Death Note Volume 12
Writer: Tsugumi Ohba
Art: Takeshi Obata
BW 216 pgs
$7.99 US / Higher in Canada
The great moral conundrum: Does the ends justify the means?
I believe Neil Gaiman once said all stories if left to their own devices would inevitably end in death, as that’s life’s natural course. What about a manga that begins with death and is all about death? Of course it ends with death, does it not? And does creating a perfect world mean it’s all right to kill thousands? Do the ends justify the means?
When I discovered Death Note, it quickly became one of my favorite manga and was, in fact, one of the best comics I read last year – American, Japanese, European, they’re all comics in my opinion. Call them what you will but Death Note is right up there with the best.
For the uninitiated, Death Note is about a notebook. If someone’s name is written in it, they will die in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. If the cause of death is written down, the person will die of it in 40 seconds. An extremely smart teenager named Light Yagami finds a Death Note that was dropped into the mortal realm by the Shinigami death god, Ryuk, who was bored and decided to make his life more interesting. And hanging around Light has been anything but boring.
Light decides to make the world a better place by using the Note to kill criminals who break society’s rules. Eventually, society calls Light’s alter ego, Kira, and soon sways public opinion in such a way that Kira’s ideals become so big that even countries like The United States start to bow down to his will. Light naturally goes mad with power. Only an extremely smart detective called L, whose real name and identity are a mystery, and a Japanese police task force assigned to bring Kira down are against Light.
The society Light creates is a pleasant, mostly crime free world. The deaths of thousands of criminals has pretty much scared the world straight. But is it right? Is it truly a perfect world when everyone fears for his or her life? And what gives Light the right to judge everyone? I suppose it depends on your own opinion about things like right and wrong. And where are the grey areas? There is always a grey area; things aren’t as black and white as Light would like them to be.
And then there’s the payoff. I always believe a story could have the best opening ever but without an equally good ending, it just becomes another mediocre story. The ending to Death Note doesn’t leave me disappointed. Throughout the series, I have both rooted for and completely despised Light, usually at the same time. I mean, damn! The ending was everything I could have hoped for. Manga-ka Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata have done an outstanding job here. (Shane Hnetka)