Platinum End

4 out of 5

Directed by: Hideya Takahashi, Kazuchika Kise

covers season 1

Through the many ups and downs of reading Platinum End, I kept coming back to wondering if the high drama approach Tsugumi Ohba was using – which I was suspecting more and more, as the series went on, was a purposeful affectation as opposed to just lazy writing – wouldn’t work better as an anime, where acting and animation might give the tone a more immediate pass, not requiring the reader to constantly backstep and justify the occasionally trashy, shallow stuff they’re reading. While checking out reddit reviews of the show as it was airing suggests that maybe I’m now just “used” to Platinum End, since I know it shifts its approach for better after a certain point, I do think my initial wonder still has proven out: high schooler Mirai’s (Miyu Irino) naive protag eagerness and “Metropoliman’s” (Ishikawa) mustache-twirling bravado feel more at home with studio Signal.MD’s smooth, emotive animation, and Hideya Takahashi’s and Kazuchika Kise’s confident series direction. While the show still has some its dumb-as-fuck drapery, and occasional edgelord aspects, it’s more “clear” to me that these are meant to be rather telling attributes of what happens when you subject teens to matters way beyond their current ken, a type of genre commentary / Death Note paralleling that’s harder to see amongst Takeshi Obata’s beautiful art in the books.

Of course, I still put “clear” in quote, because with Ohba, it’s always equally possible that he’s truly just playing to the crowd, and that PE is a particularly base attempt at that; to the anime version’s credit, I think that not only does the format help move past these doubts, but that the show successfully downplays them, to an extent. So the show about 13 teenagers granted very specific power sets by guardian angels – arrows to manipulate, arrows to kill, wings to fly, but all with specific stipulations of use because it’s Ohba – in order to discover the best candidate to, uh, replace god is still very silly, lacking the built-in excuse Death Note had of shinigamis being tricksters themselves and thus employing a wonky Note system being rather fitting; here, no one exactly questions the “why” of the system, nor anything much about it, and just jumps right into battles of pseudo-logic and wills with their magical arrows and hypersonic wings.

There are undumb ways to give this setup more grounding, but that’s not PE’s m.o. in the slightest. Mirai just wants everyone to be happy, and uses that as the guiding light of his actions; Metropoliman is rich and hates poor people pissing on his personal space, and that’s wholly guides his actions; and so on for the various characters we meet along the way. Subtlety just ain’t the game.

But it is a fun game, and, again, the show is better at displaying Mirai / Metropol as teenagers, depicting things somewhat from their point of view to clue us in to the high school everything-is-the-end-of-the-world dramatics, with the joke being that it could actually be the end of the world. And “hints” (there are those quotes again) that the show might be pretty aware of this joke feel like they hit us sooner, involving adult god candidates and juggling action sequences with well-acted dialogue to prevent the show from spiraling out into straight-up wish fulfillment territory: Mirai’s distraughtness over being foisted into this role feels realer and not cheesy; his never on / never off relationship with fellow god candidate Saki (M.A.O.) has the taint of truth to it instead of straight soap; Metropoliman’s absurd comic book antics come across as the forced, overwrought plannings of an emotionally broken individual, and not just silly James Bond villain machinations.

Is any of this deep? No, and especially not until they meet some key characters down the road, but I think if you give yourself over to the series and try not mapping it side by side with Death Note, the consistency and fun of discovering new candidates and the arrow / wings rules swings things to a positive, with higher marks for being engrossingly ridiculous at many, many points, successfully distracting us until the characters and storyline can mature, allowing us to enjoy the show on further levels as well.