Death Note is the anti-thesis of most Shonen Jump fare. Instead of a long running series following a hero's tale fighting the forces of evil, we get a fairly short series following a Japanese high school student whose quest to create a crimeless utopia by use of a Death Note (a notebook which kills people) corrupts him into a mass murderer with a God complex. This review covers the last half of the series that conclude the L arc, and covers the entire final arc.
What They Say
Through the power of the Death note, Light Yagami is close to creating a world in which he holds ultimate authority over right and wrong. But many obstacles remain, including a second Death Note user who has his own nefarious goals, and the two brilliant proteges of L, the genius detective who once vowed to expose the identity of the Death Note's owner. Light is confident that he can prevail, but as the surviving players in the game converge for a final showdown, whose name will be the last one written in the Death Note'
I listened to this DVD primarily in Japanese with a spot check on the English TV track. The Japanese track is a notch clearer than the English track but it took a lot of switching back and forth to really hear this so there's not a big discrepancy between the two tracks. The tracks seem to be stereo mixed as there wasn't a lot of directionality. The sound is clear and there were no dropout or distortions in either track.
Done in 2007 by Madhouse animation the colors and video look bright and crisp, even within the slightly muted color scheme this series has.
The boxset itself is extremely simplistic but effective. Resembling a Death Note book itself the slipcase cover has the series logo is displayed clearly at the top in blood red while the packaging is a series of small screen caps superimposed over a black gloss. The back cover has the same design as the front with a little blurb centered in the middle, and content information towards the bottom. Removing the slip case is a digipak that folds out to hold each disc separately, and a little sheet that has the episode listings on it.
The menu piece begins with a little video montage that highlights scenes from the DVD while playing Light's dramatic 'Death Note' chorus. It then goes to a static gothic image where there's some mild animation in the centerpiece of thunder cracking showing quick glimpses of certain characters while an short ominous piece plays in the background (you probably wouldn't want to fall asleep while this is playing in the background.) All the setup option are clearly located on the upper and lower bottom on both sides on the menu screen.
Since these are the original discs put into a boxset these discs contain a slew of extras including English commentary tracks (which is rarity for Viz to have on their discs), production art, English Behind the Scenes, Live-action trailers from the movie, and the usual Shonen Jump line promotional ads. Viz gets extra brownie points for having the last disc having nothing but Japanese extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Death Note being part of the Shonen Jump label, as well as having been run on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is a very popular series. It has also had its fair share of controversy with people making there own 'Death Notes' (both here and in its country of origin). Despite this Death Note stands to be one of the more intelligently written Shonen Jump shows, but it is not without fault and this set feature a lot of shows strengths as well as its flaws.
The first disc is during the climax of the Yotsuba arc. In the previous disc when Light was put under heavy suspicion from L he underwent a very complicated plan to have the ownership of his Death Note given to someone else to take the focus off of him. This involved Light losing all his memories of being Kira, and as a result the Light we are presented with at the beginning of this disc is the uncorrupted Light who has yet to be influenced by the Death Note. Misa's (Light's girlfriend/jailbait/stalker/2nd Kira/ pick a term that best suits you) shinigami put her own Death Note in the hands of one of the members of the Yotsuba corporation. The corporation is unaware of which specific member it is but still undergoes a plan to eliminate their rivals in this fashion. So this disc starts with Misa infiltrating the Yotsuba, under Light and L's direction, group to weed out the killer. The remainder of the disc focuses on how the killer is captured and subsequently, thanks to Light's extensive planning and intuition, Light returning to being Kira and regaining his memories.
After the Yotsuba arc wraps up we return to the climax of the Light vs. L plotline. This is where the 2nd disc begins and we are treated to a beautiful episode that surpasses how these events were handled in the manga. The episode in and of itself is artistically gorgeous and a lot of the shots and atmosphere creates the tension in the air of the events occurring on the screen. There is even an added touch of religious reference in a original scene involving L massaging Light's feet (cue squeeling Yaoi fan girls about the 'other' implications this scene brings to mind) and asking Light to take his place if anything should happen to him. Of course then comes the kick in the teeth moment that removes L from the picture and ascends Light to a position of power that he uses to continue to manipulate his own world order.
Before the next arc gets officially underway we are treated to a nice recap to the events of the first boxset and the events leading in to the upcoming arc. Often times fans reveal that this arc pales in comparison to the previous arc which was more like the meat of the series. I, personally, see this arc as necessary to at least have Light's story come full circle with him more or less coming as close to 'god' before being utterly derailed. This arc also brings out some of Death Note's more flawed qualities. As Light is pitted against two of L's prot'g'es, Near and Mello, a situation is created that seemingly traumatizes his little sister and kills off his father. Light continues to manipulate certain characters to carry out his will as Kira and he is where I had to bang my head on the TV. Light being a genius obviously had the intellect and influence to get very far in his life. His motives to create a 'perfect world' could have easily been carried out if he tried to just climb up the social ladder without having to be reduced to killing people. His whole 'god complex' just comes off as a childish wish fulfillment fantasy and it seems that someone who started off the series as a well adjusted (possibly bored) genius would just put himself at risk of losing it all just to have his way.
This all comes to ahead in the last set of episodes where Light thinks he has everyone in the palm of his hand and therefore reveals himself as being Kira. Only his plans are thwarted by Mello's thinking ahead. What happens for the remainder of the episode I'll leave for those who want to watch this set to find out. I do want to give a slight commentary that Light's fate I preferred the manga version which was far more grim than what we got in this otherwise flawless anime.
Having Studio Madhouse at its helm as well as a relatively small episode count Death Note stands to be one of the better adaptations I've seen in a Shonen Jump anime. Its pacing is very well done and the viewer is never left bored or hanging. Even the conclusion is satisfying and makes up for the less intense second half of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 50' 52HMX95 1080P HDTV, Samsung HT-Z410 CD Player HDMI set to 1080p and a 5.1 ch Speaker System with 166-Watt Subwoofer.