Have you ever felt like the world would be a better place if certain people weren’t around? Such grim daydreams might occur when watching the dismal daily news, but on one fateful day, Light Yagami finds that these daydreams can become reality. By pure happenstance, he comes across a black notebook entitled "Death Note", whose text within states that whoever's name is written on its pages will die. With the aid of the death god Ryuk, Light takes it upon himself to rid the world of its corruption, ushering in a new era of purity one death at a time. But as Ryuk foretells, Light's actions will not go unchallenged...
StoryWhen it comes to Death Note, the masses have spoken: it's a groundbreaking, gripping tale of deceit and intrigue that will keep you at the edge of your seat from start to end. With one of the highest average ratings on Anime-Planet and a level of hype that treads dangerously close to that of Naruto, Death Note has been deemed a "must-see", a "triumph", and "a series that no anime fan should be without". Except that it’s not. I’m not sure if my perception of reality is fatally flawed or if Death Note’s prominent mainstream presence has blinded the masses, but I just don’t get it. Death Note is a good anime, though it’s not the best and has a rash of insidious problems that most reviews tend to miss. Now, I'm aware that the majority of readers likely want to murder me, but put down the butcher knife for a second and hear me out. Death Note starts out promising a thrilling ride to come. Teenager Light Yagami finds a mysterious book that a shinigami ‘carelessly’ drops into the human world, but it holds a dangerous secret: any person whose name is written within dies. Almost immediately the boy decides to exact his own brand of justice on criminals, thugs and others that are expendable in the name of a better world, quickly catching the attention of the authorities. Meanwhile, the general population both admires and fears this unknown assailant, giving he or she the nickname of Kira. Light's primary antagonist is L, a secretive, genius detective who vows to put a stop to Kira's reign of terror. With intellectual grace and precision the two begin a deadly game of cat and mouse where move after move is calculated, and each attempts to unmask the other first. I won't deny that fans of psychological warfare will find the above premise engaging and exciting, and had the series ended after this first arc, I would have deemed it a smashing success. However, after building up a great deal of suspense, Death Note stumbles into its second segment with a confusing transition that isn't explained until a dozen episodes later. Almost this entire arc follows Light and the detectives as they investigate a shadowy organization that no viewer will give a shit about, and Light and L's intense dance is tossed by the wayside. Perhaps the only redeeming element of this part of the story is a powerful climax that will leave you saddened yet moved, but any non-delusional anime fan should be disgusted with what comes next: a third arc so offensively bad that I was reminded of Gantz - an otherwise powerful anime that also should have known when to quit. A whole new cast of characters appears, filling copycat roles that bring nothing new to the mix. At this point, those who aren't under the influence of fanboyism should feel any old emotional bonds they had with Death Note evaporating into thin air. By the series' end, I cared almost nothing for any of the characters, and felt relief only when the finale credits rolled; but an acceptable ending couldn't save Death Note's disappointing decline into mediocrity, regardless of how powerful the first arc was. One other important note is one of the series' most irritating qualities: the ENDLESS, ENDLESS INTERNAL MONOLOGUING which begins almost immediately and doesn’t let up till the final episode. If you think shounen titles such as Naruto and Dragon Ball Z are bad, just wait until you see Death Note. Every single action and reaction is thoroughly analyzed internally or out loud by Light, L and damn near everyone else in the cast, followed by yet another just-as-long diatribe about what the speaker would then do next. AND THIS HAPPENS FOR THIRTY SEVEN EPISODES. Not since Ghost in the Shell: Innocence have I wanted so badly for the characters to shut the fuck up and move on. In a way, it feels like Death Note's creators were pandering to the lowest common denominator of intelligence by so grossly overstating the obvious mental leaps. Were Light and L truly as brilliant as they seem, they shouldn't need five minutes to compose every thought they have. I'm open to hearing other opinions on why Death Note's plot is awesome enough to deserve a 15 out of 10 score, but with two throwaway, boring, copycat arcs and other problems I can't see how any anime fan in good conscience can say such a thing.AnimationDeath Note's animation is hailed as being exceptional in every way; once again, I don't get it. The series' dark imagery provides a pleasing appearance, but the character designs look sloppy (specifically the facial linework and simplicity) and still sequences mar the experience far too often. Furthermore, frequently L and Light change color and deliver a multi-minute