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DVD Review

Death Note
Volume 1


Starring (voice): Kappei Yamaguchi, Mamoru Miyano, Ai Satou and Akeno Watanabe
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 28 January 2008

What would you do if you found a book entitled Death Note, which purportedly kills anyone whose name you write, would you use it? Light Yagami finds such an object and overcome with curiosity writes the name of a criminal in it, who promptly dies. When he tries it out on some street thugs they die too. But Death Note does not belong to him, it was dropped by Ryuk, a rogue Shinigami god of death, who comes back for his book...

Death Note (2006) is based on the highly successful manga by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. The manga not only spawned this anime, but also three live action films. The anime is another from the Madhouse production company, directed by Tetsuro Araki. The whole series ran to thirty-seven episodes, this box set contains episodes one through eight.

The story is a very dark tale of power and madness, with a very twisted morality. Initially your sympathies are with Light, after all who wouldn’t want to rid the world of every criminal, but what lines do you cross when the authorities come after you and you start killing them? It is very evident, from quite early on, that Light is quite mad. Not only does he want to rid the world of evil, he also wants to rule over the remainder as its god.

Episode one: Rebirth, in which our hero finds the book, meets the God of Death and goes a little crazy. It’s a good introduction to the world and characters of Death Note, though Light’s transformation from bored high school kid to someone with not only the power but the will to kill is a little unnerving. Although his decision to recreate the world into a nicer place is laudable, the problem lies in just who is evil, how do you define it and just how many are you willing to kill to rid the world of them? Heady stuff indeed and as this is the first episode it's difficult to know if the makers believe that good can come out of such a monstrous act of mass killing.

Episode two: Confrontation. Light now has a mission. Accompanied by Ryuk, whom only he can see, light makes the most of his time ridding the world of evil people. However, even though it is criminals that are dying, the rest of humanity - in the form of the International Criminal Police Organisation - smells a rat and considers Light’s actions as mass murder. With little choice they decide to call in the mysterious ‘L’. Unable to keep Light's actions secret, the public soon dub the mysterious murderer ‘Kira’. Soon L is ready to spring his first trap for Light...

Episode three: Dealings, and L has a breakthrough when he figures out that all the deals happened within specific time frames - time frames which would indicate that the killer might be a student. Light, however, has an ace up his sleeve when we discover that Light’s father is the chief of police, allowing Light inside information regarding the investigation. With ‘L’ closing in, Ryuk offers Light a devil's deal. For half his life span he will give him the same abilities which Ryuk has with his Shinigami eyes.

Episode four: Pursuit, Light declines Ryuks offer, as to be a god in his new world he would need an extended life, not a shorter one. But there is still the problem of the man that is following them. Light forms a plan to use the Death Note in order to get rid of the stranger. In the Shinigami realm, the others reveal that Ryuk is stuck on earth until Light dies, though he may well have two death notes. Light determines to learn how to better uses the Death Note by practising on a local drug addict.

Episode five: Tactics, following on from the last episode the local thug has been killed and agent Ray Penber has revealed himself to Light. Light has continued to kill criminals, using them to unravel the secrets of the book, thus he has found that he can write the cause and time of death and fill in the name later. A little on the power mad side Light reveals himself to Ray, though he is standing behind him, he proves his power by killing a nearby man. Light then threatens Rays fiancé saying he will kill her unless he provides him with all the names of the FBI agents working in Japan. After he has the information he kills Ray which causes the majority of the FBI to pull away from the investigation. With her lover gone Ray’s fiancé starts going after Light herself.

Episode six: Unravelling, and finally we get to meet ‘L’, a surprisingly young scruffy man. The episode mostly cuts back between ‘L’ and Light as all the information so far gathered is reiterated for anyone not paying attention. As the episode comes to a close Light accidentally bumps into Ray’s fiancée, Naomi, who tells him that she thinks that Ray had met his killer. Intrigued Light offers to introduce her to his father, the chief of police.

Episode Seven: Overcast, and Light is in trouble. If the girl gets to the police they may suspect him so he writes her name in the Death Note as a suicide. But, when she doesn’t die, he realises that she has given a false name to protect herself from Kira. With time running out, Light gets ever more desperate to discover her real name. When he claims to be part of the Kira investigation she makes the tragic mistake of giving him her real name with inevitable consequences.

Episode eight: Glare, and with ‘L’ getting close to his target Light plans ahead by writing names in the Death Note weeks ahead. With both Naomi and Ray dead ‘L’ follows up the leads, which Ray was following, including Light.

Audio on both discs is either Japanese only, English stereo or Japanese with subtitles.

The two disc set comes with a good number of extras. On disc one you get  a feature on the English voice actors (12 min 22 sec), a production art gallery, clean opening and closing sequence, a Bleach trailer and the DVD credits. Disc two has the second part of the Behind the Scenes feature (9 min 19 sec), more production art, a commentary for episode seven and an interview with Japanese animation director and character designer (12 min 22 sec).

This is a very dark tale with some excellent animation and a story line to literally die for. That said I’m not sure how they strung it out to so many episode without it getting either repetitive or dull. I guess time will tell.


Charles Packer

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