[Anime Review]: Death Note

Death Note L Light Kira Anime

Director: Tetsuro Araki

Writer (of original manga): Tsugumi Ohba

Animation Studio: Madhouse

Version Watched: Subbed

 Some actions are always good, and some actions are always bad, but most of life is colored in shades of grey. Many of those we label evil believe their chosen path to be the good one. Death Note takes these statements and presents them in anime form, and, by and large, does a good job of it. Unfortunately the second part of the series doesn’t quite deliver what the first part leads you to expect, bringing this particular anime down from a potentially excellent score. Still, Death Note is an incredibly popular and well known anime, and there is definitely a good reason for that.

 Yagami Light is a high-school student with exceptional academic ability but an otherwise unremarkable life. However, this all changes when he comes across a mysterious book known as the Death Note. After picking it up, Light encounters a fearsome Death God from another world, Ryuk, who appears to oversee its use:

Death Note Anime

 Light, being the son of a distinguished police investigator, immediately realizes the uses of such an artifact and begins judging criminals, aiming for the creation of a world without crime and suffering – one that he will reign over as God. Of course, the deaths of hundreds of high-profile criminals does not go unnoticed, and the unrivaled detective known only as “L” is called in to find the mad killer calling himself “Kira”.

The first part of the show (that’s about 25 of the 37 episodes) is extremely well written and executed. The story moves very quickly but doesn’t seem rushed, with the rapid escalation leaving you craving more and wondering what could possibly happen next. The main aspect that keeps the series exciting are the interactions between Light and “L”, each genius striving to out-do the other; you can never quite tell who’s going to come out on top. That all changes, however, once L steps out of the spotlight, handing the reigns over to a new set of characters which were really unnecessary and hard to become attached to over the 12 final episodes they feature in. The story remains decent but the excitement provided by the Kira vs. “L” theme disappears, which is a real shame because it was exciting. I’m not one to marathon anime, but when I watched it Death Note was the closest I had come to doing so in a long while.

Death Note Anime Light Ryuk

Death Note is a very serious anime dealing with some fairly heavy issues, so it seems a little out of place whenever it makes an attempt at humour. Whenever it showed up, and it was really just a few episodes in the middle, I wasn’t prepared for it because that’s just not what the other 95% of the show was like. Instead of being funny, the sections in question just came across as awkward. Not quite as awkward, but still rather questionable, was the portrayal of Ryuk the Death God. It wasn’t so much his personality as much as, well, how pointless he was in the long run. He’s certainly important, but I feel like for a character that’s introduced early on and is in nearly every episode he just didn’t do much. That’s probably just me being picky though.

As far as characters go, Death Note’s main ones are done pretty well done. Light and “L” are both very strong personalities and even though they oppose each other it’s difficult to choose a favorite. While some of the side characters are also very good, I would have to say that most of them are only there to facilitate the continuation of the story rather than being interesting in their own right. As mentioned earlier, some new main characters are introduced in the latter half of the series that aren’t particularly noteworthy (I mean, one of them is practically just a worse version of “L”), so I won’t bother describing them.

Death Note Anime L Light

Death Note’s art style is quite different from the very clean anime art you may be used to. The colours used are duller than usual and the style itself immediately tells you that the series means business. It fits the show perfectly, but isn’t always the best quality-wise. The characters’ facial expressions can be especially poor at times. Overall though the visuals don’t detract from the viewing experience and manage to convey the intended feeling admirably. The audial aspects aren’t worth exploring, but they aren’t bad either.

Summary – Death Note boldly explores the grey area of morality that few series succeed in representing well, and though the quality drops near the end you will still be entertained throughout; I have yet to talk to a person that didn’t enjoy it. Most of my gripes with the series are minor ones and the sense of excitement it evokes in its early episodes shouldn’t be missed by any fan of good anime.

Score: 8/10 – Good

Death Note Anime L Light

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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11 Responses to [Anime Review]: Death Note

  1. Finally you posted this, I have been waiting! (;
    What I like about L is that his deductions make sense, whereas N just seemingly completely randomly appointed Light to be Kira, and I have a problem with that. I do like the second part of DN (to a certain degree), but I not at all because of N or Mello, but more because of the plot itself. But it’s kind of hard to take the show seriously at the end, which is a shame since it brings up such dark and serious themes.

