Death Note

Vol: 12; Ch: 108
2003 - 2006
4.53 out of 5 from 14,991 votes
Rank #162
Death Note

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Top-ranked student Yagami Light is disenchanted with the world around him. Through a series of events, he comes into possession of the ultimate power over life and death: a supernatural "death note" which can kill nearly anyone at his whim. As Light sets off on a crusade-turned-killing-spree, investigators from a police task force try to stop the mysterious deaths - including Light's own father, a senior policeman.

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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.


My 500th Review! I've often complained about how the second half (ch. 59-108) of Death Note is a major disappointment when compared to the first half (ch. 1-58), but that's more a comment on how riveting the first half was than a knock against the second. In fact, I'd rate the second half as a solid 9/10 or even a weak 10/10. In other words, the first half was so transcendent that I could see myself rating the second half a 10/10 and yet still call it majorly disappointing. It boils down to the fact that the first half pulled off a battle of wits unlike any I think I've ever seen. The deductions and predictions that Light and L engage in feel impressive, but also reasonable. It genuinely feels like two equally-matched minds attempting to outmaneuver each other (as opposed to some stories where it feels like one side is clearly written worse). And while the second half does have Near making deductions, it also has fem just sorta happening across evidence (as in chapter 91). And in the second half, Light starts being way too incautious with using Kira's powers to find information that fe wouldn't have been able to find through normal means--and thus leaving a trail of evidence that fe is Kira. On top of that, the manga didn't even end with one side outsmarting the other (which feels vital in a battle of wits story); the winning side just got lucky. I also didn't care for how the final confrontation felt more like a game of chicken than anything, with both sides way too confident that they'd come out on top despite the other side being equally confident (they both think to themselves: "I know your plan and I'm going to win" in chapter 98). Light has a god complex--fe's overconfident and doesn't like to lose. It's somewhat interesting seeing feir corrupted mode scheming and bullshitting and stuff, but it was also adorable seeing feir bright-eyed, pure form from when fe'd lost feir memories. And I realize that this stark contrast was intentionally done to show how evil Light has become after using the death note, but I think it goes a bit too far with that. I don't see any reason why Light would treat women with respect and decency in feir pure form but see them as just pawns to be used and dumped in feir disrespectful form, especially since there are hints that Light's core values didn't change (see chapter 47). As for other members of the task force, I like Aizawa and Mogi the most, though I do find Matsuda and the Deputy Director memorable. L is an excellent character, especially after we see fem sulking and befriending Misa. I didn't really notice at what point, but at some point along the way, they start portraying L as having other quirks in addition to feir odd sitting posture--like fiddling with food items. It's kinda cute, but it wasn't nearly as cute when they repeated it and had both Mello and Near have quirks as well. I don't care for either Mello or Near, though I find Near especially annoying. The female characters are often just devoted and in love. They are meant to support the men in their lives and that's about it; this is their "happiness as a woman" (ch. 81). There are several instances of it being assumed that a woman will quit feir job to be a housewife upon marriage: Raye saying "Once we have a family, you'll be so busy you'll forget you ever were an agent" (ch. 8), and Misa excitedly asking "I'm retiring to become your wife?" (ch. 70). While this manga can be thought-provoking on issues like capital punishment and the nature of the criminal justice system in general, I think it has a very shallow portrayal of how society would respond. Yes, there is an aspect of humanity that demonizes criminals, so it's not entirely wrong for this manga to shine a light on that. There would be people celebrating Kira. But by focusing on that aspect, this manga has neglected to consider how strongly the more compassionate side would voice their opinions. Even criminals have people who love them, but we don't see any outcry from the victims' families or protests in the streets demanding justice. If people were being killed without due process, you'd best believe there would be constant picketers set up outside all the government buildings and possibly people rioting in the streets because of the government's lack of response. Also, this manga has a pretty shallow portrayal of how criminals would respond, simply saying that crime would lessen. But nobody commits crimes expecting to get caught; most criminals would just continue assuming that they'd get away with it. If anything, it'd just make them more desperate to not get caught, meaning they'd be more likely to get violent or resort to lethal force when approached by cops. I think there is significance in the final scene portraying Misa; I think it's a final puzzle for us readers to work out. And maybe I'm wrong, but I think the puzzle about Misa has to do with how long fe'll live, with what was said in chapter 27 being pivotal.


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.

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