Manga Review: Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata


Death Note, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Genres: Shonen, Psychological Thriller

Volumes: 12, +13th How to Read

Status: Complete

Favorite Characters: L, Mello



“No one can tell what is righteous and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.”

This was the series that really got me into manga.

There were a couple that I’d tried before, but Death Note was the one I became obsessed with. It still stands as my all-time favorite. It has one thing that bothers me, but really, it doesn’t matter, because overall it’s just too good. I’ll talk about it later.

Death Note is about a notebook that falls into the human world from the Shinigami realm. (Shinigami means “God of Death.”) This notebook has the power to kill people, as long as the user knows the name and face of its target. Any person written in the Death Note will die – inevitably.


It’s picked up by Raito “Light” Yagami, a genius high school student who has become disgusted with the world. When he gets his hands on the notebook and discovers that its powers are real, he begins to use it to kill criminals. The mass murders gains the attention of the NPA, and they open an investigation, believing that there is a person behind the deaths. That person becomes known as “Kira” (derived from killer). When the NPA can gain no leads, they ask help from L – a genius whose true identity is unknown, but has solved every case that has come his way, even those deemed unsolvable. As Kira gains nationwide attention, the world divides between his supporters and his opposers, those that think of him as a god and those that think of him as a menace. Meanwhile, the police are using everything they have to find and capture Kira – at the risk of being his next victim.


I think this is a great series for people to get into manga and anime – but then again, maybe not. I’ll explain.

Death Note doesn’t have any of the tropes that might turn people off from manga or anime. Some of those include sensitivity to pretty much everything, culture references that might confuse them, or gag humor. It has a story that, though not westernized, is very appealing. Plus, there are those that aren’t into blood and horror (*glances over at Tokyo Ghoul*), so it is able to have a serious story without all of the added gore.

The second reason is Takeshi Obata’s artwork. There are many, many different styles when it comes to drawing anime. It can range from realistic to the overly-cartooned One Piece. Obata’s art is smooth, careful and semi-realistic, which is overall very pleasing to the eye.


Not all anime characters have big, sparkly eyes (not that there’s anything wrong with that), so Death Note appeals visually to those that think negatively of the normal style.
When I say that it may not be a good one to get into, I mean this: you have to pay attention. This is a giant game of chess; it’s a lot of mind games, thinking and not acting. Some patches can be kind of slow when all the characters are doing is sitting around and talking. It’s a fantastic story, but there are times when I still don’t quite know what the freaking hell Near was talking about at the end.


The one thing that bugs me about the series is that it’s a little sexist. There is only one female detective that shows up towards the end, and the only main female character, Misa Amane, is a very beautiful but fickle woman. She does whatever Light wants without any question and doesn’t have a mind of her own. Light uses her as well as another girl as pawns; they are virtually useless. And despite Misa being in love with Light (or is it “infatuated”?), Light basically despises her, but pretends to love her so she’ll do what he asks.

As much as I hate that, this series is amazing. It poses the question of right and wrong, whether it’s right to kill the evil people in the world or whether all killing is wrong. I’m an unwavering Team L, but even I’m not sure what my answer would be. It also shows how corrupt people become when it comes to power and getting what they want. Light starts out the series killing criminals to make the world a better place, but as it goes on he becomes obsessed with being “God”.  It opens up a conversation about human morality, and as a person who loves psychology, this is one of my favorite topics to discuss. There are so many counterarguments that you end up talking in circles.

Regardless of your answer, it’s a manga worth reading. There are twelve volumes and a thirteenth How to Read that is basically an encyclopedia for the series. There are also two light novels that I’ve yet to read that focus on L, Death Note: Another Note and L: Change The World.

“There is no heaven or hell.

No matter what you do while you’re alive, everybody goes to the same place once you die.

Death is equal.”


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