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Old but still gold: Death Note

With nothing other than a surplus of time lately in my hands, my daily life has been extremely boring lately. Watching anime, reading manga and playing games has integrated to be part of my daily life recently and while I have no complaints about this, there's only so much new content that can be consumed in a short period of time.

That's when I had an idea, why not revisit some of anime's most classic series? In this post, I'll be reviewing one of my favourite anime ever, Death Note. Be aware, since this is a recollection, there will be spoilers, however major or minor!

I first came into the anime community around 2010. Thus, I didn't really notice the hidden gem in which this anime had to offer. As a newcomer, I only watched what others recommended to me at that time, which I call "The Big Four". "The Big Four" consisted of One Piece, Bleach, Naruto and Fairy Tail. In that regard, I did not venture out of these four anime since I had a lot of episodes at the time and couldn't afford to add more.

However, once I had caught up to The Big Four and became more comfortable in watching anime, I started looking for more anime to fill my new favourite pastime. Death Note was one of the first anime I watched after finishing The Big Four and it really left an imprint on me. See, after watching anime with fantasy-esque elements and superpowers, I was not ready for the drama and action-packed Death Note. Death Note differs from what I had watched and I couldn't help but get hooked instantly as a person who loves investigative and drama works.

Speaking of which, I'll now explain the plot of Death Note. Death Note is set in modern time Tokyo (Well, modern at the time) and is centred around an individual who happens to chance upon a notebook that has mysterious yet appalling powers. Before encountering said notebook, the main character is devoid of any motivation, lamenting at the fact that life is devoid of excitement and he has nothing to look forward to. One day, while spacing out in the classroom, he happens to glance at a black object plummeting into his high school garden. Uninterested as he was when picking it up, he scoffs at the over-ambitious words written in the ambiguous notebook. 

However, once he tested the limits of the abilities the notebook offered, he then realizes that this was what he was missing, this was what the world was missing. With a determined mind, he vowed to set the world on its right path.

That was a quick rundown of the series and what it has to offer. I'll now go over the characters of the anime, one of the most important aspects of anime in my opinion

1) Yagami Light

The main character or protagonist (?) in Death Note. Light is characterized as hardworking, talented, and a natural genius. Highly perceptive and good with problem-solving, Light was a skilled planner and had good foresight. Furthermore, Light was very popular among peers and adored by his family members. However, all is not what it seems to be. 

After coming into contact with the Death Note, his overwhelming sense of justice which he inherited from his father becomes skewed over time. Due to his frequent use of the Death Note, he became a cold and ruthless individual who spared no thought for the victims.

Yagami Light was someone that I really liked and disliked at the same time. I was fond of his meticulous and highly-skilled planning which was shown beautifully in the anime, while I also despised his indifferent attitude towards lives. He doesn't hesitate to use someone as a sacrifice to achieve his goals which brings me back to why I questioned him as a protagonist. In this case, I see him as a protagonist as well as an antagonist at the same time. The duality of my perception of his character was exactly why I couldn't just drop the anime even though its plot was vastly different from other anime I had watched.

2) Ryuk

Ryuk is not your typical Shinigami (Death God) neighbour. Coming from the Shinigami Realm where everything is stagnant and there is absolutely nothing to do other than wait out your lifespan, Ryuk seeks refuge in modern Earth to pass his time. By doing so, he finds his interesting specimen, Light, and goes along his adventure in purging the world of all evil. Though, he does not assist Light in any way, only lurking in the shadows and occasionally doing a few handstands and eating apples.

Back when I first watched this anime and saw a glimpse of Ryuk, I immediately closed the video player because I was startled. That was my first ever time seeing something so sinister and unique and the anime did a great job in conveying his Shinigami character in the first few episodes. However, as you watch the anime, you soon realize that he's... not normal and that you don't really have to be scared of him. Sure, his appearance is really off-putting at first, but once you get past that, you get greeted by his very human-like nature, desire to eat more and more apples and his insatiable desire for entertainment.

