Death Note

by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Rating: ****

In this manga, the term ‘death note’ applies to a sort of book of death, in which the names of those about to die are written down. The ‘death gods’ who are charged with this responsibility are ‘Shinigami’.


It just so happens that a certain Shinigami, Ryuk, has dropped his death note into the human world. And according to the rules, the notebook now belongs to whichever human finds it. And our lucky human is Light Yagami, a high-school student, top of the class (and, according to recent practice exams, the country, too) and, with nothing to challenge his highly developed brain, is thoroughly bored. Having been the first to pick up the book he is now able to see Ryuk, unlike other humans. Also, he is now the one in charge of choosing which names to write down in the book.

This manga was gripping. It didn’t flow very well when I first started it. The drawings and linings didn’t seem to fit with me. (I picked it up after reading a blurb online – normally I check that the drawing style appeals to me.) However, the more I read, the more I found myself becoming engrossed in the characters and the story. It’s like a mystery to the nth degree.

Personally, I thought that Light was able to acquaint himself with his new responsibility – of choosing who dies, and in what way –  a bit too quickly. I guess the idea is that, being a top student, he was bored to such an extent with life that anything was ok. But I still feel that the idea could or should have taken longer to establish in his mind, in order achieve a sense of realism.

Aside from that, the story was awesome! I mean, I didn’t really agree with Light on a lot of things, but that is what makes this manga so great; it had my mind in twists, constantly contemplating the protagonist’s actions, so that you never know whose side you’re on.

Light immediately decides he’ll use the death note for ‘good’, ridding the world of criminals and those whom, he feels, deserve what punishment he chooses to dole out. But I couldn’t help second guessing his actions. Who are we to decide what the fate of a human being should be? How much right do we have to sentence them to death? (Light is also able to pick the details of the death; he can force them to suffer or give them an easy death.) I know juries do it all the time, but these are bone chilling questions for a single person, especially for a young high-school student. But Lightly completely, and almost immediately, embraces his new job.

There isn’t anyone you can completely hate or like in his manga. I almost – forget almost – I did resent Light during certain parts but I believe it’s the gripping story and clever plotting on the authors’ part that kept me turning the pages.

And as criminals start dropping off like dead flies, with police and a top notch detective hot on Light’s trail, things can only get better – for the reader, anyway. But I guarantee Light’s handling of the situation will impress you. I guess the author didn’t cast him as the #1 student in Japan for no reason.

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