Future Diary Book 1

Review by Ed Sizemore

Yukiteru Amano is a quiet high school student who keeps to himself. He maintains a diary of the events that happen around him on his cell phone. Yuno Gasai is a classmate of Yukiteru. She is attractive, gets good grades, and is popular. She also keeps a cell phone diary. Both find that their hobby becomes the key to their survival.

Future Diary Book 1 cover
Future Diary Book 1
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Deus Ex Machina, the god of time and space, has set up a little game. He has given twelve people who keep cell phone diaries new cell phones that show their future for the next 90 days. The object of the game is for each of the participants to figure out who the other cell phone owners are and then kill them. The last one standing gets to take over Deus’s throne and become the new god of time and space. Of course, there is a catch — the cell phones only show the future as each participant would have recorded it. So they can’t count on their cell phones to give them all the answers.

Future Diary is a survival game thriller. Unlike most movies and books in this genre, Future Diary doesn’t use extreme violence. Instead, this is more of a cat-and-mouse game where each person gets to play both roles. We see the events unfold from Yukiteru’s point of view, which helps add to the tension of the book.

The key to any good thriller is pacing, and Esuno does a fantastic job. Too many comic writers think the way to slow the pace is simply to add more panels per page. Instead, the secret is to slow down the time within each panel and between panels. At dramatic moments, Esuno’s panels transition from representing minutes to seconds and the time between panels is similarly shorted so that each small movement becomes heightened. The reader instinctively knows that this is the same as when a movie uses extreme close ups and slow motion. As Esuno demonstrates, you can achieve this effect with just four pages and eleven panels. You have to know what key moments to focus on for the scene to work well on the comic page.

You not only have to pace the action, but you have to know how to parcel out information. Esuno is adept at this too. Both Yukiteru and the reader are fed small bits of data at fairly regular intervals. It’s a great way to heighten suspense, because as you’re absorbing one set of facts, you know that next revelation is just around the corner. You feel like you have to keep on your toes or you might get overwhelmed by the information. As a reader, you stay interested because you want to see what new fact or twist is coming.

Unfortunately, Future Diary does suffer a few flaws common to the action/thriller genre. First, we’re not told why Deus Ex Machina decided to create this game. I get the sense he’s bored. However, that still doesn’t explain why he would have twelve people murder each other, why he seems so eager to give up his throne, or why being a successful assassin is the requirement to rule over time and space. I would have preferred a more thought out set-up.

Second, Yukiteru’s and Yuon’s relationship is the typical fanboy fantasy. Yukiteru is the perfect otaku stand-in, average looks, average grades, and just outside the mainstream high school cliques. For no reason, the attractive girl with everything going for her has a crush on the quiet outcast in the corner. Esuno does play with this formula slightly, by making Yuno a stalker, but even that can’t completely exonerate the use of this worn-out cliche.

Third, Esuno makes the most common mistake of action films. The villain seems to have unlimited access to military grade weapons, perfect knowledge of how to fully utilize these weapons, and an infinite amount of time to create the most elaborate traps. I’m always left asking where these people get the money for all these hi-tech toys? Also, how did they get access to these buildings? And more importantly, how did they get such complete access to make extreme modifications to these buildings? Since this takes place in Japan, where it’s illegal to own high-powered air guns, I imagine getting hold of the weapons in the final chapter would be impossible. I know action stories are suppose to have lots of explosions in the final act, but at least make it semi-plausible that the villain could have acquired the featured weapon. Esuno went way over the top here.

Esuno’s art is well done. As I mentioned earlier, Esuno has a great sense of page layout and timing. Yukiteru’s confusion and terror at the events around him is communicated effectively. All you have to do is look at a panel, and the art alone will tell you Yukiteru’s current emotional state. This makes the art a perfect compliment to the storytelling in creating believable suspense throughout the book. The character designs are also a pleasure. It’s nice to read a book where the lead females all have realistic body shapes and bra sizes. Also, the main villain at the end has some of the most evil facial expressions. It’s a brilliant mix of madness and malevolence.

