This is one of those titles that everyone and their brother have seen. A quick check at ANN shows that it’s still one of the top ranked animes according to fans that have voted there. It wasn’t without it’s problems though and so for me to discuss them in more detail I’m going to remind those that haven’t seen this show: Spoilers in the write-up.
Final Series Score: 7/12 B
Pros: excellent animation, premise was very orginal and engaging, many great characters, plot took several unexpected turns, L’s investagation was smart and made for compelling anime, great fodder for AMVs – I’m looking at you, AMV Hell 4
Cons: pacing problems, second half was rather weak and unconvincing, not enough Ryuk
Death Note follows Light Yagami, who is a typical bored genius high school student, after he finds the “Death Note” laying on the ground one day. Instead of being a creepy goth-emo kid’s diary – it’s how the Shinigami actually go about killing the people of the world. When Light realizes what he has, he has visions of cleaning up the filth of the world and making the earth a better place to live (with him being the “god” of this new world order). It doesn’t take long for police around the world to realize that their criminals are dieing quite unexpectedly and in large numbers. The killer is dubbed “Kira” by the media.
They decide to call for this generation’s Sherlock Holmes to find out what’s going on and apprehend the person or persons behind this epidemic of killing. His name is L and he’s a bit unorthodox in appearance and methods but very brilliant. Quite possibly the only one that could match wits with Light. The show then shifts to a contest of wills between Light and L. Will Light win and establish his NWO or will L figure out that it’s Light before Light has the chance to kill L?
Let’s start with the greatest problem with this show – the death of L and it’s effect on the plot of the show. There are at least 3 reasons why this hurt the show. The first is that L’s death didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the plot. Compare this death to those in Gurren Lagann, every death in that show felt natural and they served some purpose to the overall plot; whereas, what was the point to L’s death? I got the feeling that the original writer just got to a point and said, frack it, let’s just kill L. The second is that by killing L, they destroyed the prime draw of the show up to that point, the contest between Light and L, and didn’t have anything readily available to replace it. The third is that if you’re going to kill the lead investigator against Kira, you need the replacement to be better and L’s replacements were not. Now maybe Mello and Near we’re more competent in the manga but just watching the anime, Light should never have been caught.
I’m going to give Mello and Near a little slack because they characters suffer from another problem of this show – the pacing. About 2/3rds of the show involved Light and L but suddenly with only about a dozen episodes left, Mello and Near have to take the reins and get Kira. They don’t have enough time and that’s the fault of Madhouse. L should have bowed out sooner so there was enough time for Mello and Near to define themselves as better than L and make their plans seem plausible. It would have helped if Madhouse could have figured out a way to introduce Mello and Near before L’s death.
Beyond these two things, I have only minor nit-picks against the show. Of these, I wish most that Ryuk was in the show more, he disappears for a large amount of the show and his presence is missed. Also, I would have liked if the implications of Kira’s rise and demise on society would have been examined more. One character mentions that all war has stopped because of Kira. So while it’s easy to hate Kira from close up but what would someone living in a country that’s been ravaged by civil war for 20 years think of Kira and his ability to stop war? And I’d’ve love to see how the world would have descended into anarchy after news of Kira’s death was made known. Which reminds me of the movie Minority Report. According to the script, the movie was to end with a short written epilogue. It was to read that the year after they ended the program that caught people before they committed the murder, X people were murdered. X was something like 1400 people. It was decided to give the movie it’s happy ending and remove the epilogue.
Which leads me to the last point I wanted to mention about this show. I realize I shouldn’t want Light to win but I’d be lying if a part of me wanted to see Light win. And if Light was less of an egoist and didn’t seem to enjoy killing so much then I’d have less qualms about him using the Death Note. This leads me to wonder if I had the opportunity to find the Death Note; would I use it? I think I would, even knowing that it’ll probably turn out bad, the temptation would be too great.
So while the concept was first-class and the anime starts off strong, Death Note ultimately falls short because of the seemingly pointless death of L and the anime doesn’t pace itself and give the successors to L enough time to convincingly capture Light or even appear better than L. However, this show is definitely worth a watch and I enjoyed it during a rewatch courtesy of Adult Swim so it might be worth purchasing on DVD by some readers out there.
AMV clips taken from AMV Hell 4 to show how well Death Note is used for funny amvs.