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What do Future Diary and School Days have in common? I mean besides yandere fueled murder sprees. Unlikeable lead characters. Yet for one it’s a contributing factor to a bad reputation, and for the other it’s typically glossed over. So right now I hope to make it clear that the likability of a protagonist is not a measure of the quality of a show.

For those note familiar with School Days, it is a harem show wherein the main character, Makoto Itou, dates several girls simultaneously, without them having knowledge of it, or consenting to be part of the polygamy. For this reason, Makoto is labelled an “unlikable character” in almost every review of the show, and that is cited as a reason the show is bad.

Compare this to Future Diary, where Yukiteru Amano repeated fails to take action when he ought to, uses his “girlfriend” to protect himself, and when he finally does act decisively on his own, he does things wholly detestable things, ranging from Machiavellian military tactics, to strait up murdering his friends. While I get that he often takes a back seat in talk of the show to his much more interesting female co-star, Yuno Gasai, Yuki’s actions are much worse than Makoto’s, and should make for a far more dislikable character.

Future Diary Yuki

I get that it’s not so simple, and Yuki isn’t as dislikeable because of the complexities of his situation and character; while most of us can say we wouldn’t blatantly cheat on someone, none of us can speak for how we would react in Yuki’s unrealistic position. But after re-watching Future Diary recently for review, I still classify Yuki as fairly “unlikeable”, as I think most people would. And while he does get some redemption at the end of the series, let’s face it, when was the last time someone brought up Future Diary’s final episodes, except to peek through all the plot holes.

Why Yuki’s dislikable character avoids much discussion, I think, is obvious; Yuki is frankly a relatively small part in the extensive complex platter of things that make up Future Diary. Meanwhile, Makoto and his bad deeds are pretty much all there is to talk about School Days (except of course its internet-beloved ending). But even so, Yuki’s character is generally considered a positive, albeit a little too Shinji Ikari-like (and Evangelion’s despised protagonist certainly has a place in this conversation, though it would be too complex for me to bring him in now) force on Future Diary’s quality.

And you know what? Damn right he is! I admitted undersold Yuki in my own recent review of the show, but he does indeed contribute to Future Diary’s wonderfulness (shut up; spellcheck isn’t holding that one against me, so I’m keeping it). And it’s when he’s doing some of the worst things that he is most interesting as a character.

So, in the case of Future Diary, the main character’s dislikeability (spellcheck is giving me shit for that one, but I’m keeping it anyway) is not a flaw in the show. So how can it be one for School Days? As far as I’m concerned, it’s not. We don’t have to related to or like Makoto to like School Days; it’s flaws run much deeper than that. And it is precisely because we dislike him so much, that School Days’ climax, it’s only good part, by most accounts, feels so good. We see the unlikeable characters getting what we’ve thought was coming to them.School Days Makoto

I get that liking a shows protagonist runs deeper than what I’ve presented here, and for most shows relatability (which often depends on liking the character at least a little) is important. But the complexity is exactly what I want people to think about more. It’s not as simple as; The protagonist is unlikable, so minus five points. Sometimes an unliked protagonist is exactly what a show needs; it works very well for Future Dairy, it leads to the best part of School Days, and I’ll let you make up your own minds about how it contributed to Evangelion.

Don’t Lose Your Way