    • Silvachief says:

      I also had trouble taking the show seriously near the end. I didn’t quite dislike it but I felt that the plot was taken in a different direction to where it should have gone.
      I think N’s focus on Light is due to his complete trust of L’s deductions, since he knew of L’s suspicions from earlier in the series. I do agree, however, that he really should have been following others leads at the same time.

  2. Annalyn says:

    I started re-watching Death Note a while back. I need to finish it to see if I agree with everyone about the Near/Mello section of the show. I know I enjoyed the entire thing the first time around, but I’ve gotten pickier since then.

    By the way, have you seen the AMV “Pony Note” on YouTube? It’s a very amusing combination of My Little Pony and Death Note, and I keep a link to it on hand for when I need a study break.

  3. Lambda says:

    “I’ll take a potato chip… and eat it!” You have to admit that Death Note could be hilarious even when it was trying to be serious. (There is only one actual attempt at humour that I can remember and it’s “I can’t imagine a world without Light! “Yes, that would be dark”)

    It’s… actually been a while since I watched Death Note, but I agree with the general sentiments. I was firmly in the L camp, though. I don’t think the series was being too ambiguous on how flippin twisted Light gets so it becomes less a grey-grey mentality and more a black-grey mentality. Also, Matsuda is awesome and the best character don’t lie. I will note that one thing that annoyed me and still annoys me about Death Note is the fairly biased treatment of female characters. The one that was the most independent and capable dies in her first appearance, which says something sad about women in that show.

    (On the subject of Death Note parodies, there’s also a Spongebob one that’s… pretty funny.)

    • Silvachief says:

      For me personally there was no doubt that Light was more evil than neutral/good, though I think I lot of people would back him up as they did in the series. The “well, they’re criminals anyway” mentality is easy for people to adopt, which is the crux of the moral dilemma. Despite my own feelings, I wouldn’t have minded if Light had won in the end.

      The capable female character dies and the other one is…Misa…right? I can see what you mean. I discovered something called the Bechdel Test the other day, which is a basic test for gender bias in entertainment media. It asks whether the work of fiction features two women who talk to each other about something other than a man…and I think Death Note fails that, further supporting your point.

      I am intrigued by this Spongebob parody. I’ve never been a fan of Spongebob but i’m going to look it up immediately =P

      • Lambda says:

        I think I would’ve minded quite a bit if Light would’ve won and I think that it may be different, and even more of an interesting exploration of this issue, if Light wasn’t so… Light. If the ideals stayed but the personality changed. If the ideal came purely from a sense of justice, because then it would be L and Light actually clashing with their terms of justice. Here, Light falls into depravity – and does so even before he ‘wins’ – such that one can’t really feel they can support him, perhaps solely on the selfishness of his character and less on the ambiguity of his ideals. It should be noted, I guess, that L is sometimes shown to be just as selfish, which is interesting because normally one walks out with the sole impression of Light as a selfish guy. They did his fall well.

        I can remember three female characters in that series, only one of which that isn’t totally dependent on Light, and she dies (although the prequel novel about her is pretty good). Yeah, this series totally fails the Bechdel Test, too. To be honest, getting Misa to talk about something other than Light seems impossible, making the test hard to pass from the start. Role model for teen girls everywhere no doubt.

        • Kai says:

          Naomi Misora, if I recalled, been a long time since I last watched Death Note myself. She put a somewhat good fight though, I remembered Light having a bit of problems with her. Although in the end, she lost out to some sweet coercion by Light, that dood’s a really smooth talker, lol.

          • Silvachief says:

            Light was ridiculously cool-minded. I think she had discovered something important but didn’t suspect Light of being Kira…it’s been a while since I watched it though so I can’t quite remember.

  4. Kai says:

    Ahh, Death Note, definitely one of my favorite anime too, too bad the latter parts of the anime seems lacking in several aspects. One thing I like about Death Note is the contrast between the main characters, in the first part of the anime, both L and Light stole the spotlight of the show, with their own sense of justice clashing with each other – it really does make one question his or her own morality values. Such magic is lost in the second part with the appearance of Mello and Near, those two just don’t make a strong enough impact as compared to L to act as a foil against Light.

    • Silvachief says:

      I agree completely.Light and L were what made Death Note exciting. There was no way any other match-up would work as well. The first part really was brilliant though; it definitely had me hooked.

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