With light, comes darkness: A ‘Death Note’ review

Vicken Margossian and Roni Rafeh
Arts & Culture Editor and Staff Writer

There are few series out there, anime or otherwise, that challenge their viewers to the point of madness; that make them question their own virtue and sense of right and wrong, good and evil. Death Note, a 2006 anime, is a pioneer amongst such series, and the starting point that launched an era of anti-heroes as protagonists in the genre.

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What would you do if you had the power to murder anybody just by writing their name down? That is the premise of Death Note.
While it may seem a bit ridiculous, the show executes this concept masterfully, making it one of the highest-rated, most critically acclaimed animes in the industry, and atop many a favorites list for die-hard anime fans.

Death Note narrates the story of Light Yagami, a high school student who has it all. Highly intelligent to the point of being a genius—in addition to being very athletic, good-natured, and well-mannered—Light is the perfect son and friend. That is until a small black book called the Death Note changes everything.

He opens it to find that it claims to have the power to kill whoever’s name is written inside, as long as the writer has the image of the person in mind.

Overwhelmed with surprise, but seduced by the notebook’s power once he tries it, Light takes it upon himself to write the names of various criminals and villains as a form of justice, in preparation for a utopia to which he will serve as God.

Throughout the series, Light, having sparked the interest of Interpol with his anonymous killing spree, is hunted down by a genius detective who only goes by the name “L,” along with his team.

Among its many strengths is how the show cleverly questions morality. While he is killing off dangerous and harmful criminals, Light is still taking lives. One wonders if he has the right to possess such godly powers and pass judgement. Those who watch will question Light’s motives and will have to decide for themselves what they believe is the right thing to do.

Light’s slow descent into madness is another strong point as we see an innocent, loving student turn into a power-hungry murderer who believes he is not human and refers to himself as a god. This begs the question: what will happen when he is the only black spot in his aspired utopian world? The plot’s execution is especially noteworthy because of the realistic way in which it portrays the mentality of a psychopath.

Death Note is brilliant in virtually every sense of the word. While some animes are celebrated for their graphics, this one stupefies viewers with its battle of wits between Light and “L,” leaving them speechless at times.

That said, the show isn’t perfect. Halfway through, the plot starts to drag, especially after the introduction of Misa, who grows on viewers despite being annoying most of the time.

As the series returns to its glory, it commits a fatal plot error that sparked controversy among fans and the anime world in general. Following that incident, the show lost its edge only to regain momentum towards the end of the series.

Nevertheless, the brilliance of the first arc overshadows a lackluster second arc, despite a dramatically poetic ending that satisfied fans across the world.

Ultimately, this psychological thriller has something in it for everyone. Those who have grown tired of routine action shows with generic heroes and villains will find Death Note to be a breath of fresh air that asks, “What is the true meaning of good and evil?”

Photo source: fanpop.com

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