One of the few real-world issues I will lament in this forum is the unhappy love of death that occasionally finds its way into Japanese anime. This show, Platinum End, is another iteration of the kind of show that’s obsessed with death and dying. While this anime is intriguing at times, ultimately it is completely overshadowed by that darkness which […]
One of the few real-world issues I will lament in this forum is the unhappy love of death that occasionally finds its way into Japanese anime. This show, Platinum End, is another iteration of the kind of show that’s obsessed with death and dying. While this anime is intriguing at times, ultimately it is completely overshadowed by that darkness which no one should have to live under, making the show far less interesting in the end.
There are some really good things about this show. The artwork is exquisite. The story has some strong points, excluding the ugliness aforementioned. A few of the characters are really interesting, at least at some point during the show. The dialogue is good at some points. There’s a lot to like here. But then there are some really big negatives as well. The love of death aspect is the biggest, but you have some poor character development and handling of the story as well. And as nice as the artwork is, it’s not effective for this show somehow.
Just based on those things, this show is around average. But the ugliness, the darkness without justification, makes this show a big flop in my mind. I won’t automatically give a negative review to a show just because it’s full of outright evil (see Black Lagoon), but if there’s not a good reason for those kinds of displays then I will very much hold those aspects against it. Such is the case with Platinum End.
Some R-rated content in this review, so be advised.
This was a strong point for this show. Or, initially it was. A lot of things tended to lose their way in this show as it progressed, and the characters were one of those things. But they never became poor quality overall.
In particular, their individual motives, philosophies, and dialogue are pretty well done. Some of it is trite, most of it is philosophically, morally, and metaphysically very incorrect, but it’s intricate and very human, as humans do err in these ways often, and the show captures that effectively. Often “complex” characters in anime or other fiction media turn out to be little more than overwrought, overly complicated, trope spewing children—essentially. This is not the case with Platinum End’s characters. A quality effort was put into the thought and design for these characters, and it shows.
I could go into all the characters individually in this regard, but three in particular stand out. So I will examine those three in detail and then cover the rest very quickly as a group afterwards.
Kakehashi Mirai is the main character. Right away I like this guy. “Mirai,” as many of you know, translates to “future” in English. For a show about God and the future of mankind, this already felt like it had potential at the outset of the series. I’m not sure if that ever played much of a role in this character, but it got my mind thinking right away, and that’s a plus for this show.
Then we got into the meat of the story, the god candidate thing. I’ll address that in the Story section. But as far as characters go, Kakehashi fits wonderfully into this setup. The reason why is because of how good he is. I don’t mean trite, ordinary goodness that we might see in basic good guy characters. I mean he makes the right decisions for the right reasons almost all the time, excepting a few moments. His mind and his heart are very much in the right place. The decision to commit suicide is another story, but once that moment passes, most of what this guy does is good. Even when he seems simplistic in his aims, that simpleness is part of that goodness. He really is the ideal candidate for this “god” position, as he views humanity with benevolence, tolerance, understanding, mercy, clarity, and above all love. He’s not out for revenge. He’s not out to prove a point. He’s not out to assert is authority or claim power. He’s out to make the world a better place, but not at the expense of making people his servants. He wants people to be well, he wants people to be free. These are all simple but excellent motives.
More importantly, it’s hard to find characters like this in any fiction medium. It’s hard to write “good” characters. Indeed, the “bad” characters in this show are very well written, and there are a lot of them. Humans find it easier to write for “bad” characters than “good” ones as a general rule. Not that bad guys are generally well written—how many laughing, buffoonish, self-centered, slow-to-attack bad guys have we seen in anime?—but that it’s easier for writers to create intricate bad guys than intricate good guys. Good guys almost always have some “dark side” element. Kakehashi doesn’t really. He’s pretty much all good all the time, after a while, for all the right reasons. That’s not easy to do as a writer, and I don’t think it was an accident by this writer.
The best character in this series—and also the biggest letdown of this series—was Kanade Uryuu, or Metropoliman. I liked a lot of things about this character from the outset. First, from a story perspective, it completely makes sense to have a character like Metropoliman. Outwardly perfect in behavior and appearance, a god among men, he takes his newfound abilities and puts them to use—for himself. Ah, the typical megalomaniac character, you might say. Metropoliman is a megalomaniac, but he’s anything but typical. Having a megalomaniac character—or at least one of them—makes perfect sense for this type of a story, but the writers successfully avoided the typical megalomaniac tropes for this character. He portrays himself as a hero of humanity, another thing that could seem typical, but underneath that facade he doesn’t have some typical grand evil scheme. His motives are totally self-serving, but not in the typical way we expect of this kind of character.
