Phenomenal. Just phenomenal. Death Note is a fantastic, fantastic show dealing with so many complex themes surrounding morality, mortality, justice, criminality, world creation and end, religion, God, and human nature. Wonderful symbolism, vivid imagery, itching suspense, and man, what a thick, twisted, layered plot.
I put off watching this because it was from 2006. That's roughly 14 years ago. And yet, one episode in, I knew I was so wrong. The show's quality is amazing. The art style has kept up, the voicing is seriously on point, and this is a story whose thought-provoking messages will probably remain forever.
From here on there will be some **spoilers!** I like to dissect parts of the plot and what I enjoyed from it.
I want to talk about Light first. Already with his name, there is a great irony. I love that this show has so many small details like that which are used to enhance the characters and the meaning of the plot.
Light is an amazing character. I have come to fear, respect, admire, and hate him all at once. Just the fact that I have all these emotions proves the genius of the story to present a character so multi-dimensional to the audience, even if his intentions are indeed quite straightforward. Yagami Light's god complex, his insanity and composure all at once, is scary. I mean, that's how he's shown. But his intelligence and cunning I must respect because if anything about him is god-like, it's that. My favorite episode for him is probably episode 24, when he regains his memory. That leads me to my next point.
The animation in important, suspenseful scenes is so well done. Every time Light cracks his devilish smile and his eyes go red, every time the camera shakes rapidly as someone writes in the Death Note...makes you think, ah, this is the power of animation. Hard to describe in words, but if you've seen it you know. These scenes are epic. In episode 24, when Light touches the Death Note again and regains his memory, and that massive, flickering montage of his memories flies by in the background--I got so, so many chills. And then there's that 360 shot landing on his red eyes, and crazy smile, before he says, "I win." Bro I literally lost it there. The power I felt from him, the absolute sheer craziness of the situation, how his u n b e l i e v a b l e plan worked. My god, oh my god. No pun intended. Also the scene where Near goes off on watching all those tapes and narrows X-Kira down to Mikami. Crazy stuff.
Also, what goes amazingly well in hand with the animation is the soundtrack. This soundtrack is full of passion, fire, grit, chills, and mystery. A wonderful reflection of the show itself. My favorites from the soundtrack are L's theme and Misa's Theme B. L's theme is odd because it gives me feelings of hope, adrenaline rush, yet also suspense, caution, and an image of rapid thinking. Which fits L perfectly. And Misa's Theme B...yeah I can't describe it without getting too sad and nostalgic right now. What's more, there are so many songs on the soundtrack with fantastic chanting and large-scale choir singing that is very affiliated with religious songs. These are very epic, haunting, expansive songs that fit perfectly in the background whenever we see Light fitting into his role as "God". This is why I give the show's sound full marks.
Now, to move on, I will say that this show has great symbolism. I definitely did not catch all of it, in fact I probably did not catch most of it. But one that is definitely striking is one of the religious symbolisms. When L washes Light's feet, as reference to when Jesus washed Judas' feet, before Judas betrayed him. I had hoped that since this would make L a Christ figure, L would be resurrected somehow. Unfortunately, that is not the case (what a harsh reality! and I will rant a little later about this because honestly! how could they do that to the legend L himself). Another piece of symbolism that is striking, and I read this one online, is when Light dies, he dies in the middle of the stairs. Representative of how he is unable to go to heaven, unable to go to hell. And that is the rule for someone who has used the Death Note.
Ok, now some personal thoughts. First, I really can't accept that L is gone. Like wow. I really truly believed with my heart and soul, that with the power of anime, our favorite boy would be back. Sigh. Near is great and all, but, personally I wished we could see more of his thought process. It just felt like he was jumping to assumptions too unnaturally (or naturally?), whereas with L we saw so many times how he was able to make logical deductions. L will always be the best detective for me. Next, Watari. What a g. And Aizawa. When he came with the police squad to corner Higuchi, I yelled and couldn't stop smiling. Next, Misa. Yes, she was annoying. Yes, she was impulsive. Yes, she was not very smart. But. Her story was really quite sad. Unrequited love, wasted, like that. Used. Hurts to see, honestly makes me uncomfortable to write about her whole situation.
I also want to say, that Death Note's plot is amazing. Most plots are quite linear, with maybe some twists here and there. Death Note's plot is fantastically complex, sometimes to the point where I had to rewind back a couple times to regrasp the details. In fact, it is so interwoven that you could not explain one event without having to undo everything. And the mind games between L and Light! Bruh! And the whole, "I know your plan", to "I know your plan of knowing my plan, which is why I have another plan", to "I know your plan which involved knowing my plan of knowing your plan" ...that whole mess quite sums up the complexity. Even being so complex, the story unfolds well for the viewer, and never fails to be engaging.
Finally, I want to leave this review to discuss the show's themes, and the questions it brings. It's not everyday an anime provokes thought on such philosophical, psychological, questions.
I suppose the major question is: Is it right to kill criminals? What exactly, is justice? But even with every question this show brings up, there is not a simple yes or no. And ultimately, the show leaves the answer up to you.
Then there is the question of, Was Light actually evil, or was that just the Death Note's effect on him? This is a question of human nature, and this is a hard question to answer. We see that, when he lost his memories, he was fully against Kira, almost an entirely new person. Yet given the circumstances of a new power... It's hard to say, was Light originally "good" but changed when given the chance to kill? Or has Light always been "evil", but it's just been hidden until now? On top of that, what really is "good" and "evil"? These questions, of course, have been asked by philosophers or your average crackhead for quite some time now, but Death Note sure asks you to reconsider them in another light. Take a look at Mikami's idea of "good" and "evil". It's so...black and white. There is no gray area to him. He believes everyone falls into one of the two categories. But are good and evil really such absolutes?
Anyways, I think it's amazing that Death Note can bring so many wonderful questions to existence, or re-consideration. It was an amazing, twisted journey. I'm glad I decided to take it. Thank you.