Death Note

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Death Note
SNote.jpg
Cover of the first tankōbon for Death Note featuring Ryuk and Light Yagami
デスノート
(Desu Nōto)
Genre
Manga
Written by Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Published by Shueisha
English publisher
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump
Original run December 2003May 2006
Volumes 12 (List of volumes)
Novel
Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases
Written by Nisio Isin
Published by Shueisha
English publisher
Published August 1, 2006
Anime television series
Directed by Tetsurō Araki
Written by Toshiki Inoue
Music by Yoshihisa Hirano
Hideki Taniuchi
Studio Madhouse
Licensed by
Network NTV, STV, ytv, CTV, FBS, HTV, SDT, FCT
English network
Original run October 3, 2006June 26, 2007
Episodes 37 (List of episodes)
Game
Death Note Kira's Game
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Action
Platform Nintendo DS
Released
  • JP February 15, 2007
Game
Death Note: Successor to L
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Action
Platform Nintendo DS
Released
  • JP July 12, 2007
Anime television film
Death Note: Relight: Visions of a God
Directed by Tetsurō Araki
Written by Toshiki Inoue
Studio Madhouse
Licensed by
Network NTV
Released August 31, 2007
Runtime 130 minutes
Novel
Death Note: L: Change the World
Written by M
Published by Shueisha
English publisher
Published December 25, 2007
Game
L the Prologue to Death Note: Spiraling Trap
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Action
Platform Nintendo DS
Released
  • JP February 7, 2008
Anime television film
Death Note: Relight 2: L's Successors
Directed by Tetsurō Araki
Written by Toshiki Inoue
Studio Madhouse
Licensed by
Network NTV
Released August 22, 2008
Runtime 100 minutes
Live-action films
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

Death Note (デスノート Desu Nōto?) is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It centers on Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook that grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face they know. The series follows Light's subsequent attempts to create and rule a world "cleansed of evil" as "the god of the new world" using the notebook, and the efforts of a detective known as L to stop him.

Death Note was first serialized in Shueisha's manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The 108 chapters were collected and published into 12 tankōbon volumes between May 2004 and October 2006. A television anime adaptation aired in Japan from October 3, 2006, to June 26, 2007. Composed of 37 episodes, the anime was developed by Madhouse and directed by Tetsuro Araki. A light novel based on the series, written by Nisio Isin, was also released in 2006. Additionally, various video games have been published by Konami for the Nintendo DS. The series was adapted into three live-action films released in Japan on June 17, 2006, November 3, 2006, and February 2, 2008.

Every piece of Death Note media has been licensed and released in North America by Viz Media, with the exception of the video games and soundtracks. The episodes from the anime first appeared in North America as downloadable by IGN, before Viz licensed it and it aired on Bionix in Canada and on Cartoon Network in the United States with a DVD release following. The live-action films briefly played in certain North American theaters in 2008, before receiving home video releases. In 2006, the collected volumes of the Death Note manga had over 26.5 million copies in circulation.

Plot summary[edit]

Light Yagami is a bored young genius who resents all things evil. His life undergoes a drastic change when he discovers the "Death Note", a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. After experimenting with the notebook, Light confirms its authenticity and is joined by an unexpected house guest - the notebook's previous owner, a shinigami called Ryuk. Light tells Ryuk of his plan to exterminate all the criminals in the world, until only people whom he has judged to be honest and kind remain. Once he finishes creating this utopia, he means to rule over it as what he calls "the god of the new world".

Soon, the inexplicable deaths of criminals catch the attention of Interpol and the world-famous detective, "L". L stages a fake public appearance and quickly deduces that the serial killer, publicly known as "Kira" (キラ?, derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the word "killer"), is located in a single Japanese prefecture and can kill people by supernatural means. Light realizes that L will be his greatest hindrance, and begins a cat and mouse game with him.

Light attempts to create an alibi by helping L and his task force track down Kira. His plan is impeded by a lovestruck second Kira, famous model Misa Amane, and her shinigami Rem. When Misa identifies Light as the first Kira and tracks him down to his home, the two of them embark on a mutually manipulative and one-sided relationship; however, Misa's infatuation with Light drives her to make several errors and the two of them are increasingly suspected by L. Misa is soon arrested. To save themselves from execution, they temporarily relinquish ownership of their notebooks—returning themselves to a state of innocence by erasing their memories of the murders—and are detained under L's constant surveillance.

