Death Note volume 1
Writer: Tsugumi Ohba
Art: Takeshi Obata
BW, 200 pgs w/ ads
$7.99 US / Higher in Canada
What is the difference between right and wrong? When is it acceptable to say a person who has done something wrong and they should die because of it? Is it acceptable at all? What happens when a single person decides who lives and who dies? These are just a few of the many questions that come to mind when one reads Death Note.
When I mention manga to friends, random strangers and even some co-workers, I’ve found most people who haven’t read much manga will have at least heard of titles like Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Lone Wolf and Cub. This small selection though is just a glimpse at the wildly different types of manga available. For instance, the fact that not a lot of people have heard of Death Note is a crime.
A Death Note is a notebook the Shinigami, death gods, use to extend their own life by stealing a human’s remaining life by writing their name in the notebook. If a human finds a Death Note and writes someone’s name into the book that person will drop dead in 6 minutes and 40 seconds of a heart attack unless otherwise specified. The human who did the writing, however, will not get the extra life like a Shinigami. There are a lot of rules about the use of a Death Note, more then I care to get into here, in fact.
The story begins with a Shinigami named Ryuk; a death god, bored with his existence, dropping his Death Note into the mortal world. Light Yagami, a brilliant young student – top of his class, finds Ryuk’s Death Note. Light quickly uses the note to kill almost a hundred criminals. Light is young and moral. He believes that in using the note, he’s making the world a better place.
Interpol notices a pattern and quickly assumes that someone has had a hand in all the deaths – that many criminals couldn’t have all dropped dead of heart attacks. So they hire the smartest detective in the world, the mysterious L.
People in Japan, where most of the deaths have occurred, have started calling the person responsible Kira. Light continues to use his power to better the world, slowly going mad with power. Crime rates drop and Kira is being worshipped in the media and by people in general. It’s not long before Light and L begin a game of minds and wills as they try to out smart each other in an attempt to trap each other. Light can’t kill L without seeing his face and his true name, and L doesn’t know who Kira is or how he’s killing all these criminals.
Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata have done an excellent job so far. Tsugumi Ohba in general deserves most of the credit for crafting such an excellent story. There is no one to really root for in the story. Light is quite mad and L is an inaccessible weirdo. And it’s still thrilling to read. Takeshi Obata, who has also drawn Hikaru no Go, does a decent job with the art, but the story is so involving I must admit I hardly notice the illustrations. For the most part, Death Note is a lot of talking heads and yet the story is still thrilling; maybe Takeshi Obata‘s art is good because it just blends with the story. (Shane Hnetka)