Death Note: one of the most loved and popular mangas and anime shows in the world, created by genius’ Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. My absolute favourite anime show and potentially my favourite TV series ever watched. I really could not hold out much longer and, therefore, I had to review it.
I’ll start by saying that if you watch Japanese anime and haven’t watched Death Note, then, I’m sorry, you aren’t really an anime fan! But, this doesn’t mean you have to be an anime fan to enjoy this show. I know so so many who dislike anime and say it’s not their cup of tea but who have watched Death Note and still thought it was brilliant. Simply because it is.
Light Yagami is a seventeen year old boy genius student who one day comes across a notebook that has the power of killing anyone you desire so long as you know their real name and face. After proving it’s authenticity, Light subsequently attempts to create and rule a new world “cleansed of evil” as “God”, accompanied by the notebook’s previous owner Ryuk, the Shinigami God of Death. This new unique mass murderer is given the name Kira by the rest of the world, and so the incredible cat and mouse game begins between Light and world-famous detective known as L.
This is a top calibre show with an unbelievably original plot, maximised by the use of colour, characters and symbolism, with more impressive shots and “cinematography” than I’ve seen in some live action TV or films. What’s interesting is how Light and L are depicted in separate colours at times; Light as red, L as blue. They are polar opposites of the same magnet. They are the same, just have different opinions of what justice is and should be. The animation and artwork is striking; the detail in Ryuk, character’s eyes, the gradualism of Light transforming from teenager to young man, the distortion of colour and characters if they ever become out of their depth. All of it is stunning. The intelligent plot twists and turns keep you utterly hooked, including the exciting way they introduce us to new characters, human or otherwise, how likeable they are, and how one simple act can turn the plot on it’s head. I couldn’t get enough of the show.
It’s an ingenious but massively bold story too, as let’s not forget the topic at hand. Many TV shows would never dare be courageous enough to enter this kind of territory. The ethics of killing in such an unusual and casual way, causing so much havoc and chaos, and making you question “what would I do if I came into possession of a Death Note myself?” Light’s childish dream of ridding the world of rotten people and criminals that threaten society, could be argued as not childish at all, as many deep down probably think in a similar way? I’d like to believe not many would use the notebook if they had the choice, but the fact remains, most probably would, just not to the extent Light Yagami does. Even Ryuk comments on his unique way of using it “I’ve never seen the Death Note used like this before.” You have even shocked a Shinigami God of Death, Light.
Something that really helps heighten the quality of an animation are the voice actors; in the English dub, they are all faultless. Brad Swaile as Light Yagami is brilliant, sounding so ordinary like Light himself, yet can switch to creepy, seductive and manipulative with the click of the finger. Brian Drummond as the wonderful Shinigami Ryuk is gleefully evil and makes the monstrous God of death loveable. Alessandro Juliani as detective L is mine and everyone’s favourite and Juliani’s voice is very distinguishable, calm, one that gains respect, is powerful and extremely influential all at once.
Near’s voice has similar qualities, but is clearly younger, voiced by Cathy Weseluck. It’s interesting to learn that a lot of women are the voices of young boys in animation, because they often suit better and can voice the character maturely. For example, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, or Tara Strong as Ben10. I recently found out that Black Butler’s extremely British 12 year old Earl Ciel Phantomhive is voiced by a 30 year old voice actress from Oklahoma, Brina Palencia! The adorable Misa Amane is voiced by Shannon Chan Kent. Now I really like Misa, she is an essential character and Chan Kent is perfect for the bubbly girl. And, finally, David Hurwitz as Mello, who’s expresses the right amount of manipulation and aggression, showing his over-emotional nature, and who surely too, must have some kind of inferiority complex? Of course, there are many others, but these are the leads and/or the most crucial.
Without a doubt, the mysterious L is the most interesting character I have ever encountered in any TV show. He is strange but misunderstood and admirable too, determined to catch Kira. I felt incredibly attached to him, particularly when the half way point hits and the series takes a dark turn. Once the series takes this U turn, you are then introduced to two new characters: Near and Mello. With this introduction, you are given a small insight to where L came from, and these two are equally as fascinating. All have alias’: L, Near and Mello, all have unexplained pasts, all have their weird traits and quirks, all have insane IQ’s and deduction skills, even Near who is, what, only 15? Mello and Near are the two halves of L but enhanced: Near his intelligence and deduction, Mello his drive, focus and appetite (and I don’t mean for sweet things). Both opposite ends of the spectrum, and opposites of their own code alias’; Near being far away from humanity as possible in mind, personality and appearance and Mello being aggressive, violent and over-emotional. I could talk all day about the Wammy’s boys, but I won’t because of spoilers. But I enjoy speculating their origins and their real names fascinate me.
I know some don’t particularly love the series turn (around episode 25), but I think it was necessary. As Light gets older, the show gets darker, the colour and the music more vivid and erratic, depicting Light’s own state of mind. With the introduction of characters Teru Mikami and Kiyomi Takada to mix it up a bit, it will confuse and mess with your head just as the Death Note has done to Light and others. But stay with it, seriously, it won’t confuse you, you won’t look away, you’ll be hooked right until the ultimate gripping final showdown!
With a Hollywood live-action movie adaptation of Death Note confirmed, this isn’t the last we will see of the anime. Let’s hope they can do the series justice. By all means make it more mainstream, but don’t make it too “American”; let us remember here that it is set in Japan, Light (or Raito) Yagami is Japanese, as is Kira, as is the Shinigami God’s of Death and, therefore, the concept of a Death Note. All of it is Japanese culture and changing it would be criminal. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed, I have faith and when it arrives, I will be in the front of that queue to watch it on the cinema screen. Also, if any of the potential producers happen to see my blog, I will be willing to work for free on your movie!
This is how much I love this series, I was addicted because it’s 37 episodes of pure genius, Death Note is extraordinary TV and anime at it’s ultimate best. For it’s imaginative plot, characters, memorable impact, voice cast, animation and quality, it’s practically all mind-blowingly perfect. I’ve never been as far to say something is perfect, but Death Note, my goodness.