Book-Review: “Death Note”

asby Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Death Note is a Japanese anime TV series which is based on the identically named manga from Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. The original was published in Japan in 2006. The German version was published three years later in 2009.

The series takes place in the present in Japan and consist of 37 episodes which are all about 25 minutes long. It is known as one of the most popular anime series of all times and belongs to the genres detective fiction and psychological thriller.

The series tells the story of Light Yagami, a highly intelligent student who is bored and unsatisfied with his environment. Nothing challenges him, he doesn't have any real friends and as a consequence he is bored. He hates the world around him. In his opinion it is rotten, full of hypocrites and criminals. And he detests it. His father is a policeman and Light himself studies law to change this unsatisfying world. But an unlikely coincidence changes his life.

One day in school he looks out of the window and sees a black book falling from the sky. After school he walks over to the place where the book is lying. It is a notebook titled Death Note. Being interested, he reads the first page. It contains an instruction:

The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
This note will not take effect unless the writer has the subject's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the person's name, it will happen.
If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.
After writing the cause of death, the details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Though Light thinks it's a prank, he takes the notebook home. The temptation to try it is too big, so he takes his pen and writes down the name of a criminal he saw on TV. And he actually dies. Shocked and amazed Light tries it again with another criminal, who also dies. He realizes that the notebook is real and that it gives him terrific power. Since he is obsessed by justice, Light decides to use this new power and kill every criminal on earth to become the god of a new world where only those may live who he considers good and honest. He is convinced that he was chosen to obtain the book and that he alone has the strength to use it right and clean up the world.

So Light begins his work and writes down the names of criminals from all over the world. But he also goes to school as always to not draw any attention on him. For a few days nothing happens to keep him away from writing down names and the notebook's first pages fill up quickly. He always writes the names of criminals who were shown on TV and always uses heart attack as the cause of death to avoid any suspicion. But one evening his writing gets interrupted by the appearance of the notebooks' original owner. The Shinigami Ryuk, a god of death, who tells Light the truth about the Death Note. Nobody chose him to obtain the book and the only reason he got it is that Ryuk is bored too. The world of the Shinigamis is grey and empty, so Ryuk lost his book on purpose and wrote the English instruction to have a reason to go and spent time in the humans' world. But Light has already lost his sanity and doesn't change his mind. He has the power to change the world and nothing will stop him. He wants mankind to know that he exists, that he has the ability to kill them and that he judges them.

Even the fact that using the Death Note will cause him to never reach neither heaven nor hell after his own death doesn't scare him. He continues to write names, now under constant observation of Ryuk, who's curious about Light's doings. But the International Criminal Police Organization is alarmed by the extremely high amount of dying criminals all over the world and feels the need to do something, even if it seems to be impossible that a human causes these deaths. So it assigns an extraordinary detective.

This detective is very similar to Light in many ways. He's at the same age and he is also highly intelligent. Furthermore both want justice and both are really well in guessing other peoples mind and reactions. That man is only known as "L" and is very curious about this case.

Right at the beginning of the series "L" can confirm that Light, who's called Kira by the public, lives in Japan, somewhere in the Kanto region. But Light knows what "L" is doing since he has access to secret police files through his dad. Light is convinced that he is meant to become a god and that he can outsmart and kill "L". Both sides do anything they can imagine to reach their goals but both are extremely intelligent and great at manipulating humans. The whole affair turns into a stunning psychological war between Light and “L “ and only one of them can win.

In my opinion Death Note is by far the cleverest and most suspenseful series that deals with crime. No crime series or film I've ever watched did come even close to the level of Death Note. It tells the story from two different points of views, Light's and "L´s" and the viewers always knows what's happening on both sides. Yet both opponents' thinking is so complex and sometimes almost insane that there's no way to know what they'll do next. The cleverness and the amount of surprises and twists make the suspense unbearable and increase it with every episode.

Though it is an anime series it is dead serious and more fascinating than series with real actors. In addition it is very well drawn and creates an intense dark atmosphere. Almost all characters are interesting and well designed. Its quality is basically consistent and thanks to the gloomy visuals and the well fitting music and sounds it draws the viewer into its world.

Furthermore the story is very well told and also quite deep. The moral aspect is very interesting too. The series deals with questions like whether it is right to kill criminals or not and if humans may even judge others. But it lets the viewer form his own opinion and allows to decide who should win: Light or "L". I would strongly recommend watching Death Note since in my opinion it outperforms almost everything else.

Julius Lohse, S3

Bildquelle: www.freewebs.com

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