Sunagan's avatar

Sunagan

  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Joined Oct 1, 2009
  • 23 / F

Death Note

Oct 26, 2009

Story

What is the truth about human nature? Do we have the right to make decisions about the lives of others? Are we actually capable of taking justice into our own hands? If you are starting to feel uneasy, this is the kind of question that Death Note will keep firing at you personally, for about 37 episodes. Luckily for some of us, although these questions are important underlying themes in DN, the serie actually centers around the chemistry between the two male leads, Light and L. Light is a brilliant but bored student who, as the series progresses, starts showing more and more signs of megalomania as he frantically keeps trying to rid the world of criminals. L is the eccentric genius who tries to unravel the identity of the killer of all the criminals. In a well-orchestrated and perfectly balanced fashion, we witness Light and L trying to find out eachothers name and identity with astounding wit, which is a real joy to watch. It's refreshing to see two leading characters in a match to the death instead of 'being friends forever'. One other aspect of DN that really intrigued me is that you get dearly confused over the matter who you should be rooting for, Light or L. Most of the people, including me, will probably end up switching sides each episode and really love both L and Light. Furthermore, I found the really thin line between death and hate, a kind of frienship and a kind of caring for eachother, quite an awesome facet of the series.

Death Note shows us how ordinary, intelligent people can turn into murderers who won't hesitate to kill anyone who opposes them. It shows us a mirror as well, and it tells us about the inevitable limitations of the human intellect that tries to function as the highest authority, as justice. Would we, ourselves, end up killing others if we got the same chance as Light? Would we go as far as to kill our own friends and family to reach our ultimate goals?

However brilliant Death Note is, it has a few negative sides too. In my opinion, episode 1 - 15, 24 and 25 are the most awesome part of the series. However, it does reach a kind of an impasse between episodes 16 - 23 because the amazing character chemistry I was talking about kinda lacks here and there isn't a lot of progression-towards-goals for both Light and L. While these episodes are undoubtedly part of the core storyline, they still feel a bit like a sidetrack story and they are a lot less entertaining to watch than the rest of the anime. After episode 25, the series leaps 3 years forward in time and changes some of the ambience. Death Note is at this moment still good and entertaining to watch with a lot of tension, wit and action, even some occasional 'struck by awesomeness'-moments, but the story as well as the underlying themes are notably at a lower level than previously seen. As the series draws to a climax, however, we experience some of it's initial brilliance again and we are treated to a more than satisfying ending, fitting for a series of this caliber.

Animation

Although I actually know little about animation in general, I was pleased with the animation quality of Death Note. Something that really stood out is that the anatomical proportions of the human body were, on the average, quite accurate in DN as opposed to the giant eyes and 'ideal body shapes' that we use to encounter in a lot of anime. It was refreshing to see humans drawn in a more realistic domain, for a change. Furthermore I think the character designs of Light and L. were perfectly balanced, Light having an attractive and 'smooth' appearance, L. being outrightly eccentric. To be honest, the design of L. was especially brilliant in my view. His unusual body posture, awesome hairstyle (somewhat reminiscent of Sasuke in Naruto) and freaky, staring eyes absolutely add to the likableness of the character.

Sound

Now that I've put the difficult part of rating the animation behind me, I can happily put my soul into analyzing the music used for DN.