Metropoliman’s atypical design is most clear in his motives. He’s a complicated character, but his complication is understandable even if it is extreme. He’s not totally wrong in his mindset. In fact, a lot of what he thinks is grounded in truth, making him the more evil for twisting it as he does. This is the kind of high quality, anti-god character that I expect to see in this kind of a story. And it’s very well written.
Consider this example. Metropoliman’s motives surround his core ethic, which is essentially that all that is beautiful is good, and therefore desirable, and that everything ugly is evil. Without straying into the philosophical too much, this is not fundamentally incorrect, but in reality such things are rarely so clear, or at least humankind is not in a position to judge good and evil solely on this kind of basis. The best part about the writing for this character is not only the philosophical insight that is displayed here, but how Metropoliman ultimately shows himself to be very flawed in how he twists this ethic, and ultimately, therefore, shows himself to be very, very human—not the god material he envisioned himself as at all.
The first twist, the first major crack in the armor around Metropoliman’s ethic, is that he equates worldly prosperity with beauty. Most people inherently see this as flawed, but don’t put a lot of thought into why it’s wrong—or, on the other hand, what the arguments are for or against it. This show, through Metropoliman, explores that argument. Normally I’d say that fiction writers are generally not well qualified, not well enough studied, to explore such a subject. Usually when writers stray into these areas, their characters become very tiresome, if nothing else, spewing elementary musings at unpleasantly loud volumes. But Metropoliman effectively tries to make his case. His claims that wealth allows people to be born into and remain in all that is peaceful and beautiful in our world are carefully thought out. There’s no element of triteness in his arguments. That they are flawed is beyond question, but he makes as good a case for an obviously flawed ethic as I’ve seen in anime. It’s curiously effective.
The flaw is essentially this: if the ultimate beauty is God, then God (as chosen from among men—ridiculous as that may be—more on that later) must be chosen from among those who are already beautiful. For Metropoliman, the logical flow of this is that the new God must therefore be chosen from among the wealthy. The flaw here is obvious to any clear thinker. Apart from the obvious fact that the wealthy historically are among the worst of humanity (God being good and therefore beautiful, even according to Metropoliman), and the resulting false conclusion that humans must therefore define what is good and evil, the fact that Metropoliman uses Earthly materials as a measure of beauty, and therefore “good,” is almost laughable.
As ridiculous as this is, it’s not easy to see this depth in this flawed reasoning in the show until you think about it. This is where the writing got really good for a while. Metropoliman continually made the case for his candidacy as the new god by assuring people that he already had what the new god needed, and that therefore he essentially already was a god among men. But the writers denied his claim. If the flaws in his case were not obvious to the viewer, the whole story behind Kanade’s attempted suicide lays it bare. Two things: first, he could not have been a “god” and commit suicide. This concept is utilized later in the show by another character, but it violates a lot of logic points both within and outside the show, so that’s out. One way out of that mistake is that Kanade could believe that him being saved from suicide is the turning point when he truly became a “god” among men, but that’s a tough case to make, seeing as all the things that “qualified” him before were already present, namely wealth and beauty and all that. Although it isn’t a total stretch: most of the characters change drastically once they’re granted this unusual second chance at life. But second, even beyond all that, the writers finished off this character’s fall very effectively. Because they exposed Metropoliman, Kanade Uryuu, as a simple, base human in the end.
They did so through his relationship with his sister. First, this relationship is extremely unhealthy. He is obsessed with her—a typical but effective anime trope in this case. Eons of history and culture, not to mention a gazillion different anime, view this kind of relationship with contempt. How could a “god” among men make such a blatantly obvious mistake? But the writing here goes even deeper, and I love it.
Everything’s going great for Kanade. He’s in love with his sister (even if he wouldn’t say that himself), he idolizes her as perfect, and she’s growing more beautiful all the time. When she begins to break his perfect view of her by expressing a distinctly human behavior—a love interest (not himself; so sad)—she suddenly dies. And not some tragic, perfect death: she falls off the ledge of their insane little raised pavilion in their garden, an item that itself screams of the decadence of Earthly wealth. It’s accidental, one hundred percent preventable, and instantaneous the moment Kanade’s little world begins to collapse. If this wasn’t enough to expose him as human and therefore destroy his little fantasy, what happens next? Despite his sophistry in trying to find reason in his sister’s death, and very nearly convincing himself, he can’t shake his sadness. Sadness? He lost his sister! He’s sad about it! How very human of him. It’s also very godly if he could recognize it as such, but his view of what “God” is doesn’t allow for this simple feeling. This little reaction to this tragic event topples his view completely. It also is what prompts him to commit suicide, which, as mentioned, is also not a godly behavior. He couldn’t be any less qualified to be God.
