It is clear that the creators of Death Note know how to develop characters and tell a good story.
In this anime, Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student who places first on every exam he takes. One day, he finds a mysterious notebook: the Death Note. According to the instructions inside the cover, “the human whose name is written in this notebook shall die.” Naturally, his first reaction is disbelief. But eventually, his curiosity gets the better of him, and he tests the notebook on a criminal he saw on TV. Forty seconds later, the criminal dies of a heart attack. He is shocked, but doesn’t quite believe it yet. He does another test, with the same result. He has now proven to himself that the book is as advertised.
So now that he holds the power to kill anyone he wishes, what will Light do now? Well, he decides to think big. If he kills all the criminals in the world, the world will become a better place. And so he begins his mass genocide, eventually aiming to become the ruler of his “New World.”
By now, Interpol, the world’s police organization, is very interested in the huge amount of inexplicable deaths of reported criminals. The world’s leading detective, known only as “L”, takes charge of the investigation. Within a short time, L learns that Kira, (the name given to the unknown killer by the public,) is in Japan, and can kill without physical contact. So begins a game of cat and mouse between L and Kira.
And that’s where all the good stuff lies. Watching these two Chessmasters trying to outwit one another is really enthralling. Both of them are fighting for what they sense as justice. Both of them trying to find someone whose name and face they don’t know, and whoever is found first, will die. The suspense is excruciating.
Death Note has all the qualities of a classic murder mystery and a great detective story. It’s also a disturbing psychological study of how power corrupts, as we witness a bright teenager’s descent into darkness. Japanese mythology also has a major role in this anime, but I won’t give away any more of the plot.
If you don’t have time to watch the entire 37-episode series, Death Note was remade in 2006 into a live-action film and a sequel, both of which remain fairly true to the story. Warner Bros. also recently acquired the rights for Death Note to be adapted into a live-action Hollywood-style movie. Find out more at the Internet Movie Database.
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