by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Platinum End ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Platinum End ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Platinum End ?
Platinum End exists in a very strange space – at least within the context of its creators. Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba have certainly been a successful duo - Death Note, for all its faults, is a compulsively watchable cat & mouse game that became one of the biggest hits of the 2000's, to the point it's still spawning memes to this day. Their follow-up Bakuman has held up decidedly less well, and overall was a more modest success to its darker older brother, but it still managed to eek out a niche for itself in the overall Shonen Jump landscape. But PE here is in a much more pitiable position. Its reputation among those who have read the manga is much more immediately negative compared to its predecessors. It's not an outright failure, as evidenced by getting an anime adaptation, but it's a lot harder to find manga readers actually excited for this show. My question going into reviewing this adaptation is why, exactly, that happened.
The cheeky answer is “it's not very good” and that's accurate, but I think this series deserves a more thorough examination than that. After all, these creators have proven they can make a wickedly compelling, supernatural battle of wits before, one that occasionally pushed the envelope of what kind of dark subject matter could be covered in a Shonen Jump series. Surely freed from those reigns, Ohba and Obata could create and even darker and more mature storyline, right? Right?
Well that darkness may very well be the biggest problem. Death Note could absolutely be shlocky as all get out, but it was often tempered by its restraints, zero-ing on a level of edgy goth energy that perfectly appealed to a lot of viewers at the time. By comparison PE feels indulgent in the weakest and least interesting way possible. The obvious example is in episode two, when the short-lived comedian Tonma has an on-screen orgy with 9 brainwashed idols in the back of a limousine. Just writing that makes me feel like an idiot, but it's the only way to describe that scene. It's trashy and exploitative, but a series leaning into that could at least try for an infectious kind of smarm. But Platinum End takes itself deeply, embarrassingly seriously at all times, so the scene never rises beyond being uncomfortably and voyeuristic, providing cheap justification for our villain to kill the creep as introduction. It's the kind of scene a freshman film major writes into their student film to prove they're making something For Adults, the ultimate sign of immaturity
Speaking of our villain though, the characters are another big old albatross around this story's neck. Ohba and Obata seem most at home writing smug, confident assholes, and that shows in the amount of actual agency we see at play in these episodes. Rich, confident, trigger-happy Metropoliman is easily the most active and motivated character so far, and he's supposed to be our villain. Meanwhile Mirai, our actual hero, is the most passive creature on the planet besides his not-girlfriend Saki. He's constantly being led by the nose to the next plot point or twist, and his most consequential act is accidentally killing his aunt by speaking in hyperbole. His only stated goal is a vague pursuit of happiness that even he can't properly articulate, and it all feels like the creators writing well outside their wheelhouse. The script feels intimately familiar with the machinations of a conniving megalomaniac who's happy to murder and scheme his way to godhood, but the average teenager is an enigma of vagaries and platitudes. That's to say nothing of Saki and Mirai's flaccid romance, channeling all the raw romantic tension of a stale cheese pizza. The story is obviously much more interested in our villain, but seems to feel obligated to sacrifice its screentime to our good guys because they can't just do Light Yagami again.
So alright, the characters are largely a bust, with the most compelling person in the cast being a villain. The same was also true of the latter half of Death Note and that still worked out alright in the end. So how's the story here? Not bad, on paper at least. While the concept of supernatural death games is a bit oversaturated these days, it's still a solid premise to throw a bunch of different characters at each other, and there's a lot of room for interesting stories to tell there. Unfortunately in practice this God Game has yet to produce much intrigue.
Part of that you can chalk up to this being the early stages. We've only met four of our thirteen Candidates, so there's theoretically room for more interesting and memorable characters in the future. Again, Metropoliman is the only person actually doing anything, actively creating a public persona in an attempt to flush out his fellow candidates and take them out to secure his Godhood. His whole superhero shtick is a bit silly, and I'm not sure why he thought publicly challenging his fellow Candidates to a duel would make them more likely to reveal themselves, but he's at least doing things. Mirai, on the other hand, is only interested in going to school, until he gets brainwashed by his crush Saki who...just kind of keeps him in her bedroom for a month without doing anything. So, so much of episode three is just the characters standing in a room, talking at each other about the basic rules and mechanics of God Candidacy and how the arrows or wings work, and while it's perhaps useful for getting the audience on the same page, it's deathly boring.
And that more than anything is the nail in Platinum End's coffin so far. For a story that should be tense, tragic, dramatic, thrilling, or some combination thereof, it's currently sterile and dull whenever it's not slipping in a pool of blood. I've read enough of the manga to know that will eventually change as this whole affair completely goes off the rails, but for now this is just the un-fun kind of mess. Its attempts at a darker, more mature conflict are hamfisted at best, actively detrimental at worst. Its production is largely flat, with the animators doing all they can to keep Obata's designs recognizable while still being able to somewhat work in motion, and outright giving up whenever the CG elements get involved. Altogether this show feels like it was tossed together at the last minute in every respect, and it doesn't seem likely things will improve from here, unless they go diving off a cliff.
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