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 is definitely one of the best anime series of all time, for it presents a deeply unique and compelling story rivaled by few. I can truly say it is one of the best, if not the best anime I've watched.
Story: The story is unique. A notebook falls from the sky, and the human who writes a name in it is capable of killing the individual pictured in his mind (I left out the details that you don't care about). This presents the viewers with a highly debatable theme based on morals and justice. Yagami Light, who obtains this power to kill, utilizes it
in hopes of creating a utopia in which he is god. Criminals, and only criminals, are to be punished in hopes of a perfect society. Is this however, right? Is it right to kill individuals who have done wrong, and will do wrong again? Can they be reformed? Death Note presents the viewers with questions such as these, questions which cannot be easily answers. This series challenges the viewers morals and for that, it deserves highly.
But this debatable topic isn't the series strong point. Death Note gets a 10 in the story department, because of the way the plot unravels. With great and power and ambition, Yagami Light is forced to play a chair gripping game of cat and mouse with those who seek to detain him. The way L attempts to persecute Light is something I have never witnessed in an anime. The first 15 episodes will magically draw you closer and closer to the scene as suspense hangs over their individual methods for identifying the other. You will not be disappointed.
The flaws begin once it is apparent that there will be a second arc. This to me, seemed like an unnecessary way of drawing out the anime, although arguably a change in situation was required to break the dead lock between Light and L. Anyhow, the series being to lose some of its luster at this point, and if I were to rate both arcs separately, the first would receive a 15/10 and the second a 9/10. Anyhow, this intelligent story deserves an overall 10/10 in my books.
Characters: Light and L are the most interesting and intellectual characters I've ever seen in an anime. Although both are geniuses, they each possesses that certain something that will make you root for one of them to win the game. Light's charismatic, yet extremely demented character gives you reason to watch his conquests and failures. L's quirky, yet highly intelligent qualities does the same for him. They are both unique and likable in their own ways. Character development is also seen, particularly with Light as you witness his calm, calculating figure being to crack into a maddening and reckless mess. Obsessed and overtaken by his dream of conquest with the Death Note, he changes greatly from the beginning of the series. This change can be seen in various other characters as well, although not as notable. Anyhow, the characters are definitely interesting enough to give this a: 9/10
Sound: Yet another brilliant aspect of Death Note. I truly believe that if not for the soundtrack, the anime would not be where it is. All of those quick decisive moments with lives on the line are made intense, and the calm calculating ones even more so as the characters attempt to read each other. The opera, holy-like music also adds greatly to Light's character and goal of becoming God in his new world. The only flaw here resides in the second opening which at first, may seem disgusting to you. But as you continue to watch the series you will notice just how well it fits Light's demented mind and how everything he has achieved beings to shatter around his feet. 9.5/10 (rounded to 10)
Art/Animation: And again, amazingly done. The dark colors suit the anime perfectly, and the characters and scenery are all done amazingly well. I mean, the anime made writing with a pen look cool. The way they made it zoom across that piece of paper ... In terms of animation, the pen wins. It truly does. But seriously, there isn't much action going on here, so there wasn't much to animate. Most of the scenes consisted of the characters talking or thinking, but the scenes there were filled with action (car chase and such) was done very well. A 10/10
Overall: I was watching the series since it first started coming out, and those weeks of waiting killed me. That was how good this anime was. The suspense was amazing, and it got me thinking. Anyone who finishes this anime will be forced to wonder about what they would have done with a Death Note. Many of them will question and argue about the actions of Light. It is this talkable and complexity that makes the anime shine, in addition to its ability to carve suspense and anticipation into its viewers. I have never seen an anime as good as Death Note, and I highly recommend this anime to be watched. You may hate it (although very few seem to), but it is definitely an anime you must TRY. 10/10
Death Note. Another famous anime. But this time there is one reason for it. In fact, there are lots of good reasons but they can be summed up in one thing: this anime is amazing. Want to know why? Then just keep on reading.
Story (8): The first half of this anime is a masterpiece. The concept itself - the Shinigami's notebook which grants the person who has it the power to kill anyone by simply writing the person's name while picturing the face in his mind - is already brilliant to begin with as it presents the viewer questions like "What would I do if
I had that power?" The way it is developed brings us yet more questions and defies our morals.
