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Death Note (Desu Nōto) manga series first serialized in the weekly 'Shonen Jump' magazine in December 2003. It ran until May 2006, with 108 chapters in total.
Written by Tsugumi Ohba, with illustrations by Takeshi Obata, the series is incredibly popular, and its 108 chapters have been published in their entirety in 12 volumes in Japan. There have also two part live-action films released, an anime series, and last year a novelized version, written by Nisio Isin, was released.
This review is about volume 1 of Death Note, which contains the first 7 chapters of the story:
Death note centres on Raito Yagami (Light) a brilliant but bored high school student, who stumbles across a strange notebook, where he reads the line "He whose name is written in this book will die", which he naturally dismisses as a joke. However, when he gets home, he can't stop thinking about it, and decides to experiment with it. But, he's also worried that killing someone (if the book does work) would make him a killer, so he decides to look around for a target, someone who won't be missed. He hits inspiration while watching the news, and writes in the name of a killer who is currently holding several people hostage. He's then shocked by a newsflash announcing that the killer had died of a sudden fatal heart attack.
Armed with this information, Light sets out to become the god of the new world, writing down names of criminal as fast as they are convicted, helped (and sometimes hindered) by a Shinigami named Ryuk, the god of death who out of boredom dropped the notebook to the human world in the first place.
However, although Kira (the name the population give to the heart attack curse sweeping the prisons) is popular with some, the police aren't too keen, and enlist the help of a mysterious person known only as "L" to help catch the murderer. But how do you catch someone who can kill without touching – without ever meeting or speaking to his victims.
Rules of Death Note **********************
In order to understand the plot of this easily, its important to understand the basic rules Ryuk wrote down in English (believing it to be the most spoken language in the world) These are not the only rules – more of them are revealed throughout reading (and in later Death Note volumes, some of them are a lot of fun!) The rules written by Ryuk are the following: • The human whose name is written in this note shall die. • This note will not take effect unless the writer has the subject's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected. • If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the subject's name, it will happen. • If the cause of death is not specified, the subject will simply die of a heart attack. • After writing the cause of death, the details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Main Characters *********************** Light ****** Lights an unusually gifted high school student – in fact, he considers himself a genius. After finding the death note and proving its effectiveness, he also considers himself the ‘god of the new world’ and makes it his goal to eliminate all criminal activity from the face of the planet. You see a few flashes of his genius in this volume, such as the inventive measures he takes to hide the notebook, and the cryptic clues he leaves to test L’s abilities. He can seem quite heartless, but he seems to seriously believe he is doing a good thing. That said, he does seem rather petty, and doesn’t like anyone getting the better of him.
Ryuk ****** Ryuk is the mysterious, mischievous Shinigami (death god) who dropped the notebook to earth out of boredom. Despite gruesome looks, he’s not frightening, and I don’t think he’s intended to be. Nor is he evil – he’s just livening up a dull job. He makes it clear from the start that he doesn’t take sides, and seems to delight in being vague, finding great amusement in the many ways that Light tests the books powers, and often expressing his admiration for Lights courage compared to other humans he’s played this trick on. He’s also very clever- usually Shinigami notebooks if lost would cause death to a Shinigami, but he managed to trick his way into getting a spare.
L ** L is Lights nemesis – a mysterious detective who solves cases through a computer screen. He has immense brains, and is able to successfully trick light into slipping up a few times. He regards the L VS Kira as a bit of a challenge (Kira being the name the population have given to Lights mysterious killings) and is determined to win, at any expense, even if it means sacrificing another victim, and his anonymity prevents him from being a target.
Soichiro Yagami ****************** Soichiro is Lights father, and is the leader of the police investigation into the Kira Killings a fact which Light uses to gain information on the case and stay one step ahead. Soichiro shows no suspicion of Light, and seems to be a good policeman, hardworking and diligent.
Plot Depth ************ Death note gives you the basic plot outline in the first few pages, and then takes you into a plot thick with twists, turns, and mystery. You really get into the characters, and there are some pretty funny moments. It’s really very well written – and is interesting the whole way through where some manga volumes can be a little slow to get off the ground. It’s quite dark in places, cheerful in others, but certainly easy to get into.
Drawing style *************** I liked the style of illustration very much – clean lines, plenty of detail, and a LOT of character on the faces. It’s very easy to tell one character visually from another (which has been a challenge with other manga I’ve experienced, and the illustrations fit perfectly with the storyline and speech, with consistent good quality through the whole 200 pages. I also very much like the cover illustration, which you can see in the small product thumbnail.
Conclusion ************* I personally enjoyed it a great deal (the fact that I have all the comic volumes, the entire anime series and 2 movies should testify to this) however, I don’t think everyone will. Firstly, if you are not used to reading Japanese manga, the fact that the pages read from right to left, rather than the other way around may confuse you slightly, but is easy enough to follow if you are prepared. Secondly, the plot may be a bit dark for some – there is some violence, and a lot of death. It’s also very complex, so if you prefer light, easy reading, it may not be for you. For me though, the complex mind games between Light and L as they each seek to better each other are amazing in this volume, and continue getting better as the series progresses.
If the book does sound a little complex for you, perhaps look into watching some of the anime episodes. You can do this online for free, and I’ve put a link at the bottom of the review.
Madonna is apparently a fan of Death Note and has read the manga. Her favourite character is Mello, (introduced in later volumes) and this character was the basis for her look on her ‘jump’ video.
Price and where to buy. ************************** This book costs 4.04 from Amazon.co.uk, with cheaper copies available through the independent sellers.
Relevant Links **************** www.amazon.co.uk to order
http://www.animeviewer.net/category/anime-episodes/death-note/ - to watch anime episodes.
http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz2462551c31d10.html Already a fan? Complete this quiz and prove it!