Death Note is turned upside down as dramatic events happen to reshape the series – as well as recap time!
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!
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.
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.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a touch more flair and color, this release feels a bit odd since the cover is given to a new character that you don’t know going into it. Near’s quasi-L look with the hunched over and large eyes provides some interesting parallels between the two and certainly works as a hook to draw the unaware viewer into the volume. The logo is done with a bit of red foil which gives it a bit more pop and contrasts well with the dark nature of the artwork overall. The back cover is well 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. The interior is really nicely done with a dark and evil looking illustration of Light and L together.
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.
The extras favor the English side a bit more once again this time which isn’t a surprise since it’s easier sometimes to produce new extras, especially for a big production like this series. The first extra is video piece that brings in another of the English voice actors to talk about their role and how much fun the show is. A series of production art pieces is included as well as an audio commentary for episode twenty-five by the English language director and the ADR writer.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume essentially marks the end of the second major arc of the series and changes the pace of things going forward. As such, this particular volume is difficult to review without giving away a massive amount of spoilers, especially since an entire episode is devoted to recap after the first episode that changes the direction of it all. So be forewarned that things get pretty revelatory going forward from here.
After the plan that Light had set in motion bears its fruit from the past volume, he’s now made his move to eliminate Ryuzaki from the game. It’s an overly intricate game that Light has played, enough so that you can imagine that it would falter easily at any number of points, but it’s played out exactly as he wanted and he now has Ryuzaki exactly where he wants him. He’s gone so far in his efforts to remove his obstacle that to actually back out of it now would completely ruin the series. With the sheer number of deaths that Light has caused, rightly or wrongly, not following through when he has Ryuzaki in his grasp would be detrimental to the character of Light. So when he makes his move, eliminates Watari coldly and then takes down Ryuzaki, it’s incredibly chilling and exciting. It’s even more so when Light cradles the dying Ryuzaki in his arms and gives him a look that plainly expresses who he really is, letting Ryuzaki die knowing the mistake that he made. It’s a beautiful capper to the arc since Ryuzaki first appeared and it only reinforces the brutal coldness of Light himself.
The fact that after this episode plays out, where the entire dynamic of the group Ryuzaki built changes dramatically, goes to a recap episode is enough to take some of the wind out of its sails. Less so in watching it in this format since you can skip through it easily enough, but it’s easy to imagine this being difficult during broadcast. That said, they do a good job with the recap in covering different aspects of the series revolving around Ryuzaki and the game of cat and mouse that was played. It’s not exactly a memorial to what Ryuzaki has done, but it highlights the kind of things he did and the trajectory he took in trying to discover who Kira really was and putting an end to things.
With Ryuzaki out of the way, where Death Note goes from here is a bit problematic since it’s wide open. The issue of recovering the Notebook itself comes up but there are elements that are now in play that Light wasn’t aware of. Having masked his intentions from everyone in the group, he’s able to take on the role of the leader of the group now when they find out that some unknown group has acquired the book after kidnapping his father and Sayu for it. When Light works towards figuring out what’s going on, this is when he discovers that someone else is operating in a similar structure to what Ryuzaki was doing. Getting into contact with him, this new person known only as N is able to figure out instantly that Light isn’t really L and that surprises the hell out of him. It’s not often that Light gets thrown in a way like this and seeing him scramble in reaction to formulate a new plan is entirely too much fun.
The character of Near is a bit unusual, though we start to get impressions of him and his origins as the two episodes that introduce him play out. The background story is one that provides similarities to Ryuzaki for obvious reasons as does the introduction of Mello, a fellow gifted youngster who is too emotional in comparison to the other two. While Ryuzaki plays down the middle, Near and Mello are on opposite sides so it’s easy to see why they would be paired. That the pairing didn’t take and Mello went off on his own operation is what compounds the problems that Light now faces in his quest for controlling the world. For me, this is the arc where Death Note started to fall apart in the manga as it went in too many unusual directions. Rockets with the Notebook attached to it, black helicopters running about and more organizations thrown in the mix? It does work in its own way, but it felt like the author had written himself into a box and wasn’t sure where to go and latched onto the first thing that seemed even mildly plausible.
There’s a whole lot to digest in this volume even with one episode given over to recapping parts of the last dozen or more episodes. The changes the series undergoes come from many directions as well as the first round of more detailed background information on characters like Watari, Ryuzaki and Near. There’s a lot of fun to be had as well, even simple moments like watching Misa strolling down the street in the late afternoon in her gothloli outfit singing a little song. The characters are all still fascinating to watch but the situations seem to be going in directions which don’t fit what we’ve seen before, and that takes it out of the familiar and into an area that doesn’t appeal in the same way. It’s still engaging, but with the change of things after the recap, you wonder if it’s the same series – just like when the Yotsuba storyline started.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes, Production Artwork, Commentary Track
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.