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 him 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 he wouldn't have been able to find through normal means--and thus leaving a trail of evidence that he 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--he's overconfident and doesn't like to lose. It's somewhat interesting seeing his corrupted mode scheming and bullshitting and stuff, but it was also adorable seeing his bright-eyed, pure form from when he'd lost his 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 his pure form but see them as just pawns to be used and dumped in his 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 him 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 his 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 her 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 she'll live, with what was said in chapter 27 being pivotal.