A shinigami, as a god of death, can kill any person—provided they see their victim's face and write their victim's name in a notebook called a Death Note. One day, Ryuk, bored by the shinigami lifestyle and interested in seeing how a human would use a Death Note, drops one into the human realm.
High school student and prodigy Light Yagami stumbles upon the Death Note and—since he deplores the state of the world—tests the deadly notebook by writing a criminal's name in it. When the criminal dies immediately following his experiment with the Death Note, Light is greatly surprised and quickly recognizes how devastating the power that has fallen into his hands could be.
With this divine capability, Light decides to extinguish all criminals in order to build a new world where crime does not exist and people worship him as a god. Police, however, quickly discover that a serial killer is targeting criminals and, consequently, try to apprehend the culprit. To do this, the Japanese investigators count on the assistance of the best detective in the world: a young and eccentric man known only by the name of L.
Death Note has inspired three live-action films, a TV drama series as well as a stage musical. The series has also inspired numerous copycat crimes outside of Japan.
The manga was published in English by VIZ Media under the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint from October 10, 2005 and July 3, 2007 and again in 2-in-1 omnibuses (subtitled Black edition) from December 28, 2010 to November 1, 2011. A special hardcover edition of the first volume was released on September 16, 2008 and a complete box set was released on October 7, 2008, which included a guidebook titled Death Note 13: How to Read. It was also published in Brazil by Jbc from June 2007 to August 2008, and again in 2-in-1 edition (Black edition) from June 2013 to December 2013. It was published in Italy by Planet Manga from November 2006 to September 2008.
I'm glad I waited until this series was finished before I started. Considering I finished all 108 chapters in less than twenty-four hours, I'm not sure how I would have survived if I'd started earlier.
STORY - Morals and ethics are serious business, and it isn't often that they're addressed so directly in a series. The lines that people draw vary greatly from individual to individual, and the last thing any writer wants is to severely offend any portion of its potential readership. I found it incredibly impressive then, that Death Note could so effectively address such a controversial issue -- capital punishment -- without alienating anyone in the audience. Wrapped up and packaged with some rather generic supernatural elements, Death Note may not seem like anything particularly special at first glance, but the eerie realism in the rest of the world begs the question, "What would you have done?" And I find that connection one of this story's greatest strengths.
Despite the flexibility of his manga though, Ohba's personal morals and overall message is clear. All the same, if his primary intention was for readers to think and contemplate the issue, then he certainly succeeds, regardless of whether individuals agree with his views or not. He doesn't offend them with his opinions, and that's good enough. Death Note's story progresses rapidly and quickly spirals into a very involved suspense; it's a tension-filled chess game that the protagonist and antagonist carefully play (which character is the protagonist depends entirely on your point of view). Yes, there are many more words than actions, and yes, it can be frustrating, and even comical at times, how long the chains of "I knew that you knew that I knew that you knew" become. But these words and lengthy passages of expository serve their purpose and keep you on the edge of your seat, and it's obvious from the beginning that this ain't no shounen title.
Sadly, I've found that a lot of readers stopped halfway through the series, citing that the tension ramped off severely after the major spoiler. While I understand their position, I would disagree and honestly applaud Ohba for breaking through everyone's expectations with said spoiler. If anything, the uncertainty that's left behind and the vague impression that there's already a winner in the battle for justice makes the latter half of the series that much more interesting, even if the absence of certain things may be a blow. The stakes are higher. It's the last stretch of the race. Up until the very end, Ohba is able to keep the ultimate victor a secret. Those last forty seconds waiting for the last few names written into the Death Note to die? Killer. You'll breeze through the pages, but your heart will still be pounding afterwards. And it's all worth it in the end.
