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Death Note – Complete Series Box Set

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The world is a filthy, evil place. Harbouring people with no morals, love or sense of decency, it’s time for things to change. Unluckily for the criminals of the world, the Shinigami Ryuk has accidentally dropped his Notebook onto Earth from the Death World and a teenage Light has managed to pick it up and he is about to cleanse the world.

Death Note is already well known to almost all of the anime community, despite only making across to the UK in 2009; it’s been widely followed, admired and discussed about for many years. Something that not many anime can achieve, it’s so widespread that there have been a number of “copycat” incidents in the media where people have actually penned their own “Death Notes” books with people they hate – naturally this has led to the mass media trying to use Death Note as some sort of scapegoat for society’s wider problems.

Death Note focuses primarily on the lead character, Light who is a teenage prodigy with a strong sense of morality and what the world should be like. Due to this intelligence he easily believes that he could play at being God, a task that is given to him in the first episode as he finds a notebook with instructions. These instructions are very sinister, write someone’s name in the notebook and that person will die.  As with most decent people, he dismisses it as something that’s disgusting but is also tempted to use this tool. He decides that he’s going to test it on someone who deserves to die – a most wanted criminal.

To his surprise it works, and to further this level of shock he is met with a Shinigami (Death God in Japan) called Ryuk who explains how to use the Death Note, mostly because he wants to see what’s going on and as he’s got an affinity with apples.

It doesn’t take long for the police to realise that someone is killing off criminals around the world and brings in someone to try and help – L. L is a criminal’s worst nightmare, with a sickly look about him and an almost Sherlock Holmes power to deduct everything from the word go and play the game at the same time he’s easily the hero of the series.

The plot itself moves around at a very quick pace, with plenty of subplots running concurrently and with an expanded but brilliantly placed cast Death Note manages to capture the viewer’s interest in the first episode. Rather than the series peaking at the start and the end it manages to keep the suspense running throughout the entire series – not an easy feat. Especially as this is a 37 episode series that’s essentially a murder-mystery show. At no point do the cast seem mechanical, forced or unbelievable. Even the characters that are seemingly perfect, such as Light or L are fallible and these fallacies are shown in the most catastrophic ways – something that would often occur to people who are “better” than everyone else.

Of course, to keep the plot moving along there are a few twists and turns that are expected a little and towards the middle of the series it becomes hard to picture how the show will continue with its momentum. It’s at this point a coup de grâce is delivered to one of the key characters and the entire show’s dynamic changes and some of the other characters start to “slip” a little, it’s at this point the viewer is able  to start predicting the end of the show; however unsuccessful they may be at it.

Death Note manages to toy with the audience throughout the entire show, with promises of scenes that do not occur but make the viewer beg for more of what was delivered instead. At no point does the show let the viewer take a back seat and simply guide them through the world, it’s shock after shock with blows to the gut that leave the audience gasping.

The characters are well designed, with all of the “other-worldly” creatures designed in a way to show that it’s clear that they are the same specie, but each are unique as humans are. The humans in Death Note also all look different – another rarity from the anime world. The support cast are all designed well and the actual colouration of the scenes and the characters is done brilliantly. A keen eyed viewer will be able to spot that the colours change throughout the show, with the backgrounds darker and lighter at different points to accurately reflect the situation at hand.

The casting of the voice actors of the Japanese cast is perfect, there is emotion and depth in the acting, and the English voice cast attempt to match this but miss but a smidgen but the English dub is still a great dub and well worth watching.

Final Score

10

Death Note has clearly has many influences: it’s part horror, part tragedy and part detective drama. With the lead character being a super smart, super athletic teenager with maniacal tendencies, it’s easy to dismiss Death Note as its plot is weird and its lead character is boring. However, this would be a grave mistake. Death Note is easily one of the best anime to be released in the 2000s.