Light Yagumi is a straight A student with a normal life, which he soon becomes bored of. He finds a black book titled Death Note. The instructions to the book explains that if a persons name is written in the book, they will die in a specific amount of time. Curious and also in serious doubt. Light gives the book a test run on a criminal and realizes it's far from a hoax. He then decides to rid the world of all criminals, with intentions on making the world a better place with him as the God. The government soon becomes involved, and they enlist the services of a detective named "L" to stop him. This begins a battle of wits between Light and L, where the losers life is at stake.-summary
Based on the manga written by Tsugumi Ohba, Death Note is the story about a young man who believes he can change the world. This soon begins a duel of wits between two geniuses, which gives birth to the most memorable cat and mouse game I can remember. Director Tetsuro Araki did an excellent job following the manga for quite some time, but I will not judge the series based upon how accurately it followed the original source material. Instead, on its own merit, and how good or great I think the series is.
I have seen several anime which has grabbed my attention and held it for some time. However, there hasn't been many as gripping as Death Note. The interactions during the battle of wits between Light and L may be the best I have ever seen. The cat and mouse game between them is incredibly well written. The two utilize very intelligent and precise guesswork to out think the other. This results in a plot that never, ever, becomes boring due to its constant suspense, and numerous plot twist which are delivered to further enhance the story.
Death Note is mainly a character driven anime. Therefore, character development is delivered in bundles, and the personalities of Light and L are clearly what carries the show. Despite being overshadowed by both Light and L, the side characters are still well used, and are developed as the show progresses. No one is really left out or reduced to a mere plot device during this first chapter of the series.
One of the series strong points has to be the possibility of the viewer being stuck on choosing a side. Even though Light may appear to be a misguided person with a twisted sense of justice, it's hard to argue against his point. While on the other hand, L believes no one should take the law into their own hands, because the law is still the law, whether it's perfect or not. Both of these characters are very likable because they're drenched in charisma. I definitely had conflicting loyalties when it came down to cheering for one or the other. The characters of Light and L are that good.
Death Note is an anime that does play on ones emotions, and at times can also question ones humanity. The series expolits several themes; such as the corruption when given great power, faith in a higher power, silent feelings of man and ambition. The series accurately examines these themes through the characters actions, as well as the publics way of thinking. The writing is just incredible, and I often thought what my actions could be if I ever came into contact with such power.
The voice acting for both languages surpasses the narrative because I believe it to be flawless. The voice acting brings out the absolute best in the characters by capturing all possible emotions. For both languages, I will say this is the most well rounded cast I can remember where the chemistry can be felt with such intensity. The voice actors clearly feel their roles with the best performances by Mamoru Miyano(Japanese) and Brad Swaile(English), who both play Light Yagumi, as well as Kappei Yamaguchi(Japanese) and Alessandro Juliani(English) as L. I don't believe this is an exaggeration, but I haven't been this impressed with such incredible voice acting since Visions of Escaflowne and His and Her Circumstances.
Studio Madhouse delivers in the visuals department, with vivid animation that also adds to the series greatness. I never thought watching someone write in a notebook or eat potato chips could look so cool. The animation is blended with 2D and CG, which results in some stylish scenes, plus the camera work also brings out the best, with well timed zoom in close ups, that ranges from lip movements to the writing with a pen. The animation is simply a joy to watch.
The character designs are given the same treatment, and the characters are given a mature look, but I feel Misa Amane's gothic lolicon appearance hurts the show at times. The artwork consists of some incredible backgrounds, and it shows its range numerous times by dabbling between the dark and light moments. There is rarely a bad moment concerning the visuals. However, later in the series, there are some noticeable and inconsistent spots in the artwork, but I'll address that later.
The soundtrack which is delivered by Yoshihisa Hirano must be credited. At times it brings a bit of eeriness to certain scenes enhancing the atmosphere. Before I saw this series, it had actually been a good while since I heard a BGM so well used. Every song captures the mood or situation just right. However, for some reason I could never get into the opening and closing themes. They seemed to lack the same flair and never really appeared to fit properly.
Overall, this is a great first half that contains all of the elements to construct a spectacular thriller. Death Note is an exciting series that can more than likely appeal to casual and new anime fans. The series doesn't contain serious graphic violence or sexual situations. The foul language is nothing serious either. It's also not an action series. Therefore, those who only crave over the top action are better off avoiding it. This first season set contains the first 20 episodes with a 500 minute runtime.
-Fantastic visuals, atmosphere, story, plot, characters, suspense, voice work and BGM
-Misa Amane grates on my nerves, loses a tad bit of focus later.
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