Platinum End Episode 4 Review – Incidental Back-Stories Don’t Make Characters Sympathetic

Platinum End Episode 4
https://www.amazon.com/Ailuros-Matt-Doyle/dp/1736818376/

In my episode 3 review, I started by declaring: Platinum End delivers our main characters a trap. An obvious trap.

And so here we are at episode 4 with two characters, also dressed as super-heroes having charged into the stadium clearly assuming they’d have some advantage because there were two of them, ready to take on the self-declared Metropoliman.

It’s kind of stupid given there’s clearly more to this trap but whatever.

Platinum End Episode 4

Also, they do that really annoying thing that some anime do when they introduce a disposable character, who you know is going to die fairly soon or at least not be particularly relevant, but they’ll still waste time flashing back and giving back-story on them. Almost like they are desperate to make us care at all about characters we have no reason to be concerned about. It kind of reminded me of the approach taken by Juni Taisen in that they’d introduce the character who was going to die that episode only really in that episode.

When you throw in the fact that the god-candidates in Platinum End were all people who were apparently suicidal (or at least I think that was mentioned) seeing these two guys before they met the angel doesn’t do much to endear them or make them characters I’d particularly want hanging around anyway.

Platinum End Episode 4

Platinum End sets a bizarre scene and yet it all feels kind of pointless.

Let’s be real: Platinum End creates a situation that they try to present as tense and emotional and yet all I can think is that if none of these characters had shown up nothing would have happened.

This was an easily avoidable conflict. There was no need to turn up at all.

The only character in the entire episode they succeeded in making me feel sympathy for was the young girl who despite announcing herself as a god-candidate probably didn’t deserve what is happening to her simply because she’s a little too young to be expected to reason things out.

Platinum End Episode 4

Though the part of this episode that really gets me is that we have a stadium full of spectators and even news commentators who can’t see the wings or red or white arrows so looking at the situation from their perspective it would be either a bizarre or pointless exchange as people in costumes show up and declare a lot of stuff that means nothing, a flying girl appears, more people in costumes show up, and then some of the costumed people start falling over dead.

What do the spectators here actually get out of being there? Is the world of Platinum End so devoid of entertainment that people will just sit around hoping something might happen?

Weirdly, they drag this whole scenario out with this character getting hit with a red arrow and then that costumed character being a fake and so on for most of the episode with our main characters Mirai and Saki just kind of sitting in the stands and keeping their heads down as they watch the tragedy unfold of the characters who did walk straight into the trap.

It would be far too sensible to hope that they’d maintain that and leave the stadium without incident.

I’m guessing the whole point of this scenario is to have Mirai come into conflict with Metropliman and that doesn’t happen if Mirai just passively watches him butcher the last of the identified god-candidates and leaves and so we end on a particularly sour note with that young girl’s life being threatened and no way for her to escape on her own. Mirai was struggling with doing nothing as it was and then Saki cries out for someone to help the girl.

Platinum End Episode 4

Yep, Platinum End isn’t going to let our protagonist be passive and make the choice that leads to safety and survival. Instead, here’s an emotional heart tug that will work on someone like Mirai and force him into action and the consequences will push the plot along. It doesn’t really matter that everything in this episode could have been avoided at this point. Events have played out the way they have and now our characters will have to deal with the fall out.

The best thing is that at least it was two random characters who stepped onto the trap initially, at least allowing Mirai the chance to look like he was going to make some sensible choices. Because if Mirai had barged into the stadium first to talk to Metropliman, it would be really hard to take him seriously as a character for the remainder of Platinum End.

Platinum End Episode 4

Charging in to save a girl though, while that is still a little foolish, at least allows him to take the moral high ground.

Of course, given in four episodes this anime has seemed to favour cheap emotional shocks, it is quite likely that Mirai’s decision to act is entirely too late and the girl is going to die regardless. I guess we’ll see in episode five.

The full review for Platinum End Episodes 1 – 12 can be found here.


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Karandi James


https://mattdoylemedia.com

Platinum End Episode 3 Review – When Mirai Meets Saki

Platinum End Episode 2
https://www.amazon.com/Ailuros-Matt-Doyle/dp/1736818376/

Platinum End delivers our main characters a trap. An obvious trap.

