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Death Note #1 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by maehara   
Sunday, 27 April 2008 16:00
Death NoteIf you could cause someone's death simply by writing their name in a book, what would you do with that power? That's the problem facing Light Yagami, as he comes into possession of a notebook belonging to a god of death. His solution is to go on a one-man crusade against crime, but not everyone's happy with his actions...

1 - Rebirth
Light Yagami is struggling through another dull day in class, when a black notebook falls past the window. Come the end of class, it's still lying there, and his curiosity leads to him taking a look at it. The front cover proclaims it to be a Death Note, with an instruction inside that any human whose name is written in the book will die. At first he passes it off as just a sick joke by another student, but something prompts him to take the book home. As a test, he writes the name of a wanted murderer in the book, and to his surprise there's soon a news report of the man's death, just as the book's instructions described it would happen. Meanwhile, in the world of the Gods of Death, one of the shinigami, Ryuk, realises he's lost his notebook and heads for the human world to retrieve it...


2 - Confrontations
Ryuk's following Light's every move - he finds his efforts to be a one-man instrument of justice fascinating to watch, although he admits sitting through classes at school isn't exactly riveting. While Light's crusade against criminality continues, the authorities at Interpol are beginning to notice the rising death rate amongst suspects and inmates. While they can't prove that the deaths aren't the result of natural causes, they strongly suspect something unusual is going on, and so the legendary detective known only as "L" is brought in to investigate...

A demon at school!?Inspector Yagami

3 - Dealings
The response to L's TV trickery has been good - over 3,000 calls to the police incident room, of which 14 claim to "know the killer". Further investigations into times of death have also revealed a pattern, hours of the day when the killer is more likely to be at work. L is paying close attention to the information being gathered, and is building his profile of "Kira" accordingly - and the criminal world is also paying attention, as the crime rate has dropped significantly. Light's not particularly worried by the investigation though - with his father on the special investigation team, he's got a way of learning what the police are up to, allowing him to stay one step ahead. Meanwhile, some of the officers working on the case have put two & two together and realised that their own lives are at risk if they continue working on the case, leaving L to deal with a shortage of people who'll work for him...

Guess whoLooking through Shinigami eyes

4 - Pursuit
Ryuk offers light a deal: in exchange for half of his remaining lifespan, he'll give Light 'shinigami eyes' - the ability to instantly know the name and remaining lifespan of anyone he sees. Thae would let him use the Death Note much more easily, but Light's not tempted - at least not yet. He's still planning on creating a crime-free paradise, and wants to live for long enough to enjoy it. In the meantime, he's intending to test the power of the book - just how accurately will his words in the book translate into the real world? Can he make the impossible happen, and control the actions of his victims before their deaths? If he can, then he may have a way of drawing the person who's tailing him into the open...

In the world of demonsRaye

5 - Tactics
The man tailing Light has blown his cover, and Light now has a name: Raye Penber, an undercover FBI agent. He's in Japan with his fianceƩ, herself a former agent, and when he tells her what had happened on the bus, she gets suspicious that it wasn't all coincidental. Raye doesn't believe that - but his doubt could be fatal, as Light now intends to write his name in the Death Note. He's just waiting for a while, so that there's no way of connecting their meeting with Raye's imminent death. In the meantime, Raye may well prove to be useful to him...

A visit from KiraBack at HQ

6 - Unraveling
L's (or Ryuzaki, as he now wants to be known) first appearance in front of the officers who have been working for him isn't exactly impressive - a young man, maybe early twenties, with all the appearance of someone who doesn't care much about anything, and who really needs to get out more. As he explains his thoughts on the investigation so far, though, it's clear he has a keen intellect - and he's not appreciating the resistance that "Kira" is putting up. Light's not done resisting, either, and is working on his own plan to uncover L's real identity...

LHunter & hunted

7 - Overcast
Knowing that Shoko has done a much better job of figuring him out than L has, Light's already decided that she needs to die - and that he's very lucky that she hadn't been able to speak to anyone from the task force before she spoke to him. His plan - as written in the Death Note - is for her to commit suicide in such a way that her body is unlikely to ever be found, and if it is it will hopefully be assumed she killed herself through grief at Raye's death. But after seeing Light write this in the Death Note, Ryuk begins laughing to himself - does he know something Light doesn't? Sure enough, the specified time of death comes and goes, but Shoko doesn't die - has she outsmarted him..?

NaomiAnd the clock strikes...

8 - Glare
L's been scouring the CCTV records of Raye's last movements, looking for anything that'll give a clue as to Kira's identity. At the same time, he's received word that Raye's fianceƩ Naomi is missing - and having worked with her before, he's convinced that it's not a coincidence. He's also still certain that "Kira" has some connection to the task force, and so arranges for hidden cameras to be placed within the homes of some of the team - including the Yagami household. Light soon figures out what's going on, though, and begins to play for the cameras...

L: Watches too much CCTVDecoy.  Cute decoy.

The idea behind Death Note is quite simple: write the name into the Death Note on its own, and the victim will simply have a heart attack. If you're feeling creative, you can write the cause of death as well, and that's what will happen. Light starts off by killing the worst of the world's known criminals - and since most of them are in prison, it's fairly easy for the authorities to spot that something unusual is going on. So far, so good... It all starts going a bit wrong when the investigation starts, though. Enter the mysterious L, complete with logo, who no-one's ever seen but who has the uncanny ability to solve any case he's given. Cue much rolling of eyes and a sudden lack of interest on my part, as an interesting premise gets turned into a sort of whodunit as L and Light lock horns. It's a little bit different from the whodunit norm - neither man knows who their "opponent" is or what they look like, and as soon as one of them figures out the identity of the other it's likely to result in a death sentence - but I loathe detective stories, and the mythical L falls into a particular category of too-good-to-be-true characters who allegedly never err that also just wind me up the wrong way.

On the plus side, the internal conflict Light's having to deal with leads to some interesting stories, as he's forced to use the book against the forces of good to protect his own identity. Episode 7 is particularly good, with a lot of verbal sparring going on while Light tries to get "Shoko"'s real name out of her. Having Ryuk give a running commentary also provides a good way of looking at events from a different perspective - while it's his Death Note that Light is using, he's a neutral observer. Unfortunately, that's not enough to outweigh the complete lack of interest that overcame me as soon as L got involved in the story. The show relies on the logic of the situation to explain things as L and Light spar with each other, with Light always having the upper hand (he's just far too confident in his own analytical abilities, which is something else I don't like about him - all other considerations aside, he's cocky enough that you positively want to see him taken down), forgetting that the whole concept of the Death Note is going to throw logic out of the window anyway.

Death Note has its moments, but there were too many scenes here that for me were exercises in tedium to watch. Neither Light nor L are characters that you can build any connection to or sympathy for, and without that you're left with nothing to really care about, and that knocks the enjoyment value of the show on the head. If you're into whodunits and solving of mysteries, then there's more here to work with as the mental battle between L and Light does have some good moments - but when the person who comes closest to figuring out Light's secret is a fringe character (who we haven't seen die yet, so I have suspicions she may be back), you start to wonder, is L really that good anyway?

For now, then, the series is simply 'OK'. It's a long-runner, though - 37 episodes - so there's plenty of time for it to pick up speed yet. Hopefully the next volume will see some improvement.

Video clips for this review: Clip 1 | Clip 2 | Clip 3 | Clip 4 | Clip 5

Rating - ***

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