It’s always hard to know what an anime will be like before the season begins. All you can really do is read a synopsis, watch a trailer and give it a go. Platinum End had a lot of fanfare prior to launch based on the a manga created by Tsugumi Ooba who also created Death Note and Bakuman it seemed like it would be a relatively safe bet. Throw in some heavy advertising and pre-season discussion pieces and Platinum End seemed destined to sweep the season.
Tragically, after the first few episodes aired the conversation quickly shifted and soon after it became clear that even if Platinum End picked up this wasn’t going to reach the heights that Death Note had soared to. That said, Death Note has its flaws but it came out a fair time ago when there wasn’t as much competition for our attention, when we hadn’t seen that type of story a million times before and honestly for all its flaws it is still pretty charming to watch with characters who leave an impression.
Platinum End on the other hand brings little joy to the screen and the misery isn’t overly affective as the audience is left relatively indifferent to one dimensional characters who seem determined to make about the worst choice possible in any given situation.
It wasn’t terminal at episode 3 or 4 as there were pockets of potential nuance or places where characters could grow from, and then the next 8 episodes happened and the only thing I can say about episodes 8 through 12 is that each one was more unbelievably stupid and tiresome than the last.
Now, if I were to compare Platinum End to the abysmal misery-fest that was Full Dive then Platinum End actually comes off a little bit better because at the very least the protagonist, Mirai, is at least attempting to make choices that will lead him to happiness and he was dumped into the whole god-candidate situation without any real choice in the matter.
But that’s not exactly high praise.
Hard to say anything other than Platinum End missed the mark or tripped over its own ambition before it even got going.
For those who somehow managed to miss the discussions earlier in the Fall 2021 season, Platinum End begins with Mirai deciding life is just not worth living and stepping off a roof. Now having a story begin with a character suicide is nothing new but you would hope in this day and age that there would be some deeper reason for it other than to establish an edgy back-story for a character and provide a justification for animating scenes of child-abuse.
Tragically, there really isn’t. While the first couple of episodes kind of hint we’re going to explore how Mirai was beaten down in life to the point where suicide seemed like the better option, all too soon the story sweeps us away to… Well, in theory the conflict between the god candidates and Mirai’s now absolute conviction that he shouldn’t kill which largely just puts himself and his friends in danger but somehow even at episode 12 he’s still able to speechify about it mid-battle.
What small glimmers of hope we’re given for some kind of character arc will fade as Mirai goes from quiet and depressed boy to seeing a brief (and overly repeated flash back) of his mother telling him the reason for living is to find happiness and his father telling him that the worst thing he could do is kill someone and somehow that now becomes the foundation for his existence. Why it hadn’t been motivating him prior to the angel and the confrontation with his aunt and uncle who abused him is anyone’s guess.
Basically, Platinum End hasn’t given us a compelling protagonist. They haven’t even given us one that makes a lot of sense. Mirai is largely boring and passively allows the plot to happen around him spending most conflicts waiting and seldom taking any kind of action. The few times he does involve himself usually end up with some kind of dramatic internal monologue or speech that makes little sense in context.
And yet, Mirai is still one of the better written characters which kind of goes to show what kind of train wreck the rest of the cast are.
Initially I had some hope for the angels as Nasse, the angel who saves Mirai from his suicide attempt, was at first quite amusing and their moral compass was questionable which I thought could be an interesting idea to explore.
Instead, Nasse has become the glorified cheer-squad for Mirai.
The other angels occasionally get some of the better lines in Platinum End but mostly they just kind of stand or float around and offer largely unnecessary commentary on matters. They fill up a lot of the screen and contribute almost nothing. And part of that is because the angels of play a passive role in this story and aren’t meant to interfere but basically they’ve become weird appendages, drawn in crowded rooms or hovering on the edge of battle-grounds and serving no purpose.
Still better than Saki, who is listed as a main character on MAL but has done basically nothing the entire series and when she’s finally got her wings just before the half-way mark her contribution is still almost nothing and the only thing she did achieve she got through flirting.
I know, the source material for Platinum End isn’t recent and if we look at the creator’s other works we can critique the way they write female characters to death there as well, but surely if you were going to animate this story in 2021 you would at least consider making Saki vaguely useful.
But hey, it doesn’t really matter that our protagonists feel completely devoid of common sense or interesting characteristics when they are placed against a villain who is originally coming across as coldly logical (and yet warped with the whole sister encased thing going on) and yet all too soon comes across as childish, reactive, and hopelessly inept at manipulating those around him. Plus he blames everybody else for his failures and accepts no responsibility.
Yeah, these characters can beat each other to death for all I care at this point. Platinum End has very successfully made me very disinterested in them and their actions.
If I hadn’t already decided to move on at the end of the Fall Season, episode 12 would have been the final straw as characters stand around mid-battle rather than taking action and the actions they do take seem absurd (and that’s being nice about it).
With the plot of Platinum End not having really progressed in twelve episodes and little revealed about how the god candidate will be chosen in the end, I have no investment in who wins in the end and I’m not even sure it matters particularly. I know that the short term plots all seem pretty lame and basically goes along the lines of Metropoliman sets up some kind of trap for other god candidates, someone or more than one person, stupidly walks in, a fight occurs, usually someone will die, Mirai and Saki will gasp and be sad, and then we’ll rinse and repeat.
Plus the costumes the characters wear get more ridiculous as the season progresses. Metropoliman wearing his suit was ridiculous enough but then Mukaidou randomly started bringing suits along for Mirai and Saki and Saki’s has cat ears and a tail. Apparently they serve a functional purpose but so far all they’ve done is helped her flirt with a sword wielding psycho.
However I’m not just mindlessly bashing this anime. The OP is actually pretty cool and dramatic and if it prefaced a much stronger story or at least a story full of compelling characters it would feel justified, and some of the visuals have been really striking and interesting (others not so much but I’m looking for positives here).
All and all, I don’t hate that I tried Platinum End. I’m actually fairly convinced older teens who come to this series without having watched a significant number of similar stories may actually even find some redeeming qualities here (provided they aren’t put off by some of the subject matter). For me though, Platinum End is an anime full of potentially interesting ideas (because they’ve been far more interesting in other anime) but it lacks characters with enough depth to anchor the plot and without that the plot is just kind of flailing about without weight.
That said, if you’ve given Platinum End a go I’d love to know your thoughts on the series.
Images from: Platinum End. Dir. K Kise. Signal MD. 2021
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