[Hello all and welcome back to Weeb Analysis where this month we’ll be examining gods and suicide with Platinum End. Weeb Analysis is a monthly column dedicated to analyzing new anime and seeing which titles are true classics in the making and which ones are worthless shlock not worth your time. The question now stands: is Platinum End worth your time or not?]
Warning: This installment of Weeb Analysis will tackle themes of suicide in great detail as it is fundamental to understanding the plot and ending of Platinum End. Discretion is advised.
There’s an element of anticipation I’m feeling right now as I’m sitting down to write about Platinum End. I’ve been preparing this piece for a little over six months, arguably longer since the show was announced back in 2020 and I have many things I’d like to say about it. Many, many, many things. I have my thoughts organized, my points all planned out, and my supporting evidence is strong. And yet, I almost don’t want to write about this 24-episode anime series because then it’ll be over. I don’t want it to be over.
You have to understand that Platinum End is a bad show. It’s not a trainwreck like The Promised Neverland was, sullying the name of its excellent first season. In fact, one can argue that Platinum End was never good and it is arguably the worse show because of its myriad of egregious flaws, some of which are with the production, some with the original manga, and some just lie in the repeated flaws of its creators. Its problems are not obvious. You can show anyone the second season of TPN and know exactly why it’s bad, but Platinum End is a harder nut to crack. Even then, its flaws are unremarkable. Not a glorious supernova engulfing the entire universe, but a sputtering candle that goes out without you even paying attention to it.
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This is a shame because I couldn’t wait to see Platinum End. The pedigree of its creators, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, is undisputed. They are the writer/artist duo that gave us Death Note, one of the best manga and anime of the 21st century, and Bakuman!, a self-insert series about manga creators that, while flawed, tells a solid and engaging story. The two have rightfully earned praise, so when they announced their next series, Platinum End, I was interested because of goodwill alone without having read a single chapter of it.
I started to read the series right at the beginning of the pandemic. I remember going to New York the week before lockdowns began and going to various manga stores and stocking up on all of the most recent volumes available. I figured that in case this whole virus situation did get out of control, I would at least have some decent reading material. On the train ride back, I started to dive in and kept rereading the series during the lockdown. It may have been Stockholm syndrome, or maybe I had nothing else new to read so why not read what I had just gotten, but there was something there that was interesting to me.
Maybe it was Obata’s excellent art… actually it probably was just because I love Obata’s art here. I enjoyed the manga enough that the announcement that the series would be getting an anime was something I became genuinely excited about. I even went to my local comic book store that I’ve been going to for decades and told the owner he should probably buy more volumes of Platinum End as it was going to be the next big thing. Chris, if you’re reading this, sorry that didn’t exactly pan out, but Spy x Family is going to be the next gold mine, I swear!
Platinum End is a story about a teenager named Mirai Kakehashi. Mirai goes through with a planned suicide attempt but is saved by an angel. The angel informs him that he and 12 other “God Candidates” have been selected to decide amongst themselves who will become the next God in 999 days since the current one is retiring. In order to facilitate this selection process, each God Candidate is entitled to certain tools given the rank of their angel. Mirai’s angel, Nasse, gives him wings for instantaneous flight, a red arrow to make people obedient to him, and a white arrow to instantly kill anyone.
Other God Candidates receive a combination of the three for themselves but because there needs to be a conflict, another God Candidate with access to white arrows decides to kill all of the other candidates to make himself into God. It becomes up to Mirari and a variety of other candidates to try and put a stop to this malicious candidate, one who dresses up like a superhero and calls himself Metropoliman.
There are a lot more intricacies within that premise, such as how the arrows work and function as well as the fact that all of the God Candidates are suicidal. As a matter of fact, suicide is one of the prevalent themes within the show. The series begins with a kind of successful suicide attempt and ends with a legitimately successful one. Suicide is baked into this show’s premise and to try and dodge it would be to do the show a disservice. The series attempts to explain the motivations for why someone would wish to commit suicide and eventually devolves into a discussion on societal perceptions of suicide. The only problem is that Platinum End has a basic grasp of the topic.
