Future Diary, Vol. 1

It’s hard to deny that there’s been a bit of a Twitter boom. Bloggers, celebrities, parents, kids–even fictional characters have and maintain Twitter accounts. It’s such a simple concept: in 140 characters or less you can tell your followers what you’re doing at any given moment. These status updates are called “Tweets,” and they allow your followers to peek through the keyhole of the door to your life. It’s usually meaningless blurbs like, “work is boring” and “some jerk cut me off,” but imagine what would happen if you could read your Tweets before you made them. This is essentially the plot of Sakae Esuno’s manga, Future Diary.

Yukiteru Amano is a social outcast. He spends all of his time updating his cellphone diary. The only friend he has exists in his head. It’s important that you pay very close attention to this next part. His imaginary friend’s name is Deus Ex Machina and he’s the King of Time and Space! When Deus is introduced, Yuki asks him what he’s up to. He responds, “I’m adjusting the law of cause and effect right now.” By the way, this is only the first ten pages. It gets much, much better dumber better.

Deus said that he was messing with cause and effect, and he wasn’t kidding. When Yuki checks his diary the next day, he notices that it’s already been written for the day. This allows him to see into the future, but only kind of. Most people don’t tweet about every detail of every day (at least, I hope not); likewise, Yuki only updates his diary a few times each hour. The future entries are also written in character, so if it’s not something that Yuki would’ve written about, then it’s not going to appear in the future diary. But wait, there’s more.

I know what you’re thinking, “This already sounds like the best manga ever made. What could possibly make it better?” Prepare to have your mind blown. There are 11 other people with future diaries and they’re going to fight to the death! That’s right, this is Kamen Rider Ryukki meets Twitter. Before you get too excited and Rider Kick Yuki in the face, it’s important that you know this rule: if your cellphone breaks, you die.

That is a terrifying thought. I’ve gone through two phones in six months without people trying to destroy them. It also makes me wonder if different models reflect the power of the user. Is someone with an iPhone going to massacre someone with $20 pay-as-you-go phone? The UI for reading the future diary is probably a lot better in the iPhone, so how is that even fair?–IT ISN’T! Maybe these are issues that are dealt with later on in the manga, but I seriously doubt it.

The first two volumes of this “chilling shonen masterpiece” have already been released by Tokyopop, with the third volume coming out in September. Trust me, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the incredibly intricate plot of Future Diary. If you’re looking for a crazy book about a kid who’s special power is text messaging, then do yourself a favor and pick up the first volume. Afterward, you can Tweet about how cool it was when Yuki threw a dart in that stupid girl’s eye. But be careful, “every [tweet] could be you last.”

The work of Yasuhiro Yoshiura

With the amount of anime that comes out each year being as bountiful as it is, it’s rare that you find something that’s truly unique. For every five pretentious moe harem shows, there’s ten generic shonen fighters. It wouldn’t be such a problem if they would just try something new once and a while. It wouldn’t be such a problem if they didn’t use the same character designs every time. It wouldn’t be such a problem if they were well written or at the very least, funny. What boggles my mind the most is when things like Kawaii Neko Monagatari Gaiden get green lit for a tenth season, people like Yasuhiro Yoshiura are left making short films once every couple years.

I stumbled upon his work on accident and subsequently watched everything he’s directed in a matter of hours. It wasn’t the most mind blowing anime I’ve ever watched in my life, but I’m sure that if he was allowed to make something longer than 20 minutes it would be a force to be reckoned with.

To date, his production company, Studio Rikka, has created three anime: Aquatic LanguagePale Cocoon, and Time of Eve. I’ll be talking about each of these shows in the order that I viewed them.

Pale Cocoon

Created in 2003, Pale Cocoon is a 23 minute OVA. It takes place in a post apocalyptic setting, but not in the way that people usually expect. Instead of Hokuto no Ken thugs roaming about and getting tricked into thinking that Rei is a woman, you instead have an extremely high tech setting. The OVA is set in a building rivaling the Tower of Babel in height. The main character, Ura, spends all of his time trying to learn as much as possible about what happened to humanity “back then.” He does this to a point of obsession which ends up driving all of his friends and coworkers away.

What initially drew me to this show was the art style. It’s very reminiscent of Ghost Hound or Denno Coil in its color palette which fits the dark tone of what’s going on very well. The music was also very nice, although the same can be said for all of the shows he’s created. It has a very subtle ambiance and fits so naturally that it makes you wonder if they created the show for the song opposed to the other way around.