It’s a fairly common trope where the main characters identify that something is clearly a trap or bait set out by the villain but for whatever reason they usually head straight into it anyway. Whether it is because they think its the only way to find out what the villain is up to or whatever, it always strikes me as a particularly stupid decision (the kind that can only be made by narrative protagonists with any expectation of survival). Episode 3 of Platinum End concludes with Mirai fully embracing this trope and it kind of dulled some of the better moments of this episode.

Platinum End Episode 3

Platinum End brings us more angels and more arrows.

After two episodes where Platinum End has largely followed Mirai as he goes about freeing himself from the toxic family situation he was in, episode 3 decides it is time to really get this character into the game. The episode begins exactly where we ended the second episode with Mirai trying to walk past the angel at school but given he’s already reacted to its presence it is already too late to play dumb.

In a twist, we learn that this angel isn’t following the crazy guy who is set on killing the other god candidates. Nope, this angel, Revel, is working with Saki who conveniently is Mirai’s childhood crush only she seems a little damaged by the passing years and I guess at some point will learn what her childhood trauma was.

Platinum End Episode 3

I somehow suspect none of these characters are going to have happy back-stories so I’ve just kind of resigned myself to the tragic back-story trope. As with all staples of storytelling, there’s nothing wrong with a tragic backstory, the problem comes if that is literally the only characterisation the characters have.

Anyway, Saki shoots Mirai with a red arrow to make him fall in love with her. Turns out in Platinum End shooting someone who already has a crush on you just makes them slightly more expressive and not weirdly obsessive the way Mirai’s aunt got. Or maybe Mirai just has protagonist plot armour against being portrayed that horrifically.

Platinum End Episode 3

It was kind of nice seeing Mirai reunite with Saki. For two episodes Mirai has had little hope and little light in his life so seeing him genuinely wanting to connect with someone and being happy to be with them was a little sweet even if Saki is about as emotive as a bag of hammers (again, I’m sure they’ll do something with her character but this episode really just had her standing around like a wooden doll).

However, as with the Mirai/Nasse pair, Saki’s angel, Revel, is actually kind of fun. He’s apparently only a second level angel so saki only has the red arrow (not white arrows or wings) but he’s pretty good at planning (also pretty happy to throw Mirai under the bus). I suspect that Nasse/Revel as a pair will complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses nicely along as we can trust Revel not to betray Mirai (which at this stage I’m not convinced of).

Platinum End Episode 3

Interestingly Platinum End decides on a time skip here and the red arrow controlling Mirai has worn off but Saki and Mirai are still working together. It’s at that point that the god candidate posing as a superhero gets on TV and invites the other candidates ‘to talk’ at a stadium. Seriously, this plot is straight out of a Sailor Moon episode. Literally. Okay, Jadeite actually appeared as a hologram in the sky and demanded the scouts meet him at an airport but more or less same scenario.

It makes it hard to decide if Platinum End is wanting to be taken seriously or not. At times it feels like it wants to be a serious psychological story but the plotting and characterisation make it far sillier. And honestly I’m fine if it wants to embrace being that bit sillier but at the moment I don’t think this anime really knows what tone it is trying to achieve and the end results are mixed.

I guess we’ll find out in episode 4 what happens to Saki and Mirai at the stadium (because of course they went).

The full review for Platinum End Episodes 1 – 12 can be found here.


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Karandi James


https://mattdoylemedia.com

Platinum End Episode 2 Review – Here’s a Crazy Idea

Platinum End Episode 2
https://www.amazon.com/Ailuros-Matt-Doyle/dp/1736818376/

I wonder why both Future Diary and Platinum End use the premise of an old god dying as an excuse to have super-powered humans kill each other? Why would a system be set up that the person who managed to kill all their opponents would be rewarded with ultimate power? That seems like you are just asking for a psycho to be in charge of everything… and well maybe that’s the commentary in and of itself.

Platinum End episode 2 fills in some gaps but still leaves questions.

Platinum End Episode 2

Episode 2 of Platinum End goes back to the set up as a shadowy figure surrounded by a circle of light talks to an assembly of angels and tells them to choose their candidates to become god. He also tells them they have 999 days. Not sure what happens if that time expires before a winner is decided (do they get to share or does the universe implode?) and not sure on what basis the angels have chosen their candidates.

