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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.
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