Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects – and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami, a death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal… or his life?
Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note’s powers as L and the police begin to close in. Luckily, Light’s father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father’s files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn’t know?
Death Note was my very first Manga and I absolutely loved it! For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Manga, or may be total newbies to this genre like me, Manga (漫画 Manga) are comics created in Japan or by creators in the Japanese language, conforming to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century. They have a long and complex pre-history in earlier Japanese art.
Death Note is not a new Manga; it was originally published in 2005 but it is getting renewed Western notoriety thanks to the Netflix live-action version. However, do yourself a favor and skip the white-washed live-action version and just pick up and read the Manga; you’ll have a better experience and you won’t be participating in or supporting one of the biggest flaws of Hollywood – an industry that refuses to be color-conscious. (And that’s a shame, because America’s greatest storytelling strength isn’t high production values. It’s multiculturalism — access to an array of backgrounds and identities, and an ability to find out what happens when they collide.)
Death Note is a wonderful combination of mystery and horror, dark humor, and police thriller/suspense with supernatural elements. In other words, it is a perfect spooky October read! Our main character, Light Yagami, picks up the Death Note, a notebook once belonging to a Shinigami death god by the name of Ryuk.
Shinigami (死神, “god of death” or “death spirit”) are gods or supernatural spirits that invite humans toward death, and can be seen to be present or interpreted to be present in certain aspects of Japanese religion and culture. Shinigami have been described as monsters and helpers, creatures of darkness, and fallen angels. Many cultures describe Shinigami as Death themselves.
I love the idea of these dark, malevolent, fallen angel type creatures walking around our world. Physically, Ryuk is terrifying and intimidating; he has punk rock hair, wears black tight leather, and has a mouthful of razor sharp teeth.
My favorite thing about Ryuk is not his appearance but rather his unreliable and mischievous nature – he reveals unwritten rules to Light late in the game and is clearly on neither side of the L versus Light battle; rather, Ryuk is the puppet master who sets two trains on a collision course and is sitting back, watching, and enjoying his own handiwork. There are twelve more volumes in the Death Note series, and I am convinced that Ryuk will be the downfall of Light, due to his failure to mention some key rule or detail regarding the way the Death Note works. Ryuk is also hilarious, in a dark comedy sort of way. Fans of Buffy and Angel will appreciate Ohba’s dark humor.
The other fascinating aspect of Death Note is the fact that you can’t help but root for Light, even though he is a mass murderer. Light walks a fine line of morality, even though his quest for his version of utopia results in his becoming the most violent and murderous being to walk the Earth. It will definitely make you pause and think twice about who you’re rooting for in this series.
I loved Death Note and it was the perfect way to jump into the genre of Manga! If you are looking for a spooky read, want to try out Manga, or are in need of some dark humor that’s reminiscent of Buffy, then race down to your local comic book store and pick up a copy of Death Note asap! I can’t wait to pick up and read Volume 2!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Title: Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom (Death Note #1)
Publisher: VIZ Media, LLC (2005)
Genre: Manga, Comics, Comic Book, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Horror
Read… over the course of an evening in between… bouts of hot yoga. Purchased at… my favorite local comic book store, Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique.
Purchase your copy here.
Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustration: Takeshi Obata