Many teen-agers walk around with a
chip on their shoulder. Light Yagami (Brad Swaile), the brilliant, alienated
hero of the dark fantasy-adventure Death
Note (2006) has something more ominous: Ryuk, a Shinigami (god of death), hovers by his shoulder.
Bored with his existence in the
nether world, Ryuk (Brian Drummond) drops his notebook, the Death Note, into
the human world. If anyone writes the name of a human in the book, that person
dies within minutes. The book lands on the grounds of his high school; Light
picks it up and a chilling tale begins.
Although he ranks among the top
high school students in Japan, Light is bored—and repulsed by the lack of justice
he sees in the world. After testing the Death Note’s powers by causing two
criminals to die, Light launches a grandiose vigilante campaign to rid the
world of everyone he perceives as an evil-doer. He declares himself the embodiment
of justice and sets out to create his vision of a perfect society. But the
baffling string of deaths he causes attracts the attention of the social media.
Light becomes an Internet celebrity as Kira, the name he’s given by his hordes
The inexplicable deaths also
attract the attention of the police, who call in the super-secretive master
detective known only as L (Alessandro Juliani). Although he’s as brilliant as
he is arrogant, Light finds himself hard-pressed to stay ahead of L in a deadly
game of cat and mouse. Director Tetsuro Araki plays up the physical differences
between the opponents. Cool, handsome and well-groomed, Light strides through
the world looking like he’s available at fine stores everywhere. Pallid,
slovenly L hunches over plates of sweets and seems to think with his twitchy
bare feet as well as his redoubtable brain.
Although it begins slowly, Death Note grows more interesting as the
stakes grow higher. When the story builds to its climax, Araki
introduces new complications, turning the two-man intellectual duel between
Light and L into a hexagon of interlocking
relationships. L also acquires followers: two spooky orphans who complete at
solving intellectual puzzles. Near (Cathy Weseluck), toys with his shaggy hair
and builds elaborate structures out of matches and dice; the more emotional
Mello (David Hurwitz) shares L’s addiction to sweets. Light tires of the Misa
(Shannon Chan-Kent), the scattered-brained model/singer who adores him, and finds
a disciple in Teru (Kirby Morrow), a worshipful monomaniac who’s eager to
“delete” everyone he dislikes.
During the six years that
have passed since he found the Death Note, Light has surrounded himself with
human pawns to conceal his identity as Kira. But Near and Mello counter every
gambit and sacrifice. Whether Light establishes himself as a god on Earth or
the world lurches back to something approaching normalcy comes down to a
three-part battle of wits. Neither Near nor Mello alone can match Light, but working
together, they prove themselves worthy successors to the eclipsingly brilliant
L. Voice actor Brad Swaile gives an impressive performance as Light crumbles
into madness. Near and Mellow are intriguing characters, but they lack the
haunting presence of L. The most compelling parts of Death Note center on the struggle between him and Light.
The 37 episodes of the broadcast series were recut
into two feature-length specials: Death
Note Relight—Visions of a God (2007) and Death Note Relight—L’s Successors (2008), which are included in the
new “Omega Edition.” Also included is a bonus booklet of the first installment of the
original manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Death Note proved so popular, it was also adapted to three live
action features and a live action TV series.
Death Note: Omega Edition
Viz : $69.99, 6 discs, Blu-ray