Anime Profile: Death Note

 Death Note

It’s funny how what seems like a noble and righteous pursuit can turn into something completely wicked and the opposite of what you set out to accomplish. New found power aside, even the noblest of people can be corrupted by power and, before you can say “Uncle Ben was right,” this power twists your perception completely. Sadly, unlike Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man), there was nobody to tell Light Yagami that “with great power comes great responsibility.” In the end, his quest to be a God among men drives a battle between good and evil in a cat-and-mouse game called Death Note.

Shonen Jump: Death Note is the brilliant brain child of manga author Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata and was brought to life in anime form by Viz Media. It is, by all means, a psychological/supernatural thriller that pits a young High school progeny against a brilliant-yet-odd young detective. You see, Light Yagami is too smart for school and is bored out of his mind. Suddenly, a strange notebook drops from the sky. As Light examines it, he discovers that within its pages lies the power to kill anyone. All you have to do is write the name of the person you want dead, picture his face in your mind and even add a time or cause of death. If no time or cause of death is specified, that person dies of a heart attack five minutes later.

Armed with the notebook, Light intends on ridding the world of criminals in order to make a new utopia where crime is extinct. He kills criminals that appear in the nightly news, slaying them without remorse. It is then that the Death Note’s true owner shows up. It turns out that the Death Note belongs to a Shinigami (or death god) named Ryuk who is pleased that the notebook is being used by the most intriguing person. Ryuk is so amused by Light that he hangs around long enough to discover Light’s true quest for God-like status … and that he loves apples in an almost addictive (and hysterical) manner.

Fortunately for Light, his father is a police detective with access to the police files with the names of every known criminal. After a few “deaths,” law enforcement officials set out to catch the killer and thus dubbing him the nickname “Kira.” Since the case is so unusual, however, the department brings in a young detective simply called L. It is L that manages to test out the theory that Kira can kill without physically performing the act. And so begins a battle of wits between two brilliant minds.

It is only until Light’s father becomes the head of a task force in charge of capturing Kira that we get to meet L. Surprisingly; L is a sort of young shut-in who walks and sits in the most peculiar manner while eating a seamlessly never-ending number of sweets. As strange as L looks, though, he is a genius of deduction and – for the most part – is always a step behind Light.

I won’t spoil too much of what occurs since we’ll be reviewing the newly released Death Note DVDs in some detail but as the investigation continues on the Cartoon Network channel, we see as L infiltrates Light’s world by revealing himself to him and the addition of what the investigation squad comes to know as a “second Kira” (who, incidentally, is followed by a female Shinigami).

Fans of the manga and the series can tell you that half the joy of reading or watching the show is in watching these two brilliant young men try to outwit each another. It’s like watching a chess game played frantically by two determined players. Will Light manage to evade the police and fulfill his plan to rid the world of criminals and rule over his “perfect world” or will L finally catch up to the killer known as Kira and put him away? This is a question readers and viewers will certainly enjoy unraveling.

On a side note, Death Note has crossed over to live-action with a few films (produced by Nippon Televison and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures Japan) that detail the Kira case. There’s also a spin-off movie set to be released in Japan in February of this year that focuses on L’s career prior to the Kira case. It’s called L: Change the World. Here’s the link to the official trailer: If you’re a Death Note fan you will certainly not want to miss out on these movies that are available for purchase online via your favorite Japanese import DVD websites.

Death Note PosterFor now, though, you can catch the Death Note DVDs and I can’t recommend the manga enough so do yourself a favor and check out this interesting series.