Light Yagami, the main character, is a brilliant high school student who's angry at all the injustice in the world. One day, he finds the notebook and he tries it out. At first, he's not sure about if what he did is correct but he ends up loving the power he got and trying to use it to build a new and better world. He's nicknamed as Kira by the citizens. Of course that would simply be boring if it wasn't for L, a detective that tries to discover Kira's identity. Both of them are simply genius and their counter clock run to find out each other's identity is full of intelligent moves and suspense which kept me trying to guess what each one of them would do next.
Really, the simple ingredient that's so great about this story is that it manages to keep you thinking. But at several levels. Let me explain that to you.
First, it makes you think about if what Light's doing is right or wrong. "Is it right to be the judge and executer simultaneously?" "Don't the circumstances of each crime matter as well and is it right to judge without knowing all the facts?" "Can't the criminals be reformed?" "Is a world where people don't commit crimes because they're simply afraid really desirable? Isn't what Light aims to achieve theoretically similar to a dictatorship?" Those are questions that ran through my mind. At one point, I was totally rooting for him. But as the story develops and his actions begin to change, you'll start to wonder...
Second, it makes you think about what's going to happen next. Trying to follow Light's and L's line of though is both challenging and entertaining. Their move will surprise you and you'll keep trying to guess what they're gonna do next. This show will keep you on the edge of your sit through its entirety.
Third, it changes the way you see the world and the people in it. With each kill and each action Light takes you can't help but wonder: "It may be wrong but what would I do if I were in his place?". People change, situations make us change. One different thing in your life and you could be going from a dedicated doctor to a serial killer (just an example).
The only problem with the story is really the second half, for Near isn't nearly as intelligent as L, and Light seems to become way dumber and make pointless decisions rather than retaining control of the situation. The fact that the resolution didn't steam from Light's mistakes but from someone else's and was pure luck on Near's part in that regard was both a nice factor (I was rooting for Light to win because... no idea, I just was.) and a rather underwhelming one as well, for neither of them was the central piece that ended the puzzle. The story receives a 8/10.
Art (9): The art is clean, the character designs are both unique and somewhat similar to reality. The backgrounds are detailed enough and the animation is really good. Even though there are few action scenes throughout the show, the car chasing scenes for example are really well done. A little exaggerated, yes, but nevertheless pretty good.
But were the art really shines is in the coloring schemes. The dark and dull tones totally fit the anime. And Light's monologues, with the red hair also add a nice touch.
Quite good for its time and genre.
Sound (9): First, let's talk about the openings and endings. Well, I dislike both openings and love both endings. Quite wired isn't it? Because you know, the 1st opening and the 1st ending are both by the band "Nightmare" (they're a really good band by the way) and the 2nd ones are both by "Maximum the Hormone". Still, it's just my personal preference though some people may be turned of by the heavy metal sound of the last opening and respective ending.
The ending song from episode 37 is really beautiful and fits the last scenes awesomely well.
But that's not all. The opera-like songs that pass in the episodes really add to the scenes and were, with they're somewhat religious tune, the best choice to set the mood.
I can't say much about the voice acting. I watched the english dubbed version and I thought it was good enough but I'm no expert on that matter.
Characters (8): The characters are rather well portrayed. Let me put it this way. When I see an anime, there's always a character that stands out the most for me, that has characteristics that make me root for him/her. When that doesn't happen, I usually don't enjoy an anime. In Death Note, no character stood out. But somehow, I still loved it. I think no one stood out because they were all equally great. There was no one with fantasy-like characteristics. They all seemed like real people with real problems. No unneeded and exaggerated tragedies but no totally sweet lives either.
The character development is pretty much nonexistent for most of the cast, but it doesn't need to be there, for it is really good for Light Yagami, the main character. Starting of as a genius, calm and collected high school student with a strong sense of morals and justice, he undergoes a slow but drastic change of character. The more he uses the Death Note, the more he slowly drops his morals because he finds it is needed to continue his work. He ends up an arrogant person with no consideration by the people who surround him. He starts trying to create a new and better world for people to live him but ends up obsessed with power and with being the "God of the New World".
