“A shinigami, as a god of death, can kill any person—provided they see their victim’s face and write their victim’s name in a notebook called a Death Note. One day, Ryuk, bored by the shinigami lifestyle and interested in seeing how a human would use a Death Note, drops one into the human realm.
High school student and prodigy Light Yagami stumbles upon the Death Note and—since he deplores the state of the world—tests the deadly notebook by writing a criminal’s name in it. When the criminal dies immediately following his experiment with the Death Note, Light is greatly surprised and quickly recognizes how devastating the power that has fallen into his hands could be.
With this divine capability, Light decides to extinguish all criminals in order to build a new world where crime does not exist and people worship him as a god. Police, however, quickly discover that a serial killer is targeting criminals and, consequently, try to apprehend the culprit. To do this, the Japanese investigators count on the assistance of the best detective in the world: a young and eccentric man known only by the name of L.”
If you ask most people what their first anime was, or what anime they would recommend to someone whos new to the medium. Most would answer Death Note to both of those questions. Death Note holds a special place in anime. It is very beginner-friendly to someone who’s never watched a single anime in their life. And it’s also very good as just an anime. Very good is an understatement. To me Death Note is brilliant. So it holding that place as the perfect beginner anime allows its brilliance to be seen by a wider audience.
The story of Light Yagami and his god complex is one to behold. His reaction and subsequent actions after receiving the Death Note feel almost eerily believable. I’m sure we would all love to say “If I got a death note, I wouldn’t do what Light did.” And sure, for some people maybe you’re right. But If it was possible to stop crime on a mass scale by just simply picturing someone’s face and writing their name down. Would you not? That’s what I love about this story. It doesn’t purely paint Light out to be the bad guy, for him using the death note, and it doesn’t make everything so black and white. Even during his initial killings, some people advocate for what he’s doing. It would be the exact same in real life. So I really appreciate the way the story is told in that respect.
Then you have the best part of the story. The mental chess match between Light and L. The whole show is a constant tug-of-war between Light trying to kill L and L trying to solve the Kira case. The lengths that both these two go through are ridiculous but amazing to watch. It feels as though they are the same character but in different circumstances. And that’s beautifully illustrated in all of their interactions and inner monologues. Seeing both sides of the mystery is always intriguing to watch especially when you have two well-written and smart characters as these two. As well as when you have such tight-knit rules as the death note has. Seriously kudos to Tsugumi Ohba (the manga author) for being able to craft foolproof vacuum-tight rules when it comes to death note. It makes all the schemes that Light comes up with even more impressive as he uses the rules in crafty ways to achieve his goal. Which inherently makes it even more fun to watch L attempt to crack this supernatural case. And to think, all of this because some Shinigami was bored and decided to drop his death note into the human world. It’s great.
Light is one of my favorite characters ever. A bored top-notch student with a bright future. His life could’ve been so different if not for him finding the death note. His quick progression into a serial killer with a god complex is top-notch. Seeing him test out the rules of the death note and discover things that even Ryuk didn’t know were possible was great. His ego is so massive, I’m shocked his head didn’t inflate like a balloon and pop halfway through the show. But that’s what keeps him going. His hubris is his main advantage in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of circumstances where someone with less ego would have given up or got caught, but his massive ego just won’t allow that.
L is once again one of my favorite characters ever. A quirky genius detective that is on the same playing field as Light when it comes to intellect. He has a very unique set of quirks that make his character super memorable. Whether it be his love of sweets, his habit of stacking things, or his weird way of sitting. It all adds nicely to his character. I also appreciate that he is willing to do what needs to be done to catch Kira. So with his seemingly unending funds and the prestige that the title of L holds. He goes through all the lengths he sees fit, no matter if they rustle his comrade’s feathers or if they’re even morally right or wrong. He and Light are really one in the same. Both their egos push them, and each other, to the brink. You love to see it.
I really can’t understate the appreciation I have for the inner monologues of both Light and L. Hearing their actual thought process while they constantly battle each other is the best part of the show. Especially when one of them catches the other in a trap of some sort. The mental maze that they go through to try and manipulate the situation to their advantage is awe-inspiring and expertly written. And don’t get it twisted, these two are expert manipulators. Especially Light.
And then there’s Ryuk. I love his involvement in this show. HIm being an immortal being of death and all. He’s just bored and looking for some fun. So throughout the show, he makes it very clear multiple times that he isn’t on anyone’s side. He’s just simply a spectator for the fun of it. This then leads back to how much an expert manipulator Light is. Dude persuades Ryuk to help him on multiple occasions but it’s all just amusement to him. The only thing he cares about is apples. At the end of the day, nobody in this story means anything to Ryuk, and that’s an interesting angle for a character so important to the plot
The rest of the characters are great too. How they play into the story is done well. And the mainstays are fleshed out pretty well. Some people didn’t like a certain set of characters introduced in the last act of the show. Personally, I had somewhat shared those sentiments when I first watched this show many years ago. But upon this recent re-watch, I found myself really liking them. Not even just them, but the last act was very strong as a whole.
Madhouse is an S-tier studio when it comes to animation and this show doesn’t disappoint. The colors are a bit muted, but it works for the tone of the show. Where this show really shines is its editing and soundtrack. There are scenes that ill never forget. Every once in a while when one of our main characters is having an inner monologue. The scenery will change and it’ll be a shot of two characters facing off. The hair colors will change, the soundtrack will swell, the voice actors will take it up a notch. Every single one of those scenes is amazing. Speaking of voice actors, this show is okay in that department. I watched the show dubbed and Light, L, and Ryuk’s voice actors stand out amongst the rest. All three of them give S-tier performances. Everyone else ranges from good to “ehh it’s okay.” What’s not just okay, is the soundtrack. The choice of music is excellent. Specifically, the choir hums during a lot of Light’s inner monologue scenes. It heavily exemplifies his god complex. Didn’t really hear either outro too much cease I was watching it on Netflix. But the intros slap. I wasn’t feeling the second intro at first, but man did it grow on me.
So yeah that’s Death Note. It’s the perfect anime for beginners for a reason. It’s in the upper echelon when it comes to anime and its status is very much deserved. A brilliant plot mixed with amazing characters. Coupled with amazing dialogue which the voice actors absolutely kill. This show kills it on all fronts and rightfully earns all the praise that it gets. Just don’t watch the Netflix live-action version. Don’t.
Death Note – 10/10