Saturday, January 27, 2007


I've recently pimped BLEACH with unadulterated glee. And I still do suggest reading it. But now I'm pimping DEATH NOTE. Thing is, I'm aware that DEATH NOTE might only appeal to some people. The impulse to save innocent people from death and innocent souls from becoming monsters is generally universal - BLEACH. DEATH NOTE on the other hand, is about a boy who gains the power to kill anyone he wants, which makes it pretty antisocial.

Free Image Hosting at DEATH NOTE is about Light Yagami who finds the dropped notebook of a Shingami or 'Death God'. Possession of the notebook allows him to kill whomever he wants. All he needs is their name and a picture of their face.

For those of us who've ever heard about a senseless violent killing, or have been affected by brutal crime, there's a whole world of appeal in the thought of someone meting out justice. But the books are more than just wish fulfillment. Light wants to create a better world and he thinks this is the way to do it. In a way he's an anti-hero. A little bit of the Japanese version of 'The Punisher'. He's brilliant and before finding the notebook he was going to enter into the national protection service, and fight crime as an agent. Now he doesn't have to wait years and years to finally do something.

I enjoyed the first three graphic novels a lot more than I thought I would. Even knowing my own anti-social and against the norm leanings, I couldn't conceive of it holding my interest in an extended run. But not only did it do that, but book four showed me how they could make a whole damn (10 or more book) series out of the thing. Possession of the notebook, you see, isn't absolute and once you lose possession you lose all the memories associated with the ability to kill people.

With that in play there's a whole bunch of twists and turns available for the characters. If someone isn't aware of any crimes they've committed and seemingly can no longercommit those crimes - are they innocent? Guilty? Something in between? Was it them? Or was it them as possessed by the notebook?

Is what Light is doing really wrong? Does he deserve the death penalty himself? Is that hypocritical?

What about victim families who saw the person who destroyed their life win appeal after appeal? But now that evil person has been stuck down by the 'criminal serial killer'? What about the families of those in prison who died? What about the wrongfully accused?

Once again I've found something that makes me think. And on top of that I just like the characters involved. They're young and passionate and distinct personalities. Half the time I don't know who I'm rooting for. I want them all to win. The notebook brings together personalities that otherwise would never have met and the oddest relationships and friendships are formed. Currently I find myself a little inclined to slash Light and the person who's made it their mission to put the 'criminal serial killer' behind bars. Two lonely, brilliant characters should and seem to have so much in common - I definitely want to see more about their possible friendship.

Was Punisher ever this interesting? Or was it always black and white? I admit to never really liking or reading Punisher since my introduction to the character was through the Spiderman Saturday Morning Cartoons. It was hard for me to like anyone hunting Spidey. And all I've picked up on the web so far is paradoy and mockery; is he a super hero? Is he a criminal? Now I have to wonder if people who do like Punisher would dislike DEATH NOTE for what I find to be its moral ambiguity. Then again, I might just be effed up in the head.

The artwork is also very enjoyable. The chapter-break prints are amazing. But the panelled artwork is clean and crisp in a way I like. Each panel furthers the story along with incredible pacing. If you're someone who doesn't like cluttered panels with impressionistic and vague backgrounds and an over abundance of 'reaction' shots - you might pick this up for the art and find yourself liking the story.

I'm rapidly discovering my temperaments re: art in Manga. I have favourites artists in comics with color and of course favourite colourists. But it's nothing like how precise I like the artwork to be in Manga (or rather how precise I like black and white work to be). That's likely to be another entry, however.

Once again I have to thank Marvel for disgusting me and DC for scaring me into searching out other comic fixes. Hmmm DeathNote - manga killery goodness.

DEATH NOTE / DESU NOTO - written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata.

No comments: