Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to be reviewing the manga version of one of my favorite anime, Death Note! I bought this manga a couple of months ago when the all-in-one version (depicted above) went on sale, and it has been keeping me entertained for quite a while! It’s around 2,400 pages long, and all in a single book, so believe me when I say the image above doesn’t do justice to how wide the spine is!
I will avoid significant spoilers in this review, but I do plan on discussing the premise of the series a bit, so you have been forewarned!
The story of Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, begins when a Shinigami (Japanese for ‘God of Death’) drops his Death Note into the human world. The Death Note is a notebook governed by an extraordinarily long list of rules, but, in short, if you write a person’s name in the notebook with their face in mind they will die. The dropped notebook happens to be picked up by Light Yagami, a prodigious high school student who tests its power. Despite his initial shock that the Death Note actually works, Light quickly decides it’s his duty to use it to heal the world around him by killing high profile criminals en masse. The people soon become aware that someone is passing judgment on evildoers and grow to fear – and, in many cases, respect – the one responsible, who they call Kira.
Meanwhile, a brilliant, mysterious, and eccentric detective who goes by L takes on the task of discovering Kira’s identity and bringing him to justice. Given the supernatural means of killing, this at first seems like an impossible task, but in short order, L shows us how formidable he is by drastically reducing the suspect pool. What ensues is an epic battle of wits between Light and L to determine who best represents justice while taking the entire world along for the ride.
Even though I already knew much of what would happen in the manga thanks to having seen the anime, I found it quite hard to put down. The story flows brilliantly, and tense moments often come in rapid succession. To be honest, I would recommend this manga to anyone old enough to appreciate its themes regardless of whether they’re normally a manga reader or not. (Personally, I haven’t read much manga.)
Speaking of themes, one of the most prominent ones concerns the nature of justice. As Light mentions early in the manga, the socially acceptable answer would be to label his killings as Kira as ‘evil’, but many people privately support him, because his actions really do result in large reductions in crime and an overall more peaceful world. The question of what it means to be just persists throughout the entire series, and is one of the driving forces that motivates the characters.
Aside from Light and L, Death Note has a plethora of characters, too many for me to touch on in a brief review. However, I’ll mention a few of the most notable examples from early in the story. Ryuk, the Shinigami who drops the Death Note Light receives and subsequently has to follow Light around, invisible and inaudible to others, is actually a quite whimsical character who often serves as comic relief. Misa Amane, an up-and-coming model and Kira worshipper who eventually plays a large role in the battle between Light and L, is a cheerful and cutesy character whose personality seems incongruous with many of the actions she takes. Soichiro Yagami, Light’s father, is a steadfast high ranking police officer willing to risk his life to catch Kira yet who comes to find himself uncomfortable with the direction the case is going. He works alongside several other police officers with varying personalities that nicely contrast each other and help the reader see the story from a variety of angles.
As you can probably tell, I’m overall quite a fan of this story, but I should mention its few flaws. At certain points in the book, the lack of interaction between key characters from opposing sides reduces the tension a bit, and in one particular instance, a character makes a logical leap that feels a little bit too convenient. That last event in particular could weaken some readers’ immersion, but I think it is worth enduring, ’cause the ending of this manga is just awesome.
That brings me to a point I’d like to briefly discuss – whether the manga is worth reading if you’ve seen the anime. Personally, I think it is. The manga expands on a lot of things the anime rushes through, especially the latter half of the story. Quite a lot was cut from the anime, including a certain scene where we see a Shinigami put to quite amusing use. You’ll definitely gain a better understanding of the characters introduced in the second half of the show if you read the manga. I should also note that the end of the manga is significantly different from the end of the anime, and that I, personally, prefer the former.
On the other hand, there are a few scenes in the anime that I was surprised to find completely absent from the manga. I have to give credit to the anime for adding those, because I feel they gave more depth to the involved characters.
Overall, I find Death Note to be a wonderful manga with a killer story, diabolical plot twists, and a pleasantly quirky cast of characters. The emphasis on justice and Light’s obsession with godhood give the story extra depth. All of the images throughout the manga were very well drawn, and I found the story engaging from beginning to end. My score for Death Note is 4.8/5.
Have you guys ever read or watched Death Note in any form? If so, which is your favorite version of the story? Who are your favorite characters? Please leave your thought in the comments below. I hope you enjoyed my review!