During their detention, a third Kira quickly appears. When it becomes clear that Light and Misa cannot be carrying out the third Kira's murders, they are restricted to L's headquarters under house arrest. The task force identify the third Kira as Yotsuba Group executive Kyosuke Higuchi and capture him. Upon touching the notebook, Light regains his memories as Kira and kills Higuchi, thereby regaining ownership of the Death Note "exactly as planned". The task force learn of the Death Notes and confirm the existence of shinigami. Light completes his complex plan by manipulating Rem into killing L, his guardian Watari, and - because she violates shinigami law by killing L to save Misa's life - herself. Upon L's death, he becomes the "second L" and expands his charade of searching for Kira, while carrying out the crimes himself.

The narrative picks up four years later, with Kira attracting a large network of contacts and a swell of public support. Two young men, raised as potential successors to L, appear - Near, a detective associated with the United States Government, and Mello, a member of the Mafia. As his first act against Kira, Mello attempts to obtain the Death Note held by the Kira task force, by kidnapping the director of Japan's National Police Agency. This plan is briefly stymied when Light murders the director out of hand. Refocusing on the families of the task force, Mello kidnaps Light's sister Sayu as a replacement; she is quickly rescued, but the task force's notebook is lost to Mello. To regain it, Light's father Soichiro trades half of his remaining life to Ryuk for the "Shinigami Eyes" - the ability to see people's names on sight. During an assault on Mello's headquarters, Soichiro learns Mello's name, but does not kill him. He is shot several times during the attack, and dies shortly afterward in hospital.

After this, Near and several members of the task force begin to suspect Light of being Kira. In response, Light persuades Misa to give up her notebook and raises another "Kira", Teru Mikami, a prosecutor and fervent supporter of Kira. Mikami kills Kira's former spokesman for being greedy and recruits Kiyomi Takada, a newscaster and Light's former girlfriend, to replace him. Light reveals himself to Takada as the original Kira, and knowing that he and the other Kiras are under Near's surveillance, constructs a decoy plan to conceal the whereabouts of the genuine Death Note.

Mello returns and kidnaps Takada, who kills him with a hidden notebook piece. Light then makes Takada commit suicide to keep her from implicating him, but Mikami, unaware of Light's actions, attempts to kill her as well. This exposes the genuine Death Note Mikami has concealed, revealing Light's plan at the last minute. At the story's climax, the two investigation teams meet in the "Yellow Box Warehouse". They are shortly joined by Mikami, who writes down the names of everyone in the warehouse except Light. Near then reveals that he replaced Mikami's notebook with a fake, and by the names written in it, is able to prove Light is Kira. In desperation, Light tries to use the last notebook piece in his watch to kill Near, but task force member Matsuda shoots him several times. Ryuk realizes Light has lost and uses his personal Death Note to kill Light with a heart attack, as he had promised to do one day at the beginning of the story.

Concepts[edit]

The notebooks[edit]

The core plot device of the story is the "Death Note" itself, which is a black notebook with instructions (known as "rules of the Death Note") written on the inside. Correctly used, it allows anyone to commit a murder, knowing only the victim's name and face. According to the director of the live-action films, Shusuke Kaneko, "[t]he idea of spirits living in words is an ancient Japanese concept... In a way, it's a very Japanese story."[1]

Artist Takeshi Obata originally thought of the books as "'Bible-like'... something you would automatically think was a Death Note." Deciding that this design would be cumbersome, he instead opted for a more accessible college notebook. While Death Notes were conceived as changing based on time and location, resembling scrolls in ancient Japan, or the Old Testament in medieval Europe; however, this idea was never used.[2]

Themes[edit]

"Nobody can tell what is right and what is wrong, what is righteous and what is evil. Even if there is a God, and I had his teachings before me, I would think it through and decide if that was right or wrong myself."

---Near, chapter 105 ("Impossible")

Writer Tsugumi Ohba had no particular themes in mind for Death Note. When pushed, he suggested: "Humans will all eventually die and never come back to life, so let's give it our all while we're alive."[3] He went on to say that "no human has the right to pass judgement on another's actions. No one should play god." He said that Near's climactic speech about good and evil was rooted in his own beliefs.