monologue as the camera creeps slowly across the screen, and the rest of the series tends to fare just as poorly. Death Note's definition of 'animation' apparently takes a page from the book of lazy. Still, most viewers will likely appreciate Death Note's animation and consider it perfectly acceptable for a modern anime. Movement - when it actually occurs - flows wonderfully, and the shinigami world is depicted with a perfect combination of desolation and intrigue. Other visually impressive elements include the 'life counters' floating above people's heads, and the eerie red glow of 'shinigami eyes.'SoundDeath Note's first opening track is forgettable, but the second shines - well actually, it growls and screams. I think this is the first time I've heard a thrash metal track used as an anime's intro, and in this case it works perfectly. Combined with frantic, crazed shots of Light, this intro truly is a herald of things to come, and helps accentuate his madness. Overall the background score perfectly complements the suspense and intrigue, delivering a handful of orchestral, church-like tracks that grow on you throughout the series. While Death Note doesn't have much going for it, the music is hands down awesome.CharactersLove him or hate him, Light is one evil dude. From the get-go he's painted as a teen with a god complex who teeters between reality and insanity, and this persona rings true for the entirety of the series. Light is not a saint, nor does he have any hope of redemption; each move he makes is manipulating, sinister and self-serving to the core, justifying him as the ultimate anti-hero. You'll generally both cheer along as he executes the scum of the world and cringe as you watch people get stepped on along the way. Light's twisted, deranged view of his utopia damages everyone around him and in general, his personality is one of the best aspects of Death Note. Counterpart to Light is L, a fiendish, quirky detective whose bizarre mannerisms and actions provide some of the series' (perhaps unintentional) comic relief. L wasn't developed as much as I'd hoped, and only near the end of the anime do you learn about his history. Still, his character comes across as a bit one-dimensional and should have been more fully fleshed out. Then again, he exists mostly as the protagonist - or antagonist - against Light, and their battle of wits is enjoyable to watch. One thing's for sure, not since Evangelion has there been such a firm division in fanboyism between those who swear by Light, and others who pledge their allegiance to L. Last but not least there's Ryuk, a shinigami (death god) who quietly tags along with Light as he inflicts his wrath on the world. Ryuk doesn't judge, and he doesn't stop Light's actions, no matter how ill-conveived. In fact, the shinigami often chuckles creepily when the boy unknowingly makes a mistake or does something exceptionally evil; the supernatural being bides his time until he gets what he wants: Light's soul. Unfortunately Ryuk only stays in the spotlight strongly in the first arc; during the second he is out of the picture, returning in the third as a minor actor. It's too bad, as he provides the only other source of comic relief with his obsession with apples. Several secondary characters also take the limelight at times, evoking a variety of emotions. Light's father, refusing to believe his son could be the killer, made me angry out of empathy. Misa, one of Light's admirers, is whiny and ditzy to the point that I wanted to punch her in the face. And Mello, one of the later characters in the series, prompted more anger - this time at the series' creators for not coming up with someone more original. While each of these and more grace the screen and take hold of the conversation at times, none are developed enough to really care about.OverallOriginally I planned on giving Death Note an overall rating of 6 to 6.5, but after carefully thinking about all of its faults versus strengths, I can't in good conscience award such a high score. A good first dozen episodes (flaws aside) does not a groundbreaking series make, and the consistent and escalating flaws ultimately condemn Death Note to being a good, but not great, anime. I understand that the masses are unable or unwilling to find fault with such a highly-revered title, but in my opinion that's a dishonest stance. There's no denying that the second arc is poorly tacked onto the first, that the third is nothing but a bad carbon copy, and that the thrill level wildly oscillates between high-octane and boredom; so why is Death Note constantly referred to as the best thing on the planet? To each their own I suppose, I just know that Death Note - even without the hype - was a big time disappointment for me. I wish the creators had done the humane thing by euthanizing it sooner, rather than insulting the viewers' intelligence with endless, overdone 'intellectual analyzing.' Important note: feel free to respond with your own feelings about the series, but given how volitile I know this review will be I need to remind each reader to keep this thread in mind. Personal attacks on any reviews or reviewers (rather than one's own opinion of the anime) will be removed, and may result in the removal of commenting ability.