This writing is exquisite. It’s complex, it’s deep, it’s based in truth, it’s believable, it’s clever, and I have to believe it’s totally intentionally so. It’s very well done. When you compare Metropoliman to Kakehashi and think back on all this, the contrast is so stark it’s almost impossible to believe. Kanade Uryuu is so very human and flawed despite his appearances, and Kakehashi is so very worthy to be this new “god” despite his simpleness, it’s amazing. This was the high point of the writing in this show. During the time Metropoliman was featured as the key antagonist, I couldn’t get enough of the writing of this anime. It was most thought provoking, and yet not so complex as to be ridiculous or impossible to find the logic in. The truth was there, you just had to find it. That’s the kind of quality complex writing most writers are trying to achieve, and it was very well done here.
I also said Metropoliman was the biggest letdown of this series. The first half of this series was all about his attempts to usurp the selection process and forcibly become the new “God.” The show did a magnificent job of setting up and developing his character and the storyline around him. From the opening sequence (which I really enjoyed) to the content of each episode, a lot was centered around this character. His voice acting, courtesy of the great Kaito Ishikawa (most famous for Sakuta from Bunny Girl Senpai and Kageyama Tobio from Haikyuu!, but personally my favorite from The Rising of the Shield Hero as Naofumi and One Punch Man as Genos) is magnificent, setting him apart from the other characters. He is at the center of this series, taking it over for the first 13 episodes. Then he’s killed off.
What? I couldn’t believe this much focus was made on a character only to cast him away halfway through. The other characters had plenty of development at that point, so that wasn’t the issue, but this guy had been so pivotal to everything up to that point, losing him meant more than just losing a main supporting character. The tenor of the entire series would change as a result. While as a story element this all made decent sense, it was a big letdown losing such a quality character. I wondered how they writers could make up for that loss.
The answer was Gaku Yoneda. Yoneda-sensei is one of the great minds of the time, as it were in this show, and he is one mixed up dude, to borrow a common man’s phrase. He is the genius intellect that had learned it all and was bored of it. Those of you who are most well-read will immediately think of Dr. Faust and that famous legend. This was my immediate thought upon this character’s introduction.
And for a while this Faustian framework provided the fuel for this character. Yoneda fancied himself so learned that he was totally separated from the human race. Indeed, it was part of his goal. He did not like partaking in human society, and did everything he could, literally, to avoid it. He set himself apart, so much so that he hardly thought of himself as human; he was no longer a partaker of what it meant to be human, or so he thought. To add to this Faustian aspect, the “angel” that partnered with him—everybody’s got an angel in this story, more on that in a second—was about as un-angelic as possible. Muni, the Angel of Destruction so called, was deformed and her face masked, gross to look upon relative to the other angels. She spoke minimally, and not clearly when she did speak. She misled Yoneda, according to her nature. She wrought destruction, and sought to lead Yoneda down that path. She’s as near a Mephistopheles type character as we could expect to see in this series.
Muni successfully leads Yoneda to the conclusion that this “god selection” process is false in nature and that it needs to be upended. A couple of things jump out at me immediately about this. First is Muni herself. It’s her nature to bring destruction, no matter what the cost, and even here she works towards that end. Interestingly, the end of that path leads to—destruction. Of this “god selection” process and pretty much everything else. It’s nice that the writers were insistent on this character staying “in-character,” and working nicely with the resulting mess. But more importantly, Muni’s manipulation of Yoneda contributes heavily to his Faustian character type, and, similarly to Metropoliman, shows the human, worldly error of this kind of thinking.
While Yoneda doesn’t fancy himself a god like Metropoliman, he would probably claim he was something more than human. Indeed, he believes he has discovered something that mankind has yet to believe: that mankind created “God.” Briefly into the real world: this idea has been thrown around a lot throughout history, and Japan still suffers under it to some extent, often in the form of the familiar “a god will cease to exist if no one believes in it” thing we often hear in supernatural anime. It places mankind at the center of everything, excluding any possibility of something “higher” than mankind. Yoneda makes a basic error here: anybody could come to this conclusion if and only if they enter into a set of reasoning assuming the premise “God exists” is false. This is highly unscientific: no good scientist excludes a premise or possibility out of hand without proof. Nor does a scientist state that a lack of proof of something is evidence that it doesn’t exist. There’s a lot going on logically behind all this, but good scientists understand all this. If Yoneda was the “greatest” scientist or whatever, he couldn’t possibly make such an elementary mistake. In fact, his logic is good in most areas. You can only follow the path he followed if you make the initial logic mistake. Perhaps the writers, assuming they have a grasp of all this, wanted viewers to imagine Muni pushed Yoneda into this mistake. That would be decent writing, but I didn’t see that demonstrated as far as I remember.