3) L

Don't be fooled by his dishevelled and languid appearance, L is actually one of the world's best detective, solving multiple big cases alone, earning him fame and reputation throughout the police scene. He even has the capability to call the FBI in Japan to do his bidding! However, he's uncommonly reticent about his appearance and does not reveal himself easily to anyone. That being said, due to Kira's constant killings, L is forced to reveal himself in order to decrease the number of casualties. 

What made him stand out to me though was his methods and attitude in solving and cracking cases. L is extremely meticulous and analytical. He always tries to figure out his opponent's next move and even resorts to drastic measures such as using a decoy to find out how Kira was killing his victims as well as handcuffing himself to Yagami Light, a potential Kira suspect. His meticulous behaviour and intelligent tactics are portrayed strongly in the anime, thus showing how formidable he actually is, putting him on par with the show's protagonist, Yagami Light.

3) Misa Amane

Misa Amane had a tragic past, seeing her parents murdered right before her eyes and learning that the murderer was let loose of his crimes made her suffer from depression. However, the anime portrays her as a cheerful and outgoing individual. Furthermore, she is an idol that is widely famous in Japan. She also happens to be the second Kira, after getting to know that the original Kira, Light, killed the murderer that was responsible for her parent's death.

For me, I did not really like the character of Misa. Actually, let me word that better. I did not like the premise of Misa's story to the whole anime. I felt like the creators just shoved her in the plot in order to have another character in the story. Sure, she does some meaningful things in the later episodes such as successfully tricking Kyosuke Higuchi into revealing himself to be the Yotsuba Kira. But other than that, she is seen often clinging to Yagami Light like glue, thus preventing him from doing any potential moves. Other than that, she does basically nothing! For one of the main characters, her development was almost non-existent. That being said, I do not think that she ruined the anime, just that her character could use something more to strengthen her impact on the anime.

Now that we've gone through the characters, I'd like to talk more in-depth about the story itself. While I was really hooked and enraptured by the story, there were still flaws and things I did not really like about the anime. Firstly, about the story, I was not impressed by how there is little to none backstory behind most characters. Yagami Light was a student with perfect scores, valued by many, and was seen as the perfect teenager. However, in just one episode, he changes to be a serial killer that doesn't bat an eye towards the cries of his victim. There was also almost nothing about L's background and how he became the world's most professional detective. In fact, these things are only revealed after L died, which serves little purpose. However, what ticked me off the most though was that the anime went downhill after L's death. The first half of the anime was really intriguing and kept me from getting off my computer. However, when L died and the anime continued, they only placed another character to replace L in his fight against Kira. While this seems logical, the show fails to show it's creativity in creating a new scenario. Thus, the second half of the season is just another L vs Kira again, just that you replace L with Near. Furthermore, since you've already gone through the first half and know the character's thinking and attitude, seeing them repeat it all over again becomes...boring. The anime at that point became repetitive and was a chore for me to stick with it to the end. As such, to me, only the first half of the anime was the real Death Note for me.

You must be wondering why this is one of my favourite anime if it has major flaws. There's a lot of reasons actually. Firstly, like what I mentioned previously, I only grew up watching The Big Four and nothing else. As such, the jump from that to Death Note was significant for me since it signalled the start from where I started branching out and watching various other animes. Moreover, I was fond of the investigative and drama scene at the time and Death Note seem to fill in that void for me. Lastly, despite my laments, Death Note was actually a really good anime in my humble opinion at the time. Well. The first half of it anyway :p

All in all, I do recommend at least watching the first half of the anime if you have no other series backed up at this time. Its suspense and methodological approach between L and Kira will definitely intrigue you at the very least. If you feel that the animations are too old and clunky, then you could also give its adaptations a try like the 2006 or the 2017 Death Note adaptations. There's also L: Change the World which is a spin-off, with the show focusing on L challenging a case that could decide the fate of the whole world.

With that said, I do hope you give the anime a try! Also, do let me know some of your favourite old anime! After all, they're old, but they're still gold.

Written by Kai Yuichi

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