With L firmly dispatched now, Light has to face the new challenge of Near and Mello head on.
What They Say:
When Mello realizes that he may be Kira's next target, he bursts into the SPK headquarters to retrieve a picture of himself - and gives Near a piece of information that may prove to be an invaluable advantage: some of the Death Note rules are fake. With this information in hand, Near's suspicions of the task force, and Light in particular, become certainties. Now that he's in the spotlight once more, Light decides it's time to recruit some new disciples...
Contains episodes 29-32:
What We Say:
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 installment is pretty nice as it has the decidedly crazy looking Mello on it with a gun in one hand, chocolate in the other and the notebook in his lap. It’s the perfect look for him at this stage of the game. 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 Near and Mello with a yellow/orange background.
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 thirty by the English language director and the ADR writer.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third and final arc of Death Note is moving right along with this being the second of three volumes and it fares better than the first one did. That opening set of episodes felt too jumbled at times with it introducing new characters and shifting the narrative, especially after they had a recap episode in between the two arcs. With the basis for things introduced though, these episodes fly by as Light has to cope with his new challenge.
The main problem that this arc has is that without the infamous L that we’ve had for so long, there’s some natural resistance to having a new one with Near and Mello. Having Light take on the role himself in order to further his goals makes sense, but when you swap out one half of a cat and mouse game with a different participant, it can change the feel dramatically. Sadly, Mello comes across as an unhinged character that only offers unpredictability while Near feels like he’s an L wannabe who has some of his genius but not his experience in the field. What works to Near’s advantage is that Light has gotten a bit uncertain in how to approach dealing with the duo since there are so many more variables in play now.
Where a lot of the confusion lays is in the way the notebooks are being handled all over the place, the changing memories of the holders and the way the situation has turned global. With Mello holding onto one of the notebooks, Light is intent on getting it back and using the things at his disposal to do so. What complicates it is that the notebooks actual owner, Sidoh, is on Earth searching for it. It’s admittedly amusing when he confronts Ryuk about it and Ryuk plays dumb a bit, telling him to go look for it himself since it’s out there somewhere. Sidoh’s not exactly stupid though and he hangs around Light enough to figure out what’s going on and takes advantage of the situation in Los Angeles when the details become known.
The whole situation takes a rather disturbing turn as Light’s father takes a very active hand in getting the notebook back. After becoming responsible for it leaving the task force, he’s gone to the point where he’ll give up his life to get it back and is actively making deals with the shinigami in order to make it happen. As it plays out, there are revelations made along the way that helps to cement Light’s innocence in things, but what it really points out more than anything else is just how cold Light is as his father goes through this. The things that Light gains during this event is certainly important, but the losses are things that he won’t likely ever realize no matter what happens. He’s so singularly focused on his end goal now that what he gives up along the way no longer matters to him.
When the show shifts its focus back towards the sparring between Light and Near, it has a familiar feeling to what we’ve seen before when Light and Ryuzaki were going at it before they actually met. With only their voices being used, no visuals beyond the letters that they’ve taken on, they have to infer and wheedle information out of each other in sometimes subtle ways so they can determine the best course of action to take. Near is convinced that Light is actually Kira and he’s doing his best to create a wedge within the Japanese Task Force in order to expose him. But Light has managed such a deft job of protecting himself there, and earned the trust of many after so many incidents, that it’s not an easy bond to break. But watching it play out, especially as they begin to investigate him anew in a mild way, is fun since it begins to push Light to take new measures to protect himself.
What actually proved to be the most interesting aspect of this volume is the way that a worldwide “cult” of Kira is really growing. With crime going down and events starting to overtake what Light himself is doing, he’s working a secondary plan to make sure things go as he wants. That meant the recent arrival of the notebook to Mikami, a prosecutor who has a real sense of justice to him and fits in perfectly with what Light wants. In fact, he views Kira as God and God has chosen him because his beliefs are the same. Mikami doesn’t approach this with a religious zeal, but as we see from his past, his beliefs are that these are things that must be done in order to right society and move mankind forward as a whole. His past is certainly not unusual for a child and it’s a common theme seen in many anime series, but watching it play out in this setting in contrast to Light’s upbringing really does a great job of marrying the two as partners in this as time goes on. With the way international events are now coming into play and people finding comfort in what Kira is doing, it’s a fascinating evolution to watch.
Death Note is in a difficult place when you kill off one of the lead characters that made the cat and mouse aspect of the show so much fun. You can’t replicate that magic again, though they do try to here with Near. Thankfully, there are a number of interesting things to watch as this goes on, particularly where Mikami is concerned as he creates a new public voice for Kira, but events are now becoming so large that following all of it – especially with multiple notebooks going in different directions – is becoming more difficult. The next volume will provide the resolution to everything and the setup here for it is quite engaging.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Behind The Scenes: English Voice Actor Interviews and Recording Sessions, Production Art, Audio Commentary
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.