Death Note takes an interesting view of a murder mystery. Normally the mystery is “who is the killer?” In Death Note, the reader already knows who the killer is. The questions are: “when will he be caught?”and “should he be caught?”
Death Note follows Light Yagami, a straight-A student who is a bit of a loner. Light stumbles upon a strange notebook titled Death Note. There is an inscription in the notebook that reads reads “the human whose name is written in this book shall die.” Light is skeptical, but intrigued. Before long, Light sees an opportunity to test the notebook’s veracity. The Instructions inside the book say that you have to write the human’s full name while picturing his or her face. If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds it will happen, if not, they will simply die of a heart attack. Light targets a man on the news who has taken students and teachers hostage. He chooses not to specify the manner of death for the man. When the reporter announces that the man died suddenly of a heart attack, Light wonders if this is coincidence or something more. He devotes himself to exploring the powers of the book, making sure to only kill those who, in his mind, deserve it. One of the underlying themes of Death Note is the line between good and evil. Is Light a hero for killing those he deems evil, or is he just a mass murderer? He believes he is doing good deeds, but is that how the rest of the world sees him? Did the power of the book corrupt him?
Death Note is one of the most popular Shonen Manga in America. It was the first of multiple masterpieces by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note has always been the most popular of their works. It was even made into a live action film by Netflix. The Netflix version was not well received by Death Note fans. It was twisted and Americanized, losing much of its original quality. This lead many fans to disparage and ridicule it.
Death Note was first published in 2003, and ended at 12 volumes in 2006. Tsugumi Ohba’s and Takeshi Obata’s second series Bakuman ran from 2008 to 2013 and ended at 20 volumes. They are currently working on a new series, Platinum End.
Death Note has taken an interesting approach to the telling of a murder mystery. I believe it is one of the greatest Shonen manga of the 21st century.
Olivia Gelerman, 13, is the curator of several hundred works of manga, anime and graphic novels that can be found in a book collection for sale of 47 West. Her knowledge of these genres is extensive and she is happy to recommend certain books for tween and teen readers. Her monthly review on a book in these genres appears exclusively in Penobscot Bay Pilot.
Photos by Olivia Gelerman