(Credits from Black Edition Vol. 1)
- Story by: Tsugumi Ohba
- Art by: Takeshi Obata
- Translation & Adaptation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
- Touch-up Art & Lettering: Gia Cam Luc
- Designer: Sam Elzway
- Editor/s: Pancha Diaz (Manga Edition) / Elizabeth Kawasaki (Omnibus Edition)
- Published by: Viz Media
- Chapters in this volume: 7
Death Note is one of those anime you hear about and see a lot of when exploring the weeb wide web, and it is often praised as one of the best manga and anime by a large number of people. Despite this, I have yet to watch the anime, and I have never read the books, until now that is, so I am going into this story with no knowledge of what could happen or what should happen, making it an interesting reading journey to say the least.
I was lucky enough to find the first volume of the Black Edition of Death Note, which is an Omnibus that collects two volumes in one book, meaning I now own the first two volumes of the Death Note manga series. However, I will be reviewing each volume individually, as the Omnibus editions will get a special review later down the line when I have read the story, as I’d like to review different editions of books if I can, so this will be my opportunity to do so, along with Bleach 3-in-1.
Ryuk the Shinigami, a death god, has dropped his Death Note in the world of the living, where it is soon found by a straight-A student who’s bored out of his mind. Light Yagami reads the various instructions written within the Death Note and decides to try out the book for himself, not fully believing in its power. However, after testing it out during a live news broadcast, Light discovers that he now holds the power of Death in his hands, and decides to use it to eliminate the criminals of the world.
When Ryuk finally finds Light, and the Death Note that once belonged to Ryuk, he tells Light that he will be hanging around until Light dies or passes on the book to someone else. Only those who touch the Death Note can see the Shinigami, so the large, grinning death god will not cause any hassle for Light, who has been busy killing criminals to such an extent that it catches the attention of the FBI, Interpol, and a mysterious crime solver named L, who finds themselves in a one on one battle of wits against the unknown criminal killer known to the world as Kira.
I wasn’t sure what to make of Death Note when I heard about it for all these years, because all I knew about it is that there’s a book where people die if you write their name into it, there’s a big grinning demon, and some human kid owns the book and is responsible for killing people. That’s all I knew, meaning that I knew nothing about the fact its a crime thriller that has you questioning who to root for. Do you side with Light Yagami, our protagonist who is ridding the world of criminals? Or do we side with L and realise that the power of life and death belongs to no one, even if the criminals may deserve it in the minds of some people. After all, there are laws and a justice system in place for a reason, but can we really sit here and say it works to the best of its ability? These are the types of questions that you will find yourself asking when reading or watching Death Note.
Beyond the questioning of morals, there’s a cracking game of cat and mouse going on in this story, that sees Light toying with L, by having criminals leave suicide notes that to the ordinary eye seem like simple scribbles of poetry, but L being a brilliant detective, sees past the obvious and finds the truth behind the notes, the hidden messages that are directed at him. This makes for a great back and forth between the two characters that really broadens their personalities, as just when you think you have Light figured out, he comes up with some other clever way to dispose of criminals, as well as get rid of suspicion surrounding him, in a deviously plotted way that makes you go “Damn…that was brilliant!”.
There is also a lot more rules to the Death Note than I originally thought, and it makes for a very interesting plot development as we as the reader, learn these different rules along with Light, who puts these rules to the test and has his own trial and error session to fully understand the abilities of the book.
I have not read the individual volumes as of yet, but the Omnibus Black Edition Volume 1 begins with some colourful art as we see the world of the Shinigami, before returning to a more traditional black and white format that most manga books use. It was a nice touch to see some colour in the books as it really gave you an idea of what the Shinigami realm might look like as well as possibly representing a change in tone. Some mediums like to make the realm of the dead, or the realm of death gods in this case, seem more lively than the realm of the living. An example of this would be the Tim Burton film Corpse Bride, in which the world of the living is drained of colour and the people all look miserable, whilst the world of the dead is vibrant and lively. The coloured pages at the beginning of this book gave me those same vibes, as it enters the world of the living, the colour is stripped away and the topic of death becomes a grim overtone for the plot, which is represented in colourless pages to keep you drawn to the story rather than the settings.
As mentioned before two of the main characters of this story are in a cat and mouse game with one another, and neither one really pull you entirely to their side. On one hand we have Light, who has good intentions but perhaps his morals are a bit off and then he seems to grow a god-complex that really makes you step back and be like “Okay. Yeah…no one should have this power and this is why.” On the other hand, we have L who we feel like we should be rooting for in some way because they understand that even though the victims are criminals, not every criminal deserves death because at the end of the day they are still human lives that someone out there is toying with. However, we can’t fully trust L, because we do not know their true identity, nor do we know their true character. We only know that they solve crimes, but only ones they’re interested in. We also know that they have connections to multiple law enforcement agencies around the globe, making them dangerous as well. So the bottom line is that we have two very interesting characters interacting with one another but never directly, and neither one is really someone we can trust and put our faith into.
Ryuk the Shinigami is a big pull towards this story for a lot of people. You may have seen him scattered around social media, or at comic and anime conventions. He’s a tall, rather skinny demon, with big eyes and a wide, rather terrifying grin filled with pointed teeth. He also has wings and dresses like The Crow in some comparison. He looks awesome, is what I’m getting at. It’s a brilliant design for a non-human character and whilst I first thought Ryuk was the one that delivered the killing blow when someone’s name was written in the Death Note, it turns out he’s kind of just along for the ride, enjoying watching the humans deal with themselves. He admires Light’s intelect and has fun watching Light and L go head to head. He may be more involved in the future of the series, but for now he’s just hanging around having a good time to cure his boredom and I love that about his character.
Death Note was more than I expected and I now see, already, why it is so well praised by fans. I cannot wait to continue reading the other volumes of this story, which won’t be too hard since there’s only thirteen volumes in the set. If you collect the Black Editions of the books, there are six volumes and one single volume for book thirteen. I think I may have to continue to buy the other five volumes of the Black Edition books now that I’ve started with volume one, but we’ll see what happens.
If you love crime thrillers, then I would recommend Death Note as a place to start if you’re getting into manga. It’s definitely more than meets the eye if you don’t already know the plot. If you’re a first time reader like I am, it’s a journey to say the least.
Leave a Reply