Death Note is one of the more well-known anime series, after it finished airing the series earned the Tokyo Anime Award for Notable Entry in the TV Category in 2007. The series is based on the eponymous manga by artist Takeshi Obata and writer Tsugumi Ohba. Both names that have worked also worked on other manga, for example Bakuman. Madhouse produced this anime, they have produced several well-known anime such as Death Parade, Claymore, Highschool of the Dead and Wolf Children. Death Note has inspired a lot of adaptations, among which the anime, specials, a live action movie and a live action mini-series of 11 episodes. Even now it is still popular enough to inspire adaptations, in 2017 an American live action movie adaptation will come out, titled ‘Death Note’ as well and directed by Adam Wingard. Due to this upcoming movie I thought it was about time for a review.
What is the Death Note?
The series is named after a notebook called ‘Death Note’. This isn’t just any ordinary notebook, it has the power to kill anyone who’s name is written down in it, as long as the writer remembers their face. There are very few Death Notes in existence, all owned by Shinigami or Death Gods. One day Ryuk, a bored Shinigami, drops his into the human realm. The Death Note ends up in the hands of Light Yagami, an A student with great potential. Light, like Ryuk, is bored out of his mind and, although initially he is sceptical about the validity of the Death Note, he soon grows fond of using it.
Light attempts to create his perfect world, but once criminals start dropping dead the police realize a serial killer is at work here. They assign the world’s best detective to the case, L, he is in charge of discovering who the serial killer is and how he or she is committing these crimes. L is an eccentric young man, a legendary detective, who is determined to unmask the killer. Both Light and L will pull out all the stops to achieve their goals, but only one can win this battle of wits.
Death Note’s genres are Mystery, Police, Supernatural, Thriller and Psychological. Death Note also brushes several subjects such as Justice, Shinigami, Crime and Death. These terms together create a good image of what this series is about and what to expect when watching it.
The animation in Death Note runs smoothly and the colours and designs fit the setting and moods well. The outro and intro songs reflect the story well, as do the animations shown. Personally I’m a fan of the second opening, the song ‘What’s up, people?!’ by Maximum the Hormone jumps out because of the style. It shows a lot of different characters and gives a general impression of them.
Introducing the God, the wannabe God, the detective and the blonde
Initially Light Yagami comes across as a pretty average student, even though he is clearly a smart and ambitious one. Quickly you realize he isn’t just smart, in fact he appears to be genius. A bored genius at that, who is disgusted with criminals. He seems to be pretty full of himself and asserts himself as ‘Kira’, the God of the New World. Light clearly has quite the ego and seems almost without doubt that he will outsmart everyone. The development in his character throughout the series seems realistic and is intriguing to watch. He becomes more desperate at times, due to the police’s pursuit and at times even seems insane. Light’s design is pretty simple, which coincides with him seeming like an average A student.
Being the Shinigami that dropped his Death Note into the human world, Ryuk is one of the main characters in this series. His relationship with Light is complicated, instead of aiding him he often watches Light struggle by himself to achieve his goal. Ryuk mainly acts like a bystander in this entire situation, unless it can help him achieve his own goals to aid Light. His goals include things like obtaining apples or getting a good laugh. Ryuk doesn’t really change during the course of the series, but in his case I wasn’t very surprised. This isn’t surprising because Ryuk has barely any investment in the investigation or Light, he’s just invested in himself. Ryuk’s design is extravagant and fits his personality. It fits him being a Shinigami as well, since he looks pretty creepy.
L is a strange character from the start, he is eccentric and mysterious. He has used a lot of aliases in the past and is known to be the best detective in the world. L keeps to himself and doesn’t reveal much about himself. He has a brilliant mind. One of the few details about him that is revealed is his love for sweet foods and the fact that he dislikes wearing socks. This touch gives him more of a personality, but he remains a mystery throughout the series. Even though you don’t know much about him, he is a fun character that surprises you with his knowledge. L’s design is pretty simple, although his hair and the bags under his eyes do make him stand out.
Enter the blonde girl, Misa Amane, a famous actress, singer and model who has a big crush on Light. She is one of the main characters, but isn’t introduced in the first episode. It takes a while for her to enter the story, but she is a main character nonetheless. She often refers to herself as Misa-Misa and is generally cheerful. She is a pretty gullible character as well, with a tendency to be hyperactive. You get to know Misa more and more as the story progresses. Misa stands out as a pretty girl who loves to wear cute clothes, her design is pretty extravagant. This fits with her background and personality.
The characters in this series are pretty diverse, aside from the intelligent Light and L there are a lot of side characters, among who Light’s little sister Sayu and his father Souichirou, who is a detective. Although some characters remain a mystery, they do seem well designed. In fact not knowing everything about every character seems only logical, since there are a lot of side characters in this series. Aside from that this series is interesting, in part because you’re trying to figure things out yourself. If they hand you all the information about every character it would make the series less fun to watch.
The interactions between the characters are interesting, they help put a lot more into the story than just the story. Light loves to use his connections and relationships in his favour. The battle of wits between Light and L makes the series fun to watch, especially since they do interact with one another a lot during the investigation.
Although it’s been a long time since I watched the full series, I still remember enjoying it a lot. For the purpose of the review I’ve re-watched small parts of it. I might be a bit biased, since I was enough of a fan to have L as my desktop background for five years and I bought an L necklace, but I do believe this is truly a good series. Most ratings, given by people who watched the anime, suggest the same. The characters are well worked out and their interactions are interesting. Personally I would recommend this anime to people who love the Mystery genre, but also to those who just want to watch a good anime series. I mainly watch Romance series, but I found this series very fun to watch nonetheless because it has an intriguing storyline.
If you liked the anime as much as I did, you might be interested in one of the many adaptations or the manga.
Started airing: 4th of October 2006
Number of episodes: 37