Death Note Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba (2004)

L: 7.5/10

M: 8/10

J: 8/10

Analysis from a burnt out Christmas light, refusing to cooperate and bringing down all his peers:

I had never read a manga before, and I’m not sure if it needs to be capitalized or not. Is it like the word “vinyl”, where pluralism is often misused and a commonly debated subject? Am I thinking out loud? After getting past reading it backwards (which shouldn’t be so hard, but it simply broke my brain) and the cardboard translated dialog, I allowed myself to get into the first volume of Death Note. I don’t think it’s fair to take anything away from something translated; it will never come out the same in the wash. Everything is very matter-of-fact. The way that every action is described to exact detail and every thought said aloud is a little tiresome, but that is just what I’ve come to expect from anime and manga in my brief encounters. The art is very clean and fits the story; the tone benefits from being showcased in black and white. I’m interested in seeing this in color at the same time, though, and have the anime qued up and ready to go.

The story seems fairly simple from the beginning, albeit completely ridiculous. Some demons have books that allow the user to write a name, ensuring the name dies with complete accuracy in method and time. A googly-eyed bat goth demon named Ryuk drops the book on Earth, and a kid picks it up. This kid is no basic Japanese supermodel, though; Light is also the smartest person on the planet quickly starts using the book to knock off every criminal that he can find on the internet. 

It isn’t until some additional layers to the book and the demon himself is sprinkled in that the story gets its momentum. A cat and mouse game blows up and makes things interesting. L, A mysterious figure arrises, working with the police to impossibly narrow down the phantom magic-murderer, and Light takes the challenge head-on. The two sides take steps closer to each other’s true identities, all while Ryuk watches on with amazement. 

I waffled back and forth between thinking Death Note was too goofy to being captivating and burning through chapter after chapter. It ends abruptly and on a weird note for the end of a volume, but that just adds to my piqued interest in following where this story can go. It reminds me of great television writing, where the writing room deliberately writes itself into a corner, only to keep finding ways to keep the juices flowing. I wouldn’t be surprised if this story gets too out of control and jumps the rails, as much of the anime I have experienced. Either way, I am entirely open to exploring future volumes down the path.

Analysis from the carefully folded scraps of wrapping paper shoved in a bag to be save on future smaller gifts, but that will be trashed at holiday’s end regardless:

I have a fondness for Death Note as I once lived with a lovely yet quiet gent named Greg, whom I desperately wanted to feel comfortable and loved in my home, so I agreed to watch anime with him, and this was the first series he introduced me to. I was hooked from the first episode and loved it even more as he had so much joy in watching my boyfriend and me at the time soak it up. I had never seen any anime before and have yet to really enjoy any since, so having this manga show up on our reading list was exciting. It has been a trip down memory lane and has reminded me of someone I truly enjoyed and wished greatness for. I love a happy memory of a melancholy soul.

Now, to be honest, I had far too much difficulty following the reading order at first. I get that it goes backward, but from the bottom up or top-down was far more confusing than it should be for me. After a few pages, I got the hang of it though it should be noted that it did kind of make sense, either way, it was read.

Now in the story, Light was delightful at first. He was wise and curious and really seemed to want to make a positive difference in the world around him with his newfound power. However, like most men who fall into power, his pride quickly got in the way. It took no time at all for him to find an arch enemy who dares to question his actions and decide that the only way to accomplish his agenda is to do away with anyone who might find his behavior questionable. This might be a case of real-life affecting my perception, but narcissistic men wear quickly on my nerves, so by the time I got through the end of this volume, I was no longer a fan of Light. He is drunk with power, caught up in his own ego, and has lost all sense of purpose in an attempt to ruin the one person who calls him on his shit. Another man who’s lost his head to his own self-entitlement is boring and gross and, for lack of a better phrase, “I don’t have time to fuck with that!” (See, it’s not just for you L.)

It has been something like 8 or 9 years since I watched Death Note, and my memory is true shit, so I have no idea how the story progresses past this volume, but I want more of it. I want to see him fail and die by his own penmanship if necessary. Hopefully, we pick this back up soon. It is, in the end, an interesting story, and I do enjoy it. Great pick from our newbie. We needed a new member with taste since my picks are often total crap. L no longer has to do the heavy lifting. Also, my picks are next, so gird your loins, folks!

Analysis from some important information passed on a piece of ripped notebook paper:

When I was in middle school, I remember reading through my baby book, and there was a page that listed things at a few months of age that I liked and disliked. Among the likes were bananas, playing Peek-a-Boo, and laughing. The dislikes? Being told “no” and boredom. Some things never change. I’m sure that some restless days I would even be grateful to have some material possession fall down from the sky from a deity just to stir up the daily humdrum.

To be completely truthful, I watched Death Note’s anime and live-action movie. (I do not recommend the live-action… oh goodness, don’t watch it.) The anime is GREAT, which is why I chose the manga. With this being my first manga, I had some apprehension about the mechanics of reading it since you have to go from the “back” of the book to the “front” and from right to left on each page/window. It ended up feeling quite natural, and I was easily immersed in the story quickly. 

I think of Death Note as just a giant game of chess played between Light and L. What I like about the story is the intrigue. You know one of these masterminds has an idea, and you have an inclination about where they are going with it, but they are still multiple steps ahead of you. It’s like watching two Sherlocks go head to head. I never found that I rooted for Light’s cause, but I did root for him to be clever to evade L just so I could see them in action a bit longer. 

Light’s slight obsession with being god-like makes me uncomfortable. Even with the name “Light,” there is something cold, calculating, and amoral about him lurking under the surface from the very beginning. While I can appreciate someone who wants to work towards a better world, I have a difficult time accepting a person singularly deciding a human’s mortality. If I wouldn’t trust myself with that book, I would be highly unlikely to trust someone else, even if I thought they were of superior mental aptitude. Power inevitably corrupts.

I hope to read more volumes in the future. The first one didn’t take me as far into the storyline as I had hoped. This volume is filled more with world creation and foundation, not the comprehensive mental Olympics I had come to appreciate from the anime.

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