A Death Note is a book used by Shinigami to execute those that are, essentially, about to die. A secondary trait, one that the entire series is based on, would be that the Death Notes can also be used to take the lives of whoever the wielder would choose to be his or her next victim.
The theme of the series is morality. Is it moral to kill someone, without giving a chance of redemption for his crimes? Don’t you become a criminal by killing against the law, even with the best of intentions? Does killing all those you consider “evil” can really make the world a better place? How can you be sure if someone deserves to die? What makes your personal judgment criteria better than anyone else’s?
The series is wonderfully melancholy and dark, with a somewhat ruthless nature. It concerns itself primarily with death, but doesn’t indulge itself with unnecessary gore. Where one would normally grimace at a particularly violent death in a given animé series, in Death Note we grimace when a “good” or nice character dies. And there are plenty. Yet, as a viewer we still feel inclined to support the antagonist Light in his goals despite knowing and/or feeling that what he’s doing is wrong. This is very smart achievement by the creators – to genuinely make us feel the need to route for the baddie. But that very subject becomes an issue in itself – IS Kira a baddie? The series tries its best to convey to the viewer the logical outlook that Kira has on justice and shows both people who are for and against him. I praise Death Note for this objectivity.
The specific drawback for Death Note’s story would be a somewhat pointless part in the plot: some random “Joe” gets a Death Note and starts having people whacked with it. This is a part of the story found midway, and I thought that it just didn’t belong. Later on, however, the story of this mystery man was tied in to how Light was going to take over the world, and I was relieved at that point. Despite that tying together, however, I found this to be a major pain in the pants nonetheless.
Although there are several attempts to explain and reason the powers of the Death Note, there are still no explanations about the general existence of it in the world. A few of the “holes” in the story are the following: Why does the Death Note exist? Who made it? Why do Death Gods exist? Why are they bored with their existence? Did something happen that made them lose their reason-for-being? How correctly does the accent of the name of the one you want to kill must be written? What if the language you are using does not support a proper pronunciation? How well must you imagine someone’s face? What if you remember him as he looked decades ago? Why the pages of the Death Note never end? How does someone forget about its existence without having memory problems with everything else he was doing in the meantime?
One of the great series of the period and a worthy addition to the detective genre, Death Note presents an intriguing and thrilling chase story with good production values. Recommended if you’re not looking for something light-hearted.