Title: Death Note
Author and Illustrator: Tsugumi Ohba (writer) and Takeshi Obata (illustrator)
Magazine: Weekly Shonen Jump
Death Note. This manga is considered by many, myself included, to be their personal favorite manga and/or anime (at least amongst their personal favorites) and is not hard to see why. It’s a great manga with an engaging story interesting characters and a protagonist who you love to follow from beginning to end even if he is for all intents and purposes the villain of the story. Don’t expect a noble main character who has good intentions, Kira’s actions are the result of a very understandable thought but he is an asshole from almost the very start to the very end of the manga.
The plot goes like this: “Light Yagami is a genius high school student who discovers the “Death Note”, a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it, as long as the writer has seen that person’s face. After experimenting with the notebook, Light meets the Ryuk, a creature which is a shinigami the notebook’s original owner, who dropped the notebook to the human world out of boredom. Light tells Ryuk of his plan to rule as a god over a new world free from criminals, where only people he deems morally fit to live remain. Light becomes known to the public as Kira. Ryuk, invisible save to those that possess the Death Note, follows Light around and takes enjoyment from Light’s meticulous actions as Kira…” And I might add not only Ryuk takes enjoyment from his actions haha.
Now before we continue I have to make the obligatory spoiler warning. In case you haven’t watched death note or you do mind spoilers please…
So the beginning of the manga is what you’ve read in the plot summary. Light/Kira finds the Death Note and begins experimenting with it before meeting Ryuk as the book comes with some rather useful instructions written by Ryuk. To his credit Light’s first reaction to all of this is one of surprise and a bit of fear but that’s all rather brief and soon the evil genius in him is brought out by the power of the Death Note and he begins to his quest for his personal perfect world.
Now like I mentioned before his ideal is born from a rather normal idea that most of the time justice isn’t served, that most of the time the corrupt, the criminal or even the people who are downright monsters do not get punished adequately if at all and his desire to do something about it. That’s a thought many people have had sometimes. However this objective of a world without crime “a perfect world” eventually becomes a secondary objective for Kira and his main intention changes from that to becoming the God of this new world with a rather warped sense of Justice.
It’s interesting (and why lie? Also funny) to see his transformation from a highschool into a mass murderer with his ego increasing as time goes. How he becomes more ruthless and cold as time passes and how his initial idea for people morally fit to live changes from people who are not criminal to people who are against him. How he slowly turns into one of the monsters he swore he would destroy as his God complex develops
His duel with “L” the world’s greatest detective is certainly the most interesting part of the story. “L” who was assigned the mission of stopping Kira when his existence became known is a rather awkward individual with high intelligence and he strongly suspects Kira’s identity from almost the beginning of the confrontation, Light on his end tries every trick on the book to outsmart him, convince him he is not Kira and getting rid of him. Light uses several ruthless methods to accomplish these objectives but L is not easily defeated. The strategy that finally defeats him is especially ruthless and really cool and as a fan of the series I have to say I stopped reading the manga for at least two months since I thought the manga would lose quality after that.
Also from this battle of wits another interesting thing is the relationship that forms between L and Kira at least on L’s part since while remaining enemies form some kind of bond over the course of their confrontation, I won’t say they become friends even if L claims Light was his “First true friend” but it’s clear that there is a certain respect for one another, for each other’s intelligence.
There is also a relationship in the story that it is interesting to watch grow and who quite frankly makes you hate Kira a little a little). His relationship with Misa Amane, someone who is the second Kira and who adores Light. Light on the other hand only sees Misa as a pawn, someone he can use to accomplish his objective and who he doesn’t mind putting at risk to achieve his goals. Now to be fair he doesn’t kill her, like he does other followers, but it is through this relationship you are able to see clearly how after obtaining the death note Kira has no use for feelings and every kind action or word has a purpose and a logical explanation. It also adds to the story and makes it interesting because it shows how power is everything to him.
Now let’s move on to the final arc, the final arc shows Light, five years after L’s defeat and having joined the Police Force he has increased his efforts to create his perfect world. Not wanting to release the News of L’s defeat the japanese government has Light pose as L and he has gained access to L’s database with the names of all the criminals he has put away and their faces as well with many other suspects and criminals also being in the list. Now this ark for me is interesting but not as much as the previous one. Here we meet L’s true successors who want to take down Kira and inherit their predecessor’s title however Mello and Near while interesting characters, especially Mello who is clearly a psycho, the thing is the battle between light and these two is not as interesting as the one with L even if the climax is really good, you kind of see just how much Kira has lost his mind, and the end is a good way to end such a great series. However I would have minded if the confrontation with L had been the full manga, ending it a little differently of course.