I can say that I have never once thought of committing suicide. I am grateful in that I am not depressed and I don’t suffer from any psychological disorders. However, I am aware enough that the topic is one that shouldn’t be treated lightly and used as a set dressing. Every character within the series wants or has wanted to commit suicide at one point in their life. Mirai wanted to die because he suffers from child abuse and bullying. His classmate and childhood friend, Saki (who is also a God Candidate), wanted to die because she bullied Mirai in order to be popular. Another Candidate, Mukaido, is dying of cancer and wanted to die on his terms and not have his family watch him suffer.
All of these are understandable motivations. I can’t say I agree with them because I believe that you should always choose life, but my mindset isn’t everyone else’s mindset. However, there are characters whose desire to die stems from places so ludicrous and absurd that it undermines the very legitimate discussions being had here.
Take Metropoliman, real name Kanade Uryu. Kanade wants to commit suicide because he was responsible for murdering his sister after she told him she was interested in a boy at her school. Kanade had incestuous love for his sister to the point where even after she died, using his father’s company, he pulled a Boba Fett and encased her in ice to preserve her body. His suicidal tendencies just feel like a flimsy justification to have a deranged eugenics believer as the antagonist because our heroes needed a cartoonish supervillain as a threat.
Or what about his underling, Hajime Sokotani, who’s just ugly. Like, really ugly. Or Yuri, who isn’t popular. For a concept baked into the core of these characters, these feel like cheap ideas to justify a premise. If you’re going to spend a significant portion of your series sidestepping really uncomfortable topics, don’t bring them up. The suicide thing is only brought up as set dressing since most of the anime’s runtime is focused on either action scenes, or having people attempt to sound smart about philosophical concepts that are the equivalent of going onto a Reddit thread about atheism.
The problem is only made worse when the characters themselves are not interesting whatsoever. Mirai is, without a doubt, one of the worst protagonists I’ve ever seen in a series, animated or otherwise. Mirai’s goal is to live a happy life. He only wants to be happy and discover what happiness is, but never is able to explain what that means. I know that may sound like a deep question, but the show never decides to give an answer. It offers up options on what happiness isn’t. Happiness isn’t letting Metropoliman kill people. Happiness isn’t using his red arrows for self-gain. Happiness isn’t a lot of things, but Mirai never explains what it is to him.
And because I love to just dump on Mirai, let’s keep that train going! Mirai has no character, no personality to him. When asked by the final God Candidate what everyone would do if they become God, everyone has at least some kind of an answer. One character says they would make suicide easier and not frowned upon in society. One character says that everyone should be wealthy and live comfortable lives. One character even says that everyone should have white arrows. But Mirai’s response? He’d do nothing. The character is all about inaction and is only forced to act by other characters. If he could, he would just crawl in a hole and do absolutely nothing for the rest of the show.
He sucks so much and drains all of the excitement from every scene that he’s in. His idea of heroism is to let everyone else be the hero instead of him. Even after Metropoliman killed hordes of people and claims he’ll purge the world if he becomes God, Mirai refuses to kill him. He doesn’t offer up any compelling reason why other than Mirai can’t be happy if he kills someone, despite killing someone IN THE FIRST EPISODE. It’s not even a watershed moment where he vows to never kill because of what he did, it’s just meant to be a shocking moment in a premiere to hook newcomers. When Metropoliman openly talks about killing all of the poor people in the world, Mirai leaves it to the terminal cancer patient to kill Metropoliman, who then immediately dies of overexertion after doing the deed for Mirai. Our hero.
The show spends agonizing amounts of time trying to establish Mirai as a worthwhile protagonist and Saki as his love interest, but they have nothing going for them. There is no chemistry or personality between the two of them. They mope around for the first half of the show and pick up no agency, even as the selection process dwindles down with more candidates dying. They claim that they love each other but the two of them never even smile. There’s no banter between them, no casual asides, no moments where they can just smile and be happy. Even when the show gives them chances to spend time with one another, both Mirai and Saki are frowning and look positively grim. At their wedding in the final episode, they profess their love for each other in the same tone and cadence a Replicant would.