What is clear is that despite suspicions about Nasse’s motives in episode 1, Mirai’s angel seems to genuinely want to make him happy. Why Nasse knew about Mirai before the contest and what their connection is to Mirai is still a bit nebulous but from the moment Nasse had the opportunity to choose a candidate their only thought was that they could now help him be happy.

In a brutal death match, it’s kind of an interesting sweetness.

Platinum End Episode 2

A lot of this episode focuses on Mirai interacting with Nasse as he finishes setting up his ordinary life that he’s always wanted. He uses the power of the red-arrow to have his uncle turn himself in, inherits the money he was supposed to have and gets a place to live and prepares for high-school. Of course, the story isn’t going to let the protagonist stagnate. Basically if he isn’t going to involve himself in the plot the plot of Platinum End is going to come to him.

It does this through various news reports where Mirai discovers a comedian has used his powers to make idols fall in love with him. I found this interesting as we already saw his ending at the end of episode 1, but the way they weave that story and the introduction of the guy playing super-hero into this episode through the news stories and the bank-robbery was kind of interesting as it slowly brought the events closer to Mirai.

Platinum End Episode 2

The guy playing at being a superhero also ups the stakes for all the god candidates in Platinum End declaring publicly on TV after foiling the bank robbery (through brutally killing one of the robbers after that robber had shot the other one) that he had 12 enemies and that he’d already killed one. It takes the whole battle royale as a future concept and really makes it clear to Mirai this is happening.

Despite that, Mirai still wants to live a normal life so he asks Nasse to stay in the house so he isn’t walking around with an angel hovering over him and more or less announcing that he’s a candidate. Which would all be great except for the angel hovering over the entrance to his new school.

Platinum End Episode 2

Platinum End remains lacking in subtlety but it is effective. At every step it allows the protagonist to make a choice that aligns with his personality but then finds ways to keep the plot moving toward the inevitable fight between the god candidates. They also neatly removed his exit from the game by disclosing that he can’t give back the wings and arrows without losing his life. While you might wonder why Mirai would care given he was trying to die in episode one, he’s kind of moved passed that since learning about his aunt and uncle.

For those who enjoyed episode one, Platinum End continues to build on its story and episode two gives us enough new information while spending time continuing to build in Nasse and Mirai’s relationship. It works and for those who are here for the carnage the bank robbery plus the replay of the comedian’s death will probably be enough. I’m looking forward to what happens next at the school.

The full review for Platinum End Episodes 1 – 12 can be found here.


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Karandi James


https://mattdoylemedia.com

Platinum End Episode 1 Review – Heavy-Handed Backstory Leading up to the Looming Battle Royale

Platinum End Episode 1
https://www.amazon.com/Ailuros-Matt-Doyle/dp/1736818376/

I will say the first episode of Platinum End has certainly divided reviewers with some loving it and eating up every minute and others more or over it before it even finished. And the thing is, I can see both points of view here though I honestly quite enjoyed this first episode. That said, there are some major trigger warnings that need to be attached to episode 1.

There’s suicide, child abuse, murder, brain washing, some incredibly revealing clothing on some of the female characters, and all of this is in the name of introducing us to the main character and his bleak past before transitioning into what is pretty clearly going to become a battle royale and seems to be very similar to the concept set up in Mirai Nikki. Whether this ends up being a point in Platinum End’s favour really depends on how you felt about that death match to become a god.

Platinum End Episode 1

However, this story comes to us from Tsugumi Ohba of Death Note and Bakuman fame and both of those are anime I really loved watching.

Sure you could spend time picking them apart such as the pacing of Death Note, the character development, and even some of the cat and mouse play between Light and L. Bakuman with its ridiculous premise where the main character wasn’t going to talk to the girl he liked until he achieved a goal that he had no guarantee of achieving. But that would kind of miss the point that despite their flaws they were both entertaining, gave us memorable characters and offered enough decent moments along the way (or at least I found they did).

So is the first episode of Platinum End worth watching?

Platinum End Episode 1

Unless you are easily triggered by any of the content I listed above, Platinum End has delivered a premiere that is solid enough to at least warrant a look. Whether you end up enjoying it or not will entirely depend on how you find these sorts of stories but if you did like Ohba’s previous works or if you were a fan of Mirai Nikki, there’s certainly enough here to entertain.

