“Death Note”

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.

1 comment to “Death Note”

  • Ender

    Actu­al­ly in the ani­mat­ed series Light nev­er learns L’s name the shiniga­mi, Rem, kills L and his assis­tant Watari to pro­tect Masi from Light’s intend­ed betreyal. Rem gave Misa a death­note she uses meet her hero Kira/Light who had avangerd the killing of her par­ents. Because Rem action in killing L and Watari exteneds Mis­a’a life Rem dies…