Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English publishers: Madman Entertainment (AUS) and Viz Media (UK/NA)
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Death Note is a manga – the Japanese genre of comic books and anime – with a potential to keep you hooked and thinking for days, or weeks even. It’s a twelve-volume series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata and is one of the most intense, well-thought-out, and utterly mindboggling series I have ever read.
The manga begins in the Shinigami world, where the Death God Ryuuku (or Ryuk) drops his Death Note in the Human World “for fun.” Death Note is a notebook where Death Gods write the names of the humans they want to kill to increase their own life span. The Note lands into the hands of 17 year old Yagami Raito or Light, as he’s named later in the series. Light is the super-intelligent anti hero who tests the Note and its limitations. The owner of the Note has to know the name of the person and has to have seen his/her face in order to kill. The cause of death also needs to be specified; otherwise the person dies of a heart attack. With the power of the Note, Light Yagami pledges to create a Utopian world where there’s no place for “Evil.” So, he uses the Note to kill off people that the “world would be better off without.” The Police begins to notice the “heart attacks” that prisoners all over the world are dying with. While some people are happy that the criminals are finally getting the “Judgement” they deserve, there are others who think this kind of a killing is nothing short of an Evil in itself. And thus begins the search of “KIRA” – the name that people give to the leader of the world, the one who passes the Judgement.
Here enters the most interesting and entertaining character of the manga: L – the world’s most sought after detective. Ohba and Obata must be having one hell of an intellect to have conceived and put together this tale. The way the thought processes are described – of Light, L and later of N… it's breathtaking! They plan, they anticipate the other's plan, and formulate a counterplan…and all you can do is try and fail at not being completely amazed by how far a human mind can think. The expressions complement the characters’ personality: Death Gods are scary; Light has the charm of an anti hero, and the way L walks and sits will simply blow your minds off. The only problem with Death Note is that there are no women characters of any significance. The one who has any sort of power is the dumbhead Misa who gives everything away. Thanks to Obata who made Mello, another brilliant mind, look like a woman but Ohba mentions that Mello is a man.
Apart from the intellect, Death Note also appeals to the ethics and philosophy which one stands for. It can be very well related to what most of the people have been thinking about in the wake of the recent rape cases. Light's goal is to change the world by killing off society's bad elements. But is that going to solve any problem? Will killing off the “elements” of Evil, destroy the “Evil” itself? And who decides what’s evil anyway? Is there any other choice? These are some of the many questions that Ohba poses, and none of them can be answered easily.
This thought-provoking manga will keep you on moral tenterhooks as Ohba takes you to this ever intense series. So, go ahead and get your hands on the manga that you’ll be sure to enjoy. Oh, and keep an eye out for the little funny dialogues strewn along the way!