Anime/Manga review: Death Note
Status: watched first 10 anime episodes – switched to manga (completed series)
Light Yagami is a brilliant and bored Japanese high school student. Ryuk is a simple-minded and bored Japanese Shinigami (death god). One day, Ryuk drops his Death Note – he uses it to kill people – into the human world to see what’ll happen. Light picks it up and at first doesn’t believe the instructions on the inside cover: write someone’s name and 40 seconds later, they will die. But out of curiosity Light tries it. And it works.
Then comes a major turning point in the story: Light’s choice. He could destroy the book as the evil thing it is or he could use it for his own advancement. He does neither. Instead, Light decides he is going to use the Death Note like the rain that will wash all the scum off the streets – he’ll kill off all the murderers, turn the world into a paradise for the righteous, and become that world’s god.
But Light’s actions soon interest the police, led by master investigator “L”, a slightly odd and eccentric teenager himself. The story then follows the chess game that develops between L and Light Yagami as they try to find and destroy each other.
Death Note is one of the most hyped series of the last few years, so after hearing so much praise, I decided to check it out. Being the stingy bastard I am, instead of buying the manga, I went with the free fansubs of the anime. I was hooked immediately. At first, the show seemed to be a social commentary, but then it morphed into an intense thriller. Then it stopped altogether: the series was licensed in the US and so the fansubbers stopped putting out episodes. By this point, however, I needed my fix, so I shelled out the cash for the manga.
A book is always better than its movie adaptation and that’s no different when it comes to manga and anime. Don’t get me wrong, the anime was spectacular, with great animation, pacing and voice acting. But the life you bring to a page with your own imagination cannot be surpassed. Plus, I was really impressed with the visual style of the manga: the highly detailed and sharp animation, and the pacing that sometimes made me forget I was reading static pages of black ink.
I used chess as a metaphor for Death Note and I’m going to take that a bit further. My only criticism – and why I didn’t give it a full 5 out of 5 – is that reading Death Note is kind of like watching two chess masters do battle without understanding all the rules of the game. You can appreciate their brilliance but you don’t always understand why they are doing what they are doing, even when they explain it to you.
However, putting aside the rather complicated strategies Light and his would-be captors employ, the story is gripping and original. The ending is thoroughly satisfying, although somewhat convoluted and hinting at more to come. And the characters are fully brought to life – hell, you even feel for Light, before coming to hate every fiber of his being. Highly recommended.