Every so often, you get an anime character who makes a name for herself well beyond the confines of her medium. I’m talking your Sabers from Fate, Hestia from DanMachi, Zero Two from Darling in the Franxx, and so on and so forth. The ladies whose faces (and other features…) are known well across the internet.
However, I wouldn’t say that the characters I mentioned define their respective tropes.
No, that honor goes to a certain Yuno Gasai.
While I wouldn’t say Future Diary’s designs and story in practice are stellar, I think Yuno Gasai alone makes the show worth watching.
There’s a reason why the pink-haired girl is widely considered the Queen of Yandere.
Yuno may not be the first yandere ever put to paper, but she’s impossible to forget.
The always compelling ‘yandere’ archetype, derived from the word ‘yanderu’ (mentally ill), is more often than not catered towards straight men by means of cute, but disturbed female characters wholly devoted to unassuming male protagonists.
I’m not going to pretend like male yanderes don’t do the same thing for straight women, but they’re far less common and far creepier on account of real life male/female power dynamics.
This aside, I do think Yuno has something to offer in terms of a less male gaze-y female power fantasy.
But before I get into the nitty gritty, let’s lay down some groundwork.
What Is Future Diary?
Sakae Esuno’s hit rom-mystery psychological thriller manga-turned-anime Future Diary was overseen by Asread (the company also behind the Corpse Party OVAs) from 2011 to 2012.
Our story follows awkward, but observant Yukiteru Amano as he is unexpectedly thrown into a deadly battle royal with twelve other participants.
One of these participants being a popular classmate of his named Yuno Gasai.
And in no time, Yuki discovers that the picture perfect girl is not at all what she seems.
But equipped with nothing but cellphone ‘diaries’ that predict the future and each other under constant threat of death, the two classmates are pushed to work together.
Much to our protagonist’s fear and reluctance.
Where did these diaries come from you may ask? Well, from an interdimensional being called Deus Ex Machina of course.
Whoever survives this ‘survival game,’ the Diary Game, will succeed Deus as the next God of Time and Space and be able to realize their wildest dreams.
I have a few hang-ups with Future Diary as a whole, but never once was it boring.
The action and tension ramp up the moment other diary-wielders get involved as well as that of an underlying mystery having to do with Yuno’s past.
The original manga (2006-2010) was succeeded by three spin-offs, one of them being a manga epilogue called Future Diary: Redial (2013). This story was also adapted into an OVA as a final cherry on top.
Who Are The Characters?
Yukiteru ‘Yuki’ Amano is a character whose learned helplessness and withdrawn nature really work for the type of story Future Diary is.
Yuki truly feels like a normal boy thrown into a desperate situation well beyond his and Yuno’s control.
Needless to say, the guy’s got nowhere to go but up in terms of developing the persona and skills needed to survive the Diary Game… and for what it’s worth, it’s a sight to see.
The overseer of the game, Deus Ex Machina, is not your typical arrogant or intimidating god. While Deus’ 3D design is a bit unpleasant, the god himself is reasonable and even seems to take to our protagonist.
The impish Murmur, on the other hand, is a divine servant of questionable origins.
I won’t be delving into every single enemy diary-wielder, but I think it’s worth mentioning the combined ‘seventh’ participants, Marco Ikusaba and Ai Mikami.
Marco and Ai are a young couple who’ve known each other since they were orphaned children. They serve as a healthier mirror to Yuki and Yuno grounded in equality, their love pushing Yuki to take a more active role in protecting his partner.
You Know The Name
In the span of three episodes, Yuno Gasai pulls a 180 from cute classmate to secretive stalker with innocent blood on her hands.
As it turns out, Yuno hails from a household that turned abusive during her high school career and has since never been the same. Desperate for any connection, any thread of hope, she latched onto Yuki who showed her kindness during a moment of vulnerability.
I’m not a fan of the implications the yandere archetype has in regards to mental health and mental illness, but at the very least, the story frames Yuno as a girl suffering from trauma rather than ‘crazy’ for ‘crazy’s sake.’
She even acknowledges this fact herself later on in the show. Yuki just happened to be the one there.
Unlike modern yanderes, Yuno’s obsessive, overprotective, violent nature is very rarely portrayed as comedic, desirable, or doting.
The gal gets to be outright terrifying, not just ‘waifu material.’
This behavior ties into what makes her feel like a female power fantasy rather than an axe-crazy waifu who harbors affection for Yuki alone.
I don’t condone Yuno’s actions (most of the time), but there is something cathartic about her embodying unadulterated, unapologetic female rage.
She was hurt by people who were supposed to protect her and that loss (on top of other baggage) understandably tipped her over the edge.
And yet, Yuno is far from helpless.
She’s 100% the one in control within her and Yuki’s relationship. Like her namesake, the girl exhibits the cunning and legendary temper of the Roman goddess Juno (perhaps, better known as her Greek equivalent Hera) to resounding success.
And because I love bodyguards and guardians in fiction, I admit that Yuno’s devotion, obsessive as it is, struck a chord with me. The desire to protect is powerful indeed and it was interesting to see a character twist that desire well past its original intent.