Returning to the Faust relationship: Faust and Yoneda both make this mistake. They fancy themselves as transcending mankind. Yet in their blind arrogance they both fail to realize that not only are they being manipulated into that kind of thinking, they’re being manipulated by a “higher” being into this error. It’s not “God,” who would be even higher than they can recognize, but something on the level of an angel or some such being. It’s the classic human error of arrogance: they’re so drunk on their “wisdom” that they make reasoning mistakes that a child wouldn’t make. Yoneda is quite human, a conclusion he finds himself coming to more and more the more often he talks to Kakehashi, who has simple but good reasoning.
There is the little matter of Yoneda stating that instead of this notion of a “god,” there is this thing called “the creature” instead. This is Yoneda’s only way out of his human-centric argument, and he rightly—logically—clings to it for a while. The good scientist will rightly hypothesize something that fits into a logical sequence of thought where the conclusion is sure but the result hidden. Yoneda continues to suffer from his original error however, rejecting the premise of God’s existence, and therefore must fill in this gap where “God” should fit with something of his own hypothesizing. He doesn’t even go as far as to say it’s a God or “the creature,” but instead he assures his listeners there is only “the creature.” It’s a very ordinary logic mistake.
The writing for this character is either really good or really average—not bad mind you, just average—and I’d like to assume it’s the former. Like Metropoliman, the author has Yoneda making convincing philosophical arguments, but also leaves those arguments full of errors, just as most humans do. On the “average writing” end, perhaps the author is simply reusing these kinds of arguments as he or she has heard them in the past, or is trying to make the cases himself, both in Metropoliman’s case (not likely) and Yoneda’s case (possibly). But I don’t believe that is so. Instead, I believe the writers have very good awareness of the kinds of arguments the human race has made in these areas throughout history, and has encapsulated them in a couple of these characters very effectively.
And I believe these characters’ arguments are supposed to ultimately be rejected by audiences. In Metropoliman’s case, it’s pretty easy to reject his argument. While both he and Yoneda will needs to kill off the other candidates for their schemes to work out—not a ringing endorsement for your way of thinking—Metropoliman’s case makes the obvious error of placing one human’s status above (or below) another, regardless of the reason. Most of us at this point in history pretty much take it as a given that this is a logical fallacy. But Yoneda’s argument is more subtle, and one people continue to make even in this day and age. And as much as Yoneda tries to defend it, as well as the writers do in making him defend it, there’s no way the writers want audiences to simply cede the case to Yoneda, who is obviously an antagonist. He and Kakehashi are in direct opposition: they cannot both be right. Through all of this, I’m less interested in who’s right and who’s not—I already know about that, and it is a discussion for another forum—and am more interested in the fact that the writers seem to understand the arguments well enough not only to place them into the show’s dialogue effectively, but also to realize which side the antagonists and protagonists should be on. It’s very good writing in that sense.
Mirai Kakehashi, Kanade Uryuu, and Gaku Yoneda-sensei have the best writing among all the characters. Shuuji Nakaumi has intricate writing—he wants to make wrongs into rights, or, specifically, make suicide “right” for anybody that wanted to do it—but this is such a dark pit of thought that I don’t want to go into it. This falls under that category of “love of death,” which is perverse and undeserving of human attention, so I won’t go into his character and his reasoning. I’ll address that subject more broadly before I wrap up this review, but only briefly.
Among the other human characters, no one reaches the dialogue quality that those three aforementioned reach, but no one is a poor quality character. Saki, Mirai’s girlfriend, is a nice character, even if she is a little weak. Her weakness isn’t trite though: it’s believable, as is the manner in which she confronts it. Also her voice is really nice. Mao Ichimichi, probably best known as Pecorine from Princess Connect! Re:Dive and Shion from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, does a really nice job with her voice. Oh, that sinister voice of Yoneda’s is courtesy of the great Kenjirou Tsuda (Kento Nanami, Jujutsu Kaisen; Tatsu, Gokushufudo; so many great supporting and sometimes leading roles) once again. Those two are the only real highlights among the voice acting, along with Metropoliman aforementioned. The ugly guy, Hajime (translates usually to “start” or “begin,” interesting in context here maybe) is a pathetic character, but “pathetic” in an artistic sense, not the common sense of “poor quality.” I don’t find that character very interesting, but I see his role in the show. Susume, the kid stirring the pot behind Metropoliman, is an enabler character, and plays his role well. Mukaido is a sympathetic character, representing yet another common type of person who might commit suicide: a terminally ill hospital patient. He represents self-sacrifice in this series, and such a choice is an excellent inclusion in a tale surrounding suicide, as self-sacrifice is the complete opposite of suicide.
