There Can Be Only One – Future Diary

Mirai Nikki

Future Diary is a gem among survival game titles I’ve encountered, keeping up a thick tension all the way and with a host of atypical characters.

Manga Title: Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
Mangaka: Sakae Esuno
Genres: Action, psychological thriller, supernatural
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
14 year old Yukiteru (Yuki) Amano has a hobby that at first seems rather ordinary – keeping a diary on his cellphone – but turns out to be something extraordinary. Introverted and anti-social, Yuki spends his free time at school keeping his diary and comes home to enter an imaginary world he thinks is of his own making, ruled by a god named Deus Ex Machina.

deus

Deus Ex Machina

One day Deus announces that Yuki will be taking part in a game to select the next god – a survival game – but the catch is that the game involves cell phones. Yuki’s cell phone (referred to as a diary) is now equipped with a certain special function – being able to predict with accuracy what will occur around him in the future, which appears as text on his phone’s screen. His diary doesn’t give any hints as to his own future though, thus it’s called the Random Diary.

Mirai Nikki

Yuki and the Random Diary

Initially shocked by the cell’s accuracy in prediction, Yuki attempts to continue with his daily school life, meeting another diary holder in the process – Yuno Gasai. Yuno is Yuki’s classmate, however Yuki knows little about her other than she’s beautiful and got great grades.

Mirai Nikki

Yuno Gasai

Shortly after announcing that she knows about Yuki’s diary, she shows him her own, which she refers to as the Yukiteru Diary. Her diary displays all of Yuki’s actions over a ten-minute course of time. Yuno is at first forceful, then very affectionate towards Yuki, saying she has a strong desire to protect him in this deadly survival game. Terrified, Yuki barely has time to think before discovering that they too are being pursued by a tall, masked man who’s out to kill them.

Mirai Nikki

The Third

The man is also a diary holder, the first of many Yuno and Yuki will encounter throughout the series. Yuki discovers there are nine in total, and that each of them is trying to kill off the other diary holders. Quite simply, if the other holder’s diary is destroyed they die at the same time, and Deus will proclaim the last survivor to be the new god.

The three assailants Yuki comes across in the first volume all have their own unique diaries too. They all just refer to each other by their numerical orders – Yuki being the first, Yuno the second. The third diary holder has a Murder Diary which can see the methods he uses to catch and kill his targets. Later on Yuki also encounters the ninth and the fourth as well.

While Yuki fights with his paranoia about Yuno, his fear of the other dairy holders and of dying in the fatal game, Yuno puts her life on the line to protect him again and again. She shows a disregard for her own safety and an addictive, protective love for Yuki verging on being psychotic.

The stakes are high and the clock is ticking; with enemies all around and unsure of who to trust, Yuki enters the survival game of the diary holders where the only person he can actually call an ally seems to be crazy herself.

Mirai Nikki

The diary users

Pencil Sketch:
Mirai Nikki is unusual for turning around common hero/ heroine tropes. The ‘hero’ Yuki is anything but – he gives up quickly, whimpers a lot and lets Yuno fight most of his battles for him. Even though he’s aware of his own pitifulness, he still feels like he’s in a corner. In a sense he’s relatable, it’s far easier to assume that you’ll act bravely and protect everyone under difficult circumstances, but a more likely truth is most people would be scared and start panicking.

Mirai Nikki

Common expressions for Yuki

To his credit, Yuki does try to break through his fears again and again, though mostly when he’s pushed into near death situations.

I noticed a slight difference between the manga and the anime in that the manga has some inner monologue from Yuno’s perspective.  This has the effect of making Yuno seem less sinister than she did in the anime. She’s really proactive, taking the reins to fight back against the other diary holders when Yuki goes weak at the knees. Aware of all his actions; Yuno stalks him, keeping a close watch over him and displaying an inexplicable love for him that remains one of the mysteries of the series to be explained later.

Yuno’s personality has been classified as ‘yandere’ in anime/manga jargon, the best suitable words I can find to describe her myself is ‘sadistically clingy’. The enigma of Yuno is a special one as her endearing qualities are almost on a par with her insane ones – thus creating a sort of ‘dark heroine’ quality about her that has endeared her to a lot of fans. Check out most image posts on Mirai Nikki and for sure you won’t be seeing Yuki.

Mirai Nikki

A yandere in love

Other diary holders are introduced in the first volume and of course more later on, but one thing is for sure – not one is ordinary and almost all have the intention of being god themselves.

The mascot of Mirai Nikki, Muru Muru, doesn’t appear a lot in the first volume but I wanted to mention her as well. She Deus’s servant, initially playing the role of an indifferent observer, however she takes a far more active role later on in the story. She provides a bit of comic relief in an otherwise pretty serious title.

Mirai Nikki

Muru Muru brings a bit of humor

Inking:
Quite a few titles involving cell phones used in survival games came out before and after Mirai Nikki, but among them I’d have to say it’s one of the best. The pacing is excellently done, setting up a tense, fast feeling that doesn’t stop each chapter.