In a 2012 paper,[4] Jolyon Baraka Thomas characterised Death Note as heavily influenced by the conflicts between liberty and security; as illustrating that high moral ideals are easily corrupted, and that people will always justify horrific acts of violence in the name of safety. Thomas writes that "The price of peace is death".

Thomas' paper lists Death Note as one of the later and more sophisticated psychological thrillers released in the wake of the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo attacks on Tokyo, saying that it examines the human tendency to express itself through "horrific" cults, and describes the negative effects of those cults on the members, on their families, and on society. Through the moral relativity that characterises the story throughout, readers are reminded that their own ideas of good and evil might not differ so much from those of extremist cult members.

Production[edit]

The Death Note concept derived from a rather general concept involving shinigami and "specific rules".[5] Tsugumi Ohba wanted to create a suspense series because he did not feel that he could have created a fight-style series and that the genre had few suspense series. After publication of the pilot chapter, the series was not expected to be approved as a serialized comic by the author, who did not consider it to "fit with Jump". Ohba said that, when he learned that Death Note had received approval and that Takeshi Obata would create the artwork, he "couldn't even believe it".[6] Due to positive reactions, Death Note became a serialized manga series.[7]

"Thumbnails" were created incorporating dialog, panel layout, and basic drawings, and were sent to the illustrator. The editor reviewed the thumbnails and sent them to the illustrator (Obata) with the script set in stone and the panel layout "mostly done". Obata then determined the expressions and "camera angles" and created the final artwork. Ohba concentrated on the tempo and the amount of dialogue, making sure that the text was as concise as possible. Ohba commented that he believed "reading too much exposition" would be tiring and would negatively affect the atmosphere and "air of suspense". Significant artistic license was given to the illustrator who worked on basic descriptions, such as "abandoned building",[8] and this extended to the design of the Death Notes with Obata possessing free rein.

When Ohba decided on the plot he internally visualized the panels while being on his bed, drinking tea, or walking around his house, needing to feel relaxed while visualizing the panels. On many occasions the original draft was too long and needed to be refined various times before the desired "tempo" and "flow" for the chapter was finalised. The writer remarked on his preference for reading the previous "two or four" chapters carefully to ensure consistency in the story.[5]

The typical weekly production schedule consisted of five days for creating and thinking and one day using pencil to insert dialogue into rough drafts; after this point the writer faxed any initial drafts to the editor. The illustrator's weekly production schedule involved one day with the thumbnails, layout, and pencils and one day with additional penciling and inking. Obata's assistants usually worked for four days and Obata spent one day to finish it. Obata said that sometimes he took a few extra days to color pages and that this "messed with the schedule". In contrast, the writer took three or four days to create a chapter on some occasions, while on others he took a month. Obata said that his schedule remained consistent except when he had to create color pages.[9]

Ohba and Obata rarely met in person during the creation of the serialized manga; instead the two met with the editor. The first time they met in person was at an editorial party in January 2004. Obata said that, despite the intrigue, he did not ask his editor about Ohba's plot developments as he anticipated the new thumbnails every week.[6] The two did not discuss the final chapters with one another and they continued to talk with the editor. Ohba said that when he asked the editor if Obata had "said anything" about the story and plot the editor responded "No, nothing", laughingly.'[8]

Ohba claims that the series ended more or less in the manner that he intended for it to end; he considered the idea of L defeating Light Yagami with Light dying but instead chose to use the "Yellow Box warehouse" ending. According to Ohba the details had been set "from the beginning".[7] The writer wanted an ongoing plot line instead of an episodic series because Death Note was serialized and its focus was intended to be on a cast with a series of events triggered by the Death Note.[10] 13: How to Read states that the humorous aspects of Death Note originated from Ohba's "enjoyment of humorous stories".[11]

When Ohba was asked, during an interview, whether the series was meant to be about enjoying the plot twists and psychological warfare, Ohba responded by saying that this concept was the reason why he was "very happy" to place the story in Weekly Shōnen Jump.[9]

Pilot chapter[edit]

The Death Note process began when Ohba brought thumbnails for two concept ideas to Shueisha; Ohba said that the Death Note pilot, one of the concepts, was "received well" by editors and attained positive reactions by readers.[7] Ohba described keeping the story of the pilot to one chapter as "very difficult" and he said that he remembered it took over a month to begin writing the chapter. He added that the story had to revive the killed characters with the Death Eraser and that he "didn't really care" for that plot device.[12]