The angels are interesting characters. They sneak Ai Kayano (Darkness, KonoSuba; Shiro, NGNL) in as one of the angels here, and she’s fun to hear as always, though she isn’t around for very long. Natsuki Hanai (Kaneki, Tokyo Ghoul; Tanjiro, Demon Slayer) also sneaks into the cast here, though also in a limited role (Revel, Saki’s angel). Yui Ogara, known primarily for her little girl roles like Onna Shinkan in Goblin Slayer and Myuu in Arifureta, puts on that little girl voice once again as Nasse. All the VAs for the angels do a good job making them seem just a little above the humans they associate with, just as their characters are supposed to be. I like the design on the angels, but I’m not prompted to any thought as to why they look the ways they do. They’re slightly reminiscent of the creatures that attack our friends in Land of the Lustrous, and that makes me even more confused about why these “angels” appear as they do. Oh well. It works. I like it.
This show kind of shares characters and story as the driving force. The story ends up being a little silly in the end, so the characters definitely feel like the highest quality element in this show. I really like how no one ended up being typical or trite. Even where tropes were employed, they weren’t easily noticeable. Everything about the characters was mostly believable, even given the unbelievable situation they found themselves in. Such writing always deserves praise, regardless of the content. The main thread of this story would be very difficult for most writers to handle, and these guys and girls did it very well. I was very pleased with this aspect of this show.
The artwork is fantastic, but I have no idea why it is so.
I don’t mean I don’t know what makes it fantastic. The quality is very nice. The drawings are intricate, detailed, unusual, startling at times, often quite beautiful. I mean I don’t know why the artwork looks the way it does for this particular anime. It’s almost like it doesn’t fit the show.
Perhaps an example will help: imagine KonoSuba with Monster artwork. That definitely doesn’t fit. Platinum End is not that stark—the artwork seems appropriate for the genre and content here, unlike in that example—but that’s the feeling I got watching this series. It seemed that it was not well matched with the show.
The best way I can describe why I think that is the level of detail in the artwork. I could see every little unruly bit of hair, the unusual details in the colored parts of the eyes, the colorless but shining angels, and the ultra careful shadowing. There was so much detail I felt like there had to be a reason for it, but I couldn’t decipher a reason.
This ultimately was a distraction. This show was visually amazing in many ways, but this mismatch of detail versus what was happening was forefront in my mind the entire time I watched.
Well Hawk, what would have been a better match? Or what kind of show would have better matched this artwork? While I thought of these questions as I buzzed my brain thinking about this topic, I never came up with an obvious answer. Partly this was because the artwork was really good overall. Any quibbles I could find about it in this regard felt unimportant in the face of the sheer quality itself. Maybe if you took the Fate/ series and turned it into seinen maybe you’d have a show that fits this kind of artwork. That’s the best I could come up with. And perhaps the art style of a show like Durarara!! or Hellsing (though its style is very similar to this show) might have felt more appropriate for this show itself. It’s an odd sensation I got watching this, one I haven’t felt in many other series. Usually the art style of a show matches and supports a show very well, and usually I don’t feel like the “wrong” choice was made for an art style in a particular show. I’m not even sure why I don’t think this style matches Platinum End. It’s a rather confusing feeling, but an undeniable one. I don’t like not being able to explain things like this, but I have no other choice at this point but to leave that feeling unexplained.
Other than that, the artwork is great. The animation itself could have been better given the quality of the drawings, but the drawings themselves are exquisite. High levels of detail don’t automatically mean better artwork, but in this case the details were very noticeable and contributed to the visual aesthetic of this show very positively. The hair on the characters was the most noticeable in it’s high level of detail, and probably the primary source of my aforementioned confusion, but very nice regardless. The lighting was very nice, especially around the angels. They really did look like they belonged in a different world, or like that world’s environment still surrounded them even while they inhabited this realm. The coloring was dim but vivid, an unusual but effective combination here. The eyes were strange but beautiful, if not quite measuring up to the standards of a Citrus or Fairy Tail.