I love it when Light loses his memories about the Death Note. He turns back to his old self, refuses to use people as tools (what he had been doing all the time) and he even thinks Kira is wrong and wants to catch him. At that point, I also thought Kira's actions were going way too far but so did Light. And Light WAS Kira. So what if the notebook was real, what if I had pick it up? Wouldn't I do the same and end up like that?
Moving on to L. He may seem like a plain character, but he is not. He tried his best to capture Kira risking himself a bit more in each attempt. He seems cold but deep inside I think he really didn't want Light to be Kira because he had never met anyone so similar to him in his ways of thinking and he saw Light as a friend, even though he was almost sure that Light was, in fact, Kira.
The support characters are surprisingly interesting, despite not being all that well developed. I'm talking about the task force. At first, we didn't know much about them and they're development is not much noticeable but then at some point you realize you already know how they feel about Kira, what their line of thought is. The truth is, we subtly get introduced to their problems and internal struggles. This anime has an interesting cast of supporting characters.
My least favorite character was Near. Even Mello was better developed than him. Near wanted to catch Light, sure. But it seemed like he was barely concerned about anything else that was happening as long as he could catch him. He was too cold and underwent none changes.
Enjoyment (9): This review is getting way too long... Anyway, I really enjoyed this anime. Each episode got me craving for more. It made me think, it made me feel bad for some characters, it made me hate some situations... It was truly a great viewing experience. I enjoyed it a lot.
Biggest problem was really the second half not being as intelligently scripted as the first one. But even now, one month after watching, I still think about Death Note and its moral changing story whenever I see some hostage situation on the news. Sometimes I'm just like "Damn, I wish I had one notebook like that! I could prevent so many bad stuff from happening...". And then, on those nights, as I'm in my bed the same questions I had when I was watching the show come once again to my mind. "If the notebook was real, wouldn't it bring even more bad things that it could prevent? Would it be right to use it? What would guarantee that I would not get corrupted by its power?" I loved this show and I still do.
Overall (8): I may rate it a 8, but once again, that's largely due to the second half of the show. Nonetheless, I recommend this to anyone. Whatever genre of anime you like, you should watch this. It is a really intelligent story and even though you may not love it as much as I did, the chances are, you will. Even for people who never enjoyed anime, I would still recommend it. In fact, I am now in the process of making Portuguese subtitles so I can get my mom to watch it. Death Note defies your morals and enables deep discussions with yourself and others. It truly is a great show.
Death Note is a solid series with some brilliant moments in it, but some equally ridiculous ones too. Most of it is pretty much the same thing: a long-ass cat-and-mouse game that keeps taking turns going for and against the two lead foes. Early on it's rather boring as you watching everything take it's time to pick up, and there's even an episode that consists almost entirely of two characters wandering around aimlessly that get real boring real fast. Once the big twists start happening they're mostly impressive, but you almost get kind of sick of them after they keep coming over
and over and they start to get a little repetitious. The last few episodes leading up to a major character's death are really good, but after it actually happens the plot goes off the rails and just winds up repeating a good portion of everything that's just happened before. But despite getting rather ludicrous at the end, the finale is a good payoff.
The silliest thing about it is whenever the big, epic music starts playing everything is made out to be SUPER intense and over-the-top...and most of the time it's just someone writing down names, so instead of seeming super epic it just comes off as painfully cheesy.
The characters are generally pretty stiff and don't change much, and when they do it's normally pretty sudden and doesn't have much, if any, build-up to it. One of the exceptions to this seems to be Aizawa, who is one of the few characters for whom you actually get a glimpse into the outside life of, even if it is small. L is impressively intelligent and deductive, but outside of that there really isn't much to him. Light is a sociopath with a god complex and anytime that might change it just turns out to be part of a monster scheme. Near and Mello are really forced characters, and Mello doesn't even stay the same character in his short stay and ends up becoming a mess of identity (he's seriously, like, three different people in his short time on the show). When it comes down to it, the best and most interesting characters in the show are the Shinigami.
I'm not a huge fan of the overall artistic style and the general presentation, and the crazy colour changes get old after a while, but it's nothing too off-putting.
In the end, though, I did enjoy the series. I can see why it's so popular, but I do think it's rather overrated.
