Content Warning: Suicide/suicidal ideation, child abuse, infanticide, domestic violence, bombing, gore, pseudo-incest (mind control), fanservice
What’s it about? After the death of his parents and years of abuse at the hands of his aunt and uncle, Kakehashi Mirai decides to end his life on the day of his middle school graduation. He’s saved by an angel named Nasse and given two gifts: wings that will carry him anywhere, and a pair of arrows that can make a person fall in love with him or kill them instantly. This also automatically makes Mirai into one of the 13 candidates vying to become the next God.
Hey kids, do you like Death Note? Probably not, because that series is extremely old now and has aged about as well as the other edgelord content of 2006. But I was that 2006 edgelord, dammit, and I feel compelled to put my Ohba veterancy to work here in 2021.
There are two major things that Platinum End has in common with previous Ohba/Obata manga. One, it captures the feeling of railing for the first time at an unjust society in a way that rings powerfully true if you’re in Shonen Jump’s 13-17 target demographic (physically or emotionally) and then gets increasingly shaky with added age and perspective; and two, it hates women just so very much. It was like I had traveled back in time 15 years, which was a warm experience for me, if maybe slightly troubling for an artist who’s allegedly been working and growing all that time.
Let’s start with that first point. As you might have noticed from the summary and content warning list, this is heavy material. So please bear with me when I say both that I had a genuine emotion watching the first half of the episode, and that once I started laughing I simply could not stop. It’s a colorful watch, if nothing else; director Takahashi Hideya (Keijo!!!!!!!!, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) is definitely going for echoes of Death Note’s famous color washes. And the idea that being able to leave an abusive situation can be a functionally impossible feat without literal divine intervention makes for a good short story concept—I can feel series composer Inotsume Shinichi (Yona of the Dawn, Ristorante Paradiso) doing his absolute damndest to add something like a human touch as Mirai’s eyes well with tears during his first flight. Granted, that’s the only scene that feels particularly grand or sweeping rather than perfunctory or awkward, but that’s just perfect all things considered.
But this is not a soft slice-of-life series about human foibles; this is Platinum End, by Ohba Tsugumi, so we need to get some motherfucking nihilism in here, stat! And so the premiere elects to tip over from “a bit grimdark but somewhat affecting” into “so grotesque and tragic that it loops comfortably around to numbness, followed by hilarity.” Mirai’s self-proclaimed personal angel Nasse quipping cheerfully about killing and brainwashing people has the vague charm of a very teenage sort of atheism, and it’s clearly setting up the show’s whole deal about how Heaven’s system is actually cruel and arbitrary, man. They don’t take a drag off a clove cigarette, but it’s implied.
It’s also concerning (if I had any faith in its ability to execute these themes with gravity) that Mirai’s place as the moral center is already pretty restrictive. When Nasse remarks that
hell is empty and all the devils are here the only devils are in people’s hearts, Mirai mentally flashes not to his relatives abusing him but the time early in the episode when he almost (gasp) shoplifted a piece of melon bread. We are following a floppy-haired anime Inspector Javert.
By the time Mirai (deep breath) finds out that his abusive aunt and uncle murdered his parents for their inheritance, makes his aunt fall in love with him so she’ll confess, and then accidentally compels her to kill herself, it’s strained credibility to the breaking point. When Mirai (his name means future, d’you get it) slipped in his aunt’s blood, tearfully proclaiming the error of his suicide attempt and vowing to embrace happiness, I had to crawl under my desk to recover a few of my oxygen-starved braincells.
It isn’t sure that a family dying in a car bomb is sad enough, y’all, so it makes sure to show us a close up of a little blood-stained kindergartner hat. I JUST—
And then there’s that pesky misogyny I mentioned. Ohba’s persistent sexism gained particular notice in Bakuman, where it was so bald that the average reader could pick up on it; but it’s there in Death Note too, from Misa and Takada’s rapid decline in intelligence and agency to the fact that basically every named female character ends up either written out or dead. So even though it’s arguably par for the course for the genre, it’s hard for me not to see Ohba setting up his Usual Bullshit, with the amoral Nasse (who we are introduced to ass-first) trying to tempt Good Boy Mirai into killing people or seducing them for his own ends.
Then there’s the contrast between Mirai’s abusive aunt also wearing a negligee so she’s not just evil but slutty evil, while Mirai’s lost childhood friend and sainted dead mother are virtuously covered from neck to toe. Again, this is the kind of coding that ends up replicated in a lot of the death game series—because gosh, Platinum End’s premise sure bears some coincidental similarities to some other hilarious edgelord shows—but if I may…fool me once.
Where does that leave Platinum End? Well, it’s visually interesting and will probably scratch a certain itch if you’re looking for riffing material. It’s certainly not likely to get more tasteful. Far and away the most famous thing about it is the absolute brain-melting fuckery of its ending, has been helpfully chronicled if you just wanna skip to the end of this certified trainwreck. Or maybe you want to soak in the disaster in weekly real-time — this might be an ideal candidate for weekly online rubbernecking, as it’s competently made enough that it doesn’t drag while also being completely unmoored from human affect. I don’t think I’ll be sure where I fall myself until episode two drops next week.