I mean a post on this show was inevitable, right? I thought about doing a post on this much later, but then thought why?
Let me just state that I’m going to use the words sociopath and psychopath at times in this post, and it has nothing to do with anyone’s actions, but entirely their psychological make-up. There is a difference, so don’t assume I’m associating the two at all. Just wanted to put that out there.
And getting back to it…
If you look up “Anime everyone should watch” lists I can pretty much guarantee Death Note will be on them.
So what is Death Note about? I’m surprised if you don’t know, but just in case…
Light Yagami (yep, that’s his name…Light…gotta love irony), seems like your typical uber-smart high school student when one day he stumbles across a notebook. But this isn’t any old notebook, this notebook belongs to Ryuk who is a god of death – or Shinigami. Essentially anyone in possession of the notebook can see Shinigami and now take on the powers of the notebook becoming a god of death themselves. Armed with a person’s real name and their face, the one who possesses the book can write that name in the notebook and the person will die at the time and in the way written down. (There are a whole host of other rules, but I’m doing the basics here).
Light, armed with his newfound power, starts off with noble intentions, only killing off the dregs of society – murderers, rapists, etc. ., and eventually creates the persona “Kira”. Under the guise of Kira, he starts to put his messianic message of ridding the world of scum out to the masses. Some praise him, but some – shock, shock – feel that no matter the reason, what Kira is doing is still wrong. And soon L (yes, he goes by just the letter) enters the picture.
L is a world-class detective who has solved hundreds of “unsolvable” crimes, so he has been sent to Japan to hunt down ‘Kira’ and bring them to justice. Almost immediately he starts to suspect Light (there are reasons but spoilers – ok) and the two become locked in a battle of wits that is literally life and death, not only for each other but for anyone Light comes into contact with while he’s armed with the notebook.
I mean that’s basically it. I’m not going to go into the whole story because there is a second ‘Kira’, other Shinigami aside from Ryuk, and an entire task force put together to stop ‘Kira’ which includes Light’s dad…ooops…I mean…
***WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD***
Look, can I say anything exciting and new about Death Note? Some theory that hasn’t been explored? Some deep insight that has yet to be revealed? Nope. However, there’s a reason that 14 years after this anime first aired people still talk about it. After all, take out the action and thriller elements and what you really have is a story that asks a lot of deeply moral and ethical questions. I mean, say you have a death note, is murder bad when you’re only going after criminals – like rapists and killers? Or say you’re just an average citizen watching things unfold through the media, would you want to live in a society where someone has the power to take out anyone at any time, and the only thing you can do is trust that you won’t fall victim so long as you obey the rules? Or say you’re the investigator sent in to bring down this mass murderer, is there a line you can’t cross in order to find them and bring them to justice? What is right and what is wrong under these circumstances? Who’s the good guy and who’s the bad?
Take these questions, wrap them up in a psychological thriller box, tie it up with a supernatural bow and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. What’s not to love?
So with that said…
Let’s talk about those lovable “L”s:
The psychological warfare between Light and L, is a little like pitting Sherlock against Mycroft Holmes, because they are both cut from the same cloth, they’re both highly intelligent and almost think completely the same, however their approach to things differs vastly. I would argue that both are – and yes I’m stealing this from BBC Sherlock – highly functioning sociopaths. Except Light knows exactly how to manipulate the people around him into thinking he’s a normal and upstanding young man. L doesn’t care enough to try, he’s focused on one thing and one thing only – catching his prey. Two sides of the same coin and it can be hard at times to argue who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist.
I admit I lean a little more towards being team L than team Light, mostly because I hate Light. I don’t generally continue watching something if I hate the main character, but with Light, that’s part of the fun. At least for me. The constant – will he be caught, will he get away with it – is infuriating and exhilarating. I think the main bone of contention with me is he just tries to be too perfect, too ingratiating to other people, and it’s just so smugly self-righteous that I wanna punch him.
L on the other hand is just quirky enough that despite how badly he may treat people, you kind of find him endearing. His addiction to sweets, the weird manner in which he sits, he’s just odd enough that you kind of forgive him when he’s being a grade-A a**hole. Which is often. I think it’s because he just doesn’t really try to be nice to people so you just learn to accept and move on. I can respect that.
