Posts tagged ‘Death Note ‘




Death Note

TITLE: Death Note
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Ohba
PUBLISHER: Viz
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shonen
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 12
SCORE: 10 (Masterpiece)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Tsugumi Ohba (writer of Bakuman.), Takeshi Ohba (mangaka of Bakuman. and Hikaru no Go), Death Note anime, Death Note live action movies, supernatural, drama, mystery

I’m not, generally speaking, a big fan of shounen manga. It’s definitely the least represented demographic in my personal collection, but there is one shounen series that managed to completely win me over. That series is the megahit manga Death Note.

The story begins when the brilliant, but bored, high school student Light Yagami finds an abandoned notebook on the ground. On the inside cover is a list of rules on how to use the so-called “Death Note”, which allows a person to kill whoever they want just by writing down their names. Light believes the notebook is nothing but a silly prank, but when his curiosity leads him to test out the notebook’s alleged powers, he discovers that the Death Note is real and was dropped into the human world by a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk, who is also looking for a little excitement in his life.

Though at first horrified by what he has done, aspiring police officer Light decides it his responsibility to put the Death Note to good use. Wanting to rid the rotten world of evil, he begins a mass murdering spree, killing dangerous and evil criminals with his “divine” punishment. It doesn’t take long, however, for the mysterious deaths of numerous criminals to catch the attention of the authorities. Enter L, the number one detective in the world. When L is put in charge of solving the “Kira” case, it begins an epic game of cat-and-mouse between intellectual equals as Light attempts to keep his identity as Kira a secret at any and all costs.

Death Note is a very plot-based series. Although the premise obviously brings up questions concerning the morality of the death penalty and whether or not “Kira is justice”, the series isn’t particularly interested in answering idealogical dilemmas. (It was, after all, targeted toward the Shounen Jump crowd, not adults.) If you go in expecting deep philosophical debates, you’ll probably be disappointed. What you will get, however, is a well-crafted intellectual thriller that will constantly keep you guessing how Light will manage to outsmart those who are after him. I was extremely impressed with how much thought Ohba put into the various schemes and gambits employed by the characters in the story.

I also liked how the story developed into different arcs, keeping things fresh and exciting. If all twelve volumes had been dedicated toward the conflict between Light and L, I imagine things would have gotten rather stale after a while, but with the addition of new Kiras and other groups looking to bring Kira to justice, the main conflict changes several times over the course of the series. In fact, in one of my favorite arcs of the series, Light and L actually work together on the same side when a new Kira comes into power. Though some fans feel the story loses steam around the mid-way point, thanks to a shocking spoiler (that I will not divulge for those who have somehow managed to remain spoiler-free), that was not the case for me. In fact, I think I may even like the second half slightly more than the first half.

Even though the story is mostly plot, that doesn’t mean the characters are lacking. Light is actually one of my favorite manga characters ever, despite the fact that we hold completely opposite beliefs regarding the killing of criminals. It can be a risk to set up a villain protagonist as the hero of the story, but Light’s descent from an idealistic teen who believes he’s doing what is right to an egotistical serial killer with delusions of godhood is fascinating to watch. Even those like me, who are opposed to Light’s methods, can’t help but be impressed by his powers of manipulation and the lengths he goes through to successfully evade capture.

Quirky, sweets-loving L is also quite the memorable character, although he’s not really one of my favorites. (He’s a little too quirky for my tastes.) Though he’s the leader of the “good” side — depending on how you view things — he’s not exactly a paragon of morals, agreeing to head the Kira investigation not out of any real sense of justice, but simply because he wants to win against Kira. If it can help the investigation, he has little problem with kidnapping, torture, and even letting other people die. It’s only due to objections from the members of the Kira task force that L’s more troubling plans never come to fruition.

As for the artwork, it’s amazing how dynamic Obata’s drawings are when there’s actually very little action in the series itself. Death Note is definitely a “wordy” manga, with the majority of scenes consisting of characters talking, talking, and — for a change of pace — talking some more, yet it never feels as dull as that, thanks to the art. I also really loved the character designs, especially for Ryuk (who looks like the Joker-gone-rock-star) and the other Shinigami. The human characters are well-designed as well, from clean-cut pretty boy Light and eternally disheveled L to Light’s cute Goth-Loli “girlfriend” Misa and the various members of the task force.

Even if you don’t tend to read much shonen manga, I would recommend giving Death Note a try. With fascinating characters and an engaging plot, it’s well-worth a look.

Add a comment September 15, 2011

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