Mirai Nikki’s characters all display manic emotions, from extreme anger and fear to literally psychotic meltdowns – all drawn amazingly by Sakae Esuno. Though not being particularly endearing, the characters are extremely interesting and convention challenging. Topped off with a creative spin on the powers of cell phones and the mysterious game set up by Deus ex Machina – Mirai Nikki is undeniably a gripping, inventive page turner.

If I have any beef at all about the manga it would be a few holes in the logic of cell phones’ usage, but as usual with such titles, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required. The important thing is that I didn’t feel the amount required was significant enough to detract from the enjoyment of the series.

Doodles:
I decided to pick up the manga after reading Albert Nakano’s post on the anime (check out his article on it here (https://plus.google.com/117819984822914128077/posts/J7PKBDhqheb). I saw the anime when it aired between 2011- 2012 and thoroughly enjoyed it; revisiting the manga now is no less enjoyable than when I watched it.

Advertisements

Justice will, without fail, prevail – Death Note

Death NoteRather than being a ‘Whodunit’ murder mystery, Death Note immediately throws you into an intense psychological hotbox. The opponents facing each other in this hotbox are two characters who both believe that they represent the very definition of righteousness itself.

Manga Title: Death Note
Author/Artist: Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata
Genres: Psychological thriller, detective fiction, supernatural
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
Raito ‘Light’ Yagami, an honors student ranked highly in Japan and son of a detective, comes across a notebook that’s been seemingly dropped by someone outside his senior high school. Opening the book, he’s surprised to find this disturbing paragraphon the book’s first page:Death NoteAt first thinking the notebook is nothing more than a prank, he takes it home and reads the following paragraphs, which describe the details of how the selected person’s death can be manipulated by writing them in the Death Note too. Still not thoroughly convinced Raito gives it a try, experimenting first on a felon, and next on a random biker who’s harassing a girl he comes across in the street. After the biker really does die in the street from an apparent ‘accident’ – Raito’s doubts about the notebook are completely cleared.

Death Note

Validating the notebook gives rise to schemes within Raito’s mind, plans about how he can go about rectifying what he considers to be an evil world and become a god in the process. Raito begins his purge by writing down the names of one hundred dangerous lawbreakers, many of whom are incarcerated, believing himself to be untraceable due to the mysterious method the victims suddenly die from if not otherwise specified: a heart attack.

Death NoteShortly after, the true owner of the notebook, a shinigami (a god of death or a reaper) known as Ryuuku approaches him, telling him the book now belongs to Raito, and elaborating more on some of the rules regarding the Death Note. Ryuuku is invisible to everyone except the owner of the Death Note and those who touch its pages. He adopts a neutral status about Raito and his mission, claiming he was bored with the life of a shinigami and hopes that this unique human is going to make it interesting for him.

Death Note

Ryuuku the shinigami

In the meantime, Raito’s initial carelessness is actually what gives L, a famous private detective whose true name and identity are unknown, a major clue as to Raito’s whereabouts and methods of killing.

death note

L is on the case

L is contracted by international officials to investigate the bizarre sudden deaths of the hundred convicts. L’s sense of justice is the converse of Raito’s – he believes in following the law to the letter and any murder, regardless of who is killed – is still a murder. Tracing an invisible thread in the mass of killings, L filters them down to Raito’s location in Japan. Through a clever television broadcast, L also ascertains more about Raito and is able to pinpoint his rough location within Japan.

Instead of running from the threat, the now zealous Raito decides to use L’s closing in on him as a chance to annihilate his opponent. A battle of wits between the two geniuses begins, a battle in which the hunter and the hunted becomes unclear. One thing is certain however, neither Raito nor L will give in until they see that their ‘justice’ is done!

Pencil Sketch:
The story mainly follows the perspective of Raito Yagami, thus you’re enveloped early on in his mentality. Raito holds that everyone believes in justice yet no one’s willing to take the law into their own hands, therefore he sees coming across the Death Note as an opportunity to help the world. The main flaw in this plan is Raito himself; he not only wants to mete out justice, but also hopes to be revered as a god for it, which immediately highlights his delusional thinking.

You could say that Raito is questionably conscientious – he feels pangs of conscience on initially using the Death Note however he soon covers this feeling up with his grand designs to cleanse the world. His ideology/delusions and ego overrule his compassion and he follows the path of his own convictions regardless. What’s more, when L issues his challenge over a television broadcast for Raito (who is dubbed ‘Kira’- a play on the English word killer) he takes a sort of relish in the idea of a cat and mouse game with L, confident that he’ll win.

While Raito doesn’t show a scrap of sympathy for those he kills, he seems to be genuinely caring towards his sister and father – relationships that later may end up being a liability for him in his role of Kira.