It wouldn’t be so bad if that was the only thing that Saki’s character had going for her. Saki exists for three reasons. One: to serve as a plot device at the climax of the first half of the series to help turn the tables on Metropoliman. Two: to be obviously fetishized by wearing a catsuit (seriously) that the show breaks its spine bending over backward to justify. And three: to offer up some truly stupid ideas that I think Ohba thought sounded smart, but just make her into a complete moron.
The other characters they interact with are much more interesting and compelling than either of them. Mukaido, their first ally, is honestly a better protagonist than both of them combined. He’s dying of cancer and chooses to try and become God, not for any personal gain, but to try and make sure that his wife and child can live a fulfilling life. He uses red arrows to steal money from corporate executives so that his family can be financially stable but feels guilt over that since that makes him no better than a criminal in his eyes. Even if we’re going with the nebulous idea of defining what happiness is, Mukaido has a clear definition of that. Happiness to Mukaido is being able to make sure his daughter is able to wear the wedding dress he made for her, even after he’s dead. There’s great drama to be had with him, especially since he’s proactive in trying to stop Metropoliman, whose motivations will directly prevent Mukaido’s daughter from ever finding happiness.
It’s at this point that I should mention that the first and second half of the series have very different styles and structures. The first half is dedicated to stopping Metropoliman and all of his machinations to kill the God Candidates. He’s directly responsible for the deaths of five God Candidates, so our trio of heroes tries to do whatever they can to stop him. The first half tries to be super in your face with its shock value and edginess. The following is just a small list of the things that happen during this arc of the series that attempts to shock the audience.
- Mirai’s abusive aunt slices her throat in front of him while an angel tells Mirai he should be happy about it and that it was a good thing.
- A little girl almost has her arm ripped off because she was handcuffed to a pole while God Candidate was trying to fly away.
- A God Candidate has an orgy with several brainwashed female singers, which does count as rape because they cannot give consent.
- A teenage serial killer brainwashed girls to have sex with her and then murders them. Again, rape. She then suicide bombs herself because Metropoliman told her to do it.
- A dominatrix nurse with a disease fetish melts a live rat before melting a human being.
I should also probably mention that this series, like all of Ohba and Obata’s work, is deeply sexist. I have no idea why this is such a running theme in their work, but the two of them just seem to really, really hate women. The women in Platinum End range from being abusive to murderers to tools for men to take advantage of, to victims of brutal crimes. Even the women that make it to the end of the series, Saki and Yuri, don’t really count as having positive representation. Saki is entirely reliant on Mirai and dedicates her life to his happiness, and Yuri is a homophobic gold-digger who wants someone else to be God because it sounds too complex and all she really wants is money and fame.
This isn’t anything new for Ohba and Obata. Misa Misa in Death Note dedicates pretty much her entire life to Light Yagami at the cost of her own, and Bakuman… well, this is an examination from the second chapter of the series done by Eric Koenig, who writes in-depth reviews on each installment of the series. Keep in mind it’s a blatant self-insert series about two manga creators. If they’re just surrogates for Ohba and Obata… then oh my God, is that what they actually think? Seriously? No, really, seriously? Like, what is even the hell with that? SERIOUSLY???
Getting back to the crux of the argument, all of these attempts are meant to be shocking, but end up not being. It’s not even really poor taste, though the countless examples of rape in this series are definitely in poor taste. This is what a teenager would consider being edgy and “mature.” If a teenager is ever writing a script or a story, they try to be mature by adding mature-sounding themes and ideas without necessarily understanding them, or cursing for the sake of cursing. You can’t just throw rape, orgies, and other very serious and very polarizing topics out willy-nilly. There needs to be a certain grace, or at least self-awareness, to it.