CHARACTERS - Death Note had a fantastic cast of characters, and you really find yourself emotionally evolved. You feel for them. You love them. You hate them. You hate them. I find it to be a sign of incredible character writing and development when you can come to hate a characters as much as I hated Light Yagami. Mediocre characters just don't invite that much attention. So I didn't hate Light because he was a bad character; I hated him because of his personality, his morals, his reasons and logic, and the way he used his intellect. It didn't start off that way though. Light progresses a lot during the course of the series; his arrogance heightens, and his character warps. In a way, it was incredibly realistic and fascinating to watch as his personality and growing neuroticism turned him into a sociopath (not to mention frustrating, when certain things about him are revealed). It was also kind of scary. Seriously though, there's no denying that Light is a well thought-out character, and as much as I love to hate him, I can't help but think he's the most well-written character in the series.
L, as the antagonist/protagonist, is just about everything that Light is not, but that isn't as clear-cut as it may seem. As noted by several of the series' other characters, L's tactics can be rather questionable, and so even though his ultimate goal is to defeat Kira/Light, even his morals are not spotless. This adds another degree of realism to the story and provides for a very interesting foil. Additionally, L's personality quirks are some of the most interesting and endearing ones I've ever seen, though this may serve to cancel out the previous realism points for some people. As much of his past remains mysterious for the duration of the series, L's personality does not seem to progress or change as much as Light's. Still, the way he adapts and reacts to each of Light's changes definitely keeps things interesting.
The rest of the cast seems to be scattered across the moral spectrum, providing readers with many choices as to who to sympathize with or to relate to. Detective Soichiro Yagami is likely the most moralistic of the lot, though not unrealistically so. His relationship with his son is fun to follow throughout the series, considering their vast differences. Most of the other detectives are also clustered on the "ideal" end of the spectrum, though there's enough variation and personality quirk that they manage to establish meaningfully different personas (ie, they're all definitely different characters, even though their roles are fairly interchangeable). Misa's morals are more difficult to assess as they seem incredibly flexible; rather than morals, her character is defined by her utter infatuation with Light. I find this interesting mainly because it started off as an infatuation with Kira, but once she learned of Kira's identity, her affections were transferred to Light as Light rather than Light as Kira. Because of her lack of a moral standing and the one-dimensional nature of her "love" though, it's incredibly easy to lose interest in Misa, despite her importance as a tool in the grand scheme of things (this is also true for Takada and to some extent, Mikami). The lack of development in her "love" is also what made Rem not-as-interesting to me.
Now, Mello and Near. I kind of feel like Ohba tried too hard to mirror the quirkiness of L's character, what with Mello's apparent obsession with chocolate and Near's with toys. Still, both of them grew on me, and I was satisfied enough with the way they played their parts. And finally, there's Ryuk. What's there to say? As probably the only character with no real ultimate goal, he serves as kind of an objective bystander throughout the course of the series. He doesn't care one way or another as long as things are "interesting." Because of his attachment to the Note given to Light, he does end up helping Kira now and again, but I don't think that hurts his objectivity all that much in the end. In a series rife with moral and ethics, it was ironic to have the character that started it all so removed from all the conflict.
There were no useless characters in Death Note. All of them contributed in one way or another to the series as a whole, either by offering a variation in moral standing or by acting as a tool for another character to use. Sure, there were a few generic archetypes (the butler, the love-stricken slave, the vengeful widow), but I suppose there just wasn't enough depth to go around when the two main characters take up so much of the spotlight. God, I ramble a lot.
ART - Obata draws beautiful stuff, no question about that. From his wonderfully detailed backgrounds to the wide variety of character expressions (including Light's five hundred different creepy smirks), this artist's incredible prowess is evident throughout all twelve volumes of the series. Angles and perspective are expertly rendered and the meticulous attention he pays to each character definitely makes up for the fact that there are a lot of talking heads in Death Note. The human world is wonderfully realistic while the shinigami world offers everything you might expect from the supernatural. Character designs vary from being very simple -- Light and L -- to being very complex -- Misa and the shinigamis -- but all are well done. It's an incredible treat to go through this manga as the artwork is definitely up to par with the sophistication of the story.
OTHER - I've yet had a chance to read Viz's translation of this, so I can't really say much about its English adaptation unfortunately. :< I've heard pretty decent things about it though. Other than that, I really wish I could review the first two live action movies on this site because they were incredibly impressive and are two of the few book-to-film adaptations that satisfied my rampant purist ways, despite significant changes.