Allow me to explain my love of "the pay off" in entertainment:
I hate when I watch something, and it doesn't really matter if I'm following it or not because nothing pays off. So many times I the credits of a movie roll and I'm left stupified thinking to myself "That's it? What about the ___ and the ___? What was the point of me paying attention to the first hour and 20 minutes of this film?"
Some shows or movies set little subconscious mental snares, so that when something happens later on-it pays off. Your friend walks in the room and sees a
scene that looks like nothing happened, but you're going :O OMGG! They don't understand what it means, the significance of what happened, because they didn't see the set up. Therefore, when you watched that early part and did get the set up, it was worth your time and attention.
To me, Death Note is one of the best examples of great pay-offs in the history of entertainment. It's hard to even pinpoint this show/manga/story to a genre. The aforementioned pay-off aspect makes it feel like a mystery, but unlike your cliche Sherlock Holmes or Law and Order mystery story you're in on the answers. The main character is the solution to the puzzle, and you come along for the ride.
This is like a reverse-mystery story. Instead of the show centering around the good guy detective (L) you get to take a journey with a young Japanese lad with a heart of black. And unlike a common anti-hero, cheered-antagonist trope, he is truly evil to the point of not even being able to relate to him deep down.
The premise is an easy pitch to those who haven't seen the show. What would you do if you could kill people by writing their name? Would you do it? If so, who? This anime then blasts off with an amazingly intriguing universe back-story of death gods in another realm featuring some of my favorite artwork in any anime. It's truly dark and monstrous. The creator imagined such a barren, hopeless, faithless, and gutless wasteland of sketchy characters and landscapes, which you then get to see collide with the human world's truly evil bad guy's moral play.
In issue 13 of the manga, which has interviews with the writer and artist, (fascinating read, highly recommended as well) the author insists that he meant no political or social commentary. But allow me to do it for him:
Is the death penalty OK? Is it OK to try to wipe out the bad people of the world? How far does it go? When is it OK to execute someone? At the beginning of the story, it's clear that the people of Japan LIKE the killings but won't admit it. Is that what would happen? And even further on, after so many 'bad' people have been killed it's depicted that the world actually does improve because of the executions. Is that far-fetched? I actually think it actually would make people more afraid, and less likely to commit heinous crimes. But is that a good thing? Would we want a world in fear of an invisible executioner? Which brings me to my next point..
The relationship between Light and Ryuk is highly dynamic, and the crux of the entire story. When you think about it, this story is Ryuk's. He is by far the most important character in the story and dictates the most essential plot points. And yet, you might not think that when you watch it. While Light is serious, well-planned, methodical, almost scientific, Ryuk is the opposite. He literally can not stop smiling throughout the entire story. He loves it. The empty wasteland was boring, and now he gets to show us an interesting story. And I have to agree, even if I was an extremely bored death god I probably would have had a blast watching that story unfold too.
In the end, you could say the human is the one who became the real death god. But who really called the shots in the end? I've heard some people criticize the end, and even the entire second half of the show. But to me, these elements are equally fascinating and add a lot, especially as they wrap up so many pay-offs. I know I've said a lot so far, but this is truly a masterpiece. Now I'm going to break down the technicalities.
Even if I didn't like anything I said above, I would love this art style. This is by far my favorite art style in anime. Just seeing this art style in another anime, like Monster, will make me enjoy it more. This anime is not a bright bubbly explosion of genki fireworks. And the art is no different. It is dark and realistic. Some of the expressions are so horrified and so believable. It's not distracting, it really helps you get a sense of realism like-"what if this happened?" because everything is drawn to scale and with a certain weighted, grounded feeling that some animes completely lack on purpose.
The art gives special attention to colors, such as the red shinigami eyes, but it doesn't take color out of the realm of being realistic. No purple haired people or girls with outfits that even the best cosplayers in the world couldn't pull off. The animation itself is also excellent. It's never too still, and never too fast. When there are big movements (for example, the infamous "most epic writing scene in the world" from YouTube when Light is first writing his long list of names) the animation flows dramatically. The kind of angles and smooth motion that would be hard to capture for even the best director with a million frames per second. You can visibly and clearly see a tremendous amount of work was put into animating this series.
