Death Note is on Netflix. I’ve seen the movies and read some of the manga, but this is my first time watching the anime. It’s brilliant, and I’m only two episodes in.
It opens in the wastelands of the Shinigami world. A stark, grey place where death gods spend their existence sleeping, gambling and killing humans for fun by writing their names down in a Death Note: notebooks with the power to kill.
Ryuk, a death god bored of his world, drops his spare death note in our world where Light Yagami, the protagonist, who’s also bored with his own world, discovers its power and uses it to strike righteous justice by killing criminals, reigniting his flame for life.
By the time he meets Ryuk, Light’s murdered a bunch of criminals (people), and Ryuk’s amazed by it; and even more so when Light proclaims that this path he’s set himself on will lead him to create a utopia where he will reign as its god. ‘Humans are… so much fun,’ says Ryuk.
From there Light becomes known as Kira – the Japanese pronunciation of ‘Killer’ – the man responsible for killing hundreds of criminals by mysteriously inflicting heart attacks upon them. He can do more too, like use the death note to kill someone in a very specific way, but Light has a plan.
This master plan brings Light head to head with L, the even more mysterious Interpol detective who’s set out to catch ‘Kira’ and bring him to justice. Ryuk absolutely revels in it. This is the end of episode 2.
Clearly, we have our first act here: the world is setup, the protagonist, his wound, the inciting incident, the ally, the antagonist, and the dilemma. There’s so much here, it’s hard to pick where to start. Light is proactive, so that makes him an ideal protagonist. He’s also likeable and relatable. He’s an anti-hero with a Punisher-shtick. L is his equal. His introduction and first strike against Light/Kira is a doozy and a clear illustration of their relationship. But the hero is actually the villain and the villain is actually the hero. Who is just? Funnily enough, Light and L remind me of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty.
Light’s wound – he’s bored of this world – parallels that of Ryuk’s – his ally in all this. So, there’s some interesting fun the creators have there. The discovery of the death note reignites Light’s flame for life by killing the evil of this world — I doubt the irony here isn’t lost on viewers.
What I love about this is that we’ve seen this setup before, in things like Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, but never in this context. Well, I don’t think so anyway. So, it’s a wonderful way to create a very proactive protagonist. Will that become more reactive as L plays his cards further into the series? I guess I need to watch it some more (even though I know the ending from the other mediums it was presented in).
Anyway, Death Note is a very good anime that I’d recommend to anyone unsure about anime, new to anime or just sick of all the shonen anime coming out as they’re matured past investing time in any new ones (I’m 30 and have been watching One Piece since high school, so if you understand that then you understand that last bit.)
So, go, watch, and keep to yourself how much you want one, heh-heh-heh.