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- Story and Art by: Takeshi Obata
- Publisher: VIZ Media
- Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
Death Note Vol. 1
By Janet Houck
May 25, 2007
"Death Note Vol. 1" by Takeshi Obata
© VIZ Media
I had put off reading or watching Death Note, as everyone under the sun seems to be singing its praises. However, I finally decided to put down the cash and see if it really is a masterpiece, and I have to report, yes, it is.
The set-up is tailor-made for film. Ryuk is a shinigami, and not the cute sort of death god that we normally see in manga. In fact, he looks like a cross between a murlock from World of Warcraft, The Joker and one of the Nobody enemies from Kingdom Hearts 2. Anyway, one day, out of boredom, he leaves two Death Note notebooks in the human world. The Death Note allows shinigami to write in the name of a person with an image of that person in mind, and they will die of a heart attack, unless the cause of death is specified. The book also works for humans, but for a price. What is exactly this price is unknown, but I have a sneaky feeling that it might be becoming a shinigami upon death, doomed to neither heaven nor hell for eternity.
In any case, one of them is picked up by Light Yagami, a seventeen year old genius student. He is immediately suspiciously of the book, with its instructions carefully written out in English, but he soon gives in to the temptation to try it out on a man on the TV, wanted for murder and taking a nursery school hostage. The death occurs right on time, and thus Light starts his killing spree of eliminating all the criminals in the world and eventually becoming the leader of the world. Ryuk accompanies Light as a neutral spectator, merely enjoying the show that Light is putting on. Using the Internet to search for names and photos of criminals (as well as the police’s own databse), Light diligently writes in names during the scant time he has between school and studying.
However, Light doesn’t go unopposed for long. Interpol has an emergency summons, and a mysterious genius detective only known as L, who has solved many impossible cases before offers to lead the case against Kira, the name that Light is idolized under on the Net. As no one knows who L is or what he looks like, he is safe from the Death Note. Even the police can only contact L through his agent, Watari.
The volume then takes a turn as Light and L begin their game of trying to outwit each other, while Light tests the abilities and range of the Death Note on his cache of spare criminals.
Death Note never lets the story stall, not even for a page. The story has many surprise turns, yet they never feel like they come out of left field. Even the exposition pages are interesting, as we learn about the Death Note alongside Light. This frantic pace will make you want to immediately pick up the next volume, and at a lower-than-usual price, Death Note is a great entertainment value. The artwork is very darkly toned and crisp, fitting the mood perfectly. Ryuk looks like a nonhuman monster, and Light looks so ordinary that it just serves to emphasize the monster within.
If you enjoy detective mysteries and putting together clues, you’ll definitely like Death Note. Even if you don’t, at $7.99, this is a great book to give a try. It’s not for people adverse to massive amount of death, but then again, with a name like “Death Note”, what did you expect?