Future Diary is another series I would put on the beach reading list. Like so many action/thriller stories, it’s a fun ride and good light entertainment. If you actually start to think about it, the story falls apart pretty quickly. The plot and characters are intriguing enough that I’m actually going to read the second volume. If Esuno takes out some of the excesses of this volume and focuses more on the terror of being put in a killed or be killed situation, then Future Diary could turn out to be a very good series. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

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8 Comments

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:
    “…Second, Yukiteru’s and Yuon’s relationship is the typical fanboy fantasy. Yukiteru is the perfect otaku stand-in, average looks, average grades, and just outside the mainstream high school cliques. For no reason, the attractive girl with everything going for her has a crush on the quiet outcast in the corner. Esuno does play with this formula slightly, by making Yuno a stalker, but even that can’t completely exonerate the use of this worn-out cliche…”

    That reminds me, what about female quiet outcasts in the corner? The scenario you describe would be one thing if Yukiteru was all ‘eww, ugly chicks, get outta my sight!!!’ about his female counterparts, another if he was all ‘this one’s dating [insert name of attractive boy with everything going for him], that one’s gay, that other one just has no interests in common with me…’ about them.

  2. [...] Xanadu) Melinda Beasi on vol. 18 of Fullmetal Alchemist (Comics Should Be Good) Ed Sizemore on vol. 1 of Future Diary (Comics Worth Reading) Carlo Santos on vol. 11 of Hayate the Combat Butler (ANN) Tiamat’s [...]

  3. I got a chance to read this, and I think you’ve summed it up well, Ed. It is a “check your brain at the door” action movie on paper. I was rooting for these kids even as I couldn’t keep track of the rules of the game. I also wondered why everyone was so eager to team up when the deus ex machina (best and most accurate character name EVER) made it clear that they would eventually be expected to kill each other. And yeah, villain was totally “only in the comics”. But I’m still eager to see what happens next.

    Tokyopop is comparing this to Death Note, but that’s only true superficially (a written item predicts demise). This doesn’t have nearly the ethical dilemmas; this is about emotion and suspense instead.

  4. In the midst of the second volume, I have to say I like the fast release schedule. I swore I wouldn’t get another Toykopop series, sigh, but this one is still in the happy place of junk food reads like Gimmick.

    I agree, this is nothing like Death Note. It is excellent storytelling in its genre, but it’s nowhere near the seminal work Death Note is/was.

    There is a lot to like here though – I’m sure what gets revealed about Yuno can’t possibly be true, but until the truth is out there what we get is very effective. Even after the cute amusement park date she is beyond creepy to me and a far cry from the typical romantic interest. The conventions are there (yep, we get our swimsuit shot) but they seem to be filtered through a very warped lens, which I really appreciate.

    I guess what I’m liking here is that the series comes off as unique and well-written. It’s a nice change from some of the more standard manga action series.

  5. [...] and the Teller of Allegory is an earlier series by Sakae Esuno (Future Diary) and will be out March 2, also four [...]

  6. [...] and the Terror of Allegory already has an unfair advantage. Add to that it’s by the creator of Future Diary, and it’s guaranteed I’m going to like this series. Hanako and the Terror of Allegory [...]

  7. Your ‘flaws’ are responded to in later chapters.

  8. Darrell Chapman

    Simply put… In this anime series the universes count as past, present and future. 1, 2, and 3. In the present(2) the original game is started. In the future(3) someone wins. The winner is unsatisfied and decides to go back to present(2) starting over, destroying the future(3). Players from the restarted present(2) go back to the past(1). This is before the game has started. The players make it so that the game never happens in the first place, destroying what was present(2). The past is the dominant world. Everything else has never happened and everything is normal.

    Technically (first winner)Yuno should be dead. Logically speaking, if you go back to the past and cut yourself, your past self should live up to your moment and have that scar. So if you go back to the past and kill yourself you should be dead. Time does not catch up. Time changes…instantly! Also Yuki(2) and 9th(2) changed their past so they should disappear.

    BUT!! they’re gods of time and space. (9th=half God) (Yuki= God) (Yuno= God) (Murmur 1 and 2= Demi god I guess)
So can a god from the future keep it’s body/souls because of shear will power?
Does a god have to live up to or view the future to know it instead of teleporting?
(and if teleporting to the future, will their memory of living through the time they skipped instantly catch up to them)

    I haven’t read the manga so I’m not actually all there but after watching this series I like to make theory on space time continuum after watching all the freaking time fucking shows/movies/anime in life, lol.

    Lol, if they broke into the wall of a different universe, and it’s not past, present and future. Shouldn’t that mean world 1 still exist as well as the others. And we all know The God(Yuno) of world 1 left and!! is dead. Therefore world 1 is destroyed because there is no god and it falls apart. That makes sense. And world 2 which is empty holds a god(Yuki). And In the manga (3rd world)Yuno brings Yuki to world 3 after regaining memory. Therefore world 2 will breakdown. Now their are 3 people who would break laws naturally. There would be 2 Yukis, 2 9ths, and to Murmurs.

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