StoryOrdinarily, I make a point to avoid series plagued by fanboyism, as they generally suffer from pitiful characterization, flimsy storylines, and sub-par aesthetics. Yet, Death Note carried some strange allure and managed to pique my interest, so I decided to give it a shot. I would not be disappointed. It's one of those gems that graces the anime world only every so often and certainly deserves a considerable amount of respect. At its core, Death Note is an anime that captivates you with a story fashioned around logic, wit, trust, and betrayal. Filled with deep characters and weaved with intensity, it grips you from start to finish with amazing vice. It traces the story of Yagami Light, a young college student who has become disillusioned with the pervasiveness of crime and corruption spread throughout the world. Purely by accident, he stumbles upon a book called a Death Note, which allows its author to kill any person of his or her choosing by merely writing their name inside, given that they know the person's name and face. Though at first skeptical, Light decides to use its powers to cleanse the world of evil, and thus begins his quest for justice.What immediately follows, however, is a conglomerate struggle of ethics and morality. Death Note presents a surprisingly detailed scenario in which the definition of absolute justice is blurred and the true nature of morality is put into question. Unlike other pseudo-intellectual anime that attempt to provide naïve approaches to such tough subjects, though, it does not step lightly around any of its subject matter. The script writers do a fantastic job at presenting the storyline in dramatic fashion without drowning out its substance in philosophy. There are a number of such elements that the series touches upon, but each and every one is seamlessly streamlined into the anime.Due to the nature of Death Note's story, however, it's incredibly difficult to present an accurate, detailed reflection of the plot without giving important details away. The drama is presented in a very cumulative fashion, with each individual episode building upon the intricacies and complexities of the last. For a series built so strongly around logic, this is definitely a strength rather than a weakness. You'll find yourself gripped from the first minute until the last, carried on by numerous twists and turns that keep the story both fresh and intriguing with each installment.AnimationDeath Note takes the liberty of incorporating some of the best shading effects to date. Grasping emotions and moods with unrivaled precision, detail pervades every inch of every scene. One of Death Note's greatest assets is its ability to immerse the viewer into the anime itself, and the animation here definitely plays a major role in making that happen. Camera angles are taken to accentuate facial expressions, shadows fashion character designs, and the scenery defines moods. Death Note's aesthetics reflect the essence of the storyline itself, and are awash with metaphorical splendor that can be appreciated on a number of different levels.SoundOddly enough, two of Death Note's lowest points are the average quality opening and ending themes. Though they certainly capture the mood of the series well enough, they aren't too impressive as individual tracks. Aside from these songs, however, the vast majority of the insert music is above par; save for a very few select pieces, it's surprisingly well orchestrated. The voice acting is where Death Note's sound score really shines, though, especially with Light -- I felt his actor captured his personality and expressions with pinpoint accuracy. By in large, this same standard of quality assumes itself in all but one character, so be prepared for a treat in this category.CharactersAgain, commenting on the characters is hard because Death Note continually builds upon itself the story progresses. Though I didn't particularly care for some of the development of a few side characters, every person to appear throughout the series has a distinct purpose. The number of extraneous characters is kept to a virtual minimum, and those who serve little purpose only appear for as long as they are needed; you certainly won't find a plethora of useless fluff here. The writers went through the series with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that each fills his or her respective role with the utmost of precision, making sure only to assimilate those who are necessary for the dramatic elements of the plot.OverallTo conclude, I'm incredibly impressed with Death Note. While, like any other anime, it does have its flaws, as a whole they are relatively minor. There are a few ups on downs throughout the course of the thirty-seven episodes, but the vast majority of time is spent very wisely. To its fortune, the series is constructed in such a way that it has a nearly universal sense of appeal, and as such should not be passed up. Most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make sure to check it out if you have not done so already.