Returning to the angels briefly: I liked the decision to make the angels all white except their adornments and their eyes. Not because I associate angels with white—though this perception is likely what the author originally based his designs upon—but because it made them distinct from everything around them. The lighting around them particularly contributed to this feel. If you look closely, I’m pretty sure they don’t cast any light on anything around them, yet they themselves are shining with light. Even in the few images I grabbed for this review where it’s dark around the angels, the little light that’s cast on the nearby characters comes from other sources, not the angels. This was a fascinating bit of work by the artists if it was intentional. Everything about them screamed at the viewer that the angels did not belong in this environment, and their visual elements were a big part of this.
The arrows were an odd element in this story, but I can’t argue with their visual impact. They were very shiny, very glassy, drawing your attention with their shining light. They had that kind of deadly beauty that’s elusive in any visual art. I really like them, even if their story impact was curious.
The artwork is the high point of this show. If I felt like it matched better I’d be totally sold on these drawings. But that peculiar feeling envelopes the memories I have of the artwork in this show, so I can’t get over my misgivings entirely. Still, outside of that aspect, it is quite beautiful and very well done, and could not have been easy for the artists to work with. They definitely have my respect for that.
There is a lot going on in this story. I’ll try to unpack the key parts as briefly as possible.
The story’s main premise is that the current “God” is going to be replaced. Nani? Anyway, in order to do that, angels are sent to the Earth to select candidates from among the human race. Nani? These candidates are all people who have given up on living and are imminently going to take their own lives. Nani? These candidates will then compete to decide which of them will be the next “God.” Nani nani nani?
I thought the same thing when I first started this show you’re probably thinking now. What madness is this? I get it that the Japanese have difficulty understanding the concept of a single, almighty God, but this seemed even more juiced up crazy than usual. I thought this show would be ridiculous.
I was surprised to find that not only were the ridiculous aspects minimal given such a premise, but much of the content was philosophically interesting. I mentioned as much of that as needs mentioning in the Character section above. But I will reiterate that I was pleased with much of how this was handled. This show was intriguing to me for much of the duration it was aired.
I’ll get more into the suicide thing in the wrap-up below, but here I’ll note that I never could understand the connection the author was trying to make between the suicidal characters and their “god” candidacy. Given how much was intricately and carefully crafted in this story, I imagine there is some reason behind this, but it eludes my comprehension at this point. I won’t say its without merit given that, but I already look upon it with a frown, as suicide is a gross evil and yet here it is somehow connected with these “God” candidates. It definitely doesn’t feel right.
Then there was the competition. This was a big opportunity for the writers to mess up. This screamed overused tropes. And initially, it looked like this was exactly where we were headed. Let them fight it out. Might ends up making right more often than not in this kind of anime, right? I was again pleasantly surprised that the writers took this and made something good out of it. They took the typical model and played with it. Metropoliman wanted to have a battle royale (where he was the victor of course), but to a man almost no one else wanted this. Most of the characters wanted to try and find a way through this that didn’t involve fighting. While this also felt like it could be trite, again the writers handled it well, and instead it felt right. Most ordinary people wouldn’t resort to fighting, and these people behaved in a believable manner given the nearly unbelievable circumstances they found themselves in. Ultimately, the “competition” turned into a long negotiation process that involved some violence but mostly discussion and contrivances or agreement, so what could have been a trite competition turned into a framework for most of the philosophical elements placed into this show. What could have been predictably trite turned into a strong storytelling and character point for this show. I was pleased.
A show that could have been all action and little trite declarations from the main character turned out to be a decent philosophical dialogue for most of the show. We often lament that characters talk too much during a battle—see Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, where a few seconds of fighting turn into an entire episode or more, even if that’s probably intentional there as a kind of gag or parody of this very thing—but in Platinum End’s case this works very well. There almost isn’t as much action as you’d expect given this show’s setup, and yet it’s still attention grabbing with all the interesting dialogue.
The arrows were a curiosity to me. I get that stories often center around fantastical objects like this, but the arrows seemed silly. This was a peculiar moment protruding out into this story, and I never could understand the significance. When stories have parts that are intricate and well formed, I begin to expect such intricate things in every part of the story. Yet these arrows seemed such a simplistic element, I wondered if they actually didn’t have any significance. I liked them visually, and I saw how they affected the story and felt like it worked, but the object itself seemed a curious choice, as did their spearhead-like form. And why only red and white? Why not more types? The arrows left me with more questions than answers.