OVERALL - Death Note has probably impressed me more than any other manga I've read (which isn't any incredible number, but still). Its degree of sophistication in all categories, story, characters, and artwork, is incredible. The story is significant; the characters are engaging; the artwork is beautiful. It's like hitting the jackpot, and I really feel like this is one of those titles that almost anyone can enjoy; better yet, I feel like this is one of those titles that can act as a gateway for the not-yet-a-manga-fan, encouraging them to explore the media further. Yeah, there's a lot of hype around Death Note, and they're definitely milking it for what it's worth (an anime, three live action movies, video games, and several spin-offs, all in the course of what, two or three years?), but for once, I think this series deserves every bit of attention it gets. Don't take the numbers on this review too lightly. I don't give 10's that often. read more
Alright, first let me say that, the manga is infinitely better than the anime. INFINITELY. But, with that being said, I believe the manga should have ended at chapter 58/59. After that, it's just a crapload of "yeah-right" and "ooookay" and "bullshit". Seriously, I hated the second half of the story. However, the first half was so ridiculously good, that I just couldn't give the manga a bad score.
With that being said, on to the details.
Brilliant. I can't think of anything else that has even come close to something like this. Entertaining, smart, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. You'll want to read the chapter after chapter to find out what happens next.
Looks good to me. Figures are drawn well and the females were good looking.
By far, the best part of this show. The characters were...alive. You felt like you really "knew" the people. Almost like reading a book there was so much detail. There aren't any that follow a typical "stupid" or "cliche" trademark either. Thank god.
Well, as I said, I didn't enjoy the second half of the story. After the first half, my enjoyment level plummeted. Read the second half, if only just to say you have.
Do yourself a favor and stop after chapter 57-59. You'll enjoy the manga a lot more and probably be happy with a well thought out ending (as opposed to the chapter 108 thrown together ending).read more
Q: What happens when an unstoppable Mary Sue meets an immovable Mary Sue?
A: Death Note.
The protagonist, and his adversary, are both genius pretty boys (with the odd names of Light and L) who have an incredible amount of achievements and skill for their young age. Light somehow predicts things that he could not possibly have the foresight to predict, because, you know, probability is a thing. Don’t worry though, it’s not like you know that he’ll always win, because L possesses this exact same unexplained and ludicrous ability to predict the future; he just does so without a cheesy “Just as planned!” catchphrase that makes me want to shoot myself every-time it graces my ears. In this way, rather than being a dark and mysterious thriller, Death Note often manages to be an overblown mental mudslinging contest between two impossibly perfect master practitioners of bullshit who are both describable in a single sentence. This is epitomized in an early scene where the two, who both have tennis skills at a professional level, get into a match and engage in a ridiculously drawn-out internal line of logic about how the desire to not lose might relate to the true identity of the other.
Furthermore, what kind of psychological mystery thriller has a plot entirely driven by coincidences, improbabilities, and impossibilities? Again, Death Note. Plot devices like this were used every-time the manga found itself in a narrative corner, and these cop-outs always completely killed the tension that was built up to that point, while simultaneously disengaging the plot from the audience.
The concept was intriguing, and I won’t say it did not entertain me at some parts, but it was ultimately far too flawed in its execution to be called enjoyable or good overall, and it never managed to pull off the promise of its premise. It seemed overdone at times, with eye-roll worthy developments, and lines like “I take a potato chip and eat it!” delivered with the utmost significance and conviction, devoid of any irony or self-awareness. Light’s ability, of writing a name in a notebook as a method of killing, is initially well established and limited, while being relatively creative, although you would think he’d be able to do a bit more with it, but the way the new rules of the note are introduced as the story goes on can get a tad contrived.
