Death Note: How To Read 13 – Manga Review

How To Read 13 Cover
© Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/Shueisha

Everything you ever wanted to know about Shinigami but were afraid to ask!

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: Viz Media (SJ Profiles)
Author: Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $14.99 US
Rating: T+
Release Date: Available Now

If you’re reading this then chances are you finished Death Note, Volume 12 and are now experiencing Death Note withdrawal. Who can blame you, really? It was not only one of the most smartest, well-written and brilliant cat-and-mouse thrillers to come along but it was a seriously enjoyable series to read. It’s no wonder a great anime series and two movies came out of a powerful collaboration between writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata. Death Note: How To Read 13 is like the cherry on top of an already sweetened cake and a profile guide with everything you want to know about the manga series.

I won’t go into detail about what the series is about because if you’re planning on reading this SJ Profile book you already went through the twelve volumes that made up this unique thriller. You probably already know about Shinigami, Kira, the intriguing Ryuzaki (better known as L) and the notebook that started a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Ohba-sensei has weaved an intricate tale that certainly had it’s many highs and a few lows (some think the four-year gap and the introduction of Mello and Near weren’t as favorable as the Light versus L story arc). Still, in the end, the overall story gave us a lot to chew on and the outcome of this battle between good versus evil was mind-blowing.

This thick and handy volume comes complete with a number of character bios that include the main characters (such as Light Yagami and L’s investigation team) to the minor players in the tale (like L’s thief partner Wedy to Hitoshi Demegawa who is director of Sakura TV). Yes, there’s even profiles for every single Shinigami that goes beyond Ryuk and Rem. Speaking of Shinigami “death gods,” we are treated to some detailed analysis concerning them and their abilities. What’s the significance of the “Shinigami Eyes” or what’s with all the Death Note rules? These things are answered by Ohba-sensei with art and examples for each explanation.

The most interesting insight comes from the Death Note Truths section that contains a few revelations in a questions-and-answers-styled format. Have you ever wanted to know the true reason L decided to reveal himself to Light at his school or why L freaked out when he heard Misa’s “second Kira” message about Shinigami? You’ll find out in the section. Ever wanted to know the reasoning behind the chapter titles as well? Ok, Ohba-sensei explains it all. There’s also a timetable of the events from start to finish.

All of these things are not only interesting for Death Note fans but for those interested in what went into the making of the manga series as well as the writing and artist process, there are interviews aplenty in the middle section of the book. Anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a manga-ka or a manga artist will be pleased with the details these two creative forces offer up in this section. We learn how thorough Obata-sensei is in crafting the story and dialogue (Death Note is famous for piling on the dialogue) as well as how Obata-sensei added a more emotionally visceral interpretation that improved on Ohba-sensei’s thumbnails. In a second interview with both these masters, the pair hilariously discuss what inspired them and how Ohba-sensei never really planned the entire series in his mind … just the first three volumes.

The final sections of the book are less informative but actually more fun to read. Here you’ll find a rather comical list and count of the snacks L devoured (or played with) throughout the course of the series (or, at least, his part of the story arc). There’s also a section seen through the eyes of Misa Amane (called Me and Light’s Love Love Diary) that retells the one-sided love affair between the two characters. This is topped off by five pages of off-the-wall four-panel comics that are amusing and slightly odd (Watari pushing L in a baby carriage?). The best inclusion comes in the very end, which is the Death Note pilot. Much like a television, pilots are made to “sell” a manga series to a publisher in a single chapter that rarely involves all the main characters from the actual series. Here, the only familiar face is Ryuk.

If anything, How To Read 13 answers many questions readers have been dying to know while missing very little. I, for one, have been a been wondering if the Kira worshipper at the end of Volume 12 was Misa and this Profile volume answers the question. I was also dying to know what L’s real name was … and not surprised by the answer. What about the little things, though? Why doesn’t the fake Death Note rule not become a real rule when Light asks Ryuk to write it in to throw off L? Why does Light think very little of girls in general? These are small questions I personally would have liked answered but this book does a good job of answering the important questions that shed more light (no pun intended) on the series’ interesting parts.

There’s a lot to love about Death Note: How To Read 13 and as far as a Profiles book is concerned this one covers all its bases while being informative and entertaining at the same time. Fans will certainly appreciate all the insight and character biographies while those interested in writing or drawing their own book will find inspiration and a good glance at the process. Yes, there’s everything for everyone so, Death Note fans, complete your collection with this volume.


Everything you ever wanted to know about the Death Note manga series can be found in the numerous pages of this “How To Read” volume … and I mean everything. Aside from some truly juicy tidbits, enlightening author and artist interviews they also include the Death Note “pilot” that’s short but really interesting.

What can be said about Takeshi Obata’s amazing artwork that hasn’t already been said before in our past reviews of Hikaru no Go and, of course, past Death Note volumes? In this volume, however, we get a peek into the Obata-sensei’s character design process and how he sets up tension in each panel.

If you’re a Death Note fan, buying the How To Read 13 volume is a no-brainer. Its in-depth coverage, numerous explanations and interviews not only give readers interesting extras but also offers insight in the creative processes the goes into designing a manga series. This is a perfect addition to your Death Note collection so do buy this one right away.





One thought on “Death Note: How To Read 13 – Manga Review

  1. Pingback: MangaBlog » Blog Archive » News from New York and parts beyond

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