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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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12/11/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Death Note, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2"

Death Note, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
Story by Tsugumi Ohba
Art by Takeshi Obata
VIZ

Review by Tom Good

Light Yagami has a magic notebook, originally the property of a Shinigami, or "death god." If Light writes someone's name down in the book, that person will die. When I first heard about this I thought it was a clever story idea, but then I wondered how it would be possible to sustain it for more than a few dozen pages. First he will have to decide whether to use the notebook, and of course he will use it, since otherwise the story would be boring. So, with an undetectable way to kill people, he will kill some, and then what? He sits around feeling guilty? Actually, Tsugumi Ohba turns this into a very interesting story about the cat-and-mouse game between Light and the detective who is trying to catch him.

How do you catch a killer who can murder from a distance without leaving a trace? There will be no ordinary clues at the scene, but there may be other information available. The mysterious young detective known as "L" thinks he can solve this puzzle, and he comes up with some ingenious ways of narrowing down the search, which I will not reveal here. Adding to the story's complexity, Light believes that he is doing a good thing. He feels that he has been given this opportunity so he can make the world a better place by eliminating those who are truly evil. This vigilantism is reminiscent of the comic The Punisher. And Light's father is a policeman, so perhaps he wants to prove he can deal with crimials more effectively than his father.

Ryuk, the Shinigami, follows Light around and talks to him, but only Light can see him. Over time, Light learns from Ryuk that the Death Note is more complicated than it seems. Ryuk looks kind of like a very tall goth clown, with sharp teeth and spiky hair. The trouble his Death Note causes in the human world seems to amuse him, but he refuses to take Light's side. Takeshi Obata, the artist who also created Hikaru no Go, does a great job of putting this strikingly odd character into what is otherwise a very realistic world. Because of the overall realism, unlike most manga Death Note would probably work well as a live-action movie.

Death Note is a very inventive and entertaining manga, and should not be missed.

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