Death Note Vol. #2 (also w/Deluxe Edition) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Death Note

Death Note Vol. #2 (also w/Deluxe Edition)

By Chris Beveridge     December 20, 2007
Release Date: December 18, 2007


Death Note Vol. #2 (also w/Deluxe Edition)
© Viz Media


What They Say
The net begins to tighten around Light when the enigmatic detective L brings in FBI agents to assist on the case. Light becomes rattled when he meets a woman who may have information that could lead to his arrest. But Light holds the ultimate trump card: the Death Note itself. Light needs to uncover her true identity and eliminate her before she goes to the task force. Then L raises the stakes by putting the Yagami household under surveillance.

With L closing in on him, will Light crack under the pressure?

Contains episodes 5-8:
Tactics
Unraveling
Overcast
Glare

The Review!
The cat and mouse game between Light and L intensifies as the body count gets higher and the deaths more creative.

Audio:
Death Note is a solid presentation from Viz Media that contains a surprisingly good pair of stereo mixes encoded at 256 kbps. Some shows tend to be a bit flat in their presentation or center channel specific but this stereo mix on both sides does quite a good job with its material. A lot of it is dialogue based alongside some music used to heighten the moment and it's all very well placed with an excellent sense of depth when required. The original mix really handles all of this well by providing some excellent atmosphere and presenting the show in a way that gives it more impact. We skimmed the English language version and listened to the entire Japanese language track throughout which we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006 and 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Viz doesn't get too many widescreen shows so I was curious to see how well this would come out. Death Note is done with a rather distinct visual style that will keep it from looking all shiny and new, something that works to its advantage in terms of story. The series is shot somewhat soft and with a filtered look that gives it some additional grain. Many of the scenes really feel like film and that gives it some wonderful depth and realism. Colors are generally quite good looking and without oversaturation but the softness keeps it from looking pristine, which is part of the intent. The main issues that crop up with it are partially source based as there are several scenes in which banding is visible in the backgrounds. This causes some additional noise there which in some cases turns into minor but visible blocking.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a touch more flair and color, this volume lets L take the center stage with his creepy look that's only made more so by the small bits of red that are brought into it. The logo is done with a bit of foil which gives it a bit more pop and contrasts well with the dark nature of the artwork overall. The back cover is very nicely done as it utilizes some of the basic iconography of the series with it being laid out using the Death Note instructions. The summary is contained here as is the episode numbers and titles along with basic features listings. The bottom portion has some production credits and a very minor technical grid that contains more logos than anything else. The reverse side of the cover, which can be found underneath the opaque keepcase, has numerous small shots from the show in full color. The included insert features a listing of each episode number and title along with some of the basic rules in both English and Japanese. It opens up to a two panel spread of Light and Misora.

In addition to the disc only release, there is a disc+limited edition figure release. This is really nice and a rarity for a single volume release from Viz Media. They tend to do LE items on their season sets of some shows so it's not out of the realm of possibility. The limited edition figure is identical to the one that came with the Japanese release as it features Light in great detail. Light doesn't have quite the dramatic effect that Ryuk does, but paired with him he comes across pretty well. The figure is of good size and the packaging is very secure and stable. The box is done in a theme that fits the show and it has one side that's devoted to talking about the show itself since the back of the keepcase isn't visible with it as they're shrink wrapped together. This package is the only place where it mentions that it's a nine volume series.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is appropriately done but it's extremely annoying as there is a fifty-two second lead-up animation piece with scenes from these episodes that cannot be skipped. I tend to go into shows not knowing much and I absolutely hate ones that show off a lot of the show I'm about to watch just before I even get to the menu. Making it impossible to skip through just makes it all the worse. The main menu itself is decent as it features the series name through the center design while ornate etchings frame the entire thing. Navigation selections are kept to the corners and brief bits of animation "strike" within it as lightning hits. The music and sounds are appropriately creepy and atmospheric which sets the mood perfectly. Navigation is quick and easy but unfortunately the disc did not read our players' language presets. It defaulted to English with no subtitles but it can be changed easily on the fly.

Extras:
The extras continue to play both sides of the fence as it deals with the original creative staff and the English language adaptation. The first extra is a nine minute piece that brings in the voice actor for L and the series director to talk about the performance and what they do to get it like they want. The next extra is a twelve minute piece that brings in the Japanese series director and the character designer to talk about the production, which looks to have been recorded after the series was completed in Japan. This gives them a chance to talk about it with a different perspective than those recorded during the shows broadcast and are fairly interesting. A series of production art pieces is included as well as an audio commentary for episode seven by the associate producer and the English language voice actress for Misora, Tabith St. Germain.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Death Note tantalized with its first volume as it worked through some of the initial setup and hinted at where it would go. Having read the manga series as it was released by Viz Media, there's certainly a good deal of familiarity with the series and seeing it come to life like this is very enjoyable. Even more fun is watching the show with someone who hasn't seen it before and seeing how they react to it.

While the basics of the series were established fairly quickly once Light gained the Death Note and Ryuk explained it to him, there are still quite a few unknowns about it that come about. Light, being quite the intelligent young man with an immense and difficult goal ahead of him, has come to realize that Ryuk hasn't told him everything he needs to know. Even more interesting for Light is that he's realized Ryuk doesn't know everything that the Death Note can do, as Ryuk is surprised at some of the things that Light does. When the Shinigami who holds the Death Note acts surprised and comments about some of the things Light does with surprise, you know someone dangerous is holding onto it.

The four episodes on this volume are something of a turning point for the show, which is a surprise considering how early on it is in the run. With the knowledge that the FBI has twelve agents in Japan hunting for Kira, Light is intent on figuring out who they are and eliminating them. That's had him putting himself at risk by meeting up with one of them, Raye Penber, and trying to orchestrate a situation where he can get his real name. While this is critical for Light to do, as it leads him down the path to removing his obstacles, it's an event that also reveals numerous key pieces of information for L to work through. Light is intense in his methods and making sue he doesn't make any mistakes, but L is the kind of opponent who takes even the smallest item and is able to extrapolate solid results from it. The two are ideally matched in their own ways and it is fascinating watching them play against each other.

In dealing with Raye, Light opens himself up to something unexpected. While he knows that he'll have to deal with L and his strategies based on what he does, Light is surprised when Raye's fiance shows up at police headquarters trying to get in contact with the investigative team. Misora has leads of her own that she's come up with and with a solid background as a former FBI agent herself, she's able to piece together things that L himself is only just formalizing. Light has had some moments where he's been unsure of how things are going, but there haven't really been any moments of fear throughout it, even during the bus-jacking. The arrival of this woman has given him pause because she's just as crafty as he is but far too trusting. His attempt to deal with the situation turns to the truly creepy side and only further cements the mindset of this young man.

While a good deal of time is spent with Light and Ryuk, we also get to spend a lot of time with L. With the situation changing regularly as Light makes his mark in the world, the investigation team that the police have ends up crumbling through the distrust that has been there from the start when it comes to L. This is actually a situation that L has been waiting for as it shrinks down the size of the team to a manageable number, a number that's also clearly trusting in L and the job itself. It's through this incident that L is able to bring in the group of five to his inner circle and actually reveal himself to them. The investigation begins to take on a new feel as the secrecy level grows more and the amount of information and deductive reasoning that plays out is far larger.

What proved to be the most entertaining about this particular segment is that we really get to see more of just how odd L is. Using the name Ryuzaki now, his mannerisms don't fit the preconceived notion of what the master detective should look like. If anything, he's far more symbolic of what they think Kira would look like. With his gaunt eyes, crouching style and even the way he holds a cell phone, Ryuzaki is a delight to watch just because he stands out against the norm, yet in a manner that doesn't feel unrealistic. Without the need to use the monitor/laptop as much anymore, he's a far more involved character at this junction which only serves to help the cat and mouse angle that's being played between him and Light. An angle that's really not clear on who the mouse is and who the cat is.

In Summary:
Death Note simply succeeds strongly in these episodes when it comes to the quality of the story and the animation. Everything about it just draws me in and the episodes feel like they're over far faster than they should be. The storyline goes through several changes here as it continues to evolve and each new stage is very engaging. While the cast has shrunk a bit, more players are brought in and the world still goes through the drama that Kira is creating. While I would love to see more of the worldwide psychological effect, the smaller picture we're getting with these characters is quite intense and entertaining, resulting in a show that's just highly enjoyable. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes,Voice Actor Interview,Production Art Gallery,Director's Commentary,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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