Six episodes in, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by Platinum End. And I’m probably not alone in that sentiment. But it does leave me wondering just what went wrong with Platinum End to the point that it has left me feeling so deflated. Particularly when I step back from my disappointment and realise what I’m watching isn’t a complete dumpster fire or train-wreck, it just isn’t very good.
What went wrong with Platinum End? Viewer expectations.
Putting Platinum End into context is really important. If another anime came out telling this story with Mirai wanting to die and then becoming a candidate to become god, while it would probably be mediocre at best, it wouldn’t be getting the vitriol on YouTube that Platinum End has been subjected to which further builds up the online sense that Platinum End is the worst anime ever (which it really isn’t, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it).
So why is Platinum End contextually doomed to face this kind of criticism?
Because of who created the manga. You can’t have an anime coming out, based on a manga by the same writers who gave the world Death Note and Bakuman and not have high audience expectations. When you rank anime on MAL by popularity, Death Note is in the no. 1 position. Even though it only has a review score of 8.63.
Rightly or wrongly, people had expectations about Platinum End. The pre-release hype with character designs and promotional videos also helped to build up these expectations and honestly they set themselves up for some viewers at least to be disappointed regardless of whether what was offered with Platinum End was actually good or not.
Equally, Death Note and Bakuman flourished in a time when accessing anime was significantly harder for those of us not in Japan and so the competition for our views and likes was significantly lower.
I absolutely love Death Note and it was one of the anime that drew me back into being a huge anime fan as an adult and had me actively seeking more anime online. Then I found Bakuman and despite some general dislike at the gender norms and the somewhat silly decision by the protagonist not to talk to a girl until ‘X’ happened, I really enjoyed that series.
That said, I did have some reservations going into Platinum End. The idea that it was more of a battle royale storyline certainly made me wonder if this would click for me because a lot haven’t (though some are quite fun). But, the teaser PV and the creator, they both had me lined up to give this one a watch. Whether I wanted to or not, I was going to end up comparing Platinum End to the other works by the creator and unfortunately, Platinum End doesn’t favourably measure up.
Sure, you could probably argue that the plot line isn’t any worse than Death Note, and if I wasn’t looking at it through the lens of familiar nostalgia I might even agree, but to be honest, I’ve watched Death Note that many times at this point and have loved it every-time, whether it makes sense or not isn’t even a point to discuss now. Platinum End however can’t get viewed through nostalgia goggles. I’d never even heard of it until the anime started getting hyped. My only emotional connection to it is what I’m feeling each week as the episode ends and unfortunately for it, it isn’t good.
Perhaps then the easiest answer to the question, “what went wrong with Platinum End?”, is that it didn’t come out twenty years ago and audiences are far more judgemental, have far too many other options now, and the moment where this could have ridden the wave of good will from prior works has passed. Much like a certain Avatar sequel that may eventually arrive in cinemas but I don’t think anyone will care. The moment has passed.
What went wrong with Platinum End? Characters
Of course, you can’t actually just blame everything on context and viewer expectations. If the anime were solid enough, regardless of an initial let-down it would have recovered from that. instead, each week reviews get more negative and viewers seem less charitable in their estimates of where this story is going.
So what went wrong with Platinum End?
I found it interesting that Irina (from I Drink and Watch Anime), in her episode 6 review of Platinum End asks the question: “What does Saki do?” And you know what? I couldn’t answer that.
Seriously. Saki’s listed as a main character on MAL. Since entering the story she shot Mirai with a red arrow and since then has accompanied him to the stadium and they keep meeting in her room but has she done anything? Other than knowing Mirai has a crush on her, I actually can’t tell you a single thing about her character other than clearly she had something go wrong for her in the past, hence why she’s a god candidate, and she doesn’t speak much in the ‘meetings’ they have letting the angels and Mirai speak and more recently Mukaidou.
Maybe her character will do something moving forward, but so far she’s more or less, again as Irina put it, about as useful as a lamp in the background. She’s just eating up screen but contributing nothing.
If it was just Saki, I wouldn’t actually have too much of an issue with the characters of Platinum End. Being familiar with both Death Note and Bakuman, I knew not to expect much from female characters. While there are one or two exceptions, female characters get very short changed by the creator so rather than getting into that rant I’ll actually look at the overall issue of characters in Platinum End.
