I went into Death Note not really knowing what to expect. The reputation of the anime certainly preceded it, but sometimes extreme hype can be a disaster leading to an inexorable fall - happily, Death Note strays away from this tag and justifies the rave reviews. Normally, to my eternal shame, I tend to be quite reactionary against media considered fantastic by the mainstream, and find myself inexplicably hunting for a minute flaw that might drag the entire thing down. In spite of this, Death Note earns the score I've given it, which is a testament to the overall quality of the series.
The plot and the characters are what drive the entire thing, really. The animation and light textures are wonderful and certainly help matters, but realistically the constant gambit and mind-warping manipulation on display are what kept me drawn to the screen. Not even a slight lull in a few middle episodes could detract from how much I wanted to see the plot come to a conclusion - and, in a nice surprise that's becoming increasingly unusual, the ending was simply sublime. I was aghast, amazed, delighted, saddened - every emotion I can think of was in the mixer and being twisted mercilessly. And it isn't a stretch to say that the entire series is like that.
I can't say too much without spoiler functionality, but the interplay between the protagonist and antagonist was by far my favourite aspect of the show, as it seems to be for many others. However, slotting in around the intellectual baiting is an excellent sideshow of supporting characters that display progression as time moves on, with little nuances creeping out over the course of the 37 episodes. People that were strangers to me at the start were being strongly empathised with by the end. I also enjoyed the themes of the anime, particularly the issue of morality and the definitions of good and evil - good underlying motifs to think about whilst enjoying the supernaturally-driven antics on the screen.
It should be made clear that I'm typically a fan of slice of life anime, things that make you ponder, and I enjoy a challenge. Death Note actually supplies this in abundance, without the (somewhat) pretentious nature of Lain, or the slow pace of some others...not that slow pacing is a bad thing, of course. The point is that Death Note blends so many elements together into one mixture, and somehow manages to keep it all coherent and intriguing. Not once was I bored, or uninterested in the characters, or unimpressed by any of it. It is a masterpiece, and worthy viewing for anyone who enjoys a reasonably complex anime with a gripping plot and extremely engaging characters. Highly recommended.