Obata said that he wanted to draw the story after he heard of a "horror story featuring shinigami".[6] According to Obata, when he first received the rough draft created by Ohba, he "didn't really get it" at first and he wanted to work on the project due to the presence of shinigami and because the work "was dark".[12] He also said he wondered about the progression of the plot as he read the thumbnails, and if Jump readers would enjoy reading the comic. Obata said that while there is little action and the main character "doesn't really drive the plot" he enjoyed the atmosphere of the story. He stated that he drew the pilot chapter so that it would appeal to himself.[12]

Ohba brought the rough draft of the pilot chapter to the editorial department. Obata came into the picture at a later point to create the artwork. They did not meet in person while creating the pilot chapter. Ohba said that the editor told him he did not need to meet with Obata to discuss the pilot; Ohba said "I think it worked out all right."[6]

Anime adaptation[edit]

Tetsuro Araki, the director, said that he wished to convey aspects that "made the series interesting" instead of simply "focusing on morals or the concept of justice." Toshiki Inoue, the series organizer, agreed with Araki and added that, in anime adaptations, there is a lot of importance in highlighting the aspects that are "interesting in the original". He concluded that Light's presence was "the most compelling" aspect; therefore the adaptation chronicles Light's "thoughts and actions as much as possible." Inoue noted that, to best incorporate the manga's plot into the anime, he "tweak[ed] the chronology a bit" and incorporated flashbacks that appear after the openings of the episodes; he said this revealed the desired tensions. Araki said that, because in an anime the viewer cannot "turn back pages" in the manner that a manga reader can, the anime staff ensured that the show clarified details. Inoue added that the staff did not want to get involved with every single detail, so the staff selected elements to emphasize. Due to the complexity of the original manga, he described the process as "definitely delicate and a great challenge." Inoue admitted that he placed more instructions and notes in the script than usual. Araki added that because of the importance of otherwise trivial details, this commentary became crucial to the development of the series.[13]

Araki said that when he discovered the Death Note anime project he "literally begged" to join the production team; when he joined he insisted that Inoue should write the scripts. Inoue added that, because he enjoyed reading the manga, he wished to use his effort.[13]

Media[edit]

Manga[edit]

The Death Note manga series was first serialized in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump published by Shueisha in December 2003. The series has since ended in Japan with a total of 108 chapters. Later, the individual chapters were collected into twelve separate tankōbon. In April from 2005 Death Note was licensed for publication in North America by Viz Media,[14] and the first English-language volume was released on October 10, 2005.[15] In February 2008, a one-shot special was released. Set two years after the manga's epilogue, it sees the introduction of a new Kira and the reactions of the main characters in response to the copycat's appearance.[16] Several Death Note yonkoma (four-panel comics) appeared in Akamaru Jump. The yonkoma were written to be humorous. The Akamaru Jump issues that printed the comics include 2004 Spring, 2004 Summer, 2005 Winter, and 2005 Spring. In addition Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005 included some Death Note yonkoma in a Jump Heroes Super 4-Panel Competition.[12]

In addition, a guidebook for the manga was also released on October 13, 2006. It was named Death Note 13: How to Read and contained data relating to the series, including character profiles of almost every character that is named, creator interviews, behind the scenes info for the series and the pilot chapter that preceded Death Note. It also reprinted all of the yonkoma serialized in Akamaru Jump and the Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005.[17][18] Its first edition could be purchased with a Death Note-themed diorama which includes five finger puppets inspired by Near's toys. The five finger puppets are Kira, L, Misa, Mello, and Near. In North America, 13: How to Read was released on February 19, 2008.[19] As of February 2011, the manga has been re-released in omnibus format, dubbed "Black Edition".[20][21]

Anime[edit]

The Death Note anime, directed by Tetsurō Araki and animated by Madhouse, began airing in Japan on October 3, 2006, and finished its run on June 26, 2007, totaling 37 twenty-minute episodes.[22] It begins in the year 2006, instead of 2003. The series aired on the Nippon Television network "every Tuesday at 23:34".[23] The series was co-produced by Madhouse, Nippon Television, Shueisha, D.N. Dream Partners and VAP.[24]

