Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Prong's 21st Review : Death Note

Hey there Marauders.

Prongs here brining you a review of my ‘Wild Card’ for Collections/Graphic novels. Since week 3’s reading (My Mother She Killed Me, My Father he Ate Me) was going a bit slow, I decided to pick up a graphic novel I have been ITCHING to get my hands on.

I own and am reviewing the ‘Black Edition’ from B&N, which contains Volumes 1& 2 of the series. Sadly, the other Black Editions are only available for pre-order and I will have to wait until May for more of the story. There are 7 Black Editions in all… aka. 14 volumes. The Death Note series was published between 2003 and 2006 in Japan, and has since spawned a TV series, multiple novel spin offs, and a full-length movie.

So now that you have a bit of back info… here is Prong’s short-but loving review of the new cult hit ‘Death Note’.

"I'm going to change the world."

Death Note

Story by Tsugumi Ohba Art by Takeshi Obata

Have you ever heard the old philosophical debate of how we know whether man is truly good or evil at heart? The argument goes something like ‘imagine you could be invisible for a day… what is the first thing you would do?’ For most people, the first thing that comes to mind is usually something not quite moral… a.k.a. spy on Mike Rowe in the shower. This concept is put to the test in ‘Death Note’ when high-school student Light Yagami discovers an abandoned supernatural notebook belonging to none other than the ‘death god’ Ryuk.

When Light comes into possession of the notebook, he also inherits the sinisteryet cataclysmic powers that come with being a ‘death god’. By simply writing the full name of someone and imagining their face, Light is able to cause the instantaneous fatality of any human of his choosing… thus making him a master of death, of good and evil. It isn’t long before Light, a highly intelligent and moral student begins a crusade to rid the world of evil by ending the lives of known criminals in mass. Since no one besides Light and the death god Ryuk know about the details of how the Death Note works, society is thrown into chaos as a seemingly benevolent crusader begins mystically taking down criminals one by one. Many dub this unknown dictator of death as 'Kira', and Light must work tirelessly to keep his true identity a secret.

As the story progresses, unknown aspects of the Death Note's powers begin to emerge, along with new challenges for Light to deal with, all while trying to remain a top student and honorable son. One of those aspects is the presence of Ryuk, the death god that only the possessor of the Death Note can see. Light continues his daily life with the invisible, but not silent presence of the frighteningly funny death god following his every step. Ironically enough, Ryuk's unnerving presence provides the comic relief for an otherwise truly dark story.

Issues of judgment and righteousness and who can decide that those words truly mean are obviously huge undertones of the story. As a teenage boy sets out to turn the world into a utopia, it becomes clear that not everyone is as supportive of Light’s idealistic exploits. Light's morality is tested further with the introduction of the mysterious 'L'; a secretive opposer of 'Kira' who seems to be Light's mental match in every way.

Apart from being a compelling story, the very nature of a graphic novel adds to this story in a way that print alone could not accomplish. With out the visuals the book provides, it might be easy to forget that behind this seemingly harmless high school student, lurks an evil force aiding our hero in his fatal quest. Some of my favorite scenes involve Light in a casual conversation with friends, while Ryuk hangs invisible just behind, not letting you forget even in quiet times the power that Light possesses.

While my experience with Manga is limited, I can safely say this is some of the more visually stunning art I have seen in a long time; couple that with a gripping story and it is obvious to see why Death Note became a sensation.

I am also including a bit of a tutorial for how to read Manga for anyone who has yet to discover this fascinating and beautiful genre.

As a reader, I am always looking for ways to expand my concept of ‘a novel’ and my definition of ‘literature’. I am so glad that I stepped outside of my comfort zonewith this work, and look forward to seeing where Light’s adventures will take him next. I HIGHLY and I mean HIGHLY suggest picking this one up.


  1. If you like the graphic novel, try the series on video as well as the live action version of Death Note. The series is better than the live action IMO, but I haven't read the graphic novel of it yet.

  2. I def want to check out the live action! Saw a few stills and it looked like they picked perfect people to play Light and L! You should def pick up the graphic novel. It was amazing!

  3. I've yet to read any Manga but based on your review, I'm really interested in picking up Death Note. The tutorial was helpful. I had no idea that it was read from back to front and right to left. I'm sure it takes a while to get used to that.

  4. @Kristi - Glad to hear you were interested enough to pick up Manga!! I got my 'Black Edition' at Barnes and Noble for about 10$... so really kind of a steal. The only sad thing is I am anxious to see where the story goes.

    Glad you found the tutorial helpful! I filmed it in Imovie so it was like looking in a mirror, then trying to do it backwards. Double whammy.

  5. What a great series to review! This manga is one of my favorites and I actually ended up watching the anime with my husband and he loved it too. There's live action movies as well. I wish that series had never ended it was so good!

  6. @ Kristen - So glad to be finding others who have heard/read some of the series! I really want to find the live action movie because I am dying to know what happened!

  7. I found the first in the Sandman series at a Half Price Books in Dayton, but I had already reached my spending limit with the books I had in hand. Next time I go I will be going specifically for a graphic novel purchase:)


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