The initial scenes of this episode establish Mirai, a boy ready to end his own life. As the episode progresses we see that his home life is awful as he has been the victim of abuse. That in it of itself was probably enough framing however Platinum End doesn’t really work subtle. Instead, we get a further reveal in this episode about the cause of his parents’ and sibling’s deaths that gets a suitably over-the-top emotional response from Mirai. It’s really not nuanced at all but in one episode we more or less learn what we need to know about what is driving this character.

Platinum End Episode 1

Obviously Mirai’s initial suicide attempt fails (otherwise that would be a short character introduction) and we meet Nasse, a self-proclaimed superior angel. Naturally she gives Mirai some super powers and in another anime we’d be rushing off to the fight scenes. As I said though, Platinum End decides instead to focus in on Mirai’s relationships and motivation before dropping the dime on the looming battle royale toward the very end of the episode.

While visually there are some very dark scenes particularly in the flashbacks of Mirai’s abuse and with the gory death of Mirai’s aunt, there’s some lovely contrasting scenes.

Platinum End Episode 1

The genuine joy Mirai experienced flying for the first time as he breaches the clouds and emerges in the sun was a really well put together moment, as is his satisfaction at looking out over the bright and glowing city lights.

Platinum End Episode 1

Too many horrors just go for being visually dark and bleak but it is these contrasts that make it far more intriguing to watch.

Where Platinum End is going to need to be cautious is in how it progresses from here. Mirai has now been established but how will his character develop or be changed by the events to come? How is Nasse’s role going to evolve or will she remain the character who exists just to make sure the audience knows what is going on? Will the other participants with angels of their own end up being fully realised characters or just one-trick caricatures that appear and are as quickly dispatched?

All the ingredients are here for a really solid piece of genre entertainment. For those who like gory and supernatural stories Platinum End may very well hit the spot. But as we should all know, having the right ingredients doesn’t mean a thing if it ends up being half-baked.

The full review for Platinum End Episodes 1 – 12 can be found here.


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Karandi James


https://mattdoylemedia.com

Mars Red Series Review – Historical Vampires and Admirable Theatrical Performances

Mars Red Series Review

Vampires in the military set in historical Japan? I am so there. That was about the full amount of thought I put into Mars Red before agreeing to review the anime with Irina during the spring 2021 anime season. Not that further reading of the premise and the like would have done me any good (much like the one trailer I watched didn’t really help) in terms of figuring out what to expect from Mars Red.

Largely, that is because both the premise and the promotional video, plus the action tag this one has on MAL set Mars Red up to be a very different anime to the one that is ultimately presented. And while I actually quite enjoyed most of what was on offer, I feel that the low scores this anime has received may very well be in part because the wrong audience thought this anime was for them.

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Maeda taking a rest - just not a permanent one. 
Image from Mars Red.

Mars Red is a slow burn.

Rather than a thrilling action piece of vampire against vampire, what we get in Mars Red is by and large a slow story told in a suitably dramatic fashion where we follow Colonel Maeda and the four vampires in the unit under his command as they investigate and then stop other vampire attacks. That’s at least before various military conspiracies, natural disasters, and a terrible antagonist muddy the waters in the weaker second half.

Episode one largely involves only Colonel Maeda attempting to interview a newly made vampire. It has a narrow focus and is full of dialogue and lines from a play that the vampire had been performing prior to her ‘death’. There’s a focus on emotional nuance and the audience is aware there is more to this relationship than is being let on but it won’t be until mid-way through the anime’s run that we’ll be let in on the details.

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Honestly, the whole premise is actually a pretty reasonable consideration of vampires living in any kind of society and how they would fit in, or not, into the modernising world. Compared to so many fantastical stories of vampires living as they pleased or conquering the modern world the frail and brief lives of so many of the vampires in this story has a real credibility and the lore remains fascinating throughout the run time.

Misaki moves against Maeda- Image from Mars Red

While some viewers may have been put off by the slow and deliberate pacing and calculated direction of the earlier episodes, this consistency of them and coherence of the story during the first half were a real draw for me. I loved the atmosphere created and while it wasn’t exciting or action packed, Mars Red was compelling viewing.

Then we passed the half-way point and unfortunately the anime began to suffer from bloat.

