Greatings dear Weird Movie Goers, this is your host, Mr. Towelhead. Tonight we are going to review a very dark detective manga named Death Note. It had a moment of massive popularity in the 2000’s when it came out and now, if you weren’t caught in the turmoil, you may be asking yourself. Is it worth it? Well, Mr. Takeshi Obata will have to allow us to view his illustrations for fair use to educate us on how … decent, good, bad, AWESOME? Death Note is.

Mr. Towelhead reviews

death note cover

DEATH NOTE

The manga was written by Tsugumi Ohiba between 2003 and 2006, its 12 volumes illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Its a shönen manga (young male audience) although the story is rather complicated (in quotation marks), however there is no graphic content or nudity. The western genre is, well a bunch of things: Mystery, Detective, Phsycho Thriller, Supernatural Thriller and Dark Fantasy (so the wikipedia). In a nutshell I would dare to say Death Note is a fantasy detective drama.

CONCEPT

The idea behind is so simple and yet so macabre, there is a so-called Death Note, which looks like a regular note book but if you write someone’s name on it, having in mind that person’s face, they will die in 40 sec. form a heart attack. Just like that. And while the story explains the existence of the death notes as weapons of death gods, who live in a death world and what not. The main story happens on Earth, Japan in contemporary times. No one knows (and obviously believes) in death notes or death gods. And so the police have to apprehend a villain capable of killing instantly, at a distance, leaving no trace of his presence.

STORY

The story develops over the course of two protagonist detectives who are after the one antagonist. And during the investigation things get complicated as little by little the police discern how the killer goes about it, and finally they have to realize and believe, in the existence of death notes and death gods.

All the while the antagonist is known to us (as an audience) and the story thrives from his smarts and wits. Regardless of how intelligent the detectives (protagonists) are, the antagonist always manages to figure out a way to deceive them.

The story is tense pulling on your emotions as the antagonist gets away with his plans, or, on the contrary your heart will stop when the protagonists are about to catch the antagonist. Wether you are on the antagonist or protagonist side, the story is like a roller coaster that you will simply not want to get out. And yes sometime the story gets pretty sad. Sniff, sniff.

The rules start nice and simple

death note rules

… but they get unnecessarily complictaed… 

Another thing. Death Note is not complicated per se. As the story progresses more rules are added to how to use the Death Note, and that is sometimes ridiculous. It really seems the author had no idea, how to “save” the antagonist, so he came up with a cop out, childish rule about the Death Notes. For the most they make sense and add to the story, but there are parts of the story where the rules get idiotically complicated. I would dare to think, it was not really necessary. :S

DIALOGUES

The dialogues are the most important part of the story. How each of protagonist and antagonist plots, plans and manages resources, and how they are able to figure out the other is very decent. And its also realistically done. Death Note, as a detective story, goes along the lines of showing you every one’s thoughts and that is impresive on the part of being realistic according to each character’s knowledge and personality and sometimes tiring as hell. Because:

1. Every one in the series is a plotter. While we all, humans, have deeper thoughts than what we appear to have. Not all of us are planning ahead, plotting all the time, over thinking every step we give. In the world of Death Note every single  MALE goes through very complex thought processes. There is no room for spontaneity and that is unrealistic.

Sometimes it frightening to turn the page and be invaded by a dialogue bubbles this long.

death note bubble

And when you “have” to read pages and pages of dumb people trying to find a meaning behind things. Its exhausting.

2. The antagonist is good at reading people and imagining how they will act. Which is good and dandy, but after a while it was quite frankly boring because he was always right. NEVER did things go slightly out of hand, or slightly different than expected. And that is EXTREMELY unrealistic. It would have been so much more fun to see the antagonist battle his way out of trouble, even when things went spontaneously different.

3. Women are portrayed as simple minded. They never plot anything, they follow orders regardlessly, they fall into dumb clichés. And while it makes sense for the continuation of the story, once again, it would have been fun to confront the antagonist with unknown terrain. For example, a woman who actually used her brains or something.

ILLUSTRATIONS

The style of Mr. Obata (Takeshi) is amazing. It strives to be realistic and succeeds by far. People are well drawn, characters have the most differentiated physical traits, objects are so well drawn you can understand them in detail. So when the antagonist shows how he uses a rigged watched, the drawings are so detailed and realistic you could swear that watch is real (even though its in black and white).

death note watch

So yes, big props to the illustration department.

VERDICT

Despite all my critique, and despite all the issues I didn’t like with the dialogues the overall Death Note experience is worth your while. Sometimes the dialogues dragged on for TOO long, specially the thoughts and plots of characters who were not so important. I have to admit that I did skip a few words of the REALLY long dialogue bubbles (specially with meaningless characters you knew were gonna die in the next few pages). Never the less I still highly recommend this manga.

Mr. Towelhead is VERY ‘appy

10 / 10

Chop, chop. If you like mangas in general you will LOVE it. If you like detective stories you will LOVE it. If you simply wanna read an intense story you will LOVE it. If you hate complicated story, you may give Death Note a 6 / 10 for its tense story and entertainment value.

Death Note is worth every penny you invest in it and the few flaws are outweighted by the cool design, the realistic thought behind it, and even the few occasions we tour the death world are neat.

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