Characterization quality is somewhat varied, but I would say that it's generally not all that good. It was bad, really. Light is a bit too perfect, his only flaws being the well-concealed logical results of his perfection, such as his narcissism and overconfidence. It could be argued that this flawlessness was intentionally done in an effort to depict the deconstruction of a seemingly perfect human being, but I think this concept eventually fell flat. It would have been far more interesting to see an average teenager find the note and watch the scope of his ambitions and arrogance develop over time. Light is arrogant, ambitious, and a staunch consequentialist from the very outset; this, logically, kills almost all opportunity for development. As for the rest of the characters, L was far more interesting and entertaining than Light, although he was even more unrealistic, evoking the child prodigy and boy detective clichés among other things; I mostly found myself rooting for him rather than the protagonist. Light's eventual “girlfriend” falls in love with him, to the extent of obsession, right away, as the plot commands it, and this insufficiently-explored obsession with him defines her entire character. There is absolutely nothing to her besides that, despite her eventually becoming one of the most significant characters in the series. In all actuality, the motivations for most characters, besides the protagonist and the Shinigami, are hazy at best and, with the exception of L, none of them are interesting in the slightest.
Death Note has some religious symbolisms and themes, which are underplayed and done well until a forced Christ allegory towards the middle, but this all kind of falls apart in the second half and all of the symbolism quickly vanishes into thin air. To make matters more dire, the already limited development of the protagonist stagnates and his adversary is quickly replaced by two identical, yet duller and less compelling, copies. At the same time, while the developments and additional rules to Light’s ability in the first half were often a bit contrived, they were usually better than nothing; pretty much all evolution stops in the second half, and it only gets worse. The manga essentially loses everything that it ever had going for it, and it then lies fallow in that inadequate stage for the remainder of the plot, all leading up to an anticlimactic conclusion that the audience knew was coming from the very beginning. The manga would have lost nothing to speak of had that conclusion come around 4 volumes earlier than it did. Therefore, as the plot progressed, it increasingly lost its higher significance and simultaneously started to wear thin the initial appeal of its premise.
The art is arguably the strongest, or least flawed, aspect of Death Note, the character design being particularly astounding, with the exception of a couple characters introduced in the second half whose designs were either dumb-looking or recycled. The art is generally pretty atmospheric and it never skimps on detail out of convenience, although not much detail is required in the first place. The design of the main antagonist, while understated, is particularly impressive due to the fact that he manages to be very aesthetically appealing, despite the ridiculous heroin chic vibe that the audience gets from him. It is usually pretty stellar, although side characters aren't all that detailed.
In the end, what Death Note did accomplish was hackneyed and not all that original; it could not be called “deep” nor was it ever cutting-edge in the grand scheme of things. The coincidences and general improbabilities that drove the plot bar it from being called “realistic,” more than the out-there premise ever could. That said, it should be given some credit for featuring a true antihero, who is still often admired by the audience, and ultimately not being afraid to portray him as pathetic. It also never used the character’s high school age as an excuse to throw light school-life hijinks into the plot. But these positive qualities unfortunately failed to have too much influence in the industry, and they are additionally outweighed by negatives in the universe of the manga itself. Code Geass, a blatant Death Note rip-off, wasted no time at all in taking every single good Death Note did and flipping it all on its head. I might recommend Death Note, if only for the first half, but only with a warning that it fell apart and that even the first half is not as great as it's often made out to be. You honestly might be best off watching the first half and simply skimming the plot summary of the second, because it has nothing of value to offer the reader beyond that point.
Note: This is mostly a modified version of my review for the anime. They follow the same storyline and suffer from the same fundamental issues. read more
Death note is a perfect manga of suspence and thriller. The story line is rich and tasteful and characters really standout from other manga and anime by the fact that they are so different. while reading Death note it will make you think and guess until the end. This manga is has dark themes because the main character basically goes on a killing spree for 6 years to create the perfect world and outsmart this foes.
About the story. The main character is Light Yagami who is a bored Highschool student, he soon finds a Death note which has the power to kill people by writing there name in, he soon finds out about this power and a Death god call Ryku comes to Light. He decides to make the perfect world in which he is God. He starts killing criminals with the death note and soon becomes famous and known as Kira. We then see how the story unfolds and the intelligence of the main characters.
Just something I should point out, you will never guess what happens at the end.read more
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