Lately my manga reading has been concentrated on very similar series; FMA, Naruto and Bleach being recent examples. To read something that I know very little about is a rare thing, and after much prodding to go and read Deathnote, I finally caved and brought the first volume. Well, got to say, I’m very pleasantly surprised and should really listen to people more often… well, maybe.
Anyway, Deathnote follows the unusually named Light Yagami (an honour student on the path to great things and knows it very well) as he comes across a notebook with the words, Deathnote on the front, with instructions on how to use it. After passing it as a prank, curiosity gets the best of Light who discovers he now has the power to kill people at will, barring the few rules that the Deathnote follows. Not long after getting his new “powers”, the original owner of the Deathnote; a shinigami by the name of Ryuk, discloses the essential ins and outs of the Deathnote and ends up following Light as he continues on his quest to rid the world of the scum of the human race. But as Light begins his quest, a detective by the name of L is on his case and soon it becomes a race between Light (who has given himself the alias of Kira) and L to discover each other and stop them at any cost.
Deathnote was originally serialized in the Weekly Shonen Jump and considering other Shonen published series like Naruto, Bleach and One Piece were all (mostly) light hearted action series, Deathnote is a nice change of pace. It’s a great adult story of mystery, detective work and clever conversations between the characters. It’s a breath of fresh air in among the mounds of other manga currently clogging the shelves.
Despite being an incredibly gory series, the compelling nature of the story revolves around the two main characters constantly trying to outwit each other, second guessing the other's motives and adjusting their strategies accordingly.
The story becomes a real see-saw as one starts to get the upper hand over the other before the situation pivots in the opposite direction. This all makes Deathnote a hugely interesting and engaging to read.
The artwork of the manga is also a refreshing change. Instead of going for a more traditional style, the illustrator of the manga has gone for a more natural look to the characters. The artwork seems far more natural and earthed, making it easier to attach yourself to the characters and understand their motivations during the course of the manga.
Deathnote is a must read for anyone who enjoys mystery and psychological thrillers. The constant battle between the hunter and the hunted make for a gripping tale, with pace, subtlety, wit and tension. Even after four volumes, there are still plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and the books show no signs of slowing down. If you haven’t guessed by now, this is highly recommended, and passing it up should be a crime in itself.
Writer/Artist: Tsegumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata