Death Note Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 and Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe/Japan
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £14.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Death Note

Death Note Vol. #4

By Dani Moure     February 19, 2009
Release Date: February 09, 2009


Death Note Vol. #4
© Manga Entertainment UK

It’s all change in Death Note as a new protagonist comes to the fore, which doesn’t necessarily spell good news for L.

What They Say
With his memory recovered and Higuchi of the Yotsuba Group out of the way, Light can put his master plan into motion and march humanity closer to his perfect world. Then a new investigative force steps forward to challenge Kira - the SPK, headed by boy genius Near. Near's first plan of action: get his hands on a Death Note. And when Light's sister Sayu is kidnapped, it just might get him closer to his goal!

The Review!
Audio:
I listened to the English language track primarily for my main review, and noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical problems. Since the show is so dialogue heavy, most of the output comes from the centre channel. The same can be said of the Japanese track from the areas I spot-checked.The English dub is excellent and very well produced. The veteran Brad Swaile does a brilliant job on Light’s rather schizophrenic character, and Alessandro Juliani (of Battlestar Galactica fame) is great as L. Shannon Chan-Kent also makes a good impression as Misa. In general all the characters here are well cast and none sounded out of place.

Video:
Death Note aired from October 2006 to June 2007 in Japan, and as such looks really good. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the show looks great. I noticed no artifacting or any other problems while watching; in fact this was one of the best looking anime DVDs I’ve seen upscaled so far. The colour palette for the show is really fitting, and brings the manga to life exactly how you’d expect. Subtitles are in a yellow font which is easily readable, and I didn’t notice any obvious errors while watching. These appear to be the same subtitles that appear on the US DVDs from Viz Media, including the separate signs-only subtitle track.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus look really good. The main menu features some imagery in the background with the show’s logo and the selections down the left hand side, while Near takes stage on the right side on a red hue. Some dramatic music from the soundtrack plays over the main menu. Sub-menus are all static but the same colour and style as the main menus. Access times are fast, and overall the style fits nicely with the tone of the show.

Extras:
Yet more great extras appear on this disc. First is the next segment in the Behind the Scenes feature, running about 10 minutes. This has an in-depth interview with Alessandro Juliano (L) and French Tickner (Watari), where they discuss their work, and in particular talk about the show and the characters themselves, with some behind the scenes recording snippets.

Additionally, there is the latest voice actor commentary (for Episode 25), which is well worth a listen even if it doesn’t go into too much detail about the show. To round things out, we get a production art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After watching the first episode of Death Note on this truncated volume, I was pretty surprised. My jaw wasn’t quite on the floor, but I didn’t exactly see it coming. The battle between Light and L, or at least the battle as it has been since the early stages of the series finally comes to an end.

L begins to have flashbacks to his childhood, while the Kira case takes another turn with both Light and Misa free. A flurry of killings leads L to suspect Misa, but Light’s clever planting of the fake rule about having to use the Death Note every thirteen days keeps him from pursuing it too much, even though it is actually Misa’s doing at Light’s request. It’s all part of Light’s plan to succeed in getting rid of everyone that is standing in his way, and he executes it well, as always.

Rem soon realises that by getting Misa to do the killings, Light is sure that she will be the one charged with being Kira in the end, and so he is expecting Rem to write L’s name in the notebook to kill him, which would also get rid of Rem. As if there was never any doubt, events begin falling into place and after a dramatic one to one about friendship between Light and L, that shows the lonelier side of L once more, L announces that he wants to test the thirteen day rule. Before he gets the chance though, Watari is struck down and the events are set in motion that lead to L’s end.

Of course, the big question after these events is where do things go from here? L and Watari are now out of the picture, and without his nemesis Light is almost left to run riot. All the data on the Kira case is apparently gone as well, but the biggest point is that the rather abrupt deaths signify the end of what was effectively the heart and soul of the series until now – the battle of wits between Light and L. It does actually feel like it comes a bit early as well; although it doesn’t seem unnatural to happen now, given everything that’s happened and the sequence of events, it just seems a little abrupt when it actually happens. But still, it does provide an interesting hook knowing there are several episodes left to go, and we still need to know the fates of all these characters.

Unfortunately things suddenly go a bit downhill, as the next episode is partly a recap episode. Though it’s the logical point for a recap, the bad thing about this is that it takes away all the momentum that the previous episode’s ending built, and comes on precisely the wrong volume for Manga – the one where the episode count halves from eight to four. So instead of the usual eight episodes of new content, we get just three and a half, and it doesn’t feel like enough at all. I really think there could have been some better planning here to ensure that it didn’t happen in this way.

Nevertheless, it is what it is and it doesn’t take away from the turns in the story that take place here. With L out of the picture, Light’s delusions of grandeur continue in a major way. He literally thinks he has become king of the world and nothing can touch him now, so much so that he becomes a part of the police force, effectively taking L’s place. Kira’s killings now continue at a phenomenal rate, and the world is beginning to accept his killings. Until, that is, several years later when two young men enter the picture: Near and Mello. The two are effectively groomed as L’s successors, with Near being very laid back in much the same way as L, and Mello being far more competitive and similar in personality to Light.

Near is eventually chosen as the true successor for L, which leads Mello to do all he can to try and outwit the boy he lost out to and solve the Kira case himself. It all leads to some interesting situations, with Light’s sister being captured and held hostage by Mello and his group of cronies, and Light himself being forced to team up with Near, once again the very person who is supposed to be trying to catch him.

The changes in these last few episodes are a lot to take in, especially after what happened in the first episode on the disc, but I do find myself intrigued by the direction the show has taken. So far, the rivalry between Near and Mello isn’t on the same compelling level as Light and L, but having those two as rivals with Light on the outside and forced to interact with both does add a new dynamic to the series which will be interesting to explore. One thing I do hope is that L is revisited in some way, as I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the closure he got, but overall the turn the series takes definitely sets up an interesting finale.

In Summary:
This volume of Death Note brings about a lot of change; the conclusion of the major story arc of the series followed by the beginning of another which will no doubt run to the end of the series. Unfortunately, the flow of the disc is marred somewhat by the change in structure and the breakdown of episodes here; it definitely feels as though it could have been handled better. Nevertheless, the story itself is what has always been the show’s strongpoint, and it is certainly the strength of this disc. This volume is a must buy if you’ve come this far, because even if you don’t like the show’s new direction, you owe it to yourself to see the conclusion of the Light vs. L story.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0), English Language (2.0), English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes with English Voice Actors, Audio Commentary for Episode 25, Production Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
mbeckham1 2/19/2009 8:18:19 AM

I've been extemely impressed with both Brad Swaile's take in Light and Alassandro Juliani's L.  Sawile's voice embodies both the feigned innoscence a even naivitey and earnestness that Light shows his family and his fathers teamand thre cold blooded calculation and diresgard for lives even nes lose to him and meglomania of his true self in his internal monologues and his talks with Ryuk, all with equal conviction and sincerity, making the sucess of his deceptions all the more believable.  

While Juiliani's L inhais Ls sense of disconection. Like he's observing everything from a distance or recalling a story about other p0eople.  Even when he's contemplating his own death.  And fit with the idea of seeintg the world as a child might, without preconsception, whuich is why he is able to navigate nto the world o the supernatural and expansd his theories o accept qwhat would ot be thought possible, discernng the Notebooks Rules before he even knew there was one.

Near and Melo provide interesting alternatives to L, but the real focus and interest of the post L series isLight's increaing cionfidence and willingness to use and discard those closet to him.  The evolution of his character without Lis what highlights the signifigance of Ls character.  In some ways Light needed L as much if not more so than needed Light. 

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