Take Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The series has what is technically considered a running gag where villains will either kick or kill dogs. In the first four parts, ten dogs are kicked or killed. The action itself is terrible, but it serves a very important purpose. All of these dog injuries are caused by villains and there’s nothing better at establishing a villain than to watch them kick a puppy. It’s almost a certainty at this point in the series that a dog will be kicked and/or killed by a villain. The action is unjustifiable but done with such frequency and with such an exaggerated nature (much like any scene from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure) that it becomes a blatant shorthand of a character’s moral alignment. The action is also performed with a sense of levity, aware that such an over-the-top action can only be seen as cartoonishly evil.
In Platinum End, these shocking moments are all perpetrated by characters who barely impact the plot. Mirai’s aunt dies in the first episode, the little girl who almost has her arm torn off dies shortly after, the orgy guy is killed in that very same scene, the serial killer blows herself up, the dominatrix nurse is stabbed: none of them matter. They’re just here for the authors to show that this is a “super-serious” story and is “mature,” which is a far cry from their first work, Death Note.
Death Note is a mature series for all the good reasons. The moral and ethical questions raised by its characters feel genuine and propel the characters forward. Light Yagami is an excellent antagonist because he’s so certain that killing murderers will make the world a better place, even when the power goes to his head where he just starts to eliminate anyone who gets in his way. The ideas of control and justice feel well explored, confident in the journey it’s taking its characters on. Conversely, the themes of Platinum End feel superficial and less certain. They’re just there to serve as unsubstantial padding between, what is essentially, Ohba and Obata doing their version of a Death Game, but unsure how to even do that well.
That’s what Platinum End ultimately is. It’s a Death Game with a lot of extra hoops around it. For the first half, the series is at least entertaining. Watching Metropoliman, who is basically a more overtly homicidal Light Yagami, come up with these over-the-top and extravagant ways to kill the other Candidates is fun, and seeing what happens next is at least exciting. I may question why we had to introduce a meaningless serial killer who ultimately was just a distraction, but it at least served to jumpstart some entertaining fight scenes. The venues these fight scenes take place in are bright and colorful and even though the animation is limited at times, it’s still pretty fun to watch.
And then Metropoliman dies and we still have a dozen episodes to go.
This is a problem that both the manga and the anime serve and it’s one that comes down to Ohba and Obata really poorly planning their story out. Their central antagonist dies in a glorious fashion, but the selection process is still ongoing. Now no one has to fear being murdered, but that means the show’s action is all but gone. In lieu of a game of cat and mouse between an incest supervillain and the lamest protagonist in existence, what do we get to replace it? Talking.
So. Much. Talking.
Platinum End devolves to people standing around in gray rooms talking about the nature of God, suicide, and religion. At times, it’s like the characters just love to hear themselves talk. This is especially true of who is eventually billed as our final antagonist, Dr. Gaku Yoneda. He is basically Super Atheist Man. He has a white arrow, he acts like he’s the smartest man in the room, and everyone lines up just to fawn at him because he’s so smart, guys. Like, really, really smart, yo. He’s got like a Nobel Peace Prize. He’s also the second-worst character in the show (Don’t worry Mirai, you’re still the worst boy).
The problem with Yoneda is that, on paper, he’s an excellent antagonist and an inversion of a character that Ohba and Obata love to work with. He’s dispassionate and hyper-intelligent and believes that he knows what’s best for everyone. He also doesn’t understand social cues at all and barely interacts with the world. His reason for trying to commit suicide is that because of his newfound fame and success from winning the Nobel Peace Prize, he can’t continue his scientific research and begins to suffer from extreme depression. He firmly believes that God is not real and the angels are some kind of mass delusion, but just by the nature of the series, he’s wrong.
We know that Yoneda is wrong as there are 13 angels continuously flying around commenting on the action like a Greek chorus. Yet Yoneda is so blinded by his own hubris that he eventually is defeated. He loses because our heroes outsmart him by playing into others’ emotions, something that he can’t grasp. He all but goes into the fetal position upon realizing that he was inches from death because he doesn’t understand how the human mind works.
