The last nine episodes of Death Note showcase the battle between Near and Light, and bring the series to its conclusion.
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!
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 finishes off in an excellent manner, being extremely well acted and well produced. With great performances throughout, in particular from veteran Brad Swaile who does an outstandingly believable job as L, I have to give a bit of time to commend Karl Willems for his excellent direction of this show. The dub is one of the best I’ve heard in years.
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.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
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 a maniacal Light takes stage on the right side on a black 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.
The final batch of extras don’t let us down from what’s gone before. We get the final two segments of the Behind the Scenes feature. The first (on disc 1) features Cathy Weseluck (Near) and David Hurwitz (Mello), both talking about their experiences in voice acting, how they came to work on the show and their characters and the approaches they took to playing them. The final segment features Brad Swaile (Light), Kirby Morrow (Teru Mikami) and Heather Doerksen (Kiyomi), discussing their characters and of course the finale to the show.
We also get the final two voice actor commentaries, for episodes 30 and 37, which continue in the same vein as the previous ones. The set is rounded out with more production art galleries which are always worth a look.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having thrust the story into a new direction in the last volume, I wondered how exactly it could all possibly be wrapped up in nine episodes. With the timeframe moved forward and some new characters introduced, would there be enough time to bring the series to its logical conclusion? Well, the answer for the most part is yes. More characters end up being introduced, but they’re all tools in the game of chess between Near and Light this time, and the series does a great job of building towards the end, even if the end itself is somewhat abrupt.
While it would be remiss to recount too much of the story of this final volume of episodes, sufficed to say Light’s plan reaches its grand finale as he thinks he’s about to take over the world. Soichiro, Light’s father, ends up putting his life on the line in order to get the Death Note back from Mello, giving himself the Shinigami eyes in the process. But it doesn’t end too happily, and perhaps the worst part of seeing Soichiro meet his maker is watching Light essentially let his own father die. His plan to get his father to kill Mello failed, despite being quite well thought out, but seeing his cold demeanour as Soichiro passed was disturbing, and another reminder that the main man we’re focussing on is a serial killer of epic proportions who, even though he thinks he's doing things for justice, has very questionable ethics indeed.
Nevertheless, Mello’s escape leads to another face to face with Near, in which there are signs that they could work together to catch Kira once and for all. One of the key things that can be seen from their encounter is despite their differences, they both just seem to be competing to find out the truth first. It’s not long before the US President decides to accept, but not condone, Kira’s actions which Light sees as a major victory. His plans are almost thrown out the window though when Near tells the task force that Light is his main suspect to be Kira.
With Aizawa leading the way as the most suspicious of Light, he realises that once again he must relinquish the Death Note and appoints a Kira worshipper called Teru Mikami to do his bidding. The old trick of giving up the notebook to lose all memories is somewhat overused, and a little bit cheap at this point, but Misa is once again reduced to not knowing anything about Kira’s true identity using this tried and tested method. Teru then appoints Light’s ex-girlfriend, Kiyomi Takada, as Kira’s new spokesperson. This seems a little odd, but fits in perfectly with Light’s plan and he continues to try to manipulate everyone, although everything always seems to fall into place for him in just the right way. The bonus here though is that he is fully suspected by Near, who knows he can’t just confront Light head-on but has to set him up properly for a downfall of epic proportions. The task force do their bit to help as well, with Aizawa doing a great job of figuring things out.
Realistically there are only really two ways to end the series at this point; either Light kills everyone he’s working with, Near’s crew and so on, and rules as Kira, the self-proclaimed “god of the new world”, or he dies in the process of trying to achieve what he wants. Given that he ended up victorious over L, and the need to give the series some sort of feeling of justice, I wasn’t too surprised at the outcome itself. The events leading up to it were well thought out, as you’d hope, although in true Death Note fashion they are somewhat long-winded and full of a few conveniences (not to mention reliance on knowing what the other characters would do). Still, it was pretty satisfying, and my only complaint would be that after the big events and all the explanations, there wasn’t enough time away from them for it all to sink in. It would have been nice to see more of an epilogue of sorts, but what we got was a fitting end.
In all, Death Note has been one of the most refreshing series I’ve seen in a long time. Having the villain of the piece as the main character is a very different approach to take, but succeeded in making us understand all of Light’s motives, no matter how unethical and unjust they were. Essentially the series is like two consecutive chess games. Undoubtedly the first, between Light and L, is the true highlight as watching the two battle it out and continuously one-up each other made for some truly exciting stuff. But with Light stopping at nothing to achieve his goal of “justice”, the Near-Light chapter sends things occasionally into even more extremes than before, as if the show is trying to outdo what went before. It can err on ridiculousness sometimes, but the show is over-the-top on so many occasions you can overlook it because the story and the characters are so well thought out and engrossing.
Even the supporting characters were generally fleshed out, with the likes of Soichiro, Misa, Aizawa, Matsuda, Near and Mello getting more than enough screen time to show who they are and what they’re really about. The production values of the series were top-notch throughout as well, with consistent animation and some good music.
Death Note has been a real pleasure to watch and review; as a show based on a manga series running in Shonen Jump you would be forgiven for expecting plenty of endless fights that last multiple episodes. But take a chance on this series and you’ll find that it’s very different indeed. Certainly, you can see its roots, but with the villain as the main protagonist, a finite story and one of the most engrossing tales of good against evil to appear in anime in the past decade, this is a show I’d have no qualms in recommending to anyone. As long as you can accept that for large portions the show will be focussing on a serial killer, and are prepared to see a different ethical take on things, this is a fantastic series that deserves a place in any fans’ collection. And special kudos to Manga for their fantastic releases that represent excellent value for money. Very highly recommended; give it a try!
Japanese Language (2.0), English Language (2.0), English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes with English Voice Actors, Audio Commentary for Episode 30 and 37, Production Art Gallery
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.