Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata is one of the few series that broke through that glass ceiling to become a mainstream success. It never got to the level of Sailor Moon or Dragonball Z but it was a title that would regularly appear in magazine articles, became the object of TV controversy, the subject of parody, and regularly appear on the list best-selling manga in the US. It even got the standard rumors about there being Death Note TV series and movies being made in Hollywood. It was series that had an unstoppable momentum that even got it a new live action TV series in Japan and is still discussed today.
With a mega success like that the natural question is what would the duo as a follow-up. It turns out that their next work was Bakuman. It was a very meta manga about a pair of friends trying to make it in the manga industry. It was undoubtedly a success but it was not the juggernaut that Death Note was. Bakuman got an anime, a drama, and sold well but while it is a show that has name recognition on anitwitter it has no where the same cache of its predecessor at an anime convention among the average attendee.
Once again Ohba and Obata are working together on Platinum End. It is a good deal closer to the supernatural mixture of supernatural suspense and horror that made Death Note a success as opposed to the relatively more realistic comedy of Bakuman. The question on everyone’s lips is how does this compare to their last two hits.
Shonen Jump has been bringing out a lot of new material lately. It is exciting to see this team back together to do something more with the supernatural which gives Takeshi Obata’s art time to shine and let’s Tsugumi Ohba play with no-limits in the story.
Mirai Kakehashi decides to end his life after graduating from Junior High School by jumping off the apartment complex where he lives. But before he his the ground his guardian angel Nasse saves his life and offers him angelic wings and cherubic love arrows. What she has not fully explained is these gift enter him into a tournament to decide to shall become God’s successor. This does not look like it is going to be the manga version of Rob Thomas’ Cupid.
I have not seen anyone talking about this series but I can predict the first reaction a lot of people are going to voice is that this does feel like Ohba and Obata are going back to the well. The series does really feel like a hybrid of Death Note and Future Diary. Mirai feels much like Light if he grew up like Harry Potter and Nasse is the angelic version of Ryuk. The whole competition to replace God is the plot of Future Diary without any major visible modifications. People already love to show how series are derivative copies of earlier works and this one makes it all too easy.
In many way this series lives or dies on quickly it can differentiate itself from its sources while still retaining the audience it gets from its pedigree. If the series quickly turns into a Death Note clone then I easily see people get tired of this series. If Mirai just becomes the new Light and Nasse is just a cute girl Ryuk then the series is inviting the cruel executioner’s axe of cancellation of the merciless editors of Jump.
But it does not have to go down that route. So far Mirai has not undergone the same rapid moral decent that Light underwent. He could just as easily be corrupted by his new-found abilities or he could undergo a more complex moral journey like Yukiteru Amano. Much of it comes down to how he reacts to the death on his aunt and how he confronts the other people picked to fight for the prize.
Also Marai has what boils down to cupid powers. Where as the powers of the Death Note revolved around darkness, death, and power ostensibly Marai’s angelic abilites draw from light, love, and happiness. It just so happens that in Platinum End that all of those seemingly positive virtues seem to breed violence and despair. This could be a simple case where they just flip the idea behind the original premise but there other avenues and themes that could be explored as well.
Also if they can avoid creating Misa Misa Mk-II that would be greatly appreciated.
The ability to make anyone fall in love with you by simply wishing it sounds like the type of power one might find in a rom-com; I was definitely thrown off when it was introduced to our protagonist. The expected outcome might be sexual or to induce reciprocated puppy love, but Platinum End quickly puts it to use for the manipulation of information and then it just keeps sliding into darkness.
But Tsugumi Ohba has proven to be good and crazy at looking into the dark soul of humanity and the extreme consequences of giving over god-like power to a group of mere, flawed humans.
The question now is whether Mirai will descend into megalomania. It is hard to tell as he doesn’t fully distinguish himself as all that interesting in this first chapter.
The art in Platinum End seems ups to Takeshi Obata usual high standard. Mirai is a little more generic light novel protagonist than the cool and collected Light or the off beat L but he is not in any was objectionable. Nasse feels very much like a standard cute girl but that seems to be in deliberate contrast to her twisted kindness. I’m actually waiting to see the other contenders for the Throne of God. The side characters seem to be where Obata’s more unusual characters designs come out so I think there the greatest potential for breakout characters to exist. With angels like Thrones and Cherubim you could get some really monstrously divine allies.
Takeshi Obata’s art in Death Note has this core sort of mania to it and I think he brings that to Platinum End as well. Those bold, dramatic moments, that push the limits of perspective and reaction are here. His page layouts are tinged with anticipation about what will come next.
However, I think he has gotten better at creating simplicity in other moments that build over the course of the chapter winding up at insanity.
In many ways a series like Death Note that is not Death Note is hardly the worst idea right now. There is clearly a hunger for a dark series in Shonen Jump. That audience mainly wants a series that is similar to the manga they loved while being new enough to feel fresh but familiar enough to scratch the itch of the title they enjoyed. The question is can Platinum End break out of the shadow of its successful older bother.
I don’t think I’ll be picking this up every week but I’ll surely find myself poring over a collected volume once it releases.