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by Nick Creamer,

Platinum End

GN 2

Platinum End GN 2
Having come to terms with possessing his own angel, Mirai is now finally getting closer to his crush Saki—as her loyal servant. Apparently Saki is also a candidate for godhood, and before Mirai can fight back, he's been caught under her spell by her angel's red arrow. But even if Mirai can somehow overcome this betrayal, there's still the threat of a god candidate who seems to be styling himself as some kind of superhero. When the angelically blessed Metropoliman calls all the candidates to face him, will Mirai be able to survive the fallout?

Platinum End's first volume established a cheekily cynical platform for a thriller. Opening with our suicidal hero Mirai, it proposed a scenario where twelve human candidates for godhood would have to fight it out, each of them blessed with some mix of angelic powers. There are red arrows of love that make any target your slave, white arrows of destruction that actually kill your target, and angelic wings that allow you to fly anywhere at supersonic speed. Mirai is initially hesitant, but he soon becomes determined to pursue his own happiness. And just like that, he's shot in the back with a red arrow - fired by his longtime crush, Saki.

That punchline was a great cliffhanger for the first volume, but its consequences are unfortunately defused pretty quick in this one. As we soon learn, Saki was likely goaded into targeting Mirai by her scheming angel, Revel. Saki herself doesn't seem to possess much personality; she's mostly just sad and demure, echoing the idealized semi-personhood of Tsugumi Ohba's last heroine Miho Azuki. And so begins the steady give-and-take of Platinum End's second volume.

As with the first volume, Platinum End's clearest strengths are Obata's terrific art and Ohba's talent and passion for cat-and-mouse thrillers. There are fewer angelic flourishes in the art design of this volume, but Obata's semi-realistic drawings are as strong as ever. Obata frankly has his work cut out for him in making Platinum End's action feel impactful, since instant-speed transportation and CG arrows that defeat any target in a single hit aren't the most visually compelling mechanics. In spite of that, volume two's big setpieces still feel alternately shocking and thrilling, and his character art is as beautiful as ever. It turns out that “what if we replaced Ryuk with a beautiful angel who's naked all the time” is a pretty effective way to stuff a lot of fanservice into a Death Note shell.

Ohba's reliable twists and eye for showmanship are also on display here, though there are also some unfortunate issues. The biggest narrative disappointment is definitely how fast Saki is turned from a potential threat or rival into Mirai's hanger-on. After the last volume's shocking twist, pretty much all the potential drama of the situation is defused immediately. In spite of being sworn to obey Saki, Mirai is relieved of responsibility almost immediately, and the narrative soon jumps past the point where her red arrow's spell is broken. It would have been great to see Mirai's fairly myopic philosophy contrasted against something a little more world-weary in Saki, but so far she's just somberly agreed with all of Mirai's choices. Saki's passivity also hurts this volume's romantic aspirations - there's presumably meant to be some sort of chemistry there, but Saki is too meek and indistinct to offer much spark.

Fortunately, Platinum End's aspirations as a thriller are generally met. This volume sees Mirai and Saki coming ever closer to a confrontation with the ambiguous Metropoliman, a god candidate who's chosen to set himself up as a local superhero. Metropoliman calling a meeting at a local stadium gives Ohba the perfect opportunity to mess around with the rules-heavy thriller games he tends to be most comfortable creating. Just like how the Death Note's mechanics often commanded the terms of its drama, the strengths and weaknesses of Mirai's angelic powers dictate the dramatic beats here. Volume two's big stadium climax features masks and body swaps, calls for allies and last-second reversals, stunning acts of cruelty and tragic murders.

You might think a manga about divinely blessed god candidates would lean on action, but the specific nature of Mirai and the other candidates' powers make its “fights” play out more like Mafia or some other conversational lying game. When victory is instantaneous the moment you leave yourself open, success depends on hiding your identity, maintaining the element of surprise, and picking your battlefield with absolute care. Platinum End's second volume embraces the strategic fun of such situations, drawing great mileage out of its lurid premise.

Overall, Platinum End is largely the same manga it's always been, but actually getting into the meat of the death games puts the story in a much more entertaining place. As with the first volume, when Platinum End attempts to craft strong characters or articulate thematic points, it generally falls short. Most of Ohba's characters speak with the same voice, and there isn't much moral complexity to any of their situations. But Platinum End shines when it focuses on its thriller games, and this volume is very heavy on thrills. If you're up for a black-hearted death game, Platinum End is a fine time.

Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : A-

+ Obata's art is strong as ever, and Ohba's storytelling shines in this volume's thriller twists
Characterization and tangents about the meaning of life continue to be underwhelming

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Production Info:
Story: Tsugumi Ohba
Art: Takeshi Obata

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Platinum End (manga)

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