This exposé is brought to you by the letter L.
Death Note is quite possibly the hottest anime title on the streets right now. We'll review the manga down the road, but for now, let’s talk about the anime. The series comes in 37 episodes which, in our opinion, is five episodes too long. We could have done without 27-31. We've seen up through episode 32 because that’s all we can legally get our hands on because that's all that's out.
For those of you with your heads buried in the sand, here’s a brief synopsis: Light Yagami is a brilliant highschooler who, by pure chance, obtains a notebook called a “Death Note” when a shimigami (god of death) drops it and it falls to Earth. With us so far? Good, cause it’s going to get complicated.
When whoever owns the Death Note pictures a person’s face and writes his or her name in the notebook, that person will die. There are several rules that help prevent accidental deaths, deal with technicalities, and more legal jargon blah blah. Light decides to take it upon himself to use the notebook to rid society of criminals and crack the world’s shell for the revolution of the world!
Wait...wrong anime. Sorry.
The catch is that not everyone agrees with Light, or as the public has dubbed him “Kira” (sounds like “killer” with a Japanese accent). Light keeps his identity secret for the most part and ends up tangled in a cat-and-mouse game with the curiously enigmatic L, the police, the FBI, and a pair of uninteresting children.
Overall, Death Note is an excellent show that’s accessible to many. It has a strong plot with several great twists and suspense. What makes it unique is that Light is an anti-hero. His morals are debatable, which forces viewers to take sides with either Light or his nemesis L. There is always something going on behind the scenes that the viewer doesn’t learn about until after the fact, which is what makes completing each episode so rewarding.
The dynamic between Light and L truly drives the series until episode 25 when everything changes. We meet Near and Mello who are, to quote Gilbert & Sullivan, “on a whole...plain.” Near is an L knockoff with toys instead of junk food. Mello is simply dull and non-threatening. There is absolutely nothing about biting off a piece of chocolate and staring into a fish-eye lens that makes you intimidating, ever. Period.
The art is pretty and the Japanese vocal cast is great. Sadly, we can’t say the same for the English dub. It’s decent, but Light and L both sound too old to be teenagers. Yes, they get older as the series progresses, but the voices just don’t suit them.
We're looking forward to seeing how things will turn out. Episode 32 introduces two new characters who are bound to mix things up a bit. They have potential.
By the way, for those of you who have never seen the series, there is a live action film that features Takeshi Kaga as Chief Yagami. Yes, that’s Kaga as in Chairman Kaga of Iron Chef. It’s a decent standalone film that follows the main story to a point, but wraps up early and changes how events unfold with what’s-her-face...you know who we're talking about.
-- Courtney Kraft
DEATH NOTE based on the comic "DEATH NOTE" by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata
originally serialized in "WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP" published by SHUEISHA Inc.
© Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/Shueisha
© DNDP, VAP, Shueisha, Madhouse