Review: Death Note

It took me a while, but I finally finished Death Note. Objectively, this is probably one of the best manga-to-anime adaptations to have been released in recent years, and certainly one of the best animated series as well…but it didn’t always keep my interest. A large part of the problem would have been that suspense plays a large part in the impact of each plot development, and well, I already knew what would happen next…

(I’m also more than a little annoyed that some idiot writing on wikipedia was too stupid to note that there are spoilers for the movie within the article: “Rules of the Death Note“. I was looking forward to watching the second movie with no clue whatsoever as to what would happen (except knowing who dies in the end, cos that’s obvious), but now that’s ruined for me too. grrr – so if you’re like me, don’t go there and read it!)

The Death Note anime series follows the manga almost to the letter, with a few minor changes here and there (although mostly at the end, it seems) and a few added scenes. And the addition of music worked quite well in may parts (although I have some queries about the light-hearted but still discordant tunes in the middle of episode 36). It was probably the music that made the series watchable – I never thought it possible that a series that depended so much upon dialogue and observed but often misinterpreted actions could be animated so well.

On the bad side, I’ll just mention two things. Firstly, although some people thought it amusing, the over-dramatisation of the writing of names in the Death Note was entirely laughable. No matter how crazy Light (and later Mikami) were, representing it though such an exaggerated action was just too cringe-worthy. The other thing that I found particularly uncomfortable were the insanely evil expressions found on the faces of those two characters. Light was corrupted by the power of the Death Note, becoming such a willing killer even though he had a noble, if misguided, goal at the start, but those expressions made the last few episodes very difficult for me to watch, because I didn’t believe Light would lose all his reason in the face of defeat. (This is something that was in the manga actually – same thing happened for me with the last few chapters.)

As for the changes to the manga in the end…the way Light is defeated in the anime isn’t quite as undignified. Although it is still Matsuda that shoots him, Mikami doesn’t reject him outright, and Light escapes to reflect on what what has happened to the brilliant student with such a promising future ahead of him, rather than having his opponents witness Ryuk’s ‘betrayal’.

I’ve always been a sucker for pretty scenery…

Given what Light had become, the manga ending was probably more fitting, but the prettiness of these last scenes make up for that somewhat.

But just like the manga, L’s death represented the end for me – I just didn’t find it as interesting to watch anymore. The anime compressed the second half of the series into about 10 episodes, and, even though that meant I didn’t really mind putting aside the time for it, it felt rushed. The development of Mello and Near wasn’t handled particularly well – they merely seemed like wannabes trying to emulate L sometiems, so much so that I can’t really respect them as successors of L. Simply put, I just miss L – I wish L could have defeated Kira directly, rather than through successors, though, of course, with himself dying as well.

I’ll write more thoughts on Death Note once I’ve seen the special, since it’s relevant to the message I feel the series presents.

Verdict: Great series to watch (if you haven’t read it previously), but certainly not perfect. 8.5/10

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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