The Future Diary: Thematic Analysis

Welcome, readers! Looking at an anime at any significant depth requires noting and understanding the thoughts and points presented. Some of the themes in Mirai Nikki include cause and effect, effects of trauma, perseverance and failure to persevere, toxic relationships, and concepts of identity and redemption. I’ll explain the significance of each entry and highlight examples of it in the anime.

Note: the themes are not limited to my examples alone. If you watch closely, most of them are present throughout the series. There’s some overlap between them. 

1. Cause and Effect

First, “cause and effect” is a central motif in Future Diary. Everything you do affects the future. Even the smallest events or discoveries can lead to tragedies. Conversely, one key act of kindness can alter disaster into peace and happiness.

In Mirai Nikki episode 3, Yukiteru discoveries the dead bodies of the Gasai couple. This triggers a drastic change in the course of the survival game and the entire Second World. For the rest of the series, Yukki always doubts and distrusts Yuno at least a little bit, since he found out so early that she was a killer. If not for that revelation, he would have fully trusted Yuno and worked together with her better, like the Yukki in the First World’s survival game.

The importance of cause and effect is of course not limited to sci-fi and supernatural fiction. While it may serve no point to think about the past and how it affected where and who you are now, it’s a fascinating topic just for personal satisfaction.

Suppose you went online as a 12-year-old in the early 2000s and found yourself entralled. Before long, you made your own website. In the present, you’re in your late 20s and have a well-paying job as a software programmer. What if you had never made that first wesbite as a child? What if your family had never bought that new computer? Would you still be as successful as you are now?

Be careful driving lol

Thinking about how your next decision might affect the future can be entertaining or quite frightening. When you forget or don’t care to arrange a designated driver for just one night drinking with your friends, you end up with a DUI. Your coworkers, friends, and family start to treat you differently because of the charge. This leads you to feel a lot of built-up anger and stress, and you become dependent on drinking. Then, your marriage partner divorces you. All because of a simple mistake or a little bit of overconfidence on one night! It could happen. Scary, right?

Related to this theme is the Butterfly Effect, a concept in many sci-fi novels, movies, and anime series. It refers to the phenomenon of inadvertently causing great change to the future by doing something minor in the past, or by the act alone of time-traveling to the past. In episodes 24 to 26, Yukiteru changes the future of the Third World by saving Yuno from choking and vomiting to death in the cage. Yuno’s father goes after her, and after seeing her almost die, he finally stops neglecting her. As a result of Mr. Gasai returning to the household, Mrs. Gasai eventually becomes mentally stable, allowing Yuno to have a happy family life without abuse.

Thanks to Yukki’s simple action of saving one person (Yuno) all twelve contestants get good or fitting endings in the Third World, and don’t have to play any survival game.

Happy, Normal Yuno

2. Effects of Trauma

Yukki is always lonely and uncertain (and may have an anxiety disorder) because the divorce of his parents was traumatizing to him. The Gasai couple abused and neglected their daughter horribly, resulting in Yuno becoming twsited enough to turn the abuse back on them and kill them. Reisuke (Fifth) may have been born with less range of emotion, but he most likely developed this way because of his parents not paying attention to him and becoming deeply involved in a corrupt cult. That’s why Reisuke seems so unfeeling for such a small child, and doesn’t grieve for his parents.

Tsubaki (Sixth) would still be a happy and confident girl if not for the grief of her parents’ sudden deaths and the ongoing trauma of rape at the hands of the cult members. Marco and Ai (the sevenths) might not have become violent individuals and participants of the survival game if not for the tragedy several years before. (When a teenage rapist victimized Ai, Marco reactively slaughtered him.) For the Ninth, Minene, trauma was growing up starving in a dangerous area of the Middle East.

Trauma encompasses any and all of these cases of abuse, neglect, regret, loss, and grief. Few people are just terrible (or driven to do terrible things) for no reason at all. Most of them were pushed to that point by a wide variety of factors. These include genetics, early home environment, socio-economic “class,” personal experiences, and yes, trauma. Everyone is affected by the misfortune in their pasts. Everyone has to learn to live it. Trauma changes people. Some people never recover. Future Diary did a great job of highlighting all these truths with their diverse cast of characters.

3. Perseverance and Failure to Persevere

Yuno is a prime example of a persistent person. I don’t just mean the way she passionately pursues Yukiteru. I’m also referring to how she won the First World survival game with Yukki’s cooperation. Yuno was devastated by inadvertently killing the First World Yukiteru, but instead of giving up, she jumped to the Second World to be with its version of Yukki. Even though the boy found out early about her parents, and resisted her love for the entire second game, Yuno kept striving to make Yukki him fall for her. She protected him regardless of whether he loved her back. She even killed the Second World version of herself, risking detection by Deus, to accomplish all this.

It’s not just Yuno. In Mirai Nikki, pretty much everyone tries to the best of their abilities. Third strives to win to save his son, even giving up his principles as police chief. Eighth and Ninth couldn’t have more different personalities, but they both tried to win the game to create a better world. Although his plan had major flaws, Eleventh really did work incredibly hard to design the future diaries and try to create a city of diary holders. Everyone puts their all into their fierce endeavors… except maybe for Yukki at key moments. He, of course, is an example of a person who failed to persevere.

If he had tried harder to fight and think of plans along with Yuno, Yukiteru would have had much less trouble throughout the course of the death game. In addition, his accomplishments would have proven to him that he is more than “pathetic” and “scum,” inspiring him toward even greater feats. While it’s true Yukki could have won quickly and easily by putting complete faith in Yuno, I don’t blame him for doubting her. What I do blame him for is not putting in enough effort, not moving past his fears, and not trying to protect his friends and family. Most of all, I am disappointed in Yukiteru for not restoring the Second World or creating anything new.

