There are some concepts that are universal to all living things. One of these is the idea of the pursuit of happiness. We learn about it early; that it’s our right to be happy, but it’s also the ultimate goal. Many of us could agree that happiness is a good thing, but the path to it is not always an easy one. If you’re not waving a flag of joy at the finish line, it might feel like failure.
The latest from Death Note duo Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, Platinum End, is all about the pursuit of happiness. In true fashion for the pair, the series takes the very real experience of finding happiness and takes it up a notch…or 12.
In Platinum End, 13 humans who have given up on life are selected by Angels to become God Candidates. Each candidate is given powers to help them achieve this heavenly goal. As you can imagine, the road to becoming God and finding happiness is parallel and perpendicular. As I mentioned before, the 13 God Candidates were all selected because, at one point, they had given up on life and being happy. Some attempted suicide, others are dying of terminal illnesses, and some are being bullied, abused or are just lonely.
To some, it may be a perplexing notion to get the chance to become God. Consider this: happiness controls our mood, freedom and our outlook on life; it is connected to love, joy, friendship, success and so much more. You know what else has that same kind of power? A God.
So, why not offer someone at their lowest a chance to reach nirvana? A person who is already happy or still striving toward it is less likely to require celestial assistance. They are enlightened and God-like already, in a sense.
Death Note also played around with the idea of what God is and the definitions of peace and justice. In Platinum End, the creators use God’s power to define personal happiness. Certain generic images come to mind when you think about happiness, like smiling, puppies, family, marriage, candy, rainbows, etc.
However, the characters of Platinum End’s version of happiness are far from cookie-cutter. One candidate wants fame and women, another to help their family. Mirai, our protagonist, wants to be with the girl he loves and live a happy life, and Metropoliman just wants to be God.
But the trick is in how each uses their God-like powers, and each are far from selfless. They kill, lie, coerce and do other harmful things to people. Platinum End begs the question, “Is it OK to achieve your happiness if it results in the unhappiness of others?”
As I watch the series, I wonder if what the creators are really asking is, “Why is society pressuring us to be happy, to be perfect, to be like a God?” It’s as if society makes people feel like they’re only allowed to have one singular emotion—happiness. Anything less is unacceptable.
Mirai, Saki, Mukaido and even Uryu all experience “negative” emotions like sadness, despair, anger, guilt and shame throughout the series. But as the cliche goes, “To feel is to be human.” This is where my mind was blown and I could see the full picture. Yes, they are being offered the chance to be God, but they are also receiving a chance to shed their weakness—their humanity—their emotions. If you weren’t human, maybe you could be happy.
Just as these characters are human, us viewers are human, too. What’s so wrong with that? We’re flawed beings, but that’s what makes us special. The candidates in Platinum End are so consumed with finding out what happiness is, that they can’t see that it’s perfectly OK to not always be happy. They could see that real, obtainable happiness doesn’t look like power, money, fame or good looks, or even like a God, but peace. Peace of mind allows us to accept who we are, flaws and all. Peace says it’s OK to be happy and it’s OK to be sad.
I’ll present one more thing to think about. Have you ever heard the phrase “Peace on Earth?” What about “Heaven on Earth?” Did you know they’re interchangeable? If a God is happiness and Gods reside in a higher plane, paradise, etc., then the ultimate goal isn’t happiness—it’s to be at peace.
As you watch the 13 God Candidates duke it out in Platinum End, ponder what they’re really fighting for: peace or happiness? If it were you, what would you do? Could you do anything for that happiness or would you choose peace? It’s a hard question to answer, and an even harder one to achieve.
If you want to take this thought-provoking journey along with me and the characters of Platinum End, you can catch it streaming right here on Funimation. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, you can watch all of Death Note as well.