It isn’t so much that anything in particular in Mars Red is bad so much as there seem to be a range of ideas and characters that appear and eat up screen time but don’t contribute enough to warrant it. The story was more engaging when it kept its smaller and tighter focus on the four main vampires and Maeda and their interactions. The larger scale conflicts that are crafted later aren’t anywhere near as nuanced or interesting and don’t make very much sense when you actually think them through.

Glen you are a terrible villain - Image from Mars Red

Part of me wonders if Mars Red would have been a better anime if allowed to only be 8 episodes long instead of pushing it to 13? If we cut out Rufus Glen and his ‘plot’, such as it was, and limited Defrott’s appearances to simply being the vampire who lives quietly in the theatre, we’d actually get a far more cohesive story and very little about the final episode would change at all.

If we then trimmed the amount of time spent on Nakajima and his idiotic scheme we’d have a far more enjoyable narrative. Honestly, Nakajima’s scenes were all more or less the same with him complaining about the decisions of the military, demanding money for ‘his’ vampire units, or making dire predictions. We could halve his screen time without losing a single thing and realistically those scenes were the low point of any episode.

That said, we can’t get rid of Nakajima (if we just cut out Glen) because we do need an antagonist to let loose the vampire units in order for Code Zero (the vampire unit under Maeda) to have someone to overcome.

Yes Nakajima, I just said you were unnecessary and dead weight - Image from Mars Red.

However, I am supposed to be reviewing Mars Red and not rewriting it. I guess the reason I’m trying to is that there are so many good things about Mars Red but the package as a whole is decidedly average when you sit back and really look at it. Even as a fan-girl of vampire fiction who did enjoy watching this, I can’t say the overall anime really nailed it.



The animation itself is actually pretty stagnant. There’s a lot of slow conversations and looking at scenery or characters who have minimal movement. The action sequences are largely visually disappointing though they do work to make these emotional high points at least.

There are one or two fight sequences closer to the conclusion that feel like they had more time put into them but by then anyone watching Mars Red for action would have already checked out. It’s too little, too late and those scenes still don’t hold a candle to the true animation heavy weights in the action field.

Suwa prepares for battle - image from Mars Red.

Where Mars Red will find itself able to hold its ground is in the main characters.

While Maeda’s character arc ends up being a little disappointing, as the stern leader of the vampire units he’s an intriguing character. His backstory is fleshed out in small pieces throughout the anime but it isn’t until the final episode where all the gaps will finally come together. As a central character he serves his purpose well and his actions shape the characters around him.

Particularly Shuutarou Kurusu. Kurusu is introduced as a young but powerful vampire who is still kind of coming to terms with being a vampire in the beginning of the story. He doesn’t like the smell of blood and hasn’t drunk any and can’t get used to sleeping during the day. We know little about his human life early on, but like Maeda, his backstory will slowly get filled in and Kurusu ends up being a pretty awesome character throughout.

Kurusu tries out the newest device - Mars Red

His growing relationship with his comrades is kind of a pillar for Mars Red and by and large the audience is drawn to reflect Kurusu’s emotions within particular scenes.

Likewise, Yamaguchi who at first seems like a painful but necessary character in the unit becomes someone the audience can attach to and his role is essential for the emotional pay-off of the story.

The remaining two members of Code Zero, Takeuchi and Suwa, are older vampires, particularly Suwa, and so their way of viewing the world and situations is more removed. Still, the group of four vampires and Maeda prove to be engaging and more of just seeing the unit at work would have been appreciated.

The unit prepare to act - Mars Red

Still, this is an anime that revels in dialogue and often quotes passages from literary works and theatrical plays. If you go in expecting a fast paced action story similar to Sirius The Jaeger that relies on its action sequences to hold the characters and plot together, you’ll be disappointed. Mars Red is more akin to Shiki in that it is slow and methodical in its set-up and has a conclusion that feels a little disjointed from the rest of the story.

Though, both comparisons are flawed because Mars Red is quite a unique viewing experience and feels very much like its own viewing experience. While it hasn’t quite pulled off everything it seems to have set out to do, I will admit I was pretty happy having watched it weekly during the spring anime season. So if you want a slow burn anime about historical vampires in the military, Mars Red might very well be worth trying.

If you did watch it, I’d love to know your thoughts so share a comment below.

Images from: Mars Red. Dir. S Sadamitsu. Signal.MD. 2021


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Karandi James