Basically they are either dull and uninteresting, given too little time to make any meaningful impression, or just bonkers. So far the best character has been Nasse, a superior angel and the one who selected Mirai, but even Nasse has gone from suggesting some highly morally questionable things (leaving us wondering about god and angels and their morality) to more or less Mirai’s cheer-squad. The one slightly interesting character hasn’t done anything particularly interesting leaving us with little to focus on other than the plot.
The battle royale set-up doesn’t help either as it makes you wary of caring about newly introduced characters as they are likely to die. A point made clear when three God candidates were introduced and killed in the space of two episodes. While this isn’t actually a problem unique to Platinum End it contributes to the overall feeling that something is wrong with Platinum End.
It also should be noted that every character in this story seems to have two emotional settings which leap between stoic and uninterested to explosively emotive. There’s pretty much nothing in-between which makes them a little hard to connect with.
What went wrong with Platinum End? Plot
And that leaves me with the plot of Platinum End. What has gone wrong with Platinum End’s plot?
Is it that six episodes in I’m still kind of vague about protagonist Mirai’s motives? Given he’s gone from wanting to die, to wanting to find happiness, to suddenly being staunchly against death and murder for no real reason other than the plot demands it.
That the ‘villain’ Metropoliman creates obvious schemes but they seem ludicrous when broken down. He built up his reputation as a hero and then destroyed in an instant with the stadium debacle. And that only netted him three of the twelve competitors. So now, no reputation and still a whole bunch of potential rivals that you can’t identify. His next plan involving blowing up a tower was even more bonkers and seemed even less likely to actually achieve anything.
When we see said character in his day to day talking with a friend, his motives are kind of explained but they don’t provide any justification for his actions so far. If anything, they make him look kind of pathetic and it makes it hard to take his scheming seriously.
Though I guess the real problem is that Mirai still doesn’t have any skin in the game. Left to his own devices, Mirai would have nothing to do with the battle royale or the other god candidates, and so the plot keeps having to come up with contrivances to force him to take action.
This really does contribute to the many things wrong with Platinum End.
It is clear that the story is constantly having to fight its own character to get things moving in the direction it wants only that direction isn’t clear to the audience and to be honest I think we’d all be happier if the plot left Mirai alone. Its definitely a case where a square peg is constantly getting forced into a round hole but rather than give up and find a square hole we’re just going to find a bigger hammer to bash it with until it goes where we want it to.
Anyway, six episodes in and the plot of Platinum End can only be described as serviceable. Sure we have set up that there are candidates with wings and arrows and there’s a time limit in which a candidate can be chosen (though no indication of what happens if the time limit is exceeded), and we’ve had a few poorly devised traps that have been overly dramatized in order to make us feel a sense that something is happening.
The plot is most definitely a reason people think there’s something wrong with Platinum End.
Because really, what has happened? A few people we didn’t know or care about died. Meanwhile our protagonist went to the stadium, watched, and left without taking action. Has now watched a second trap literally explode and has not actually done anything. This might be taking a passive protagonist far too far. He could literally be replaced by a floating camera and we’d have much the same sequence of events without all the angst as he struggles with whether he should take action at the stadium.
Can Platinum End salvage its ending?
You know what, there are apparently 24 episodes in this series. If it was only 12 episodes, I’d say it was past the point of no return. Even with 24 episodes, I think the most Platinum End can hope for is to leave those who’ve stuck with it feeling a little bit smug that they didn’t drop it and that’s only if from this point forward the characters get some fleshing out and the plot starts feeling like it is actually driving somewhere.
Am I going to drop Platinum End?
Not yet. As much as I don’t love it and can pick it to pieces, it actually is pretty average in terms of stories. And for a battle royale story it is on par with something like Battle Game in 5 Seconds and I watched all of that. I didn’t love it, but it was watchable.
As is Platinum End.
Sure, it couldn’t live up to the hype and it hasn’t met the expectations of those of us who loved earlier works by its creator. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of worse anime out there. Right now I’d place Deep Insanity below Platinum End in terms of anime I’m not enjoying and it is definitely better than the train wreck that was The Promised Neverland Season 2 which is my new benchmark of terrible for anime that haven’t met expectations.
There’s plenty that seems to have gone wrong with Platinum End but there has been the occasional interesting moment and the set-up is there so there’s potential. But, I won’t be too surprised if I let this one go at the end of the Fall 2021 season rather than watching on for a second cour.
Over to you, how have you found Platinum End?
The full review for Platinum End Episodes 1 – 12 can be found here.
Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
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