  • The opening and ending themes. The first opening theme did its work pretty decently. The music isn't really anything special, although the theme is surprisingly addicting in conjunction with the animation. I found that especially the lyrics did a good job by capturing the idea and the atmosphere of DN. The second opening theme was a real pinnacle of sophistication: it was so awful that I can't really find words to describe the feelings of despair I felt at hearing the repetitive bassline, the screaming and the total, shameless lack of musical insight. I don't really remember a lot about the ending themes, I guess they were satisfying then.
  • The themes used in the series. The quiet guitar and piano themes are nice and they establish the goals they are made for: engaging the audience and deepening our sentiments in the thoughtful as wel as some really badass parts of the series. From a purely musical viewpoint they are a bit repetitive, though (the piano theme might remind some of my Dutch readers to our childhood series Bassie en Adriaan, a funny detail and a pretty pointless one as wel to state on an english site, but I couldn't help it popping up in my mind). The theme with the choir really pumps you up (in some obscure way it reminded me of the Carmina Burana from Carl Orff :D) and the random bits of classical music tossed in aren't too bad either.
  • The voice acting was great. I loved the voices of Light and L. That's pretty much all there is to it. I did, however, strongly dislike the brain-piercing voices of Light's sister and Misa. I always wonder why they unnecessairily use girls with the squeekiest voices of Japan for anime series, but I guess we'll have to put up with them for some more time, seeing that all anime suffers from this syndrome to some extend.
  • Altogether, the music succeeds in carrying the story and engaging the audience. It all fitted really well with the nature of the series. Although it wasn't really brilliant from a purely musical point of view, it did its job well and some of the themes even ended up being addicting to me :).

Characters

One of the things that really make some series stand out tall is the character chemistry and no matter how you look at it, the chemistry between Light and L. is one of the best I've ever seen in anime. I mean, can you think of anything more entertaining than watching two highly intelligent adolescents trying to outwit each other in a breathtaking but inevitably fatal match of cat-and-mouse (as opposed to the much simpler structure of 'friends/buddies forever' chemistry in a lot of other anime)? The brilliant interaction between Light and L. even beat my need for physical fights, Light being extremely cunning and calculating, while L. clearly profiled himself as a genius of deduction. There isn't actually a lot of character development in DN, but as the characters are from the beginning interesting and layered enough to watch, they don't really need any change. Another character I also found likable was Ryuk, as a cynical but otherwise neutral bystander. The real comedy lies in the fact that he's actually bored and looking for some excitement in the human world xD.

Having said all this, a lot of the other characters were quite dull in comparison to the shining brilliance of the Light-L composition, but this anime would've surely turned out a lot different if all the characters would have been amazing to watch, so I can live with it. I couldn't, however, get rid of my sentiments of annoyance for Misa or my slight feelings of disappointment that I experienced upon encountering the Near and Mello characters. They were ok, but just not as badass as L. It did, in my opinion, take the remaining episodes of DN to a lower level than we previously experienced, and that's a shame.

Overall

Death Note is an original series. It has a surprisingly engaging story and poses a lot of questions to the audience. However, the best part of the series is the interaction between Light and L, beyond genius and amazingly well done. The only downfall of this series is that the quality of the story isn't constant. About ½ of it is worth a 10, ¼ is a bit boring and ¼ is pretty good but doesn't even scratch the awesomeness of before. If you can handle these things, I promise you will be rewarded with an unforgettable experience and an instant addiction. Death Note is, after all, one of my all-time favourites :D!

8/10 story
8/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.5/10 overall

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Kaorichaos says...

^_^ You really should try out to be a reviewer this is great!

Jan 29, 2010
Klitch says...

This is a user review? I've gotten used to seeing "Meh I liked it" or "It sucked" under user reviews. Amazing analysis and very well constructed.

From a critic's point of view I think you've hit the rating right about where it should be. Near and Mello just aren't very compelling adversaries and Misa is a ditz. Those three drag down the entire series to a degree.

I have this rated higher, but that's just pure fanboyism because I loved the good parts (Ep 1-15, Light, L, Ryuk) so much that I was just willing to forgive the bad parts (Misa, Near, Mello, Ep 16-20ish) which would sink me as a serious reviewer.

I hope you write more reviews, I'll be looking for them.

Oct 26, 2009
Omurqi says...

Woah, this review is awesome! It also made me realize why I felt that my own user reviews have been lacking lately (besides not being consistant with my tenses), I'm talking way too often in first person...

All in all, a pleasant read. It captures DNs strong and weak points perfectly (lols @ the Bassie en Adriaan reference).

Please, keep on writing reviews on A-P! I'll be looking forward to more of this awesomeness.

Oct 26, 2009