I liked the mystery elements in this story. Part of this had to do with the writers taking what could have been typical and making it not so, aforementioned. I wasn’t sure what to expect anymore after a while, in the best sense. But also several mysterious points were interwoven into the story, both large and small. A small example is that for a long while we don’t have any idea why Metropoliman was suicidal at some point in his past. He seemed to have everything and seemed to be content as such. While such a person becoming suicidal might make sense, this character didn’t feel like he’d have any such reason, especially compared to the other characters we’d met up to that point. It was good writing how this was handled ultimately with his sister, part of which I mentioned in the Character section, but also because it served to highlight Kanade as an evil character, choosing suicide despite his relative wellbeing compared to the other characters, who all had major pain points in their lives. The biggest example of mystery in the show is of course the workings behind the God-candidacy thing. It never feels that the situation is as it is explained. Muni, always destructive and deceiving, makes the uncertainty behind all this even more confusing, but even if the angels weren’t being deceptive up to the point that Muni is introduced, still they might not have all the details about what’s going on here. That element hung heavily over everything that happened in this story, and the characters themselves were rightly aware that they were participating in a process that they weren’t 100% sure about the details of said process. It was effective.
One of the most interesting questions I considered while watching was whether this show was highlighting good versus evil and how we as humans perceive God through all that. I didn’t spend a ton of time thinking through it, but I thought it was an interesting question given a lot of what’s in the show. Kakehashi seems like a good person, and it seems like the author is often highlighting him as such, given his simple desires for people to live in peace and wellbeing. Nasse, Kakehashi’s angel, feels like an embodiment of youthful innocence, even if there is mystery surrounding her character. Metropoliman is set up as the evil antagonist, but his evil is both subtle and obvious, and you have to dig through the story to find it despite his outward signs. Yoneda-sensei spews a lot of things that seem to make the good versus evil picture less clear, and Kakehashi usually has a very good answer for his complex musings. I like this aspect; it’s unusual for anime to handle questions like this effectively, and this show does a decent job of it. I wouldn’t mind going into more details, but it would take more time than I want to alot to this, and I don’t want to burden you the reader with so much text here.
One thing I will note, and note only, was that the anime world drew immediate comparisons between this show and Death Note. I get it. They have the same authors (reportedly). They both have smart main characters facing off their strategies against equally smart antagonists. But that’s about as far as it goes. Sure they’re similar, but so are KonoSuba and Redo of Healer in that sense. I don’t have any problem with the comparison, but I don’t want to make any more out of it than the simple comparison itself.
So the show is rolling along, and I’m pretty engaged in the story—this was one of those shows where, week to week, I’d remember what happened in the previous week’s episode pretty easily, which is a good sign for a show—but I felt it coming. Me, the experienced anime consumer, began to sense the presence of the thing which complex stories often succumb to: they often culminate in ridiculous, unbelievable, or silly endings (see Neon Genesis Evangelion, Code Geass, even Death Note to some extent), or they don’t get resolved at all. There were so many little threads, often multiple new ones created each episode, very small mind you but present and demanding attention nonetheless, that I knew it was going to be a monumental task for the authors to tie them all off effectively.
Unfortunately, my prediction came true three different times. The Metropoliman wrap-up wasn’t terrible, but it impacted his character a little negatively, lowering his quality as a villain. The Yoneda wrap-up was unmemorable, and definitely somewhat of a letdown given his philosophizing up to that point. But the kicker was the resolution to the show itself. We’ve all seen those shows or movies that are really good all the way through until right at the end, and this really dumb ending will come out of thin air and viewers are left sitting there scratching their heads. Complex stores are particularly prone to this, aforementioned, as the authors can cleverly devise parts of their stories but don’t have an effective ending in mind. This show definitely suffered from this, and pretty badly in the history of fiction.
The participants in the “God candidacy” race end up agreeing to make one of the participants the winner, avoiding bloodshed or any unnecessary violence and all that. That candidate was the kid named Shuuji Nakaumi, the one that wanted to make it “not wrong” to commit suicide. I forget the details of how they came to this conclusion as a group, but I don’t remember thinking it was a very remarkable story point either. So Shuuji takes the old “god’s” place, and I don’t remember exactly but I remember something doesn’t go as expected. This wasn’t surprising: the mystery of the show should come to a head at this point. But the result was that, ultimately, Shuuji and the old “god” get intertwined somehow, and Shuuji’s silly suicidal tendencies that he had as a human take over, and so Shuuji kills himself with a white arrow. This causes the destruction of the known human universe, along with all life within it. The show ends with some silly text saying something or other about everything returning to death or some such depressing musing.
