PrintE-mail Written by Scott clark

If you haven’t come across Death Note before now, it might be time to investigate. The 2006 anime based on Tsugumi Ohba’s Manga was a huge success in Japan and has achieved cult status the world over, even ending up on Adult Swim and Netflix: becoming one of the first Anime to do so.


Basically Death Note follows the story of Light Yagami, an intelligent high school student who stumbles across a notebook capable of killing anyone whose name is written in it. Ryuk, the Shinigami (Japanese God of Death) who dropped the notebook, is then tethered to Light, though unseen by anyone but him.


It’s a show crammed with cliff-hangers and conundrums, wrapped up in a surprisingly conversational mix of supernatural drama and thriller touches. Much of the fun comes from how well structured the rules of the notebook are. Death Note is nothing if not a surprisingly flexible concept even with its tight rules. Every few episodes it introduces a new idea or character and a whole new set of issues erupt out of nowhere. L, the mysterious private investigator hunting- an increasingly petulant- Light is a wonderful creation and an important part of the show’s constant evolution. The bad thing about all this one-uppery is that the last act of the show can feel strained in its desperation to keep us guessing.


Still its riveting stuff built on a solid foundation: an ace hero/villain relationship, and a fundamentally enticing concept. Ryuk is just as intriguing as L or even Light, and the show’s strengths come from a bold and uncanny world, beautifully personified in a sloppy, inquisitive, but ultimately dangerous demonic entity who acts increasingly like Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal. Some of the most interesting and revealing parts of the show come from Ryuk’s investigation of the human world, and adventures back to his own Lovecraftian otherworld.


There’s something nicely grandiose about the whole thing though, it plays out like a Shakespearian comedy rather than a horror-tinged supernatural thriller. Its over-the-top, smart, and often silly. It’s a credit to the writing that so many of the deaths carry enormous weight, and an uncanny achievement that its heart and soul comes from a mass-murdering teenagers friendship with a God of Death. In some ways, Death Note could be a good fantastical fall-back if you’re all caught up with Fargo: it is after all a story characterised by farce, death, and dangerous acquaintances.


Death Note is an easy thing to recommend because its honestly that good. Sure it goes a bit unruly towards its last act, but for the most part it’s a nicely conceived, well-paced thriller with some really great back-up lore.




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