Oh, wow. Just wow. As a music addict, I'll tell you right away that this soundtrack never leaves my playlist. I don't go around listening to all 1000 songs on this vast library of music constantly, but there are certain themes and moments in this soundtrack that surpass some of the greatest Hollywood film scores of all time. Huge orchestras and choirs, smooth jazz, hard rock, club ambience, they really hit almost every genre of music and combine them in a really innovative way. It's so hard to get tired of the deep variation, and when you put all of these songs to such an amazing story, you've got pure gold. This soundtrack really has some mood-altering songs. I highly recommend you buy the soundtrack and check it out, whether you've seen the show or not.
Again, you can tell an unbelievable amount of work went into scoring this series. Songs like "Dominae Kira" feature some of the craziest choir sounds and orchestral arpeggios that I've ever heard. And once you've heard the L theme and its John Carpenter-esque odd time signature (which are also prevalent in the score) it will stay with you. And then when they remix it and reprise different variations of the melody, it subconsciously brings you even further into immersion. Interesting to note that one of the composers of Death Note was arrested for marijuana in Japan, and at the time of his arrest he had a little more than a gram on him. (US: $20) Since this drug is very taboo in Japan, the reported value of a little more than a gram was over $120.
I've already touched on the main characters, so I'll just talk about the great supporting cast. Misa, a gothic pop star, plays a really interesting, integral role in the story. She indeed has the high-pitch voice of a cliche blonde haired little girl in an anime, but in this case it really works. This is not your ordinary high pitched little Japanese anime girl. She brings another layer to the social commentary of capital punishment, and Light eats it up. They are perfectly meant for each other, despite the course of events that unfold between them. To me, their relationship is beyond Shakespearean. And like Ryuk, in the end she is clearly one of the most important characters.
There's also a great supporting cast in the police side of this epic chase, including Matsuda and Light's father Soichiro. Light's dad is also one of my favorite characters. He brings such a stern discomfort to scenes, which is realistic for some fathers. All of the characters are utilized perfectly, and he definitely has his opportunities to shine. There is also a small supporting cast of other shinigami, which I think gave the author and artists a chance to bring some fantasy elements to their work while still keeping it feeling grounded and real.
The story depicts the shinigami as a secret realm, so the entire concept is introduced as something that could actually exist in a fantasy sense. The revelation of their mysterious existence is realistically shocking, and from this you get shinigami like Rem-who my friend had to point out to me is actually a female. Which makes her actions in the story even more intriguing. You also get to briefly meet a few other shinigami, who are equally unique.
First off, you should know that I've never seen this show with English voices. So I will be talking about the Japanese voice actors only. The voices on this show are absolutely expert. Light's tone and dynamics really put you in a mood, especially when contrasted by the tone and patterns of L. Their conversations make me feel so interested to hear what they're talking about, whatever it is. Also Ryuk is my favorite anime/cartoon voice ever. His trademark laugh and quirky speech style is probably what initially pulled me into the show the most at first. It's just a brilliant character.
Light's dad and Misa also have really well-acted voices. There's nothing and no one I can criticize as far as the voice acting. Bringing this group of voice actors was so well done that it's one of the few times where I would like to thank whoever did the casting on the series.
There is one thing that I don't like about Death Note: it had to end. I don't mean this in a joking way. To me, the way it ends, the shinigami realm, the characters, the universe this story creates BEGS for another story, another season. Some criticized the second half, but I truly feel this universe and premise has legs. The follow-up to this show for the author and artist is so far removed from my interests. There are few things that could happen in my life that would make me happier than if Death Note were to continue.
Please note: I'm not a huge anime fan. I barely watch it, and this was the first anime I ever watched start to finish. Which was almost a curse in disguise, because after that my interest in anime started as mostly a quest to find something 'else' to watch. That is-something just like Death Note, something just as good, but different. I still haven't found it. There are lots of forum threads and Yahoo! answers of people who feel the same way-and sadly I don't think we will ever find something as good as Death Note. This series was magical lightning caught in a bottle with perfect timing. The planets aligned and the hard work of everyone involved lead to an anime series that is truly enchanting to enjoy. So check it out!