Death Note Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 7.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0168-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Death Note Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     September 22, 2005
Release Date: October 04, 2005

Death Note Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Writer: Tsugumi Ohba / Artist: Takeshi Obata
Translated by:N/A
Adapted by:

What They Say
Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects - and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god.
Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal... or his life?

The Review
One of the highly anticipated new Jump series poised to launch stateside, Death Note starts out strong, living up to the hype.

I can neither comment on nor grade the packaging as it is not available with this advance proof, but included at the end of this copy are two 4-panel omake comic strips that I hope make it into the final version -- very funny stuff.

Obata’s artwork is consistent, detailed, and attractive. Lines are smooth and fairly strong, and backgrounds are given plenty of attention. This title has a lot of solid blacks, shadows and a touch of the gothic, perfect for the dark and mysterious nature of the story. The contrast in character designs show great range; this is first and most easily seen comparing the unassuming, serious teenager Light and the frightening Ryuk, but it’s also illustrated by the different style and details given to adult and, sometimes, foreign characters. This characteristic is something I enjoy in Obata’s previous work, Hikaru no Go, as well.

SFX and in-panel text are translated and overlaid, as is the standard practice with all of VIZ’s Shonen Jump titles. As usual it is a superb overlay job, though this volume does have fewer SFX than I’ve seen in other available Jump works. There is quite a bit of panel text however, occupying such space as signs, computer screens, and entries in the Death Note.

Since this is an uncorrected proof I won't formally grade the text and translation. However, I will mention that based on what I see in this copy, coupled with the recent preview chapter found in monthly Shonen Jump, things look really good overall and will likely be so when the book is released next month. Aside from a few issues likely to be corrected, things read smoothly and I was able to get a real feel for the characters' tone and manner. There were some editor's notes in the margins of this copy that I hope remain in the finish product. I really liked the use of different fonts for the humans, shinigami, and even “L”'s computer voice-over; the differentiation is a nice touch.

Contents:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

The story opens with Ryuk, a shinigami (death god) who has grown bored with the meaningless existence of his kind. He drops his “Death Note,” a notebook in which the untimely fates of humans are written, somewhere in the world in hopes of finding some entertainment. Light Yagami is a top student and college-bound senior who seems perfect in every way; not surprisingly, it is he who finds Ryuk’s notebook. It appears Light also suffers from boredom.
Thinking it a prank, Light tests out the power of the notebook on a criminal he sees on TV, and is shocked to learn it’s the real deal. Light, who is already disgusted at the downward spiral of humanity, quickly begins harboring delusions of power and moral righteousness. And not long after, he develops a true god complex. In his quest to create a utopia where people live without fear, Light hatches a plan to start killing off dangerous criminals around the world. The police forces of the world unite and enlist the help of “L,” a super-sleuth just as enigmatic and brilliant as Light.
“L” issues a challenge that Light cannot ignore and thus begins the rivalry between the two. Light vows to find and eliminate “L,” the sole person who could possibly thwart his dreams of ruling over a perfect new world, while “L” promises to rid the world of this heinous mass-murderer. Throughout these early chapters Light continues testing the boundaries of the Death Note's powers, often finding new ones, as “L” begins to close in. However, Light has a certain advantage over his pursuer – his father is the detective superintendent of the Japanese National Police Agency! With access to NPA files and information, Light manages to stay a few steps ahead, but “L” is just as determined, and is never too far behind.

Part mystery and psychological thriller, part social commentary; this is some pretty heavy stuff.

I find Light’s character to be rather atypical for a Shonen Jump protagonist. It’s true that he’s got these pure ideals and a strong determination, and we’re obviously meant to root for his success, strung along by his charismatic intelligence and handsome exterior. But I actually found him scarier than Ryuk; a calm and serious demeanor does little to hide the disquiet inside of him, so clearly visible to us, the readers. His intensity and delight at meeting new challenges – how to kill without getting caught – is downright chilling.

There’s also a pretty serious narrative running underneath--one that speaks of the moral vigor, cowardice of humanity and the façade of civil obedience, among other things. However, it’s clear that both the narrative and the morbid beginnings of Light’s journey are only the background for what is truly the focus - the intellectual battle between Light and “L.” Their bitter rivalry of righteousness will be fascinating to watch.

Ryuk is an interesting character to me as well. His looming stature, bulging eyes, and gigantic maw of jagged teeth unnerved me at first, but he’s got a quirky personality, not unlike a carefree teenager, and it humanizes him a bit--if such a thing can be said of a shinigami. How and when he choose to impart new information to Light was telling as well, and I wonder just what kind of plans he’s got of his own.

While I’m not generally a fan of psychological thrillers in other mediums, Death Note hooked me almost instantly. The slick manner in which “L” deduces facts from the clues left behind and Light’s obsessive dedication to his cause intrigue me. I can’t wait to see what new tricks they devise to stump one another, and how well their strengths hold up. I’m also interested to see what, if anything, becomes of the social narrative.



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