In North America, the series has been licensed by Viz for residents in the United States to use "Download-to-Own" and "Download-to-Rent" services while it was still airing in Japan. This move is seen as "significant because it marks the first time a well known Japanese anime property will be made legally available to domestic audiences for download to own while the title still airs on Japanese television."[25] The downloadable episodes contain the original Japanese audio track and English subtitles,[26] and is available through IGN's Windows-only Direct2Drive service.[27] DVDs of the series have also been released,[26] containing both an English dubbed audio track, produced by Ocean Productions, and the original Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles.[28] Viz announced at Anime Expo 2007 that the first DVD was officially released on November 20, 2007, in both regular and special editions,[29] and also confirmed at Comic-Con International 2007 that the first 15,000 copies of each DVD contains collectible figures.[30]

Death Note was slated to make its North American television premiere in Canada on YTV's Bionix programming block on September 7, 2007;[31] however, the show was removed from the schedule at the last minute.[32] The Canadian premiere was pushed back to October 26, 2007, at 10:00 p.m., when it finally premiered. Death Note premiered in the U.S. on October 20, 2007, at 11:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim,[33] until January 10, 2010, when the contract expired.[34] The last episode aired on Canada's YTV channel on July 4, 2008, and on Adult Swim two days later. YTV took away the show on July 5, 2008, with the last airing being the last episode rerun at 1:30 a.m. ET, as part of YTV moving the Bionix block to a 2-hour only block on Saturdays.[35] The show also streamed online for free on Adult Swim Video, with a new episode available every Saturday afternoon, on the day of its broadcast premiere.[36]

A two-hour animated Death Note Relight: Visions of a God' (DEATH NOTE リライト·幻視する神 Desu Nōto Riraito: Genshisuru kami?) TV special aired on Nippon Television in Japan on August 31, 2007, at 8:00 p.m. It is a recap which takes place after the series end, where a shinigami approaches Ryuk in the shinigami realm in order to learn more about the human world. Instead, Ryuk tells him of all the events leading up to the last story arc, about Light Yagami and his rival L. Originally, this special was advertised as a retelling told from Ryuk's point of view, but it does not give a different point of view from what was originally told. However, it contains updated dialog, as well as a few new scenes.[37]

The Japanese broadcaster NTV aired the Death Note: Relight: L's Successors (DEATH NOTE リライト2 Lを継ぐ者 Desu Nōto Riraito 2: L o Tsugu Mono?) special on August 22, 2008. Like the first special, this new compilation summarized a part of the 2006–2007 television anime series. Specifically, it recounted the final half of the suspenseful supernatural story, including the investigators Near and Mello's confrontations with the vigilante Kira.[38] This version features more updates than the previous one, most notably omission of the mafia plot.

Soundtracks[edit]

Several soundtracks for the series have been released. The music from the anime was composed by Yoshihisa Hirano and Hideki Taniuchi, while the CDs were also published by VAP. The first one was Death Note Original Soundtrack, which was released in Japan on December 21, 2006. It contains music from the series with the first opening and ending themes sung by the Japanese band Nightmare in the TV size format.[39] Death Note Original Soundtrack II was first released in Japan on March 21, 2007. It features the new opening and closing themes by Maximum the Hormone in the TV size format.[40] The third CD, Death Note Original Soundtrack III was released on June 27, 2007. The tracks 1-21 were composed and arranged by Taniuchi, while the tracks 22-28 were composed and arranged by Hirano. The album features one track sung by Aya Hirano, who was also the Japanese voice actress of Misa Amane in the anime series. Also appearing on this soundtrack is the ending theme Coda〜Death Note, which can be heard at the end of the final episode of the anime as the credits are shown.[41]

Several soundtracks have also been released for the live action films. Sound of Death Note is a soundtrack featuring music from the first Death Note film composed and arranged by Kenji Kawai. It was released on June 17, 2006 by VAP.[42] Sound of Death Note the Last name is the soundtrack from the second Death Note film, Death Note the Last name. It was released on November 2, 2006.[43] Death Note Tribute is a tribute album dedicated to the live action movie for the Death Note film. Published by BMG Japan on June 21, 2006 Japan, it contains 15 tracks performed by various artists, such as Shikao Suga, M-Flo, Buck-Tick and Aya Matsuura. The soundtrack came with a cosplay Death Note notebook.[44] Another tribute album is The Songs for Death Note the movie〜the Last name Tribute dedicated to the second film. Published by Sony Music Entertainment Japan on December 20, 2006, it contains 14 tracks performed by various artist, such as Orange Range, abingdon boys school, High and Mighty Color, Doping Panda and Galneryus.[45]