Ironically L is not so different from Raito. Both possess a strong sense of justice and are ingenious, meticulous men who show little emotion. L has the habit of sitting cross-legged and even meditating when pondering the Kira case. He shrewdly smokes Raito out in the first volume and using his international contacts, including the F.B.I., draws closer and closer to Raito’s position.

Ryuuku, the shinigami whose Death Note Raito lays his hands on is arguable the truly ‘evil’ character in the story. Whilst doing hardly anything other than observing and explaining to Raito the Death Note’s rules, he openly states that he finds humans interesting due to their struggles and attempts to change things. He keeps a number of facts back from Raito to increase the enjoyment of the murder game he’s watching unfold – all to ease the boredom of his eternal existence.

death note

Chilling with a shinigami

A range of other characters are introduced later, but I’m only going into the first volume here, so I won’t touch on them. Needless to say, the characters introduced later are every bit as fascinating and colorful as our three main ones so far.

Inking:
The entire concept of a Death Note brings with it an immediate sense of suspense and of delving into the forbidden. Just like opening a grimoire or esoteric spell book, starting to read Death Note is the same as diving into that taboo world. Right off the bat, the tension begins – a tactic masterfully done by Tsugumi Ohba, drawing you into the psyche of Kira and the paranormal killings which he performs. The manga hits on a deeper level when you find yourself understanding both Raito’s motivations and L’s too, growing closer to both of them.

Takeshi Obata’s art, as any who are familiar with his works knows, flourishes on each page – strongly bringing out the atmosphere and emotions of the characters. The story doesn’t let up for one second, and I was biting my nails along with L, pondering what his next move and Raito’s would be, unable to stop poring over the pages of what I can honestly call a modern classic.

Doodles:
I’d heard of the infamous Death Note through the grapevine before I actually read it. At the time I was reading Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman, and met someone who recommended I read the manga. One of the things the person who recommended it to me said was, “It’s a psychological experience; it gets deeply into your mind.” I honestly couldn’t agree more.

death note

 

Play the Liar Game

liar game cover

Manga Title: Liar Game
Mangaka: Shinobu Kaitani
Genres: Psychological thriller, mystery, drama
Demographic: Seinen

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading Liar Game; the title immediately made me think of survival games and their ilk, so I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t one. Still, the main protagonist Nao Kanzaki finds herself in a situation not very different from a survival game – one where she needs to win by deception.

Nao Kanzaki

Nao Kanzaki

Two elements got my attention after only reading a little of Liar game: the first was its great pacing, introducing one challenge after the next in the mysterious game, and the second was how perfectly opposite the two main characters are and their unlikely team up that’s fun to read.

Nao finds an invitation in a package that comes in the mail, telling her that by breaking the seal she’s already consented to join the ‘Liar Game’. It immediately makes a mess of her life as she’s not used to dealing with complex situations, not to mention scams. Her personality is what could best be described as honest to a fault, and her honesty (though praiseworthy) ends up getting her in all kinds of trouble.

A real dilemma

A real dilemma

There are some loopholes in the logic behind the rules of the Liar Game, so some suspension of disbelief is necessary. The company behind the Liar Game gives the players 100 million yen each, which is collected in a month. During this time they’re given an opponent, who has the exact same amount of money and who they can attempt to steal from. The money they have can be used for any purpose, but the exact sum needs to be given back – therefore if you haven’t taken your opponent’s money you end up with nothing, or in debt to the Liar Game’s personnel if you’ve had your money stolen.

Folks from the Liar Game office

Folks from the Liar Game office

Initially Nao decides to just sit on the money till the month is over and have nothing more to do with it. Problems arise when it turns out that her opponent doesn’t see things the same way and succeeds in swindling her out of her money cunningly. Eventually it dawns on her that this is what the Liar Game is all about: who can lie artfully enough to get the other player’s money.

Nao's opponent

Nao’s opponent

At her wits end, and after receiving a suspicious suggestion from another individual, she seeks help from a con man who was recently released from prison. His name is Shinichi Akiyama, a master of disguise, and literally the polar opposite of Nao – calm, calculating and brimming with confidence. He’s initially unwilling to help Nao, having just been released from prison, but decides to after being impressed by her sincerity (he asks her to not leave the spot as he makes his getaway and she stays right there for nearly a day).

Shinichi Akiyama

Shinichi Akiyama

The unlikely duo team up to try retrieve Nao’s money by doing something she is not so good at – lying and psychological manipulation.

As I mentioned, the unique character team up and fast pacing of Liar Game give it an attention grabbing edge. Also the challenges that face the pair and the innovative and surprising techniques that both of them come up with to deal with them are an enjoyable read.

 

The players

The players

The art’s straightforward, but delivers a good solid impression; particularly some of the characters’ facial expressions are pretty creepy. At each stage of the Liar Game the plot thickens as different ‘games’ emerge. I felt really involved in the process; trying to guess what would happen next and figure out the puzzles the team is faced with. Liar Game initially seems quite simple, but ends up having complex twists and turns – a decent thriller that will keep you on your toes!

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?