Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Death Note

I know I say I'm a fan of Animé, but I'm only a casual fan. There are so many Animé series that I know of but have not even seen, but I'm getting there!

First series on my list was "Death Note". I had heard so many good things about it so, naturally, I was curious and wanted to check it out. I headed over to my local HMV (, didn't happen to be that local) and found the box set and the individual series DVD's. The individual's were going at £20 EACH but the boxset was £60. There are 9 series. 9x20=180 which means that if I bought the first series and liked it, I would have spent £180 on separate DVD's, whereas if I got the boxset I would be saving an incredible amount of £120. But I didn't want to get the boxset and then end up hating it and being £60 short (Let's face it, I'd have probably lost the reciept). Dilemma guys! But considering I hadn't heard a bad word about it, I closed my eyes and silently winced inside as I handed over £60.

Sixty pounds. And let me tell you, every single penny was FREAKIN' WORTH IT.

So, let me tell you the basic plot.

The first episode starts off in a world that's called "The Shinigami Realm". Shinigami means Death God, so there are all these weird, creepy characters. A Shinigami hold's something called a "Death Note", which is a notepad where, if you write someone's name, a person will die in 40 seconds.
Ryuk (Pronounced "Ree-yook", as seen left ) is a Death God and gets bored of the lifestyle in the Shinigami Realm and so decides to drop his Death Note in the Human World to see what will happen.

A hardworking student named Light Yagami - tipped to be one of the most intelligent students in Japan and is always top of the class - also gets bored with life on Earth and comes across this Death Note.

The rules of the Death Note are quite detailed:
  1. The human whose name is written in this notebook shall die.
  2. This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.  
  3. If the cause of death is written within the next 40 seconds of writing the person’s name, it will happen. 
  4. If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.  
  5. After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds. 
  6. If the time of death is written within 40 seconds after writing the cause of death as a heart attack, the time of death can be manipulated, and the time can go into effect within 40 seconds after writing the name. 
  7. The human who touches the Death Note can recognize the image and voice of its original owner, a Shinigami, even if the human is not the owner of the note. 
  8. The person in possession of the Death Note is possessed by a Shinigami, its original owner, until they die or the death note is destroyed which ever comes first.  
  9. Shinigami, the original owners of the Death Note, do not do, in principle, anything which will help or prevent the deaths in the note. 
  10. A Shinigami has no obligation to completely explain how to use the note or rules which will apply to the human who owns it unless asked. 
There are plenty more, but this is basically it, and since some/all of you who are reading this probably haven't seen it, it's probably not a good idea to feed you all the information anyway.

Going back to the actual plot, Light decides to try and do the "good" thing and kill all murderers/evil in Japan and over the world. However, since all of these attacks happened at pretty much the same time and all were by heart attacks, the police force become suspicious and believe this to also be murder, and so try to hunt down whoever is causing all these deaths.

Seeing as Light can kill anyone with just a name and a face and not having to actually be there himself and not leaving any physical trace for the police to pick up on, they call in an investigator publicly known as "L" (seen left). No-one actually knows what he looks like, sounds like or what his real name is (we, the audience, find out this information gradually throughout the series). L is a seriously smart yet quirky and slightly strange man and starts to pick up on the little things, and from then on it's a cat and mouse chase between two people who are anonymous to each other and it's a race to see who gets the other first.

Death Note proved to be immensely popular and on December 31st 2008, it was announced that the Manga (which came first) sold 26,500,000 copies, and in North America in 2009 Death Note was the third best Manga Property. Death Note has now been adapted into Animé, Films and Video Games.

Death Note is gripping because you never know what's going to happen, who's on who's side and above all, how it's going to end. The ending really surprised me, I'll tell you that. The plot kind of changes throughout the series because so many people are put in the fray, and also because the rules are so intricate and detailed Light has to figure out the loop holes so he doesn't get caught. It can give you a bit of a head ache and cause confusion sometimes, but that's a good thing I think, because it makes you think. It's not one of those cartoons that lets you sit there and be entertained, it invites you in and allows you to be part of the detectives. Or maybe you want to help Light escape, it depends who you're rooting for.
Nine series might sound long (I finished it in a week) but there are only 4 episodes per series and each episode is 20 minutes long.

Here are some clips from the first series to help you understand what it's all about, if what I've written has somehow confused you! Perhaps watching it will make you understand how gripping this animé really is.

This first clip shows Ryuk telling Light about the Death Note and Light's reasons as to why he's killing all these people and the way he thinks.

This second clip shows how clever L is and it also gives two dimensions on the subject. Starting from 1 minute 24 seconds, Light explains how he's become an internet phenomenon and how people's thoughts in public differ to the thoughts they express on the internet, and it also shows the politically correct point of view (i.e. "Murder is murder, and therefore criminals should be punished"). It's quite funny really - especially since I've just realised it - because it's almost like a vicious cycle. You capture the murderers and throw them in prison or execute them, Light comes along and tries to get rid of all the criminals himself and thinks he's doing a good thing, but the Police see him as just another murderer and so they want to ... erm ... execute him. See what I mean? Each party think they are justice, it just depends what party you vote for because you can see the different sides, especially in this video from 1:40 onwards. It was this clip that got me hooked.

This is the trailer for the Japanese film. It was released in 2006 and was a box office smash in Japan, knocking "The Da Vinci Code" off the top spot.

For those in the UK/Canada who are fans of Dragonball Z, Death Note was voiced by the same dubbing company ("The Ocean Dub Group") so you might recognise a voice or 2. It took me a few series to realise it, but Light Yagami was voiced by Brad Swaile who also did Teen Gohan, and Ryuk was voiced by none other than Brian Drummond, who did the amazing character that is Vegeta.
My friend Kyle Hebert (see previous blog post, and who was part of the FUNImation dub for Dragonball Z) recently said in an interview and I quote:
“I think with any actor you’re going to run into a lot of similarities with voices, there’s only so many voices one can do and eventually you’re going to kind of repeat yourself. I came right out and admitted before Naruto aired that my Kiba voice sounds just like Gohan. The difference is in the attitude, the difference is in the character, the traits, his disposition and the way these characters interact with one another. You can say it’s the same voice, but it’s a different attitude so that’s what makes it different.

A lot of voice actors have maybe one or two signature sounds. You may say it’s the same voice, but you know what? Why he gets that role, or she gets that role is because they’re good actors and that’s the key – if you underline acting in the words voice acting.

It’s about doing voices, but it’s also so much more than that. It really is about bringing some of yourself into the performance." 
And I really couldn't agree more. Speaking of voices, the performance as a whole throughout the whole series was really well executed and an absolute joy to watch; it really is such an interesting animé. If you don't get it, I'll write your name in my Death Note!

If I had one. 



Dobrin said...

You're spot on with Death note. It's one of my personal favorites as well!

But all of the videos are banned. I just got excited and nothing... :)

Btw, you should check out One Piece if you haven't seen it yet. It is also mind-blowing.

Again - great article!

CazStacey said...

Thank you very much Dobrin! Sorry the videos are banned, they weren't when I posted them, promise! Yes I heard good things about One Piece - I should really get into it!

Thanks again,