Light novels[edit]

A light novel adaptation of the series has been written by Nisio Isin, called Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. The novel was released by Shueisha on August 1, 2006.[46][47] It serves as a prequel to the manga series, with Mello narrating the story of L's first encounter with Naomi Misora during the Los Angeles "BB Serial Murder Case" mentioned in volume 2 of the manga. Beside Naomi's character, the novel focuses on how L works and one of the criminals L has to chase down. Insight was given into Watari's orphanage and how the whole system of geniuses such as L, Mello, Beyond Birthday, Matt and Near were put to work. Viz released the novel in English on February 19, 2008.[48] The film L: Change the World was also adapted into a light novel with the same name on December 25, 2007 by "M",[49] While the novel is similar to the movie, there are many significant changes to the plot (for example, Near is not a Thai boy, but the same Near that appears in the manga). It also reveals more information about L and his past. Viz released it on October 20, 2009.[50]

Video games[edit]

A Death Note video game developed and published by Konami for the Nintendo DS, titled Death Note Kira Game (デスノート キラゲーム Desu Nōto Kira Gēmu?), was released on February 15, 2007.[51] Kira Game is a strategy game where the player takes on the role of Kira or L. These are just titles, as any character can be Kira or L. The player will attempt to deduce who their enemy is (Kira will try to uncover L's identity and vice versa). This will play out in 3 phases: Investigation, where the player will discuss the case and clues with other characters; Voting, where each member of the investigation team casts a vote on who they suspect is L or Kira based on the player's performance in the previous phase; L/Kira, where the player can either focus their investigation on one member to see if they are Kira (L part) or force a member off of the team (Kira part).[52] A sequel to the game, Death Note: Successors to L (デスノート Lを継ぐ者 Desu Nōto Eru o Tsugu Mono?), was released in Japan on July 12, 2007. The storyline is based on the second part of the manga, featuring characters such as Mello and Near.[52]

A third game, L the Prologue to Death Note -Spiraling Trap- (L the proLogue to DEATH NOTE -螺旋の罠- L the proLogue to DEATH NOTE -Rasen no Wana-?), was released for the Nintendo DS in Japan on February 7, 2008.[52][53] The player assumes the role of a rookie FBI agent who awakens in a strange hotel and attempts to escape with the help of L, who provides assistance via an in-game PDA. The story is set before the Kira investigation in the original series.[53]

Several characters from Death Note appear in Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars, a fighting game featuring a plethora of characters from Shōnen Jump titles. Light, Ryuk and L appear in Jump Super Stars as support characters. Misa, Near, and Mello are added as support characters in Jump Ultimate Stars as well.[54][55]

Live-action films[edit]

Main article: Death Note (film)

Death Note was adapted into a series of live-action films in 2006. The first 2 films were directed by Shūsuke Kaneko and the third was by Hideo Nakata and produced by Nippon Television, CG production of all three films were done by Digital Frontier and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures Japan. The first film, simply titled Death Note, premiered in Japan on June 17, 2006 and topped the Japanese box office for two weeks, pushing The Da Vinci Code into second place.[56] The first movie briefly played in certain North American theaters on May 20–21, 2008[57] The film was broadcast in Canadian theaters for one night only on September 15, 2008. The DVD was released on September 16, 2008, one day after the Canadian showing.[58] The sequel, Death Note: The Last Name, premiered in Japan on November 3, 2006.[59] It was featured in U.S. theaters in October 2008.[60] A spinoff from the films named L: Change the World was released in Japan on February 9, 2008. It is focused on the final 23 days of L's life, as he solves one final case involving a bio-terrorist group.[61] Two dubbed versions of the film were shown in the United States on April 29 and 30, 2009.[62]

