Platinum End vol. 14 – Tsugumi Ohba

4 out of 5

I seem to be one of, like, negative ten people who actually enjoyed the direction Platinum End took, and I’m very happy to find that the ending rather underlined what I was seeing as the takeaways as the story evolved: an exploration of the meaning of life, and an examination of how expectations and intentions can mold that “meaning.” This started out rather purposefully shallowly, which – to me – turned into an opportunity for Ohba to poke at some genre stereotypes, and perhaps also egg on his fanbase, and their desire for another Death Note. This secondary bit could be seen as a bit prissy, I suppose, but I didn’t take it that way: I think it was done as honestly as possible, sort of a loose connection to Bakuman in the sense that the writer was also struggling with how to balance having some meaning and a good story without just repeating greatest hits and serving up fandom.

Was Ohba always successful at this, and was starting out with some really lame characterizations and base material the best approach? No, and probably not, but once we rounded the curve, I do feel like these things paid off, and I’m looking forward to reading the series again, with the conclusion in the rearview.

Regarding that, many complaints I’m seeing online regard the wrap-up as rendering the whole thing pointless, but I felt quite the opposite: without revealing what’s what, that people are always after some ultimate uber twist, or mind-blowing explanation, and that the conclusion sorta kinda does those things while also sorta kinda subverting those desires, is exactly in line with the rest of the narrative. Some of the wrap-up does feel a little clunky – mostly Yuri’s dialogue, and the way Shuji and Yoneda come to their relative new ways of thinking, after the stadium showdown – but I have to wonder how much of that is in translation; overall, the actions of the characters make sense.

Plenty of “why?” questions still exist, in terms of story details – why the arrows had limitations, and of that nature – but there’s also a way to view all such answers as falling under a classification of somewhat inconsequential due to the story’s resolution. How much that bugs you will depend on how much you consider the story resolved, I suppose.

The art here felt a little rushed, for some reason. Comparing to previous chapters, the blurring effect on the angels has gotten heavier, and I sense less detail in the characters, more photo reference, and less backgrounds over all. It’s not sloppy by any means, just feels rather simplified, though that’s in comparison to the usual high standard Obata sets.

Lastly, while this maybe goes without saying for some manga readers, I think the way the comic presented the ending was much better than the anime, which pushes some of the messaging a bit more, making it slightly more offensive, or moralistically cheesy. However, overall, the anime’s introductory half was better – without so much time between chapters (for those of us reading English-published tankobons), all the obnoxious stuff with Metropoliman is a lot quicker, and easier to place in context of the series. But the latter half is stronger in the manga. Though it is odd – translation quirks again? – that the manga did not take the opportunity to insert the phrase “Platinum End” to the final scene, something the anime did, which I felt gave it some nice resonance.

While Death Note was certainly more page-turningly immersive, and Bakuman had (at points) stronger characters, I actually think that PE might be this team’s most cohesive effort, and once past the opening churn, it seemed to just get better and better, leading to a very satisfying conclusion – not something even some great series can claim.