Death Note, 2006-2007
Signed up the 06/06/2017
"Whoever’s name is written in this notebook shall die"
The first rule of the titular book upon which this anime is based. Adapted from the hit manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note chronicles the rise and fall of Light Yagami, a bright Japanese high school student who finds a notebook by chance and take it upon himself to use the notebook’s power to pass judgment on the world’s criminals and become “The God of a New World”. Light’s efforts however do not go unnoticed and the police agencies, stumped by the sudden mysterious deaths of criminals the world over, seek help from L, the world’s greatest detective. Without giving too much away, L gets one up on Light early on and the show quickly turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse (who the cat and mouse is in this game is up for interpretation) where the first one to lose dies either by way of notebook or death sentence.
Death Note moves through its 39 episodes (20 minutes each) at a breakneck speed, but doesn’t sacrifice its narrative in the process. Every move is methodically calculated. Every scene, whether containing action or exposition, drives the plot forward. As a result there are no wasted moments in the show, though this does require the viewer to pay a little more attention. The extra effort is worth it though, as the way L and Light formulate plans and use those around them to execute is akin to a high-stakes game of chess, with both trying to get the decisive one-up on his opponent. This leads to a lot of tense moments, crazy plot twists and cliffhangers just begging for you to watch “just one more episode”.
This tension is one of the things that makes Death Note such a special anime. The story is told from Light’s perspective and we get to see first-hand how the Notebook transforms Light from an upstanding, A grade student with a bright future, to a well meaning murderer and eventually and all-powerful sociopath. Light understands this road he is going on is dangerous; where one wrong move will equal his death, and Ohba does a brilliant job of showing just how that stress takes its toll on Light.
A special mention must be given to the supporting characters who add to the story in such varied ways. L is Light’s antithesis in a way, but is also a lot like him. His quirky, eccentric nature is an exact opposite of Light’s stoic demeanor and L’s moral fabric never wavers, unlike Light (even if some of L’s methods are morally questionable. But on the other hand, both are extremely intelligent and have a voracious competitive streak. L is almost the Batman to Light’s Joker and the viewer won’t have the easiest time choosing who to root for. Another standout character is Ryuk. Ryuk is a shinigami (Japanese for ‘god of death’) who is obligated to stay with Light as long as he possesses the Notebook. Ryuk, however, is not on Light’s side, preferring to enjoy the role of spectator in this death match, claiming that “Humans are so interesting”.
Death Note is a true masterpiece of our time. Its morally ambiguous characters, parallels to legendary works like Macbeth and the Bible (just watch, you’ll see) and masterful writing will take you on a journey of binge watching like no other. Definitely worth watching, especially for those who aren’t the biggest fans of general anime.
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