Yoneda is a variation of L from Death Note. L has a strict moral code and does whatever he can to bring Light to justice for his crimes, yet will follow to rules by the book to do so. L doesn’t believe he’s above justice. Yoneda doesn’t care about that. He believes he’s above justice, and therefore can do and say whatever he wants, no matter how wrong he ultimately is. On paper, Yoneda works wonderfully. In execution, he does not shut up.
You can have all of the best intentions in the world and have a character that can theoretically work, but if your execution sucks then the character sucks. Scrappy-Doo was made so that kids can have an audience surrogate compared to the teenage cast. He was so insufferable, however, in his actions that everyone hated him, including the kids that he was meant to relate to and especially James Gunn. He wound up being a bad idea for the series long-term. Scrappy-Doo did serve his purpose of getting another season renewal, but one could argue that the long-term damage to the show’s format focusing on Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy did more harm than good. Good purpose, bad execution.
Anakin Skywalker was meant to show us how a Jedi user could be seduced by the Dark Side and become Darth Vader, but in the prequel trilogy, he ranged from being annoying with poor dialogue to whiny with poor dialogue, ruining that arc he was supposed to undergo and ultimately turning his transition into Darth Vader into a joke. Why do you think Vader’s famous “NOOOOOO!” is so mocked and ridiculed? On paper, it works, but after three movies of poor execution, we didn’t see Anakin become a puppet to Palpatine: we saw Anakin whining yet again. Good purpose, bad execution.
The same is true of Yoneda and how he bombards the viewers with ideas and theories that sound smart but are the equivalent of listening to a college professor giving a lecture about the driest subject imaginable. There are several episodes in a row of him just talking and explaining concepts and ideas that no one cares about. This is all while static gray backdrops fill the screen and character models become noticeably looser and sloppier. The show needed a new antagonist, one that could challenge the remaining God Candidates mentally and still ultimately wanted to kill them. Yoneda’s constant yammering makes him more pedantic and insufferable than truly challenging. Good purpose, bad execution.
It’s important to note that this second half of the series had a switch in director. The first half was directed by Hideya Takahashi, who is a fairly competent director responsible for shows like Strike Witches, Keijo!!!!!!!!, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. It makes sense given that the action scenes were the strong points there instead of the lifeless hypothesizing and shock value. The second half, though, was directed by one Kazuchika Kize, a character designer whose only other directorial credit was for Ghost in the Shell: Arise, a visually unremarkable series that not many people are even aware of.
The edgy shock value also almost entirely disappears from the second half of Platinum End, but I think that’s mostly because the creators had no idea what to do from this point on. It’s pretty obvious that the show is spinning its gears by the time Yoneda shows up and even the manga has hinted that the creators didn’t really know what to do. In the manga, Yoneda’s angel, Muni, has a completely different appearance from when they were first introduced, around volume 8, and when they made their formal debut in volume 10. Concepts were most certainly not finalized and Ohba and Obata were flying by the seat of their pants.
Ohba’s strengths as a writer come from having intricate political machinations and plots. The many ways that Light Yagami planned for any possibility made Death Note exciting to read because of that. He was always one step ahead and Ohba made sure to lay many different seeds to not only strengthen Light’s position and authority within the world but his eventual downfall. Those elements do start to crop up once the action of Platinum End dies down, with various world governments getting involved in the God Candidate selection process to take a Candidate for their own political purposes, but it all goes nowhere.
Ohba seemed to realize that with Metropoliman gone, he needed something to keep the tension going. Sadly, it was too little too late. There wasn’t enough time to create a multilayered plot about the nature of divine beings interceding in our world and how they can be manipulated by humans with an already dwindled pool of characters, so instead here’s a character that will just talk for minutes on end about ostensibly nothing, since we know his conclusions are ultimately false. There is no joy or excitement in watching a character pontificate about ideas that, even before the series ends, we know have inaccurate conclusions.
All of that comes to a head in the finale. Platinum End is infamous for the way that it ends, coming across as a middle finger to the readers. Ohba and Obata were literally backed into a corner and with no way out, decided to wipe the slate clean. I mean that literally. It’s that kind of WTF failure that I love so much. In order to explain why this ending is so terrible, I need to introduce you to one final God Candidate: Shuji Nakaumi.