It was a terrible letdown for a show that had been thought provoking and mostly interesting up to that point. It ended up being a depressing and forgettable mess. I wondered why all the complex and intricate thoughts, why all the effort to make this interesting tale if it’s ultimately just another “everybody dies eventually” story? Above all, it made this show ultimately about death and the oppression of it, and the hopelessness of that which drives people to suicide. I did not like this ending. I did not like it by itself and I definitely didn’t like how it affected the show as a whole. If the author’s point was to try and make one final, overarching point, well, he succeeded, and thereby pretty much ruined his work. I was not pleased.
Outside of that overarching negative, my biggest disappointment was this: this show was doing a great job portraying right and wrong until it went all 2001: A Space Odyssey on us. If it had stayed with the simple good versus evil framework, I might have thought better of it despite the dark pit of suicide and death hanging over it. But it turned into some weird, freakish ending that changed the tenor of the whole show, totally throwing away most of the best elements of this show and serving to highlight the darkest parts even further. This show lost its way badly, making me doubt if it ever knew its way in the first place.
Despite it all, for a while I enjoyed this show thoroughly for a few reasons, reasons which, both as a critic and a fan, made this show very entertaining in its own way. But over it all was the cloud of suicide and the hyper focus on death. Once the negatives started to pop up in this show, and once that ridiculous ending occurred, I lost all appetite for this show. I viewed it wholly negatively.
Obsession with death and a fixation on the emptiness of life is something the nation of Japan suffers from continually to this day (May 2022). This is that real-world issue I will occasionally mention here, despite my desire to never bring the real world into my reviews. But I make the exception here for two reasons. First, because this mentality leaks over into anime occasionally, often enough to be notable. Most of us have heard of titles like Death Parade or Happy Sugar Life. They are unhappy displays, a boiling rage of depression and death. They are prompted by the emptiness that people feel when they see life as a waste. I never have understood why certain writers have used anime as a medium to express such sentiments, because, in my view and probably the view of many anime fans, anime is so full of life and love of life. Many anime fans probably find solace in their lives through anime. I like to exclaim that I’m happy to be alive just so I have the chance to experience anime! It’s a little thing, but an important thing, and it highlights the value of life. Anime doesn’t seem like a good place for such expressions, and I’ve always held that against anime of this type such as Platinum End.
This ties into the second reason I make an exception about this real-world topic: Japan is suffering. Japan doesn’t have the highest suicide rate in the world, but it is still very high, and is particularly high among its male population. It crushes my heart when I think on this. Japan is the center of the world of anime. Sure there are other things that fit the description of “anime,” but “anime” as most of us know it is Japanese. I love the land and the people and the culture that created such a beautiful thing. To see it suffering so is devastating. I want them to not feel hopeless anymore. This thing called anime is so very alive, so very beautiful, so very human. I want the people that make it to feel as enriched in their lives as I feel by their work. So while I won’t do any trite “call to action,” I always want to make my readers aware of this state in which Japan finds itself. It makes me very sad, and I think anime fans should be aware. However you choose to take that or act on it I leave to you. I simply wish to highlight it to you all.
Returning to Platinum End: because this show is so heavily overshadowed by this death-centered worldview, I cannot rate it highly ultimately. It didn’t have to be that way. Dealing with the matter of suicide in literature is one thing, but focusing in on it and scrutinizing it with a tiny lens at the least is a waste of human sentience, and at worst is a terrible black hole to get sucked into. Suicide is as anti-human a human action as one can take. We are meant to live, not to die. No one needs philosophy to understand that, and if some philosophy leads one to think suicide is the “right” choice, then that “philosophy” is trash. While Platinum End probably is putting suicide mostly in a negative light, the focus on it, the focus on death, is very unnecessary and also very bad in a some senses. It has a completely negative effect on this show.
This was another of those “Crunchyroll Originals.” My experience is that these are a mixed bag. I like that Crunchyroll is trying to get involved on the production side of anime like this, but the results so far are about 50-50 good and bad. At the moment I forget some of the others Crunchyroll Originals I’ve seen that I liked, but I remember I’ve liked and disliked these productions in approximately equal amounts. I presume Crunchyroll’s goal is to have 100% successes and 0% flops, so they’ve got a ways to go in this arena.
They almost had a good one here, but it left the rails on them and ended up being a mess. There ends up being a lot of prominent reasons to dislike this show in the end, while I have to think a lot about the good aspects. As a critic, I don’t find it hard to dig for those quality parts—see the Character section. But the average fan isn’t going to receive this show very well. And even I don’t because of the worst parts. So Platinum End, in the end, likely lost both its academic and casual audiences.
But what did they expect? For their show to live in popularity forever? Don’t all things die? Irony of ironies: they dug their own grave on this one.