Note: No major spoilers
Death Note is an intelligent and meticulously illustrated rollercoaster ride. With hardly a dull moment, it will keep you turning pages hours after you thought you would be doing something else. The artwork is superb, and while the author of the story, Ohba Tsugumi, is sometimes thought to be a bit too wordy, the story is complex enough to need all those words, even if you are in a bit of a hurry to turn the next page and find out what will happen. Suspenseful is the best word to describe this series, although it is actually not very action-packed. There is much thinking and strategizing, as well as wonderful sparring matches between the main characters. The characters themselves drive the story forward as well, and they are almost all formidable in some way.
Light Yagami, our antihero, is a high school student who has stumbled upon the power to kill in the form of a black notebook, which contains the words: “The human whose name is written in this note shall die.” He asserts that “There's something about the Death Note itself that makes humans want to try it out at least once,” but he does far more than that. With his newfound power he sets about to “Eliminate the vermin from the world,” even at the cost of his own mind and soul.
I despised Light Yagami in almost every way. I pity him only marginally because of his circumstances (had he not found the death note, I am pretty sure he would have lead a fairly normal life, though that's not to say he wasn't responsible for his actions when he found it), and although I held my breath many a time, waiting for and even almost subconsciously hoping for his escapes from various traps set for him, I was always hoping for his eventual capture and confinement, if not his demise. Arrogant, without a care for the lives of those who stand in his way, he only gets worse as he gets older. The second half of the series, which takes place a few years after the first, presents an even colder and more despicable characterization as with the misplaced power of a god, he seems less and less like a human being and more and more like something utterly inferior.
A mastermind known only as L is Light Yagami’s chief opponent. Quirky and highly unusual, his every move in both the investigation and in each scene is hugely entertaining and comical. His adamant declaration that “The good guys always win,” combined with his persistent investigation when he has a hunch and his keen eye for behavioral inconsistencies make him the perfect answer to Light’s intelligent scheming and dubious assessments of right and wrong. He is like some kind of funky Sherlock Holmes, and the way he respectfully attaches san or kun to everyone’s name puts me in mind of Lieutenant Columbo, who without fail addressed everyone (and most notably his suspects) as sir or ma’am.
Enter Near and Mello, two other odd individuals who are just as determined as L to apprehend the vigilante serial killer known as Kira.
Mello is somewhat less of a threat to Light as he too often allows his emotions to control him, and I mostly disliked him. He’s a bit creepy and definitely more ambiguous than L; his motive is not justice but the desire to defeat his rival, Near, and he even does some things that are as bad as what Light himself does. But I liked him a little better later on, and I think he was the human element that the series needed at that halfway point. While brilliant and idiosyncratic, he wasn’t so unbelievable as L or Near.
Near is much like L. Objective and queer, he quickly becomes more of a pain in Light’s side than the impassioned Mello and it is pretty mind-blowing to watch his investigation.
By the time you’ve read 12 volumes of this supernatural thriller, you almost believe that the battle between Light and his opponents will never end, and so it’s also a bit strange when it does. But the ending is pretty satisfying.
All in all, this series is close to perfect.
I just have to give it a 10 even though reading the manga from a female point of view it's sexist. None of the females have a good role and if they do have a role they're either "Stupid, easily fooled, naive" or the author just kill her off for the sake of the plot while the rest of the male characters even Matsuda is on a higher level than the females. Well a decent one is Wendy. Anyway besides that the plot was very good. The classic battle of good and evil. The plot makes anyone think what is right and what is wrong? But at the end of the story it's up to you to believe what's right and wrong. That is what I like about the author of the series.
Usually I only read shojo manga where the female character eyes are huge and such; but I have to say the art of this work is amazing. So life like in away. Unlike the manga 'Case Closed' 'Detective Conan' (their art is original and creative) this art is very excat.
I give it a 10 well done. =)
Okay I rated the characters a little low for a reason.
Misa: Wow the artist and the mangaka made her personality that goes with the saying that blonds are total airheads. She's way too naive and too blinded by love to not even noticed that her beloved Light doesn't love her. That he's only using her and at the end he would most likely kill her off. Finguring that she's the Second Kira, I would of think she's a little more smarter than this. Oh well; but Misa did have her good points and good moments of being clever counts. I just wish the author didn't place her IQ to a size of a penut. Don't give me wrong, Misa is one of my favorite characters in the anime and manga, but her naive nature just made me want to gag at times.
Light: I'm not too fond of Light Yagami; but he is one of the few decent characters that the mangka made. A classic good guy goes too far for justice and ends up turning evil. Classic. He gives L a run of his money. He made the series along with L. The mangka reflected Light to many of his readers that Light contains many of the human weaknesses.
