Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why You Should Read "Death Note"

Did you know gods of death love apples?

Death Note was one of the first anime that I watched and it is one of the few anime that I have rewatched from beginning to end. The manga is also one of the few that I have read all the way through and continue to read whenever I want to relive the drama and tension. Today I am going to make a case for why you should consider picking it up too.

Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba, is the story of a genius high school student, Light Yagami, who finds a notebook labeled "Death Note" that includes instructions that claim that anyone who's name is written in the notebook will die, along with other rules. Light uses the Death Note to kill criminals, believing that he can become the god of a world without criminals and evil, even though his actions make him a supernatural serial killer.

These actions catch the attention of the world's police who are left to wonder why the world's criminals are dropping dead. Are the deaths murders? A coincidence? Or an act of God? A mysterious detective, known as L, figures out that the deaths are murders by a person with some kind of supernatural abilities, a killer that the world has called Kira.

Thus, a battle of the minds begins between Light and L. Both are trying to figure out the identity of the other and whomever's secret is discovered first will lose their life. They both issue different challenges and puzzles, until they most eventually confront one another head on, but instead of just ending, their confrontation is when things become even more interesting and dramatic.

Death Note follows the thoughts and actions of Light Yagami, the "hero" of the series even though his actions are barely heroic. Despite killing thousands, perhaps millions, of people, Light does so to rid the world of crime and create a utopia. 

However, Light also has a god complex and unflinchingly sacrifices hundreds of criminals everyday and sees anyone who opposes him as evil. Death Note shows Light's descent into madness and evil, but makes readers question if this is a story about Light's fall from grace, or if he was always a sociopathic killer.

Light's primary antagonist is the detective known as L. If Light is the hero of this series then that would make L the villain, but L's determination to catch criminals and devotion to justice aren't villainous traits. But L is also not very heroic since he will literally do anything to catch Kira, even putting the lives of others in danger.

Both L and Light are involved in a cat and mouse game trying to discover the identity of the other and challenge each other's supposed power. L proves that Light is not a god and Light proves that L is not as brilliant as he likes to think. They are both devoted to what they think is justice and have branded the other as evil. Light and L are two sides of the same coin and only one will come out on top.

Other notable characters include the police force that work with L to uncover Kira's identity and apprehend him, including Light's father, Soichiro Yagami. Out of all the characters in Death Note Soichiro Yagami might be the most noble and honest, but in a battle of deception and manipulation, those traits are a hindrance rather than a strength.

There is also Ryuk, the god of death whose Death Note Light uses in his crusade against criminals. Besides being the reason for the story's existence, Ryuk has no stakes in this story. He has no schemes and is not on Light's side or L's, but is just a casual observer. Ryuk was bored one day and decided to drop his Death Note in the human world to see what would happen. In a way, Ryuk is like the audience. Ryuk watches the actions of these characters and hangs around because it is all so interesting.

I also cannot forget Misa Amane, the second Kira. Yes, as the story progresses and L gets closer to proving that Light Yagami is Kira, a new killer appears. The second Kira is Misa Amane, a model who is completely devoted to Kira and uses her death note and other supernatural abilities to aid Kira. All Misa wants is Light's love, and even though her intellect and cleverness could rival Light's, her infatuation makes her an easily manipulated pawn in Light's battle with L.

There are other characters that appear later in Death Note, but mentioning them would lead to a huge spoiler which I don't want to delve into right now. Just talking about Misa Amane is a minor spoiler, but one that I don't think will hinder anyone's enjoyment of Death Note and just goes to show how complicated the battle between Light and L becomes as the series progresses.

I've used the word "battle" several times already while not mentioning anything about fight scenes, and that's because there are no physical altercations in this series. There might be one time that two character actually throw punches at each other, but it's more to add levity to the drama than to actually determine a victor.

I actually consider Death Note to be a battle series like Dragon Ball Z or My Hero Academia just without physical action. All of the showdowns in Death Note are of the mind and winners and losers are determined by who comes out on top after a scheme. The preparation for each showdown takes place in the minds of each character and the narration of the characters are almost like the strikes and blocks of trained fighters.

Narrations and explanations can be mood killers and end up being boring monologues, but in Death Note, these long conversations or inner thoughts make up the series' drama and action. It isn't until the end where schemes and twists become so complicated that the explanations take entire chapters to be drawn out that this technique becomes repetitive and boring.

If there is one thing that I enjoy about the art in Death Note, it is the subtle change in Light Yagami's appearance. In the beginning of the series, Light is a handsome high school student and toward the end, Light is sinister-looking and terrifying.  

So, if you're someone who like intense dramas that will keep you wondering or if you like something that will make you question your understanding of right and wrong, then I highly suggest reading Death Note. If you've never read a manga or watched anime before, than Death Note is a good place to start.

-Drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 
-Interesting characters that you'll either love or love to hate.
-Good introduction to anime and manga.
-Story and plot twists can get convoluted towards the end.
-Misa Amane becomes more stupid as the story progresses.

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