DEATH NOTE – Review by a New Weeb

What if you had the supernatural power to kill anyone you want? Many of you already know where this is heading. I am late to the party but here’s my review of the legendary anime, “Death Note”.

In a dining table conversation about East Asian media, I was suggested this anime. I was told that it is ‘that’ superior show, which can turn me into an anime fan. No denying that; I am currently binging Naruto.

For those who haven’t come across this piece of brilliance yet, based on the Japanese manga series by writer Tsugumi Ohba, and illustrator Takeshi Obata, “Death Note” is a psychological and supernatural thriller. The story begins when Ryuk, a Shinigami (God of Death) tosses a notebook into the human world out of boredom.  Light Yagami, a teen genius, gets hold of the Death Note, a mysterious diary that falls from the sky and holds the supernatural power to kill any human.

From the first episode itself, the viewers are well aware of the ideology that Light follows – Believing that he has been chosen for the ‘great deed’, he develops a Messiah complex and decides on becoming Kira, the ‘God of the new world’. His approach to creating the utopia is by letting only those people live who he judges to be good and get rid of crimes. His teenage years show his innocence when he believes that the world is black and white, and his boredom lets him fall down the slippery slope. 

“This world is rotten and those who are making it rot deserve to die. Someone has to do it, so why not me? Even if it means sacrificing my own mind and soul, it’s worth it. Because the world can’t go on like this. I wonder what if someone else had picked up this notebook? Is there anyone out there other than me who’d be willing to eliminate the vermin from the world? If I don’t do it, then who will? That’s just it: there’s no one, but I can do it. In fact, I’m the only one who can. I’ll do it. Using the death note, I’ll change the world.” 

Overcome with narcissism, he quickly goes from being a righteous person who wants the world to be just, to killing anyone who comes in between him and his conquest. He starts having his own moral flaws being questioned by Ryuk, even by the audience. Convinced that he alone understands justice, a negative aura surrounds his character from the start, along with darkness. He thinks that no matter what he does, is justified as it is for the greater good of the utopia he wants to create. He becomes so oblivious that he himself turns him into a criminal.

“I am righteous! I’m the hero who’s liberating people from fear. I’m the saviour who’s going to be like a god of this perfect new world!

It’s all fun for Light until our anti-hero, L Lawliet, a brilliant teen detective enters the story. From here on, it’s an intense game of wits that keeps your nails between your teeth. Light tries to find out L’s identity to kill him using the Death Note, while L’s intentions are to find Kira. Their similar ideology and superior intellect, yet different powers and approaches make this a murderous game of chess with moves and countermoves, mind-blowing.

This reverse mystery story of lust for power is so insanely and brilliantly written. The puzzle-solving nature of the show makes you grab your hair almost throughout the show. The series is so crisp, tight and fast-paced, you don’t get the time to think. The story progression and plot unravelling are chair gripping. There isn’t any build-up going on – no shocking twists, just brilliant moves. Every move made by Light depends upon the rules of the Death Note that unravels over the course of the series. It is just Light using the note and its loopholes down to the T. You see him turning into a more and more reckless mess and L getting closer and closer to catching Kira. 

“It’s not a sense of justice. Figuring out difficult cases is my hobby. If you measured good and evil deeds by current laws, I would be responsible for many crimes. The same way you all like to solve mysteries and riddles, or clear video games more quickly. For me too, it’s simply prolonging something I enjoy doing. 

That’s why I only take on cases that pique my interest. It’s not justice at all. And if it means being able to clear a case, I don’t play fair, I’m a dishonest, cheating human being who hates losing.” 

What makes the show engaging is that at the end of every episode, Light and L are at an impasse – L  has almost caught Light, but oh Light is smarter, again. The reasoning of the show makes the viewers question their morals constantly and confront their own beliefs. The subjectivity of justice is highlighted by the very conflict that arises when the mentality of characters come into the picture. At no point in the course of the show, there’s a clear picture of what justice is. Its meaning is challenged and even at the end, there is no conclusion. Summed up by Light, “If Kira gets caught, then that makes him evil but if he wins and rules the world then I guess he is justice”.

Image Source- Left & Right

The rivalry between Light and L is spectacular as both of the characters are similar yet so different – two brilliant guys pitted against each other. Light doesn’t have a tragic background or some strong motive. Don’t we all feel like finishing off all the bad guys when we bear witness to or hear of atrocity and inhumanity? Light is just a guy who gets hold of dark power and uses them to reach his goals of becoming justice.  What makes Light Yagami such a great villain is the height of darkness he reaches to serve his obsession. There are two personalities of Light that are distinguished by the ownership of the notebook. His idea of justice falls in line with that of the society without the book and with it, he is the greatest criminal. As for L, I personally loved the creation of his character as a strange genius who has Savant Syndrome. Unlike Light, L has no supernatural power; just his brain. He can’t kill off anyone who comes as a barrier. He is a narcissistic genius who is obsessed with puzzles. A line by him, “Not every genius is understood” not only describes him but also Light. And that is another reason that makes the show incredible. Both of them are geniuses in their own way and if you pay attention to their reasoning, there’s a continuous tension on deciding whose side to take.

“Kira is childish and he hates losing. I’m also childish and hate to lose. That’s how I know.” 

That’s it for this edition, folks. Keep an eye out for the second part which will be published in the next edition!

Pratyusha Pathak

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