L: He's one of my favorite characters. He's well thought of and anything. He's one of the main blocks in the series to put an end to Kira. He's smart, sneaky and sadly funny in his own awkardness.
Ryuk: Wow he's such an interesting character. I found no problems with him. He's mostly neutural (unless you have an apple that is) in the series. He doesn't take sides and he could be very heartless. A true god of death.
Near: He is very strange indeed. He's one of the successor's of L. Only one problem with him. He lacks emotions. Other than that; he's awesome.
Mello: Well... He has problems. Hes the second most stubborn character in the series aside of Light himself. I just wish the mangka didn't make him too obessed over chocolate. haha
Mr. Yagami: He's the well planned father role of Light Yagami. He's what's all the father should have act upon. Supportive. Caring. Trusting. Loyality and reasonable. He's one of the characters that I read that I can relate to his pain clearly at the end of his life. Thanks to the mangka and the artist whom shown this clearly. =)
Overall I have to recommand this to anyone who's interesting into a classic battle of good and evil and those who like those kind of gene that involves the wit instead of the brawn.
=) Thanks for reading this review and sorry for my spelling and grammar.
Where can I begin to describe the tour-de-force that is the Death Note manga?
The concept/basic storyline is pretty widely known. Brilliant student Light Yagami finds a mysterious 'Death Note' that has the power to kill a person if you write down their name- as long as you can see their face. So he decides to use this new-found power to rid the world of evil. But when the unexplainable deaths of many criminals all at once are noticed, the also-brilliant detective L begins to investigate.
The first 7 volumes are pure brilliance in storytelling. The mental cat-and-mouse played by Light Yagami and L is truly wonderful to behold, and seeing how they constantly try to outsmart each other without revealing each other's identity is a hell of a lot of fun.
But the story loses a few points from me because it does plateau around volume 8-10. There is a shocking and emotional plot twist (DO NOT READ ANY CHARACTER PROFILES IF YOU DON'T WANT IT SPOILED!!! Word of bitter experience talking...) that, while it is fantastic and definitely works for the manga, changes the entire direction and atmosphere rather abruptly, and introduces one of the most irritating and hateable characters I've ever seen in anything (that being Near). But not to worry, Death Note successfully rises from its plateau in the last two volumes and the powerful, amazing ending will leave you completely floored.
The art and character designs are simply awesome. Stand-out character designs are those of the main shinigami (death gods)- Ryuk, Rem and Sidoh- they are terrifying and so creative in their appearance. The human characters are also very well-drawn, and even though there is such a huge cast of characters, none of them look similar at all so you can tell them all apart- which is important by the end when a lot of depth is added to almost all of them.
What really makes Deathnote brilliant is the characters. Light, L, Misa, Ryuk, Rem, Mello... they're all amazingly compelling to follow and see develop. Even the minor characters, from the members of the Japanese Task Force to the brief appearances of the Yotsuba clan, all have they're own distinct personality. However, there is one character that I find unbearable- Near, as I mentioned before. The thing is, I'm not really sure that it was the writer's intention to make Near hateable so in my opinion this makes him a genuinely bad character. But he is overshadowed by all the wonderful characters that surround him, and he doesn't tarnish the overall quality of the manga too much (though he is the main reason for the story's aforementioned plateau).
There is no way I can explain and do Deathnote justice. It is simply amazing, brilliant, all those words that I've already said a million times that describe a masterpiece. It will blow you away.
Story: Death Note had an interesting and unique enough premise. A highly intelligent but bored teenager finds a notebook that can kill anyone who's name is written into it as long as the owner knows the name and face of who he wants dead. There are plenty more rules involved with using the notebook but that's the main one to know. The teen, nicknamed Kira, uses the notebook to kill criminals causing the police to get involved to stop him. The rest involves basically a cat-and-mouse chase to see whether Kira or L, a mastermind detective, and the police force will win out. The story started off refreshingly witty with cynical and dark but humorous dialogue and plot and I was hooked immediately. It had suspense, sharp wit, plenty of humor and twists to keep it going for about 7 volumes and then it crashes and burns. While the first half seemed planned and had a clear sense of direction that made me feel like it was heading towards an epic finish, the second half just seemed to meander along into a convuluted mess with characters added that lacked substance and 'twists' used to just keep the plot dragging on till the end. Though the last half wasn't all that great, the last volume somewhat made up for it. It was very fitting though extremely wordy but I liked the way the characters reacted to the events that unfolded. It had built up plenty of suspense that kept me going till the very last chapter. Though the rest of volume was well done, the very last chapter did not add much and should have been left off but I suppose it provided some closure so it wasn't too awful but it was rather bland and predictable.