A live-action Hollywood reboot of the Death Note film series has been optioned. A 2007 article in The Star (Malaysia) states that more than ten film companies in the United States expressed interest in creating a remake. On April 30, 2009, Variety magazine announced that Warner Bros. acquired the rights for the Death Note manga to be adapted into a live-action movie in the United States. Warner Bros. has hired screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides to adapt the manga into a screenplay. On January 13, 2011, it was announced that Shane Black, the director of Iron Man 3 and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, has been hired to direct the film, with the script being rewritten by Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry.[63][64] Warner's studios planned to change the background story of Yagami, into one of vengeance instead of justice, and also the removal of shinigami. Black opposed this change, and it has not been green-lit.[65] Black confirmed in an April 2013 interview with Bleeding Cool that he's still working on the film.[66] On July 8, 2014, Bleeding Cool reports that Gus Van Sant will direct the film with Dan Lin, Doug Davison, Roy Lee and Brian Witten are producing through Vertigo Entertainment, Witten Pictures and Lin Pictures.[67]

Reception[edit]

As of December 2008, Death Note '​s twelve volumes had over 26.5 million copies in circulation.[68] The series won the 2008 Eagle Award for Favourite Manga as voted by UK fans.[69] It also received several nominations such as Best Manga at the 2006 American Anime Awards,[70][71] the 2007 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize,[72] an Official Selection at Angoulême International Comics Festival 2008,[73] and Obata was nominated for Best Penciller/Inker at the 2008 Eisner Awards.[74] In 2007, the first three volumes of Death Note were on the American Library Association's 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list.[75] On ICv2's "Top 10 Shonen Properties Q2 2009", Death Note was the third best manga property from North America.[76] Douglas Wolk of Salon said that a rumor circulated stating that the creators intended to create Death Note to last half as long as its actual run and Ohba and Obata had been persuaded to lengthen the storyline when Death Note's popularity increased, noting that the rumor "makes sense, since about halfway through the series, there's a point that seems like a natural ending". In addition he said that fans wrote "thousands" of Death Note fan fiction stories and posted them on the internet.[77] In 2006, Japanese fans pointed out the similarities between Death Note and the 1973 one-shot "The Miraculous Notebook" (不思議な手帖?) by Shigeru Mizuki. Comipress reported that the only difference between the story and Death Note is that there are no Shinigamis.[78]

Anime News Network (ANN) writer Zac Bertschy called Death Note a "surprisingly gripping and original suspense tale that raises a handful of interesting questions about morality." He noted that the difference between the series and other manga from the same genre was very big due to the murders the main character commits as well as how he hides his identity of Kira. Although Bertchy mentioned some shōnen manga readers will be surprised with the dark themes of Death Note, he praised the series for its "great art, great story, [and] compelling characters".[79] Julie Rosato from Mania Entertainment found the story to be very entertaining, having liked Light's development in the story and L's introduction as well as how the latter starts suspecting of the former's identity. Additionally, he praised the story as it is "building a climax" with each detail introduced in the first chapter, making the reader look forward to upcoming chapters.[80] Briana Lawrence from ANN stated that what makes Death Note so interesting is that there is no villain, "instead it had two opposing sides that both believe in the same thing: justice." She felt that while the series' second half was not as good, with Light seeming less intelligent and once vital characters fading into the background, the ending brings back what the fans loved about the first volume and the supporting cast are "given a chance to shine". However, she did not like how the epilogue made no mention of what happens with Misa Amane and how Near and Mello were still treated like parts of L.[81] Jolyon Baraka Thomas, in a Japanese Journal of Religious Studies article, describes the manga as having a "somber narrative" with a "dark cast". Obata's art is "[rendered] in stark strokes characterized---fittingly---by a complex interplay of light and shadow".[4]

The anime was also commended with Tom S. Pepirium of IGN saying that Death Note '​s "heavy serialized nature" is what "makes the show so engaging and discussion worthy."[82] Pepirium, saying that translating Death Note is "no small task", stated that Stephen Hedley created an English dub with "nothing clunky". He added that Karl Willems, director of the dub, assembled a "stunning voice cast of professionals" with a "solid tone minus some of the cheesy yelling and screaming of other dubs".[83] On the NPR show Fresh Air, John Powers said that Death Note is "at least as addictive as a show like Lost".[84] It was also listed as the 51st best animated show in IGN's Top 100 Animated Series.[85] Hyper wrote:

Running over thirty-seven 20 minutes episodes, the anime sticks much closer to the manga so takes a far more languid approach to storytelling, better fleshing out the fantastic characters of Light and his nemesis, L. Light in particular is one of the most layered characters to appear in anime in a long time.[86]