4. Toxic Relationships

There are many toxic couples in Future Diary, or instances where a couple becomes toxic to others around them. First, think of Yukki’s parents. All we know for sure about Kurou in his relationship is that he was bad with money. Given that he ended up stabbing his wife reactively, we can speculate that Kurou was often impulsively violent. Domestic abuse is a possibility. Rea knew that the marriage was no good, so she divorced Kurou. However, he ended up being a far worse person than she thought.

Consider the Gasai couple, too. Ushio and Saika are Yuno’s adoptive parents. Even though his wife was mentally unstable, Ushio Gasai didn’t come home from work with any regularity. As for Saika, she was so dependent on her husband being there that she couldn’t even think of how to get help when he wasn’t. Maybe she didn’t even want help for her condition. She just kept abusing and locking up Yuno.

None of the couples in Future Diary seem particularly healthy, except maybe for Kurusu and his wife. (Marco and Ai are are not perfect either, in my opinion.) But let’s just focus on the most unstable and unhealthy relationship, the one between Yuno and Yukiteru.

Yuno protects Yukki from danger; she is even eager to give her life for him. She is obsessed with Yukki more as a concept and a cause than as a person. Unable to ever stop thinking of him, and viewing it as protection, Yuno stalks Yukki. As for the boy, he appreciates Yuno’s usefulness. He tries to show her physical affection when he feels confident enough, and always accepts her acts of affection. The two flawed individuals are addicted to each other. But Yukki never makes an effort to help lighten Yuno’s burden, and Yuno confines Yukki and intrudes on his life.

Appreciation. Dependence. Physical Affection. These things are not indicators of love. Obsession does not equal love, and protection does not equal love either. Circumstances demanded that Yukki and Yuno stick together, and time spent with each other makes them fall in love. Still, there’s no doubting the fact they have a toxic relationship, and rarely resolve their problems.

5. Identity

What is identity? Is it determined by your feeling and goals? Does it depend on how you were born? Are people limited by their sense of self? What does it mean to have a distorted view of self. What about a delusional identity? It’s my job to show you how these identity-related elements are brought up in Mirai Nikki. The theme might not be as obvious as one like the effects of trauma, but it’s there.

It’s usually a good thing to have a solid sense of identity, but sometimes it can box you in. Yukki is limited by his image of himself. He believes he is scum and cannot do anything. This keeps him from trying, making his self-image a self-fulfilled prophecy.

Reisuke had no sense of belonging and emotional identity, so he became fixated on the idea that he was elite in every way. The only way to prove his superiority was to win a death match with Yuno, but he sadly failed. If not for his fixation of being the best, perhaps he could’ve changed his fate.

Yuno experiencing dissociation/ identity switch

Yuno has a distorted sense of self. Because she must lie all the time, and because she is frequently dissociated due to past trauma, Gasai has a gentle self and a merciless self. She compares the half moon in the sky to herself, saying, “Half light and half dark, just like me.”

The Twelfth has schizophrenic delusions of grandeur, believing his identity is that of a superhero or a power ranger. On a similar note, Eleventh is narcissistic, believing he is destined to be god, and already considering himself one because he created the future diaries.

Hinata found her identity as an individual rather than just her father’s daughter. Tsubaki was so abused that her identity changed, and she became a person who wanted to destroy the world. Minene loved Nishijima because he saw her as a woman and not just a terrorist, helping her sense of identity. The examples are plentiful. Let’s look at just one more.

You can’t talk about identity without talking about Akise Aru. In episode 22, the intelligent teen goes to Deus’ realm, only to be told he is an information device created by Deus to collect data and then guard it in the Akashik Records. Everything Akise thought he knew about himself fell apart. Even his love for Yukiteru was arranged by Deus to keep him interested in the survival game. Akise doesn’t give up, and is able to find one thing he did that proves his free will. (Setting up a future diary under Eighth’s server.) His determination to stick to his own developed human identity makes Akise Aru an admirable guy.

6. Redemption

You might miss this theme in Future Diary because of the dark tone throughout most of the series. I’ll provide three examples of redemption in the series. First, there’s the way Yukki redeemed the entire Third World inadvertently by saving young Yuno from the cage. In the Third World, we get to see the good sides of most of the twelve contenders. Even the narcissistic, conniving Mayor (Eleventh) is seen supporting the orphanage and spending time with the kind-hearted matron (Eighth).

Then there’s Minene (Ninth). She felt that she had redeemed herself by helping Yukki, a child much like she once was, making a place for him in a way that nobody did for her. It’s likely that, after she jumped to the Third World, she used her new powers for something less violent and more productive than terrorism. Or she might not use her power at all, instead living a normal, peaceful life with Nishijima.

Yuno Gasai’s act of suicide is the other major, moving example of redemption in Future Diary. She sacrifices her life so Yukki can become the next God and save the crumbling Second World. This doesn’t make up for all she’s done wrong, of course, but it proves that she does indeed love Yukiteru, and it ensures that she won’t put the Third World in danger anymore.

Mirai Nikki has a multitude of deep themes and thought-provoking content. I’ve only scratched the surface here. Don’t get lost in criticizing this show’s “edginess” when it has so much to offer. Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear any thoughts. Thank you so much for reading and have a fantastic day!

Other Posts About Mirai Nikki/ The Future Diary
The Future Diary: Series Review
The Future Diary: Critic Complaints
Yukiteru Amano Character Analysis 
Yuno Gasai Character Analysis Part 1
Yuno Gasai Character Analysis Part 2

5 thoughts on “The Future Diary: Thematic Analysis

  1. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that numerous studies have found that childhood abuse is not causally related to antisocial or criminal behavior. Psychopathy is mostly genetic.

    Liked by 1 person

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