Art: Visually stunning. It was dark so it fit the style and mood of the plot. The characters all looked distinctly different which was a plus and their expressions were extremely well done. I could see the suspicion, shock, subtle annoyance, confusion, or even utter frustration perfectly portrayed in the faces. The subtle changes that Light goes through from innocent teen to one with a murderous god complex is shown exquisitely. The wear and fatigue of working on the Kira case is shown wonderfully on the police cast. Some of the art annoyed me though. I wasn't a fan of how Near and Mello were portrayed. Mello looked utterly incompetent until he got a scar on his face and then somehow, he didn't look like an idiot anymore. Near, on the other hand, just had such ridiculous expressions, even when he was dicussing heavy and grim matters, and I could never take him seriously. The way the characters were designed coincided with their personalities. Ryuk added comedy and so had a humorous appearance, Misa was an airhead which is conveyed through her empty and confused expressions, Sayu was sweet and bubbly portrayed through her lively visage, and the list goes on.
Characters: Ah, the characters. Light is quite the fellow who you like at first but then just can't stand. He went from being likable and reasonable and slowly becomes enveloped with a lust for power from the notewook. What started out as a somewhat noble cause of killing criminals for a better world morphs into a selfish power-driven desire for becoming ruler of the world. He will kill anyone who gets in the way and manipulate those who can help him rise to the top without hesitation. If killing family and friends and even those who helped him is what it takes to become the next ruler, then he will do it as long as their deaths don't cast suspicion on himself. That was the only reason he would have for not immediately killing off certain people. Since he is so highly intelligent, he could configure plenty of decisions and their effects and decide what would best benefit him while keeping him out of the radar of the police as Kira. It was quite interesting and disturbing to see how drastically he was affected by the notebook and the responsibility and curse that comes from owning such a weapon.
L is the brilliant detective who sees Light for what he is, a mass murderer, regardless of what his intentions are for who he kills. He is serious in his intention to beat out Kira and has unorthodox methods for trying to capture him. Though he is a recluse, he exudes personality with humor, wit, and a knack for fighting. The police will usually try to convince him of not going through with some of his plans but on the whole L will do what is necessary to convict Kira, short of killing. If there is anyone who will find Kira, it's L, with his brilliant sense of deduction and observation making him a unique and entertaining mastermind that adds substance to the cat-and-mouse chase.
Some of the other characters are fleshed out while some are left as stereotypes. The police cast and Light's family along with the Shinigami have refreshingly realistic personalities and unique traits so they each have their own purpose to add to the story but are still somewhat unpredictable in their actions. The characters in the latter half were more generic. Near seemed to me like an L knockoff but with less wit and seriousness as a detective. Mello was simply a crazed young man who wanted to beat Near any way he could even resorting to kidnapping and shooting and being involved with a gang. Misa was a bimbo who did Light's bidding without hesitation despite the way Light treated her though she did add plenty of refreshing humor. Takada seemed like she'd have some backbone but that though flew out my mind when she swooned over Light and sucuumbed to his charm the way Misa did. Some were really well done, while others had merely cookie-cutter personalities. It was basically a hit-or-miss.
Overall: On the whole the first half was amazing and I absolutely loved it but the second half was purely mediocre and really brought down the overall quality of the manga. Had it ended halfway through rather than being dragged out or had consistent quality all throughout, I would rate this a 9 or actually a 9.5 and it would've have been one of my favorite mangas. Sadly, that is not the case. The second half somewhat nullifies the brilliance of the first half though the ending was just right and the only part of the second half that truly had merit. It is definitely a manga worth reading but though it is tempting to quit after the first half, I recommend finishing it till the end since the ending was done quite well. At least, read the first half of the series. That in itself is wholly satisfying.
Death note is one of my #1 favourite manga of all time, so I'm serious when I take a half a mark away from this catagory. when shifting from the "L saga" I always felt like the story stumbled a bit, perhaps they were trying to elongate the story or bring in new readers, in serialized releases it's not unheard of.
If you've read bakuman you know the team has what it takes to transition seamlessly betweens story phases, so perhaps this was simply an early writing mistake. A lesson they clearly learned from!
Regardless the story as a whole takes you around twists, turns, corners and bends you would have never expected. A thriller, and a classic, that should be given as reading material in high schools in my honest opinion.
The art is fantastic all the way through, every angle and every detail is rendered as well as any human hand can. It's a masterpiece, plain and simple.
Every charachter stands out as a uniqe addition to the cast, You never feel like there are doubles visually and personality wise. Even the incidental charachters all seam to have unique faces and personalities. Death note sets the bar for character design, and it's only made that much more amazing by the fact that these characters all feel like they could exhist in the real world... maybe not Ryuk, but you catch my drift.