rather than a cerebral experience – while the final arc is more emotional, and demands to be considered and made sense of both emotionally and intellectually. It would have been easier to adapt the manga at a consistent clip – 59 chapters divided by 26 episodes – but it would have been wrong, and I’m glad the creative staff were smart enough to realize that.
I suspected going in that Mirai Nikki would be a divisive show, among those who haven’t read the manga especially, and I think that’s turned out to be true. It’s all about taking the series as I think the author intended, and the things you most often hear about – namely, plot holes and Yukiteru’s personality – are exactly the point. Those aren’t plot holes, that’s the plot – and it’s Yukiteru’s loneliness, timidity and lack of self-confidence that drives the entire story. He’s probably not a self-projection to the extent that Shinji was for Anno Hideki, but more an everyman (everyboy) – someone who longs for nothing more exciting than to be normal, who reacts as any normal boy would when things spiral more and more out of his control. Mirai Nikki is the story of Yukiteru’s attempt – and failure, and ultimately success – at trying to be a decent human being in an indecent world. It’s taken to ridiculous extremes, but surely symbolic of the struggle we face in own lives, especially during those years when we’re trying to decide who we want to be.
I don’t think I need to say much more about Yuno, because it’s surely all been said by now. She’s a brilliant and bizarre construction, just as Mirai Nikki is – there’s nothing else quite like either of them. If Yukiteru is the urge for normalcy, Yuno is the living embodiment of extremity. She’s pure emotion, with every one of them outsized to the point of disorder. Yuno is “what happens when” – when self-assuredness is unchecked by humility. When love is unchecked by realism. When determination is unchecked by restraint. She’s a gun with no safety, a supercar with no brakes. Every boy probably worries about losing control of their life when they enter into the world of relationships with girls, and Yuno is that worry given form – the best and the worst the adolescent imagination can muster (and that’s a lot). Like so much else about this series, she’s the trope intentionally magnified and put at the heart of the story. It’s not a choice many authors would have thought of, or made even if they had.
And ultimately, that points up what makes this a very successful adaptation. Asread and the creative team had the guts not to try and change what Mirai Nikki was, to make it more conventional and “broaden its appeal”. They stayed true to the unconventional, difficult, sometimes awkward and ridiculous but always inventive and visceral nature of what Esuno’s manga is. It would have been easier to cop out – to smooth the edges a little, to make the narrative more orthodox and the characters less extreme. But they were smart enough to realize that doing so would have ensured a failed adaptation, and to present Mirai Nikki in a form that was faithful to the spirit of the original. I love the manga for being bold and bizarre and wild and insane, and I love the anime for seeing those things not as flaws, but as desirable qualities and the reason why this is a great series.