Saturday, March 21, 2015

Death Note Anime Review

Death Note
Desu Noto
Viz Video
Complete Collection - 9 discs
850 mins. - 37 episodes
$44.98 (2014)
$24.98 (2013-14) Parts 1-2/ea.
$69.98 (2008-09) Parts 1-2/ea.
$39.98 (2008-09) Vol. 6-9/ea. Limited
$24.98 (2008-09) Vol. 6-9/ea.
$49.99 (2008) Vol. 5 Limited
$34.99 (2008) Vol. 5
$39.98 (2007-08) Vol. 1-4/ea. Limited
$24.98 (2007-08) Vol. 1-4/ea.
$29.98 (2007) Vol. 1 w/graphic novel
$24.98 (2007) Vol. 1 w/calendar
ISBN 782009243595
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Tetsuro Araki
Studio - Madhouse

Synopsis: There exists a world set apart from ours.  It's filled with Shinigami - gods of death or perhaps they should be called demons.  They have lived for a very long time and they are very bored.  Each Shinigami possesses a notebook called a Death Note which has the power to kill any human whose name is written inside.  If a Shinigami accidentally drops their Death Note in the human world then whichever human picks it up will become the owner and have the power to kill humans.  The Shinigami named Ryuk manages to get his hands on a second Death Note and decides to drop it in the human world.  This is the story of what happens afterwards.
Ryuk in the Shinigami world
Light Yagami is an honor student and star tennis player.  He's the son of a high-ranking police officer and has even helped his Dad on a few cases.  Incredibly bright and terribly bored, Light is the perfect student, son, and potential boyfriend!  One day he finds a notebook on the ground with the words 'Death Note' written on the cover.  The notebook includes some additional writing which shocks Light:

Light doesn't know what to make of the notebook and considers the implications of it's 'rules'.  What if it's real and how can writing someone's name in a notebook possibly kill them?  He decides to test it out after seeing a news broadcast of a man has taken several children hostage and the police are trying to save them.  The news broadcast shows the man's name and face so Light has exactly what the Death Note specified.  
Light possesses the Death Note and begins using it
He writes the man's name...and the man dies.  The Death Note is real and suddenly a monstrous creature appears before his eyes.  The creature is a Shinigami (God of Death) named Ryuk who says he has dropped the Death Note in the human world for someone to pick up.  He is only visible to the Note's owner and not completely trustworthy.  Light takes all of this incredible information in stride and decides to use the Note as a way to cleanse the world of criminals and create a better world.  Naturally Light will be the God of this new world.
The mysterious and world-renowned detective L
Scores of criminals begin dying of heart attacks and the authorities take notice.  They call in a world-renowned and secretive detective calling himself L.  Despite being a genius savant, L has two things going for him - no one knows his real name and Light has never seen his face.  It seems Light has met his match and must deal with an intense man-hunt to find the mysterious killer who is breathing fear into the criminal underworld.  The public gets wind of the killings and people begin forming opinions.  The killer becomes known as "Kira" and crime rates drop.  It seems the killings are primarily located in Japan so L begins closing in on Light.
Ryuk is only visible to the Death Note owner and follows Light wherever he goes
Light's father gets drawn into the investigation to find Kira and even meets the mysterious L.  It becomes increasingly difficult for Light to hide the fact that he's Kira.  Things get sticky when a second Kira appears out of nowhere.  Will this second killer align with Light's plans for a new world?  The greater question is will L take down this copycat and learn the true secret of the Death Note?  With L and the investigative team (including his father) breathing down his neck, how far will Light go and who will he kill in order to achieve his 'greater world'?  The answer will surprise you.  

A second Death Note and Shinigami (Rem) appears!
Pros: Highly suspenseful and a gripping story, interesting characters (especially L), makes you seriously question your morals, nice animation and backgrounds, intense and slow buildup to final ending was masterful, L is a serious badass who can do almost anything perfectly
The hunt for Kira intensifies, from left: Light, Matsuda (standing), L,
and Light's Father
Cons: Second half of the series gets confusing and definitely not as strong as the first, it gets hard to tell which Death Note and Shinigami Eyes are at play, some very convenient plot twists in Kira or L's favor, creepy foot-rubbing scene between L and Light, L's constant eating of sweets (it gets a little pathological by the end)
Light manipulates Misa Amane who pledges her undying love for Kira
Mike Tells It Straight: Death Note is really a story about power corrupting otherwise good people and it forces the viewer to consider what they would do with the ability to become an anonymous executioner.  At first Light appears to be the perfect student and an exemplary son, but then he transforms into the vengeful god Kira who will remake society one criminal death at a time.  A fascinating premise which offers a lot of moral allegory to the information age.  Highly suspenseful with a ton of twists and turns as Light tries to stay one step ahead of the police and L.
L shows a sadistic side when he begins questioning suspects
The series is fairly long at 37 episodes while most anime series are only 26.  This allows the story to progress at its own pace and build up a lot of tension.  It follows the original manga series by Takeshi Obata very closely.  The characters develop over time and we get to know each one.  There are so many plot developments and contingencies to Light's planning that it gets confusing at times, but keeps the viewer guessing (and on their toes).  The tone of the series is very serious (people are dying after all), but we still get a few comedy relief moments (Matsuda was my favorite) which serve to lighten an otherwise dark show.
Ryuk loves apples and likens them to cigarettes and alcohol for Shinigami
It's a complex story and sometimes hard to follow.  Every eyecatch (an outro/intro scene bookending the commercial break at the middle of every episode) consists of another rule of the Death Note which adds to the complexity of the story.  The 'rules' make the story far richer to the viewers and more challenging for the writers.  Utterly fascinating was the intricate web of Death Note rules and how Light was able to work within them.  The first half of the story was brilliant as Light used his cunning intellect to stymie the police investigation while being so closely involved.
Light and L come to blows with Misa as witness after a particularly difficult day
The character of L was truly memorable and made a lasting impression.  He was built up to be uniquely intelligent and a mysterious detective with quirky personal traits.  Whatever it was it worked. He's socially awkward, sits weird, holds things weird, is constantly drinking coffee, and eats sweets non-stop (he needs the sugar to fuel his mental capacity).  Totally classic and an integral part to why the story worked.  The other two detectives we meet who are linked to L were not as impactful (these were Mello and Near).
Near is an unflinching detective with even less social skills than L
The whole Shinigami realm thing and Ryuk (plus the other Shinigami who show up like Rem) were a major stretch to the imagination, but I eventually got used to them.  Death Note was pretty darn popular and had two live-action spinoffs (plus a prequel starring L).  The portrayal of Ryuk with cheesy CGI doesn't sound very appealing.  It worked in the anime at least.
Mello is another detective, but he believes the ends justify the means
and is never without a chocolate bar
I have to say there's nothing out there like Death Note and it's a unique show.  Dark, suspenseful, and sprinkled with a few lighthearted moments.  I definitely suggest watching this series (not for young viewers or highly impressionable teenagers with access to firearms).  One thing to note is the first half of the series is pure gold, but the second half becomes a bit more questionable as the rules and Light's machinations become more cumbersome to the story.  It's still a wild ride and highly recommended.    
Light will stop at nothing and let no one stand in his way of creating a new world under Kira

TO BUY and Recommendations: