Manga Review: Mirai Nikki

Mirai Nikki is a delightfully twisted manga masquerading as your average loner-youth-gains-superpowers tale. Don’t be fooled by the shonen art style; There is surprising depth to the characters and a surprising edge of ruthlessness to each of them. Mirai Nikki starts a bit slow, but gets tough to put down as Yuki fights for his own life against an increasingly deranged cast of antagonists bent on winning the game. It’s vicious and at times confusing, but Mirai Nikki is also a gripping for those who like a little bite to their manga.

The reader is started off right in the middle of the action. An introverted teen named Yukiteru comes into possession of a diary capable of predicting the future before being pressed into a frantic survival contest. 12 other people have also been given prophetic diaries and all are tasked with one mission: Kill the other diary owners or face apocalypse. The last owner left standing wins the power to control time and space and save the world. Yuki, being the moral sucker we’ve seen lead many a manga, initially refuses to take part in the game. Deus, the god figure running this asylum, identifies Yuki as his personal favorite to win leading to a rash of attempts on his life. The only thing keeping Yuki alive at times is a young classmate of his, Gasai Yuno. Yuno is another Future Diary owner, but she seems utterly unconcerned with actually winning the game and is more interested in stoking the flames of her adoration for Yuki. As Yuki works to circumvent the game and stop the destruction of the world, Yuno happily assists him by killing everyone who poses a threat to Yuki or the romance Yuno craves. Yuno ends up being perhaps the most interesting part of the story, as her homicidal nature and tenuous grasp on sanity serves as a buffer against Yuki’s naivete. Yuno’s true motives are kept in mystery for most of the plot, with flashes of her past keeping the reader pushing forward. The ending is a bit confusing after the author delves into a good amount of time/space twisting, but the path to get there is worth walking.

There are some potholes along the way, unfortunately. It may have just been my translation, but I found myself repeatedly confused about how Diary wielders actually used their prophetic devices in combat. They can predict the future, but with simple actions each wielder can change the future, but some have a better aptitude for adjusting the future than others, and all of this future past talk leaves my brain spinning. There is simply a leap of faith required to progress through each battle, but there is usually enough else going on to keep the reader immersed in the story.

The art of Mirai Nikki is simple but attractive. The characters are emoted expressively, with the highlights being Yuno’s desperate pleas for validation from Yuki. Each of the other Diary wielders engage in combat with Yuki, and while his dart throwing abilities (like… seriously?) seem a bit out of place in otherwise serious combat scenes a knife-swinging Yuno usually shows up in time to save the fight.

In case it wasn’t clear before, there is a lot of death going on in this manga. It’s a bit surprising given the art and the general personality of the protagonist but be prepared for slashed throats and decapitations. It’s kind of refreshing, but it may catch the reader off guard to see the teenage Yuno trying to stab adolescents accused of owning a Future Diary. Just ignore your moral compass on this one.

If you enjoyed Death Note, Mirai Nikki might be up your alley as well. It isn’t the clearest manga, but it’s certainly entertaining. I wish that the story could have gotten across with fewer holes, because this is has the makings of a fantastic psychological read. Even with the confusing segments, however, Mirai Nikki shines on the back of some great character development and good ol’ fashioned violence.

Mirai Nikki gets 3.5 false predictions out of 5.

Manga Review: Dance in the Vampire Bund

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The battle-tested daughter of vampire royalty works to preserve the future of her people while dealing with romantic feelings for her lycanthropic companion. Okay; okay, I’ll stop. Yes, that’s the premise to Underworld, but that’s also the background to Dance in the Vampire Bund, and it only makes it easier to jump into the story. Continue reading

Bringing Back Backyard Baseball

The other day, the guys over at Cespedes Family BBQ did something amazing; they gave us all the information we needed to start playing Backyard Baseball on our phones or computers.

If for some reason you aren’t familiar with Backyard Baseball, it’s essentially the GOAT computer game. There were other “Backyard” sports games, including basketball, soccer, football and hockey, but none could compare to baseball.

After starting with just the “Backyard” kids (Pablo Sanchez, Pete Wheeler, Kenny Kawaguchi, etc.), they eventually introduced Major League Baseball stars such as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Beltran, Randy Johnson, Tim Hudson, and so on.

The game was engrossing, and I spent hours wasting my youth on this game. And now, I shall continue this tradition. Continue reading

Pokemon or NBA Star?

Courtesy of @TheZRoberts

Courtesy of @TheZRoberts

Back in the beginning of March, before the spring break fever set in, a premise was born, thanks to Ian Dougherty. Referring to DeMarcus Cousins as Charizard was brilliant, and then I started thinking more and more NBA players should have direct Pokemon comparisons. It’s like the NBA Draft except more accurate.  So, I’ve decided to compile my six NBA Pokemon to head into battle with. Of course, I’m going with the original 151 Pokemon, because there are currently nine billion Pokemon in existence and that’s far too many to choose from.. Continue reading

Why Don’t We Appreciate Mike D’Antoni?

“We want Phil!” cried the Laker faithful at Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retirement ceremony. Tight-lipped, then- and current Laker head coach Mike D’Antoni endured the calls for his replacement. He isn’t new to shouldering the blame for disappointing team performance. In certain ways, D’Antoni almost brings it upon himself. His blunt West Virginian attitude can nettle onlookers, particularly those with an eye towards his lack of championship hardware to back it up. Hall of Fame coaches like Gregg Popovich and, yes, Phil Jackson are allowed the occasional salty retort. Their trenchant remarks are often discarded as endearing acts of whimsy. Mike, though? Continue reading

The Coen Brothers and the Absurd

“What did we learn, Palmer?” asks J.K. Simmons after an epic rant in the final scene of Burn After Reading, one of the more underappreciated Coen Brothers movies. “I don’t know, sir.” answers David Rasche’s Palmer, to which Simmons quips “I don’t fucking know either.” This line, as many critics have pointed out before me, is the most meta the Coen Brothers get. For years people were searching for overarching moral themes in their movies, lessons to be learned. After all, every great film maker in that style, gives us some kind of lesson, a guideline to what being a good person is.

There is no such thing with the Coens. There are no good people, and the bad ones are usually heartless psychopaths, dark tropes of humanity. Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men was one. The gang in True Grit was another. If anything, they were the burdens of adaptation more than anything. After all, even the would-be murderers in Fargo seem to have a moral code. The evil, if anywhere, is in the surrounding world and the way people react to its injustices.

The Coens’ latest venture, Inside Llewyn Davis, seems to explore this theme even further. Continue reading