(Disclaimer: the following article likely contains spoilers pertaining to Future Diary. If you don’t want anything spoiled for you, either turn back now, find a way to read the series first cough cough use a scanlation site cough cough, or watch several hours of terrible television after reading the article to ensure the proper memory suppression. Other than that, enjoy).
The world of Sakae Esuno’s Future Diary (known as Mirai Nikki in Japan) is one of brutality. The story starts with Yukiteru Amano, a middle school student, receiving a phone-diary which allows him to see the future. This gift is granted to Yukiteru, as well as twelve other individuals, by Deus Ex Machina, the self-professed god of time and space. The catch is that these diary-holders are tasked to fight one another to the death, with the winner becoming Deus’ successor. Although a few diary-holders are compelled to form alliances, usually either with or against Yukiteru, circumstances inevitably drive the diary-holders to murder one another until only one remains. Although the manga has a…um…”happy” ending, the means by which the story’s resolution is reached are utterly tyrannical. Future Diary exposes the capacity of human selfishness, as applied to our capacity for both good and evil.
Esuno’s presentation of humanity eerily corresponds with Thomas Hobbes’ version of the social contract, particularly as presented in his critically-acclaimed Leviathan. Both texts detail how the actions of individuals relate to their distance from or affluence of power, as well as the effects of the presence of anarchy. Additionally, both appear to dictate morality as a societal luxury, one which goes against our need for self-preservation. This lens of moral ambiguity applies to all of the diary-holders, but the greatest amount of exploration and development is devoted to Yukiteru, as well as his stalker-turned-bodyguard-turned-girlfriend Yuno Gasai.
Deus Ex Machina shares traits with Hobbes’ versions of God and a proper monarch. In Hobbes’ words, “God is king of all the earth by His power, but of His chosen people, He is king by covenant (Leviathan, CHAPTER XII).” In this same sense, Deus is an all-powerful (or at least mostly-powerful) entity, whose presence and health impact the state of the universe. However, Deus has entered a special pact with the diary-holders: if they participate in his challenge and follow his rules, then they will obtain the chance to become a god themselves. Furthermore, Hobbes claims that “God is king of all the earth; yet may He be king of a peculiar and chosen nation (Leviathan, CHAPTER XII),” a statement which Hobbes likely used to tie the English monarchy to religion. In that same sense, Deus could be considered to rule the entire universe, yet he concentrates solely on Japan. All of the diary-holders are Japanese, and the events of the story never expand past the country. Both versions of God, then, could be interpreted as playing favorites.
Another political parallel is the transference of power. According to Hobbes, the point of giving power to a monarch or similar political body is “either in consideration of some right reciprocally transferred to himself, or for some other good he hopeth for thereby(Leviathan, CHAPTER XIV).” This is because human nature, by Hobbes’ admission, is “a condition of war of every one against every one, in which case every one is governed by his own reason, (Leviathan, CHAPTER XIV),” which can only be bypassed by sacrificing rights for security or power. The diary-holders represent a hybridization of these concepts: while the game itself traps the diary-holders in a life-or-death struggle, the diaries themselves give their wielders the ability to change fate. While some diary-holders keep their talents a secret, others use the ability to see the future for power or as a means of protecting loved ones. In a sense, the trade-off is befitting of a Hobbesian monarchy.
At a personal level, most characters in Future Diary act exactly as Hobbes would expect them to. Prior to entering the game, Yukiteru leads a life of social isolation. While not outright stated, Yukiteru’s behavior and perception of the world are indicative of a social anxiety disorder. Furthermore, Yukiteru uses his future diary to better his own life rather than to help others or even make friends, which hearkens back to Hobbes’ “all-against-all” mentality.
When Deus’ game begins, Yukiteru’s Hobbesian traits become even more apparent. Rather than reject the game (which, admittedly, is impossible) or fend for himself, Yukiteru allies with the mentally-unstable yet highly-competent Yuno. Or, rather, Yukiteru takes advantage of Yuno’s obsession with him for her services as a one-woman army. Of course after a while Yukiteru becomes equally adept at committing wanton acts of murder, and the two strike an equal partnership in pursuit of Deus’ godhood. In this sense, Yukiteru forms a covenant with both Deus and Yuno: both exchanges entitle him to safety and power, though at the cost of his morality and emotional security, as well as the right to a happy, normal life.
Inversely, while Yuno is made out to be completely psychotic, in her feelings towards Yukiteru she is (mostly) genuine. While in the real world Yuno’s stalker status would land her in prison, in the world of the story she suffers few, if any, consequences for either her treatment of Yukiteru or the many, many murders which stem from it. In contrast, Yukiteru’s later-acquired friends attempt to connect with her (as much as possible), Yukiteru’s mother treats them as a normal couple, and even a diary-holder berates Yukiteru for not taking Yuno’s feelings seriously. With a few exceptions, and the manga’s ending notwithstanding, it almost seems as if the author intended Yuno to be the more sympathetic character of the two.
While a drastic claim, this would not be out of line with a Hobbesian reading. According to Hobbes, “to show any sign of love or fear of another is honour; for both to love and to fear is to value (Leviathan, CHAPTER X),” whereas “to contemn, or less to love or fear than he expects, is to dishonour (Leviathan, CHAPTER X).” Yuno consistently shows nothing but love for Yukiteru, or at least the idea of him, and legitimately fears what life without him would bring. Yukiteru certainly fears Yuno, but in his affection he is frequently dishonest. Yukiteru only begins to truly feel love for Yuno after about halfway through the manga’s events, but up to that point he is either toying with Yuno or actively avoiding her. Granted, Yuno’s doing such things as drugging Yukiteru and holding him hostage kind of entitle Yukiteru to such coldness, but Yuno is ultimately forgiven by both him and the author.
Although Sakae Esuno’s Future Diary is devoid of several elements set forth in Hobbes’ Leviathan, most importantly a strong Christian moral base, the similar characterizations of religion, political structure, and personal values are too noticeable to gloss over. Both accept the faults of the human condition, whether through preaching or simply building a fake world and burning it to the ground.
(Note: the author of this article does not promote the use of scanlations over official localizations, as scanlations hurt the industry. However, the author feels the need to point out that Tokyopop never bothered to publish the last two volumes of Future Diary, and if you eager readers feel like reading scanlations of those chapters then I’ll just turn my back and look out the window. Nope, not watching you. Totally not watching you possibly read scanlations).
Esuno, Sakae. Future Diary, Vol. 1. Published by Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Tokyo, Japan. English translation published by
Tokyopop Inc., 5900 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 2000, Los Angeles, CA. Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) copyright Sakae Esuno 2006.
English text copyright Tokyopop Inc. 2009.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Originally published in 1651, England. Uploaded by Bill Uzgalis. Oregon State University.