The only problem with Pale Cocoon is that it ends too soon. They wrapped up the story that was introduced, and the twist was neat, but I was left wanting more. It would’ve been nice if they had the budget to make this in a 12 episode series instead. They could have spent more time developing on Ura’s character as he delved deeper into insanity while at the same time ostracizing everyone in his life. The OVA was effective nonetheless, but the reveal at the end would’ve been that much nicer had they been given just a little bit more time.

According to Wikipedia this film won Best Screenplay at the 1st Sapporo International Short Film Festival and Market.

Time of Eve

Known as Eve no Jikan in Japan, this ONA is currently being streamed on Cruchyroll. As of this review, there are five episodes, each roughly 15 minutes long. The release schedule for this show is among the strangest I’ve ever encountered. The first episode came out last July. The fifth episode came out this July. With several months in between these incredibly short episodes, I have to wonder how people remember to continue watching.

Prior to watching, I had heard of this show once before. It was in a news headline or something, but I had ignored it because I thought it was a prequel to Kodomo no Jikan. After having watched what’s been released, I feel like an idiot for thinking that because while the show does feature a little girl that thinks she’s a cat (trust me, it’s hilarious), she hasn’t tried to slept with the main character (yet).

The best way I can explain this show is by comparing it to Chobits. The themes are very similar, but they’re covered in a much more serious fashion. It takes place in the future (probably Japan). Robots are now a common household appliance. They do everything from grocery shopping to making coffee. With the exception of a halo-like ring that floats above their head, they look identical to humans. Because of this, the TV is full of programming that warns of the danger in becoming a robo-holic. At first, I thought that referred to someone who becomes sexually attracted to a robot, but it seems to also apply to people that just treat them the same as humans.

The majority of the story takes place in this cafe called the Time of Eve. There is only one rule in this cafe: do no discriminate between robots and humans. While inside the cafe, the robots turn off their halos which makes it impossible to tell if they’re human or not. They also undergo a complete personalty shift, which is to say that they actually began having a personality opposed to simply taking orders and saying, “Yes master.”

Time of Eve is full of regular customers. So far, the formula of each episode has been to focus on one or two of them at a time. While an episodic show like this could get tiring after a while, the fact that the episodes are as short as they are counteracts this problem. In half the time of a normal anime episode you learn all the information you need to know without any filler.

As I’ve already mentioned, you can watch the first five episodes for free on Crunchyroll, and I highly suggest that you do. I know I haven’t said much about that actually story, but that’s because of it’s episodic nature. The stories are so short that if I gave you summary there wouldn’t be a point in watching them. The best compliment I can give this show is that it’s actually funny, especially episode four. The show isn’t strictly a comedy, but the writing can be very clever sometimes, and that’s not something I come across often in this medium.

Aquatic Language

This is the shortest and earliest of Yoshiura’s works. It was released in 2002 and it’s less than 10 minutes long! The reason I suggest that you watch these in reverse order is because of how unique Aquatic Language is when compared to the others. It’s not bad per se, but the art style is completely different. Everything else remains the same, however. The music is still great, the dialogue is still clever–this film is just plain good.

Aside from the art style, the biggest difference with Aquatic Language is that the run time is perfect. The whole film is just a vignette of people talking randomly in a coffee shop. It’s quirky and interesting for ten minutes, but there’s no actual storyline so if it continued any longer, it would run the risk of becoming boring.

The other reason why you should watch this after Time of Eve is because it’s so obviously the prototype. The scenery is similar, the character design of the barista is almost identical, and they even make a few references to robotics that are also present in Time of Eve. That isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy these shows in any order, but Aquatic Language is the weakest in terms of story which could make you less likely to want to continue browsing Yoshiura’s portfolio.

According to Wikipedia this film won the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2003’s “Excellent Work Award.

Final Thoughts

It was really tempting to compare Yoshiura to Makoto Shinkai. I’ve noticed that a few other blogs have done so, but I haven’t actually seen any of Shinkai’s work. I got a similar vibe from Yoshiura because I imagine that he made these films with little to no help in is basement (or at least that’s what the Anime News Network staff listings would lead to believe). In a few cases he even did some of the voice acting. Mix this with the fact that he’s not very old (born in the 80’s) and everything starts making sense. I truly hope that this man keeps getting work because I haven’t been disappointed by him yet. So come on, Japan, give this man a budget for once and let him do whatever he wants with it. Or at the very least, let him make something longer than 20 minutes.