Future Diary: Careful With That Axe, Yuno

I watched the first four episodes of Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) in one sitting. There’s an immediacy to its over-the-top, pulpy nature that is compelling and invites me to keep watching after one episode ends. Perhaps it’s the one-step-more-than-normal level of violence, similar in tone to the recent Deadman Wonderland, or the combination of ideas from stories like Death Note and Eden of the East and Battle Royale. The pacing is also superb, slowing down in deceptively calm and even romantic moments and jagged during creepy moments. The end of the third episode was one of the most chilling moments I’ve seen in anime since Higurashi. Or…

Nah. I have to admit, a big part of it is just Yuno.

Sure, the show and her character seems to be written to the standard definition of “yandere” in mind, and since it’s now a well-known trope there really isn’t much that’s surprising about our pink-haired psychotic stalker. However, the way Yuno is portrayed balances the “deredere” and “yanderu” pretty evenly, and the transition between the two doesn’t feel abrupt the way it often is in other shows with the character type. In particular, the dere feels real, as opposed to a superficial mask for plain old psychosis. Cart Driver had it right about episode 3: having a very “normal” anime romance type episode (for 75% of the running time) was actually deeply unsettling in context, but we also got the sense that Yuno’s love for Yukki is actually pretty genuine. Even if it is based on stalking.

Of course—a person who did that in real life would need a restraining order at least. Why is this appealing in fiction at all if we’d call the police on her in real life? Perhaps the yandere type is, at least in anime, a logical extreme and type of the now famous Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Her sweetness is apparent and appealing: she kisses Yukki in episode 1, out of nowhere, and there seems to be a real warmth to her affection in spite of her, um, other tendencies. Those violent/jealous/possessive tendencies serve, to a large extent, as the “quirks” that the MPDG is required to have. Some manic pixie girls have seizures, sing theme songs to themselves, or say they are looking for aliens, espers, and time travelers. Yanderes have weapons and glassy eyed stares. It also might appeal to the sense that some otaku have that women are intimidating, even dangerous, to deal with; that just because she seems to adore you on the outside doesn’t mean that she’s at all safe! Which is, in a way, kind of moe.

If only it were just that.

Maybe the yandere type can only work in anime, where since it’s animated there can be enough of a distancing to make it more appealing than appalling. Yuno has pink hair, after all, in this one. I can’t think of too many Western live action examples of the type that’s drawn to be at least as appealing/attractive as opposed to just creepy. Misery is the first title that comes to mind. (Any other titles would be appreciated in the comments.)

In short, I kinda like Yuno a lot in this show, and her yandereness is helping the keep the show interesting along with its solid directing and visuals. As John Keats wrote about another enchanting, dangerous, and beautiful woman:

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

Or else.

Author: gendomike

Michael lives in the Los Angeles area, and has been into anime since he saw Neon Genesis Evangelion in 1999. Some of his favorite shows include Full Metal Alchemist, Honey and Clover, and Welcome to the NHK!. Since 2003 he has gone to at least one anime convention every year. A public radio junkie, which naturally led to podcasting, he now holds a seminary degree and is looking to become Dr. Rev. Otaku Bible Man any day now. Michael can be reached at mike.huang@animediet.net. You can also find his Twitter account at @gendomike.

2 thoughts on “Future Diary: Careful With That Axe, Yuno

  1. So, do you have moe for yandere?

    This can be revival of yandere since Ryugu Rena of Higurashi and Katsura Kotonoha of School Days. And Yuno in anime is inexplicably erotic. While manga version of Yuno is drawn unrefined and childish. And eroticism is making Yuno exceptionally scary and attractive. Yes, her pathological romance is what makes me keep watching this show also. Many otaku are do-M (super-masochistic), so yandere is one of moe attributes that quenches M thirst. Did John Keats have yandere moe also based on his poem?

    1. Well as much as I also liked Higurashi I’m not sure I’m moe for yanderes in general. I am kinda moe for Yuno, though. 🙂 And I really need to check out the manga, several people have recommended it to me—it’s interesting that you say Yuno is portrayed more childishly there than the more eroticized portrayal of the anime. I wonder which one is more unsettling.

      John Keats, at least in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” is hearkening back to the idea of Faerie—which for the medievals was a mysterious land just beyond our own filled with dangerous, unpredictable creatures. People sometimes wandered into Faerie, never to be seen again, or were sometimes kidnapped. (The sentimental Victorian idea of harmless fairies—think Tinkerbell—is a pale shadow of the original idea. One recent novel that gets it right is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.) The women of Faerie were especially alluring but were almost in the same category as succubi; they’d lure unsuspecting men into a trap. Beauty and danger come together in a lot of literature, and the yandere trope is just one example of that idea.

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