Review: Death Note

Name rings a bell?

Desu Noto follows high schooler Yagami Light as a notebook becomes his instrument to deliver justice to the masses and later, means to greater evil.

I have been following Bleach for a few years now, so the first episode that shows goody two shoes Yagami aceing his national tests all over again elicited a poker face from me because Bleach had a similar beginning and two, from the looks of it, did not seem like the most fun series.

Death gods or shinigami are a lazy lot in DN, much unlike those in the Seireitei; while Bleach happened to take on a fight-styled approach to the general concept of a system of Death gods, creator Tsugomi Ohba chose to spin a suspenseful yarn instead. The Shinigami world is an apt reflection of their rottenness. On one such nondescript day, a death god drops his death note.

‘It may get interesting.’

The Death Note seems like a boring bunch of pages strung together.

The human whose name is written in this notebook shall die.

Like all tools, the borders around this notebook’s actions and its impact are chalked out by its user.

As the story progresses, Smarty Pants Light unravels more of the finer intricacies that hang around the Death Note in curls, with Ryuk spending his days in the Yagami household; his mission in the human world was probably to the rid the world of all its apples.

Ryuk can haz apples?

Remember when Uncle Ben said that with ‘great power comes great responsibility’? It wasn’t only the spider bites he meant. When you gain unbridled, an unaccounted-for power with no god, you lose all semblance of society-has-stamped-and-approved human traits and descend into role playing your peremptory whims.

You are god. This is your world. This world is yours to rule.    

Yagami Light

An idealist high schooler armed with an unearthly intellect and an even stranger thought takes it upon himself to slay all evil that befalls the helpless and innocent common man, so that he no longer lives in fear. What begins as an exercise in laundering the city of petty criminals, rapists and burglars progresses into an expression of the god’s wrath.

A faceless, nameless L is intrigued by the sudden hike in the number of heart attacks in the city: all of them criminals that had been featured in the prime time news. Global forces combine to battle and stave off what could be a potential hijack to international security and survival.

Politics, unexplained deaths, excessive, obscene power and a kinky sense of voyeurism.

Desu Noto is the dark alley your mother warned you about. It is that possibility you’re afraid to look in the eye. In a time where justice and morality are only keywords in a speech (or so it seems), DN sets out to answer whether the decisions in its world are good enough and if they are, what line is keeping it apart from the bad ones?

Death Note makes you ask yourself if anyone is really watching over your good behavior. What if… there is no one to judge, no one to impress?

The series faced a backlash in numerous countries over claims that such form of media was misleading innocent anime-obsessed teenagers. Concerned parents over the world welled up and called for Desu Noto to be banned.

One particular instance that stands out due its sheer ridiculousness involved Chinese students spending nights jotting down names of not-so-nice teachers (what did they do, flunk you in yesterday’s class test? Gave you an F?) in their newly bought death notes. If only parents could bother straightening out the kinks in their kids’ heads than calling for the hit shonen manga series to die, it would be a better world.

When parents can answer their child’s curious glances towards the cigarette in that ash tray or explain to them why alcohol isn’t all that nice, why not anime? And why only anime?

At some age or the other, they will be exposed to such influences and maybe more. Unless they’re relatively clear over their standards and definition of moral and death with all its dealings, bans on DN are headless Medusas. There is still hope, for an Albuquerque school committee defied the trend and ruled against the ban. Score 1 for common sense!

Thirty eight crisp episodes with a slow start, which in retrospect only stoked my appetite for a ride of manga series in such a long time. O Fortuna-esque themes apart, Death Note is not just a story. It is a personal journey, a descent to the inherent animality that lurks within.

Does good triumph over evil?

You tell me.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Death Note

  1. It’s a very philosophical series, in a way. And really, it’s not that unique in literature, at least from the point of view of it being a good character’s decline into evil (Macbeth?) Personally, I don’t think that in the world good always triumphs over evil, but I do believe that ultimately, good (God) will triumph.

    • True that, David.
      It is because we’re human that we’re vulnerable to the dark. I believe both Light and darkness (pun intended. Sort of 😀 ) exist mutually.
      The decline, be it Macbeth or Muthuswamy, turns things around.
      I too believe that good eventually wins, and how it does is pretty mystic.

  2. Shinigami, who were once thought as scary have been presented in a funny way, though the whole point of they being able to control death has been made clear. Tsugumi did a great job there by bringing forward two geniuses who want justice in there own way.But in a way light yagami’s thought of justice was liked by the crowd which turned out to affect the society in a wrong way.I agree its the best of its kind but yes initially a wrong message was conveyed

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