Future Diary was a very popular manga and anime from a couple of years ago despite not being what you would typically call a critical darling. It was pretty dumb with plot twists that frequently favoured extravagance and drama rather than actually making a whole lot of sense. While I thought it was pretty good, I still generally agreed with the sentiment that it was very silly and often poorly plotted. That is, until Big Order came out.
In case you’ve been left in the dark on this, Big Order is the next manga by the author of Future Diary and follows a similar format. A bunch of people receive super powers and our main character has a crazy pink-haired lady who will probably kill him if he stays with her for too long (even the character designs for the lead two are very similar in both series). Watching Big Order has made me appreciate how much stuff Future Diary got right, at least in comparison to how many things Big Order gets wrong.
It’s tough to know where to begin on the problems with Big Order so let’s start with something its sister-anime Future Diary does very well: characterization. The format of Future Diary gives us each new diary user in incremental batches. We are introduced to the character and learn of their motivations and backstories. They’re often quite shlocky, B-Movie grade backstories, but they make sense within the context of the character. Most importantly, this gives them understandable justification for their actions that the audience can clearly follow.
In Big Order, we’re shoved into a room with each major player very early on and given no indication as to who most of them even are. They jump into the plot willy nilly with their powers seemingly made up on the spot to justify how the characters can get out of a particular situation when the writer has written himself into a corner. Even when they are explained they are either incredibly silly and don’t actually give us any insight into the character nor justification for their actions – or they feel like they were completely made up halfway through the story. In Future Diary each character reveal feels like it was planned from the moment they invented the character. They were introduced into the story fully formed. If Big Order’s midpoint reveal about the true nature of the disaster wasn’t made up halfway through writing the story, then they sure as hell didn’t do a great job foreshadowing it. What few backstories do make sense are trite and boring – oh you really, really like your little DEFINITELY NOT BLOOD RELATED sister? What a unique concept for anime.
Then there’s the writing. Future Diary isn’t exactly a masterpiece of literary perfection, but boy does Big Order make it look almost Shakespearean in comparison. It’s the eternal problem of character’s not feeling like they’re talking to each other but rather at each other, not responding to each other’s lines. It makes them come across as stupid most of the time, particularly the lead two of Eiji and Kurenai Rin. This on some level may be intentional, and it’s certainly no coincidence that stupid characters are easier to write. The world building is equally awful. We have no real idea of what the world still looks like after the disaster. Most of the world perished although schools and the international press somehow still exist? When Eiji talks about dominating the world, we have no idea what the state of the world he plans to dominate even looks like.
The problems the lack of character motivation, world building and backstories create are exacerbated by the miserable pacing. That’s another thing Future Diary deserved a lot of credit for. It’s pacing was swift and succinct, explaining everything we needed to know about the characters and current arc before moving on to the next arc. It was structured perfectly to give each character enough time to say their piece and move on. It skipped over the odd detail, but it was usually unimportant information that wasn’t required for the story they were telling.
In Big Order I frequently have no idea why they’re even on a mission and what they’re trying to accomplish. If someone betrays someone I haven’t a clue what their reasoning is for it. I don’t think this is the adaption’s fault either. By all means they’re trying. Even with a lack of budget to animate the fanciest scenes, they’re at least trying stuff with interesting scene compositions and color styles straight out of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. If anything it’s possibly an upgrade on Future Diary’s animation at times, although it doesn’t have the great handiwork post-credit scenes anymore.
This is all before we start to get into the dumbest stuff of all. While Future Diary features some pretty silly scenes, it at least usually made sense within its dumb internal logic and was used to drive the plot forward in some way. In Big Order there are outright incomprehensible events which ostensibly should impact the plot, but don’t, and make you wonder what purpose they serve at all. Just to pick the most ridiculous scene of all, Eiji manages to get a girl pregnant by grabbing onto her hair ribbon. That is, a 9-month-old baby literally plops into her stomach as soon as he grabs onto her ribbon. As bizarre of a scene that was, the icing on the cake was that the whole thing went away the next episode. While revealing a major event like a pregnancy would usually be a spoiler, in this case it’s not – it had no impact on the story whatsoever. It made you wonder why the hell they even bothered.
When All Else Fails, Fan-service
To top it all off, the show throws in a whole lot of boobs and butts and random upskirt shots and the like, which I have long since learned is the usual sign that an anime has no confidence in its story so tries to distract you with fan-service. Honestly this may be the least reproachable thing about the show as at least I can appreciate a good butt without having to pay attention to the complete rubbish that’s being served otherwise. Of course the boobs are obscured by giant beams of light so if you want the complete experience you need to buy the Blu-Rays. I mean, this show is complete rubbish, but I want to see an anime nipple so I guess that means I’m shelling out my hard-earned cash for this.
Future Diary gets a bad rap sometimes and I imagine new fans who jumped into Big Order would decide never to go back to watch anything by this author. Which is a shame because Future Diary shows how good schlocky B-Movie thriller anime can be. Big Order makes Future Diary look like a literary masterpiece, but then again Big Order makes practically every other anime seem good in comparison. Or at least entertaining. After watching Big Order, I honestly feel seasick due to how much of the episode’s runtime I spend shaking my head.