A.E. Sparrow of IGN reviewed the novel Another Note and gave it a 9.5 out of 10. Sparrow said that the author understood "what made these characters click so well" and "captures everything that made the manga the compelling read that it is." Sparrow said that fans of Death Note who read Another Note will "find a welcome home" in Nisio Isin's work that "adds a few more fun layers" to the Death Note franchise.[87] The novelization L: Change the World became the second top selling light novel in Japan during 2008.[88]

Legacy[edit]

The series' release outside Japan was met with a wave of copycat crimes. According to Wired magazine, Death Note "[turned] Japan's most-popular print medium into an internationally controversial topic that has parents wondering whether they should prohibit their kids from reading manga entirely." Live-action director Shusuke Kaneko commented in response, "If preventing them from seeing this movie is going to make kids better, then why not prevent them from watching all bad news?".[1]

Bans and attempted bans[edit]

Early in 2005, school officials in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province (People's Republic of China), banned Death Note.[89] The immediate cause was that students had been altering notebooks to resemble Death Notes and then writing the names of acquaintances, enemies, and teachers in the books.[90][91] The ban was designed to protect the "physical and mental health"[92] of students from horror material that "misleads innocent children and distorts their mind and spirit".[93] Jonathan Clements has suggested that the Chinese authorities acted partly against "superstition" but also against illegal, pirate publishers of Death Note.[94] The ban has been extended to other Chinese cities including Beijing,[92][95] Shanghai and Lanzhou in Gansu Province.[96] Legally published Chinese-language versions of Death Note are published in Hong Kong and in Taiwan.[94]

In 2007, the education bureau in Pingtung County, Taiwan warned parents to watch for "negative influences" from the manga.[97]

The Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico, U.S. held a hearing in May 2010 to ban the Death Note manga from their district's schools; it was unanimously voted down.[98]

After volumes of Death Note were found at the February 2013 suicide of a fifteen-year-old girl in Yekaterinburg, Russia, a local parents' group began campaigning in April 2013 for President Vladimir Putin to regulate all media based on the series saying it "arouses interest in death".[99]

Copycat crimes and imitations[edit]

A Death Note

There have been various copycat crimes around the world which were based on Death Note. On September 28, 2007, two notes written with Latin characters stating "Watashi wa Kira dess", [sic] or "I am Kira" (私はキラです watashi wa Kira desu?)[100] were found near the partial remains of a Caucasian male in Belgium. The case has been called the "Mangamoord" (Dutch for Manga Murder) in Belgian media.[101] It was not until 2010 that four people were arrested in connection to the murder.[102]

A senior at the Franklin Military Academy in Richmond, Virginia, United States was suspended in 2007 after being caught possessing a replica "Death Note" notebook with the names of fellow students. The school's principal wrote a letter to the student's parents linking to an unofficial website where visitors can write names and circumstances of death for people they want to die.[103]

In South Carolina in March 2008, school officials seized a "Death Note" notebook from a Hartsville Middle School student. District officials linked the notebook to the anime/manga. The notebook listed seven students' names. The school planned a disciplinary hearing and contacted the seven students' parents.[104] In Gadsden, Alabama in April 2008, two sixth grade boys were arrested for possession of a "Death Note" that listed names of several staff members and fellow students. According to Etowah County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Lanny Handy, the notebook was found the previous afternoon by a staffer. The students were suspended from the county's schools, pending a juvenile court hearing. The students, their parents, and school officials had met with Handy and a junior probation officer.[105] In Gig Harbor, Washington, one middle school student was expelled and three were suspended on May 14, 2008 for having 50 names in their own "Death Note" book, including President George W. Bush.[106]

It was reported in September 2009, that a year eight boy in Sydney, Australia created a "Death Note" that along with names contained a "battle plan" detailing where bombs could be placed inside his school.[107] In December 2009, two students at an elementary school in Oklahoma were disciplined for a "Death Note" with the names and descriptions of deaths of two girls that had angered them.[108] A Michigan middle school student was suspended indefinitely in March 2010 for a "Death Note".[109] In May 2010, a middle school student in Avonworth School District in Pennsylvania was suspended for a "Death Note" with names of fellow students and pop singer Justin Bieber.[98]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]