Light Yagami is handsome, intelligent, and very, very bored. When he finds the Death Note, a notebook that has the power to kill whomever’s name is written in it, he decides to put all of his effort into using the Note to murder criminals, striving to create a new world with himself as God. While people celebrate his actions, dubbing him as “Kira” the Savior, the governments of the world call upon a famous detective known only as “L” to track Kira down and put an end to his killing.
summary by Mana
Highs: Inspired voice-acting; memorable characters; epic storytelling
Lows: Later characters and sub-par plot devices slow down the second half
Following the booming popularity of the manga and live-action movies, Madhouse had a lot to live up to in the creation of the Death Note anime. With a team of skilled voice actors and some top-notch production values, they managed an unqualified success, bringing the story to life once again, and even improving upon it in the process.
From the opening, Death Note hooks you in, jumping right into the action. The basic premise is simple, but individual situations and characters flesh it out and help it grow. Everything Light does – from writing, to laughing, to eating potato chips – is performed with an epic flair that glues you to the show. Watching these scenes in full animation fleshes them out much more than static manga images, and brings a certain reality to the scenes, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Despite the fact that Kira is misguided villain, you can’t help but cheer for him, watching his tricks progress as the show moves on. Many of the supporting characters are treated with the same attention and care, especially L whose characterization from enigmatic detective to quirky mastermind brought the story to life on both sides of law. All of this is magnified by truly remarkable voice-acting; I’ve never been as awed by a seiyuu as I was by Miyano Mamoru, the voice of Light, and all of the others are similarly impressive.
Unfortunately, this flawlessness can’t last forever. As the narrative progresses, new characters are introduced, but they pale in comparison to the individuality and panache of the original cast. In the midst of these changes, the plot starts to drag as well, and while the anime certainly isn’t awful during these moments, it’s definitely a let down. Thankfully, things begin to pick up again towards the end, giving the series a strong finish even if it is weaker than the beginning.
At 37 episodes, Death Note is no quick watch, but it’s worth the effort to pick up. If you aren’t bothered by the hype and the mid-series doldrums, you’ll have yourself an enjoyable ride.
Highs: Epic in just about all respects
Lows: Jumps the shark halfway through
When talking about or reading about Death Note the word “epic” comes up frequently and it’s incredibly easy to see why. The story is told in such an impressive and riveting style that it elevates itself well above most of its peers. It’s because of this, it’s leant itself to adaptation in several different mediums of which the anime is arguably the best.
Death Note excels in almost all areas reviewable. The art and animation, for the most part, are above average, but what really sells it is the extraordinary cinematography. Seemingly mundane actions, anything from writing in a notebook to eating a potato chip, come off just as incredible as any gun-fight. Supporting this is some top-notch voice acting. All-round it’s superb, but it’s Mamoru Miyano who specifically excels above the rest with his portrayal of Light. From calculated calmness, to rage, to psychopathic glee, he covers the entire emotion spectrum without flaw. It also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Every single beat of every single song couldn’t have been better suited and it helped make this anime that much more awesome to watch. Finally, there’s the story itself. There’s very little moral-agonizing in Death Note. Light and his various adversaries understand the scope of their situation and are stone-cold resolute in defeating one other (luckily for us, in the most cunning and manipulative ways humanly possible). What draws you into this anime the most comes from simply watching them try to out-think each other. With all these elements combined, the reaction it leaves its viewers with is almost visceral; you don’t so much watch an episode of Death Note as you do experience it.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t last. At approximately halfway through, Death Note jumps the shark. (18 minutes and 16 seconds into the 17th episode in my opinion). It’s far from being bad and at times it does reclaim some of its former glory, but the story arcs and characters introduced in the second half seem like carbon-copies of the first and they just don’t live up. In particular, the educated guesswork and theorizing that characters did so well in the first half, in the second comes off as hunches and vague speculation that at times border-lines ridiculousness.
Regardless, though, of whether you are a seasoned anime veteran, a newbie or someone who loudly proclaims their hate for anime, watch Death Note. It’s the most epic cat-and-mouse thriller you’ll likely ever see.
Death Note can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.