Shuji is a kid that actively wants to die. He’s the Candidate that wants suicide to become societally acceptable and encourages others to kill themselves to put themselves out of their misery. So of course, our cast of morons decides that, barring the final candidate’s (Yoneda’s) approval, who they haven’t met yet at this point, Shuji will become God. I repeat, the suicidal 12-year-old is who everyone thinks should be God, including our protagonist. If you think that’s a dumb idea, don’t worry: it gets worse.
After Yoneda disavows the plan and gives his Mega Athiest Speech (trademark pending) by the end of episode 23, he concedes and everyone decides, yet again, to make the suicidal 12-year-old God. Never mind the fact we spent five episodes padding out the plot with false conflict, including a shocking status quo shift that gets undone within the same episode, because trust me, it gets stupider. So Shuji becomes God and, get this, decides to kill himself. I repeat, the suicidal 12-year-old becomes God and then kills himself, which NO ONE SAW COMING WHATSOEVER. God kills himself in front of the angels, and then everyone dies.
Yup, everyone dies. Mirai, Saki, Yoneda: they all die. Everyone on Earth? All dead. All of the conflict was absolutely meaningless. The series ends with a pan out of the universe with some unknown beings commenting how sad it is that they can’t die and I still can’t get over the fact that “rocks fall, everybody dies” was the ending they went with. No happy ending for the characters. No comeuppance for our kind-of-sort-of antagonist Yoneda. Even in the face of death, knowing that God is real and God just died, he tries to jump over all of the hoops to prove that he was still right and God doesn’t exist.
This is the Hindenberg of anime. It’s all burning spectacularly and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. Someone should have seen it coming from a mile away, but this is the point where Ohba and Obata probably were likely filled with so much spite towards Platinum End that they didn’t care about the hatred they would get for it. They hated the series that much. And animated, it’s pretty hilarious.
I actively encouraged people to watch the anime blind, knowing full well that all of it was nihilist garbage. It’s like back in 2012 being forced to go see Breaking Dawn Part 2, yet being fully aware there was going to be a non-canon fight to the death where all of the Twihards favorite characters get killed by vampire superpowers or fed to wolves. Just seeing the reaction on their faces was worth the price of admission, as is the case here.
Except, not really. As fun as the ending was, it doesn’t justify the time spent watching edgelord action, vacuous philosophizing, tone-deaf depictions of suicide, non-stop babbling, and the depressing feeling of watching the spark of excitement I had for Platinum End slowly but surely die out. No matter how I dress it up and make my points, there’s one thing that really just solidifies why you shouldn’t watch this series. It’s boring.
That’s the worst part of it all. For the past 5,000 words, I made it sound like this show was a disaster beyond all comparison, a once-in-a-generation failure that needs to be seen, a grand epic exercise in bad storytelling. But it isn’t. It’s forgettable. It’s bland and visually unimpressive. The only thing the series really had going for it was the pedigree of Ohba and Obata and I would still recommend checking out the manga for Obata’s art, but there’s none of that artistry here. This is a show that banked on name recognition alone and tried to capitalize on its flawed story with limited animation and a rushed pace that didn’t really know what to do with itself. That and show of a lot of angel butts. Like, a lot of angel butts.
The Promised Neverland filled audiences will rage. It felt like the animation staff at Cloverworks were actual buffoons who were ashamed of what they made. Platinum End wasn’t made by fools, but by people who were completely apathetic to the series and what they were making. This feels like a job that required the bare minimum effort to complete, C work at its finest. It gets the job done, but arguably it deserves a lower grade because there was so little passion put into it. Even if a show is a complete failure, like Cowboy Bebop was, as long as there were good intentions behind it, it can still find an audience and following. No one is going to be making a community out of Platinum End. Not Death Note fans, not so-bad-it’s-good fans, and especially not anime fans. It’s a dull, misguided, thematically stupid mess of an anime.
And it only took me six months to say something that I knew two weeks into the show.