Yukiteru Amano is a perpetual bystander. Since he prefers not to interact with other people, he occupies his time by keeping a cell phone diary of random goings-on that occur around him. Oh, and by hanging out with his imagined friend Deus ex Machina, the God of Time and Space…who, Yuki finds, is not so imaginary after all. Seeing that Yuki could use a bit of excitement in his life, Deus decides that a game is in order. He gives Yuki and eleven anonymous people the ability to know the future via cell phone diaries—Future Diaries—and then baits them with this challenge: The last one remaining will inherit his position as the God of Time and Space. Yuki must now fight for his life.
Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno reads like it wanted to rank on the same tier as Death Note and Eden of the East, but could never get itself together before the artist’s production deadline. It follows a similar structure as the aforementioned epic mysteries, giving common people extraordinary and morally complicated power and then forcing them to use it while combating unknown forces that are out to end them. However, the suspense that rose so perfectly in those series falls flat here, mostly due to disappointing characters and too-easy information reveals.
Yuki is not engaging as a protagonist; he doesn’t do much with his life and doesn’t think he’s worth that much anyway, which doesn’t give him much to strive for, which in turn makes him an irritatingly passive main character, even when his life is at stake. His eventual companion Yuno Gasai is far more proactive in the story, serving as his defender—but only because she has an obsessively stalker-like interest in him, going to such lengths as triggering an enemy bomb to blow up a school full of people who refused to defend him. And yet we’re supposed to be sympathetic to these characters.
Most of the twists in the story come without much effort, too. Yuki doesn’t even have to work to find out that Yuno is the second Future Diary holder—she just pops up and reveals the fact to him. Most of the others in this volume do the exact same thing, which makes the anonymity of Deus’ setup seem rather useless. Deus himself is not especially useful in the story, either. He disappears totally once the game is fully explained, which makes me wonder if the writer didn’t just toss him in as an excuse to get the mayhem rolling and give the characters something to fight over.
If anything, the basic concept of the Future Diaries is neat. The participants don’t all receive the same information about the future; rather, their information comes through a filter based upon the kinds of information they kept on their phone before Deus’ game. Yuno’s unsurprisingly specific Yukiteru Diary only updates information about Yuki’s future, while another character’s Criminal Investigation Diary updates information about crimes, and another’s Escape Diary about the possibilities for escape in any situation. Yuki’s Random Diary contains the broadest picture of the future, but is rarely about his future, since he never wrote about himself in his own diary. These gaps in information alone could have played into a grand thriller of a plot, but they don’t even come close to doing so, much like the rest of the comic.
Future Diary is a paragon of squandered potential. It could have been a fantastic psychological thriller, but unfortunately, lost itself in unlikable characters and half-done everything.