Light Yagami is a seemingly ordinary high school student. He's more fortunate than most: he comes from a well-off family, he’s obviously intelligent, and he has outstanding grades. His only problem is that he’s a little bored. One day after school, he comes across a notebook with the words “Death Note” written on it. According to the instructions on the first pages, if he writes a person’s name on the Death Note while keeping their face in mind, that person will die. He can specify the cause of death; if he doesn’t, it’ll be heart attack.
Yagami is sceptical at first, but after a little testing he realizes that the Death Note is indeed real. It was dropped by a shinigami, a god of death, who, like Yagami, was a little bored, and decided to stir things up in the human world for his own amusement. Light Yagami begins to use the Death Note to rid the world of criminals. Despite the natural causes of death, the police quickly realises that there is a pattern to all those criminals dying suddenly. They dub the mass murderer Kira, and call an investigator that goes by the nickname L to help them with the case. Very quickly, things turn into a cat and mouse game between Kira and L.
Death Note is seriously addictive. I read the first three volumes in a single afternoon, and already I want more, more, MORE. What’s interesting is that this series’ protagonist, Light, is not exactly sympathetic. I mean, even if you happen to agree with killing criminals, which I don’t, pretty soon it becomes obvious that he won’t stop at that. He is, in fact, a psychotic killer with a God complex.
And yet. And yet I don’t want him to be caught. Mostly because watching his duel of wits with L is just so interesting. I guess this means that the character I identify the most with is the shinigami, who refuses to take sides and is just watching the whole thing with interest.
I’m not sure if I’d call Death Note a thriller or a mystery, but I suspect it will appeal to fans of those genres, as well as to fans of dark fantasy. Technically speaking, there is no mystery, as the reader always knows what both Kira and L are up to. But the books still manage to be very suspenseful. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, trying to anticipate how they’d each try to outsmart the other next. So far, Kira is winning. But L is clearly a worthy opponent.
My first foray into manga was definitely a successful one. I have a feeling I’ll be reading the rest of this series before long.
Rhinoa’s Ramblings vol. 1, 2 and 3.
Books & Other Thoughts vol. 1 and 2
Biblio File vol. 1-6
(Did I miss yours? Let me know.)