Completely bored with his everyday life. Straight A high school student Light Yagumi is about to experience excitement he has never dreamed of. After class, Light comes upon a black book lying on the ground titled Death Note. The user instructions describe if a persons name is written in the book, then that person would die from a heart attack in a certain amount of time.
After testing the book on an armed man during a hostage situation. Light learns that the book is far from a hoax. Now with the new power that was given to him. Light embarks on his one man quest to change the world. His plan is to rid society of all criminals, and make himself the God of the new world.-summary
I like to think of Death Note as the anime series that surprised me. Not only in terms of sheer quality because there are some outstanding series in the anime world. But it's one of the most insanely over-hyped series that reminds me of Akira and Elfen Lied by the way it's praised, and the strange thing is unlike the other two aforementioned titles, Death Note actually lived up to its hype for me. I was amazed by it, and I pretty much thought it was an overall success. When I was done with the anime series, I recalled fans mentioning the differences between the anime and the manga, and some even felt that the anime was held back. In this case, I thought only of Akira. After reading the manga series I saw what the fans meant, and it did prove to be a better overall experience.
Written by Tsugumi Ohba, Death Note is a 12 book manga series that follows high school student Light Yagami, who seeks to rid the world of all criminals by killing them. His actions almost appear to be god-like, and the public soon begins to realize there's someone passing righteous judgment, in which, this earns him the name "Kira" (Japanese for killer). Initially, the public aren't exactly vocal with their opinion on the situation, but are secretly cheering his name, and soon they would become vocal and even accepting on who he chooses to pass judgment on. Although Light's intentions may seem noble, some people out there had conflicting views of the path he's chosen.
The police department are being lead by a super detective named L, who are among those that disagree with Light, and he vows to catch Kira at any cost. This soon begins a sheer battle of wits between the two. It becomes a game of cat and mouse, or better yet, a friendly rivalry to the death, because the first person who screws up will lose their life. Should Kira learn L's real name, then he will write his name in the Death Note killing him. If L happens to learn the identity of Kira and present solid proof that he is indeed the killer. Then Kira will be killed for his crimes, or if he's lucky, be forced to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The plot features a heavy amount of suspense and mystery; plot twist run rampant and the reader will find themselves gripped to the point, where he/she may actually want to skip pages, and this isn't due to boredom either. Instead, that's how well the suspense works and it will be killing you quite often. Character development is another element that Ohba works to near perfection. I have seen plenty of anime series that features a very strong cast, and I would say Death Note ranks somewhere in the top. Off the top of my head, I would say it's overshadowed by Neon Genesis Evangelion and Visions of Escaflowne. The main characters Light and L have some amazing chemistry, while most of the side characters are well developed also, and some of them do not fill the role of typical foil characters, quite the opposite, they play imperative roles in the overall story.
The writing in Death Note runs far deeper than its characters and thriller elements. It also presents quite a bit of thought provoking material as well as several themes that are handled with care. Ohba attempts to press the reader's buttons, by forcing you to question your own morals and ethics. He plays with the silent feelings of man, and questions the existence of God, by giving the people a god they know for a fact is there and watching. He even puts the publics faith in God against the almighty dollar to see who wins. Although the story of Death Note is indeed fictional, it's not too far away from our own world.
Death Note could have truly been the masterpiece that so many claim it to be in both anime and manga form. Unfortunately, it does have its flaws that appear later on in the series. Certain annoying characters may receive way too much face time, or the plot would be pushed in questionable ways. The story never becomes bad or unreadable, but these problems are very hard not to notice.
The series has some stellar artwork for the most part, with some variety between the character designs. The attention to detail is sharp; from facial expressions that can display the characters feelings without the use of extensive dialogue, or any dialogue for that matter, to the easy identification of Hershey chocolate bars. There are also some death scenes that are rather graphic and can be quite disturbing.
One of the features of the book worth noting would be the panel by panel format. Some manga are so clumsily put together, that the dialogue bubbles can sometimes seem misplaced, and when multiple characters are on a page, it's sometimes difficult to tell who is talking. This clearly isn't the case here. I had no trouble distinguishing who was actually the speaker.
Now for the difference between the series and manga. The anime series actually did cram a whole lot during the second half, and as a result it suffered from rushed character and story development. The two characters who suffered the most here were Near and Mello. However, in the manga, they are far better developed and their motives for catching Kira are made very clear. The manga plays exactly like the anime until volume 8. Therefore, if someone really is interested in reading the manga, then they can start there for a different experience.
This box set comes with all 12 books as well as a 13th book called How to Read. This is basically a who's who, that tells something about the characters, from the main human characters to obscure Shinigami. This is something only valuable to a serious fan, as it did absolutely nothing for me. The box set comes in a cardboard box with a handle on the top. The exterior is blanketed all around with some nice artwork. At the top of the box is a flap that is being held in place by velcro underneath it. When pulled from the top, the front of the box opens up like a jaw bridge, and the books are stacked up side by side to each other, with the 13th book separated from the others by a piece of cardboard. The books sit tightly next to each other but they can sometime be a bother to get out.
Overall, this is a very solid collection and I recommend this to any serious anime or manga fan. The best thing about Death Note is that you don't have to be an anime fan to enjoy the series. The intricate storyline and fantastic character development can draw in just about anyone. It may not turn a non fan into a fan, but they will probably come away calling it a good series. To brand new fans, I recommend going into the anime series. But if you prefer reading, then this series could be worth your time.
-Very interesting main characters
-Suspense and thought provoking themes
-Very good artwork
-Several writing issues
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