Death Note

I’ve been following an anime called Death Note fairly closely over the past month or two. I believe it comes on Cartoon Network during the Adult Swim segment after 10pm(CST). While I admit I’m a pretty big fan of anime, and watch as much of it as I can possibly stand, it’s not often I enjoy one as thoroughly as I have Death Note.

The plot appears to be a pretty straightforward boy-with-special-powers story. It started out as a manga, and I can just imagine the first one starting off something like, “Hi! My name is Light Yagami and I found this notebook that kills whoever’s name I write in the book. Here are some of the rules!”. Or some scene on the street with him witnessing a crime, and an internal monologue. Pretty standard stuff for manga.

I’m looking up a scan of the manga just to see how close I was.

Ok pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t start out like that. It starts out more like what one would expect from an American comic.

So the plot is this, a college student named Light (Raito) Yagami finds a book called the “Death Note”. The notebook is a powerful relic/item from the realm of the “Shinigami” (translated loosely ‘god of death’). It has one basic function: Whoever’s name is written in the Death Note dies. The writer can control the time and cause of death so long as it is physically possible. The writer has forty seconds to write cause of death, and four hundred seconds to fill in the details. If that doesn’t happen the person will die of a heart attack.

After experimenting with it a bit and proving to himself that the notebook is the real deal, Light goes on a crusade to ‘rid the world of evil’ by killing criminals who he decides should die. Because he is a genius, he does this in what he considers to be a clever fashion and thinks things through so he won’t get caught.

On the flip side of all this, once the murders are noticed, is a detective known only as L. L, we find out later, is about the same age as Light and has a serious sweet tooth. He’s also as much of a genius as Light is, which is no small thing.

It’s pretty cool to have an anime where the ‘weird crap’ is actually not terribly important to the story. The real story is the battle of wits between Light and L, and later two replacement detectives. Certainly the Death Note is a great plot device, but the story would be just as good with a normal serial killer and detective.

There are three live action movies based on the story, two follow the anime/manga loosely and the third is about L’s final days alive. I’ve got the first one, it’s pretty cool but they really should have got a white guy or at least someone taller to play L I think. The actor is good, but doesn’t quite fit the character in my opinion. The guy who plays L is spot on though.

I highly recommend watching it all. Hulu has streaming episodes here:

Honestly though, Death Note has some of the strongest English voice acting I’ve seen in any anime. Watch the English dub if you can. You’ll really appreciate it if you watch the movie with the dub as most of the voice actors are the same and nail their characters in my opinion.

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