I’m not embarrassed to count 2006’s grim edge-a-thon Death Note among my favourite anime. I already enjoyed the manga, so followed the hilariously overwrought anime adaptation with deranged glee. Never had the act of writing a list of names in a notebook seemed so dramatic, so metal. A loud, screaming death metal soundtrack definitely helped, though the intense, contorting plot helped keep the viewer on sharp, bleeding edge.
With Death Note now on many anime starter drug lists for those wishing to drag unwitting newbies into the depths of terminal animation addiction, can Platinum End by the same winning writer/artist duo be relied upon as a follow-up hit to maintain that painful yet euphoric high?
Um… based upon these first four episodes… no.
This article is a part of AniTAY’s Fall 2021 Early Impressions series, where our authors offer their initial thoughts on the new, prominent, and exciting anime from this season!
THERE FOLLOW SOME SPOILERS, BUT HONESTLY WHO CARES?
When the original Death Note manga was unleashed in English, I eagerly devoured every new volume. I wanted, no, needed to know what happened next. I should have realised after buying the first few volumes of Platinum End’s source manga and forgetting to keep reading it, perhaps it wasn’t in the same storytelling league as its predecessor.
Similar connective tissue underlies the central concept — though its strength is weakened. Whereas Death Note focused on the improbably named Light Yagami, a college student with a machiavellian streak as wide as the Kuiper Belt, Platinum End unfortunately settles on bland anime every-boy Mirai Kakehashi, a typical self-insert protagonist devoid of personality, drive or narrative interest. After failing a suicide attempt (because he’s rescued by the invisible yet busty angel Nasse), he finds himself irrevocably entwined in a supernatural death game with the ultimate prize of achieving godhood.
It turns out Mirai (a rather on-the-nose name that means “future”) has been selected by angels as one of thirteen potential “god candidates”, all who have recently attempted suicide, now to be granted magic powers (red “love” arrows, white “murder” arrows, the power of supersonic flight via angel wings) and potential immortality. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to choose the next deity it would probably not be someone who hated the world so much they wanted to kill themselves. Anyway, I think the (very thin) argument is that such people would be more willing to attempt to change the world for the better, were they granted godlike powers. I’m not convinced.
If you think this all sounds very reminiscent of 2011’s extraordinary death game anime The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki), then you’d be right. The replacement god conceit is incredibly derivative of that earlier work. What Future Diary succeeds in, but Platinum End singularly fails to comprehend, is that this is a ridiculous situation and therefore ripe for insane, unhinged comedy. Platinum End takes itself so seriously that I wonder if the authors carved their first drafts onto each others’ skin with razor blades, before rolling in mountains of salt to make the pain burn that much harder.
So far, Platinum End has no such magnetic central fulcrum character as the eternally memetic, neon-pink-haired Goddess of Yandere Yuno Gasai. Our main antagonist appears to be a sadistic machiavellian CGI Power Ranger who calls himself Metropoliman. Perhaps it’s early days yet, but he just isn’t interesting. Instead he comes across as a Tiger and Bunny side character, but cacklingly evil. His unpleasant sadism takes centre stage in the latest episode where he manipulates a bunch of other (apparently very stupid) god candidates to result in a handcuffed, screaming child being threatened with murder in front of a packed stadium of confused onlookers. Yes, it communicates that he’s a bad guy who’ll do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, but it’s just nasty.
At least with Death Note the sociopathic Light Yagami is at least compelling, vaguely relatable (at the beginning, anyway) and is surrounded by other sympathetic characters. The reader/viewer roots for Light if only to see how far he will go, because his incredibly convoluted wheels within wheels manipulations are unpredictable and exhilarating to witness. This is the complete opposite of Platinum end, which has so far on two occasions caused me almost to drift off to sleep. If there is anything a death game anime should be, it should not be soporific!
At the centre of this narrative somnolence are our frankly boring central characters, Mirai and his female friend Saki. Neither have compelling personalities, and instead of driving the plot are merely swept along by it. The first episode is so brutally, horribly edgy that we not only learn that Mirai’s parents were murdered by his aunt and uncle (his abusive legal guardians) but when Mirai first uses his new angel-bestowed powers he causes his aunt to bloodily kill herself. This happens because he shoots her with his new “red arrow” that can cause any other human to instantly fall in love with him (for 33 days). The preceding incest-threatening scene where his aunt comes on to him is just a little too high in squick factor that it almost comes as a relief when she gorily stabs herself out of guilt. Of course Mirai being all morally upright is not ok with using his other “white arrow” (an instant murder-weapon) to kill anyone because that’s not right. Uh-huh. At least he gets some pretty angel wings out of the deal though.
Saki’s only interesting action so far is to immediately stab Mirai with her red arrow the minute she learns he is a god candidate like her. All it does is make him admit to the feelings he already has for her. Instead of exploring anything interesting with this situation, the show instead time-skips 33 days forwards so that the spell expires. Way to waste a fascinating (and uncomfortable) concept, Platinum End. Oh no, spoke too soon. There’s a creepy dude who uses red arrows to abduct and presumably rape multiple idol singers. It’s ok, he gets murdered and the semi-naked idols run away presumably to some very expensive, lifelong trauma counselling. Keep it classy, Platinum End.
Mirai and Saki’s attached angels Nasse and Revel are slightly more interesting, but nowhere near as weird or intriguing as their Death Note shinigami counterparts Ryuk or Rem. Nasse’s main character quirks are seemingly her boobs and a distressing affinity for murder. “Why don’t you just murder your family, Mirai?” Revel seems to exist mainly to cock-block a frustrated Mirai. Though it’s hard to say if Mirai actually has any real desires or designs on Saki, he’s so passive. Having now spent four entire episodes with this cast, I honestly do not give a crap whether they live or die, a cardinal sin when it comes to the death game genre.
Much like Death Note’s world is governed by an unbreakable set of increasingly complicated rules, it appears that the authors have attempted the same trick with Platinum End, with interstitial flashes of arbitrary new rules appearing during each episode’s halfway eyecatch. It remains to be seen if this identical worldbuilding exercise can enrich Platinum End’s humdrum story the way it did its predecessor or whether its plodding execution will continue to strangle all life from its twitching corpse.
Platinum End is already on life support, a mere 4 episodes out of its projected 24. I wonder if I should pull the plug now?
Based on the manga by: Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Directed by: Hideya Takahashi, Kazuchika Kise
Produced by: Studio Signal.MD
Streaming on: Crunchyroll and Funimation
Episodes watched: 1, 2, 3, 4
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