No matter where I go or who I hang out with, I am usually regarded in my group as the intelligent type. This is due in part to the fact I have yet to fail a semester as well as I have enough sense not to do stupid things. As a result, one cold winter morning in high school, a friend of mine thrust about seven or eight mangas into my arms and asked me to read them to see if I could understand them better than anyone else had. Getting to my orchestra class and goofing off as I usually did, I found myself immersed in the world of Death Note.
I'll give you the cliff notes version of Death Note for the uninitiated. Death Note is a series in which a shinigami named Ryuk drops a mysterious notebook in the human world, the titular Death Note. Genius Light Yagami obtains said notebook and read the instructions. The gist of the Death Note is that any human's name that is written in the notebook will die, giving the author reign over when, how, and where a person can die. Taking use of the tool, he claims to Ryuk who he encounters later that he will erase those he deems unfit from the world and become God of his perfect world. The rest of the series is a game of cat and mouse between the police and Light in a battle of wits with a world renowned detective simply called L.
Death Note has a lot working for it from the start. The story is amazing as well as gripping since the way things play out at times, you are on the edge of your seat as you wonder who will catch who or what the consequences of an action may partake. Other times, you are trying to think up of ways Light can get out of situations when he finds himself in a corner. Using his intellect, he is able to get out of problems in amazing ways as he finds L might be a few steps ahead of him at times. You also feel a level of connection with each of the characters from the clueless Matusda to the rising pop star Misa Amane. But with a well-written plot, memorable characters, and a premise that blows other series out of the waters, there are some faults.
The first fault of the series is how big of an asshole Light can be at times. Over the thirteen manga volumes and forty episodes of anime, you can honestly see him change from a compassionate high school student who wants to help change the world to a sadistic and cruel leader who abuses people who call him friend in order to fulfill his goal. While this is an amazing character development I have seen few pull off, it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Not that its poorly done but there is nothing redeemable of Light towards the end of the series. The only people that would love him after a while are those who have crushes on him or draw yaoi pictures of him on Deviantart. I know he is supposed to be the anti-hero, but even some anti-heroes have good qualities about him. With an ego bigger than Duke Nukem's and a God complex, its a wonder he hasn't died from his own arrogance crushing him.
The second issue there is with Death Note as a whole is that after the climax of the series, it doesn't go anywhere. I can't say too much about the climax since some may not be familiar with it. However, due to Death Note's popularity, said climax may be the equivalent to knowing Rosebud was his sled and that it was Earth the whole time. I digress. The way the story moves after the climax of the series is overall boring and doesn't leave much for the reader to enjoy after that. Ohba and Obata spent eight mangas building up to the climax and everything towards the final scene feels like a flat line of forgettable scenes.
Here's my final word: Death Note is great. For those of you that haven't picked it up yet, you really should. This is the series that defines what making manga is all about. Even if you are skeptical, you have the dynamic team of Ohba and Obata illustrating and writing. You can't go wrong with those two. As flawed as it can be at times, you still should read it. It is an experience like no other that you will never forget.
Final Score: 4/5