What can you do when you have the power of life and death, especially traceless, unstoppable death, over anyone you can name? In "Death Note", Light Yagami discovers that despite his best (and worst) intentions, no real good can come of it.
Description: When Light Yagami, a over-intelligent and bored student discovers a "Death Note", the note book of the shinigami (or death god) Ryuk, he discovers that he can kill anyone tracelessly whose name he enters in the book. Using that power, he begins killing criminals, starting from the death row inmates and working his way down to lesser offenses, eventually revealing his plans to create a crimeless new world order with him as its absolute moral decider.
Most importantly, Light (known publicly as "Kira" which is short for the Japanese pronunciation of "killer") discovers that he can even somewhat control the events surrounding the person's death, including forcing them to commit whatever acts he describes in the Death Note so long as they precede their death by a short time. Light uses this power to force people who get too close to his secret to commit suicide or kill others who may also know his secret.
Of course the legal establishment does not appreciate his assistance, especially when he starts killing the police officers investigating the killings. That's when the mysterious detective known only as "L" comes to aid the investigation. Since Light cannot discover "L"'s name, he cannot write it into his Death Note, and since "L" suspects Light as being Kira but cannot prove it because he does not know about the Death Note, the two begin a cat-and-mouse game with the end game literally meaning the end of the loser.
"L" is as much an genius and loner as Light, and the two play their game for a long time, but in the end, Light discovers his name (with the aid of Misa Amane who also possessed a Death Note and traded half of her life for the power to see anyone's name and life expectancy) and writes it into his Death Note. Upon "L"'s death, Light takes over the investigation into Kira, but "L" was prepared for even that eventuality and left a timed message in case of his death.
Four years later, time is starting to run out on Light. Another graduate of the same orphanage as "L" comes on the scene, another, much younger, loner genius armed with "L"'s suspicions. Others now suspect Light as well. Light, on his part, starts grooming a successor (and possible scapegoat) but the plan goes awry and the police are able to substitute a fake Death Note which Light uses to try to kill everyone around him. When that fails, Light flees, trying to escape long-delayed justice, but Ryuk reminds Light of the fate of all human Death Note users, oblivion, and writes Light's name in his own Death Note.
Commentary: The manga series and accompanying anime series was extremely popular, even to the point of two Japanese live-action movies produced (one spent two weeks as number 1 at the box office) based on the series (and an spin-off movie based on "L") and an American movie in production. The manga itself sold over 26 million copies, and the English translation was listed as one of the top ten graphic novels for teens by the American Library Association in 2007. "Death Note" has also been the subject of a very large number of fan fiction stories.
On a darker note, there have also been at least one "copycat" crime and a number of incidents involving students possessing Death Note notebooks carrying names of their classmates. It has also been banned in certain areas of China for similar reasons.
Recommendation: Highly recommended. The battle of wills and wits between Light and "L", the philosophical drama of good and evil, of justice and vengeance, all play out here.