Watching these two duke it out mentally (and sometimes physically) is straight-up porn. I hate to be crude, but truth is truth. Their mental cat and mouse games are so exciting and so ultimately satisfying, that I’m exhausted and want a cigarette, alcohol, chocolate, and a snuggle afterward. One second you think L has Light cornered, then the next second Light has completely flipped the game around and become the hunter. For instance, the way Light figures out how to escape L’s interrogation is just *chef’s kiss*. Then again, L has some delicious moments where he turns the tables on Light as well. I won’t even go into how twisted it is that he gets Light’s dad to pretend he’s going to kill…aaaaahhhh…must not spoil that much…
The other thing I find amazing about this anime is that despite how annoyed I usually get with inner monologues, where we have to hear the character reason out every damn thing they’re about to do, this is one of those rare shows where it doesn’t really bother me, but I think because it’s set up to be a mental exercise so that makes more sense than having to listen to a character drone on about how they’re going to become stronger to defeat an enemy or the angle of the punch they’re about to land. (Can you tell I’ve tried watching too many battle anime recently? Ugh.)
Seriously, I could have just watched an entire show of these two sitting at a chessboard trying to outwit each other, but I’ll admit that a lot of other characters are what help to drive the action.
Other characters of …ahem…note:
Ryuk – the one and only apple loving Shinigami of our hearts and the whole reason we get to go on this crazy ride. The chaos he causes just because he’s bored is just twisted enough that you almost want to applaud him. The fact that he never forms any emotional attachment to Light at all is probably one of my favorite things about this series. He is literally just there to watch the show and only gets involved if he knows it can cause more chaos and keep him entertained for longer.
Misa Amane – I’m sorry, I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I hate her. I keep wondering how far this whole thing could have gone if she wasn’t around. Granted she does a lot to help out Light because she’s got some kind of twisted hero-worship love for him (he inadvertently wound up killing a criminal who murdered her family) but most of the time I just want to gag her – and not in the kinky fun way. Just to shut her up.
Rem – Another Shinigami who works with Misa, and her big moment is one of the most infuriating things in this entire saga. She took away my satisfaction in the finale to Light’s and L’s saga and I will NEVER FORGIVE YOU!
Near – Geez these names. For reasons (damn you Rem) he has to take over the investigation from L and while he’s not quite as loveable(?) as L, he is instrumental in the denouement.
The unintentional – or is it – humor:
I admit I can have a twisted sense of humor and do tend to laugh at things that aren’t necessarily supposed to be funny (I think I’ve said it before, but all those Marvel characters turning to ash in Avengers: Infinity War – hilarious!) so it’s hard for me to know if these moments strike me as funny because of my twisted humor or because they are just overly dramatic enough that they’re laughable.
Eating Potato Chips: Never in the history of visual cinema – at least from what I’ve seen – has anyone ever made eating potato chips so over the top insane as Light Yagami does. Knowing there are cameras watching his every move, in order to try and prove he’s not Kira, Light hides a device in a bag of potato chips so he can see faces and names of people to put in the notebook, while also doing his homework. And the icing is Ryuk in the background having withdrawal symptoms because he hasn’t gotten any apples in days. And normally I wouldn’t share an entire scene, but it’s just too good not to watch.
The ultimate maniacal laugh: Once again, our man Light proves he is just too much to handle when he goes into the best ‘villian’ laugh of all time. Seriously. Almost gives Joker a run for his money.
The fight scene: I’d say this rivals Bridgette Jones’ Diary for the best fight scene, except L and Light can land some pretty brutal punches. I think because they’re chained together and on some weird double date with Misa, and it’s supposed to be this moment of high intensity, is the reason why I literally LOL’ed during it.
Holding a phone: I don’t know why this tickles my funny bone so much but can we just appreciate the way Light and L hold phones?
Honestly, if you like a good psychological thriller watch this. Period. Dozens of other similar anime out there, but nothing touches this one IMHO.
Also, I’m not going to talk about the live actions because the Netflix version pissed me off so much I can’t. But there are some decent ones out there. And of course, this was a manga first so do yourself a favor and read that too.
Have you watched Death Note? Do you believe it deserves the hype or is it overrated? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!
If I Bruce Wayne and James Bond had a love child…
The tennis match…THE TENNIS MATCH! LOL!
L will not let cake go to waste!
L being his charming self…
Ryuk and his apples
Oh, the ever-popular red vs blue
So many rules!!!! (and this is only a small few)…
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