Now I think this explanation of the story and giving you my impression of it didn’t do it justice because it is better than it may sound reading this.
Now the characters. Kira is an amazing character, because it makes root for a character that is basically carrying out a genocide against the criminals and his enemies. He is charming as hell, in contrast with L who is socially awkward, and his strategies and plans are really fun to see playing out, whether they end up working or not, that’s why I said his confrontation with L is the most interesting part of the manga because he is the rival that makes him work the hardest and strategize the most to defeat. Like I said before you kind of see him losing his mind and how his ideal degenerates as well as losing his humanity due to the power he was given. Just an amazing character, not two-dimensional at all.
L is also a really good character, it is the type of antagonist that while being socially awkward his awkward is a part of him , it makes him charming in his own way. He manages to be a worthy rival to Kira for many volumes. The interesting thing is he knows almost from the beginning who Kira is, he just has to prove it, while Light works hard to prove his innocence. And you can’t help but let the character grow on you. I also like that he is not completely good either as seen through some of his actions. And that while he seems like he doesn’t care about people he has people he cares about, for example Watari, the man who raised him, and this accentuates his contrast with Light who looks like he cares about people but only cares about himself. What I liked about him was that he was basically, and this my opinion, one side of a coin with Kira being the other in almost every aspect
Now Misa-Misa, the second Kira. For me she is a least interesting character but that doesn’t make her uninteresting. You understand why she is the way she is, she lost her family to a killer, why she adores and has a devotion for Kira/Light, he killed her family’s killer. She is also a character that is very easy to sympathize with because of her personal history and her relationship with Kira who is (almost) always using her for his own gain.
Now Mello and Near. They both are L’s successors, and I have to say that while liked their arc less, the characters or at least one of them is interesting. Mello is a psycho, he teams up with the mafia with the sole purpose of bringing Kira down and the methods he uses are really interesting. Near on the other hand was just a continuation of L, the point being, that while before rereading Death Note I remembered Mello clearly, Near I didn’t until it was his time for him to appear.
The Shinigami that appear on the manga and anime are Ryuk and Ren (the Shinigami that gave Misa her death note). Ryuk is a good character, he can be really funny and I like that he doesn’t become suddenly loyal to Kira but just follows him because it amuses him, I love his motivation for throwing a Death Note to the Human world, not his own by the way but another Shinigami’s, he is just bored and would like to see what happened if a human got his hands on one. Ren is a female shinigami, not that there is much difference between both genders, and is rather different from Ryuk both in appearance and personality, she does seem to care about Misa-Misa, she is willing to sacrifice herself for the girl, and doesn’t trust Kira, it is an interesting approach but her was good to see that there were different types of Shinigami
The Illustrator once said that she was his favorite Shinigami because “she was a good person” despite she being a Shinigami, and while I like Ryuk more I kind of can see where he is coming from and why he likes her more.
The Kira task force created by the Japanese police are just policemen doing their job to stop Kira, although they did hire some outsiders, like for example a cat burglar or a con man who made it someone curious to me, well aside from that the way they carried their investigation was peculiar to say the least, sometimes bordering illegal methods. My favorite character is Matsuda, because he is kind of the rookie of the team plus and you kind of see his growth and I agree with some of the things he thinks about the Kira case plus he does play an important part on the climax and what he does and what he feels are completely believable.
Now the Art, I like the art a lot, I like this illustrator’s other work as well but death note, the first of his works I read and saw still impresses me to this day. Especially Kira’s evil expressions, it always made me feel things, more often than not bringing a smile to my face. Other than that the Shinigami’s look really cool, L’s appearance and the way moves or the position he is usually drawn in suit the character perfectly and Misa-Misa looks great with her gothic-lolita appearance.
The story like you could read above I really liked for the most part, the author did a great Job creating an engaging story for people to follow, and like many I have parts I like more and parts I like less but it scared me that at some point they got me rooting for someone who if he were real would be almost as bad as the worst mass murderers. Like I said before I kind of would have ended it with the confrontation with L but I don’t dislike the L’s successors ark and the climax is really good.
So for all the reasons I gave you and because I really think this manga is one of the best out there I give Death Note. Five out of Five Stars. A Must Read or see if you haven’t done so already.
PS: I really hope the Netflix adaptation is good because I’ll be really pissed if they do another Dragon Ball evolution… REALLY pissed enough to write the names of everyone involved in my own personal death note (not that it works… or maybe it does muahahahahahahaha)
Also here are Op 1…
And Op 2.