Enter the mind of a sociopath, Light Yagami. A remarkable teenager, he's devilishly handsome, twice junior tennis champion, and ranks first in the national exams. In other ways, though, he's quite the simpleton: a textbook megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. Oh, and he's just been handed the power to kill individuals simply by writing their names in a notebook.Death Note is a cat-and-mouse suspense-thriller with a paranormal twist and hints of schizophrenia in its concept design. It requires that viewers suspend their disbelief and common sense in order to fall in love with it. For example, we must believe that there are teenagers more intelligent than the world's best detectives; that death gods exist and give humans said notebooks just for fun; and that the man assigned to solve the mystery of the death gods, and has seasoned police officers drooling after his knowledge, is an emo. Rather than waste time excusing itself, the show prefers to sidestep these chasms of logic and run straight for the action - the onus is thus on the viewer to choose to follow.What sold me on this escapist journey was not the cliffhangers or the sumptuous animation, but Mamoru Miyano's incredible incarnation as Light. He evokes just the right balance of charisma and pure evil. Take this line for instance: 'Then, behind the fact that deserving criminals are dying of heart attacks, I'll gradually start killing off people who cause problems for innocent people, through illness and accidental death... Then I'll have created a world filled with those I've judged to be kind and hardworking.' In the universe of crackpots, this speech is nothing remarkable. However, when Light says it, I start to believe that taking the world on this collision course to hell would be the most invigorating accident I've had since Jackass. His performance is infectiously gleeful, as though he really had started to go mad in the recording booth and the tape just happened to catch him talking. When Light cackled, I cackled too; when he became angry, I froze. Even if Light is the bad guy, Miyano makes him so convincing, it's difficult not to root for him.Light kills convicted criminals under the pseudonym 'Kira' (a reworking of the word 'killer') with the aim of creating a pure world. Let's face it, most viewers will cheer the death of Shibutaku, for example, who attempts to rape a girl one fateful evening. The show even puts a mirror to this instinctive moral hipocrisy; as police trawl the city to bring the murderous Kira to justice, grateful citizens dedicate websites and television shows to him, calling him a hero of the people. Light himself is not particularly meticulous about his moral code - very soon, they're dropping left, right, and centre just for getting in his way. However, the question still remains: is his moral reasoning kinked or is he the only one thinking clearly in a world where murderers and rapists retain the same rights as law-abiding citizens?On the other side of this psychological war, the genius detective L proves to be a strange one, too - although not to the same level of fascination as Light. Judging him by his scraggly black hair, pale skin, and ferral posture is probably more favourable, since underneath it all he's rather hollow. He reveals nothing of himself except that he's a friendless eccentric with a child-like vulnerability the fangirls will like. Mainly, for his part in the chase after Kira, he talks about probabilities in exact percentages. 'Well, when I say "suspect", it's only about one percent,' he says with the deadpan certainty of a supercomputer. I just heard mathematicians everywhere wince in unison, but I'm sure his teenage viewers appreciate the general gist. In any case, he is necessary simply for the fact that, without his cunning interventions on the side of justice, Light's plan for world domination would be too easy. Moreover, despite his relative shallowness, he does end up delivering the best episode of the entire series.I could not close this discussion without mentioning Death Note's excellent grasp of suspense. It churns out in droves the kinds of edgy cliffhangers other shows could dream up only with the aid of drugs. While it handles these twists with the same regard for truth and logic as, say, Alice in Wonderland, it never forgets to do so in style. Viewers can thank the wizards at Madhouse for the outstandingly rich concept design, which thrums with hallucinatory overtones and brings to life some stunning set-pieces. I lived for those moments when Light delivered one of his crazed monologues, his eyes glowing red while behind him loomed shadows of a vast, empty, hellish landscape. Indeed, Death Note may not be cerebral, and its main characters are pure fantasies, but it's skilful and witty and packed with the kind of brazen spectacle an audience damn well deserves.
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