Thursday, December 16, 2010

Death Note

Death Note begins with Light, an above-average Japanese student. He seems to be bored with the pace of the schools, and easily maintains his head-of-the-class position. However, his life turns around when he finds the Death Note, a notebook that allows him to kill people by simply writing down their name. Once he discovers the notebook’s power, he begins to wonder how he can use it to society’s advantage. He decides to use it to kill off the world’s most dangerous criminals, which seems to be going fine for a while. However, what Light overlooks is how people will react to the sudden death of all the criminals. There is a worldwide fascination with the deaths, and although no one knows that they were caused by Light, our protagonist still becomes very narcissistic as the fame goes to his head. He even begins to discuss a future utopia in which he is in charge. The police begin to investigate, but they have to rely on more help. They call in the investigator “L”, who has proven to be unstoppable in the past. The compelling nature of the story comes from Light’s chase from Detective L. However, Light’s behavior becomes much more cynical when he begins to kill off FBI officers who are working in Japan. What the reader later discovers is the fact that one FBI officer’s fiancée used to also work in the FBI, and has information that could lead to Light’s arrest. Possibly worst of all though occurs when Light’s father heads a task force against the murderer, unaware that it is his own son. Detective L eventually joins the task force, even further adding to the suspense of how long Light can keep his act together.
The book has some major characters other than Light and Detective L, particularly Misa Amane, Near, Mello, and the Shinigami. Misa Amane is a Japanese model with a burning crush on Light. She has a very ditzy personality, and is always insisting that she and Light had “love at first sight”. However, Light only views her as somewhat annoying, and gets tired of her clingy personality.
Near is very similar to Detective L throughout the story. He even begins to call himself “N”, and has very similar idiosyncrasies. As L stacks sugar cubes, N stacks dice. When L plays with random objects, N also plays with similar things. He is very calm and emotional, and has pale skin.
Mello is an orphan who grew up in a home for “gifted” children. He is very intelligent, but usually is overcome by his emotions. He is usually seen eating bars of chocolate, and has a life goal to surpass L and Near.
Finally, the Shinigami are beings that live in the Shinigami realm. They appear somewhat evil, and are actually very lazy. They spend much of their time gambling, and the only work they really do involves use of the death note. When they get closer and closer to death, they write a human’s name in the death book, and use that human’s life to extend their own. For example, if the Shinigami killed someone who would have lived for forty more years, then they would receive these forty years of life. In this sense, they are immortal. However, true love for a human can kill them. The main Shinigami are Ryuk, Rim, and Sidoh.
The Death Note series is illustrated in all black and white by Takeshi Obata. The effect of the lack of color allows the reader to determine the mood of the page. If the page is of majority black, then it denotes a sense of strong danger, and vice-versa if the page is of majority white. This mood determination also correlates to the evil and good characters. The Shinigami death god is drawn in black attire, with black hair. His notebook is also black, denoting the sense of evil.

According to Scott McCloud, in his book Understanding Comics, the “Big Triangle,” would label illustrations from Death Note as being realistic with iconic representation and a hint of cartoony characters, such as the Shinigami death god. The illustration for Death Note would be place in the middle of the base of the “Big Triangle,” because of the characters resemblance to human beings, yet their over exaggerated facial expressions, make the shift towards the right of the triangle that is a pure cartoon approach to illustration. McCloud would agree that this novel contains a multitude of different scene transitions, most commonly the action to action and scene to scene transition.

Works Cited:

McCloud, Scott, Understanding Comics - the Invisible Art HarperCollins 1994

1 comment:

Michael Hancock said...

Your review lays out the premise of Death Note and identifies the major players. Because this is a book review, it needs to focus more on evaluation over analysis, though. Did you enjoy what you read? Why or why not? Would you recommend it to other readers? If so, does your endorsement come with any reservations or critiques?