In my previous review of this series, I compared it to the Departed. I’d like to amend the analogy. Death Note is like the Departed if the Departed hadn’t ****ed up the ending so bad. Death Note doesn’t get sloppy. It maintains its frenetic pace right up to the very end. Its plot twists are consistently clever. As a crime thriller, it is near perfect. The thought that went into creating this story must have been phenomenal, and it shows. There are few movies or TV shows that are as suspenseful as Death Note.
Death Note, with its constant scheming and counter-scheming, can get a bit exhausting towards the end. It might have been one, or two, or even three episodes shorter nad been none the worse for it. Even so, the fact that it had the grace to end at, well, the end, is a testament to its artistic merit. Its premise is such that it might easily have dragged on for another twenty episodes, milking the cash cow for all it was worth. But it didn’t.
Despite its success of a thriller, it’s hard not to feel, while watching it, that have might have been even more. You’ve got a super-powered protagonist (Light/Kira) with a god complex who is arguably making the world better place, though at a horrible cost. Killing Kira may be “justice” but it will lead to a higher crime rate and, arguably, the deaths of more innocent people. It’s an intersting moral conundrum, and one that the show largely ignores.
Death Note’s greatest failing is its refusal to examine the wide-scale consequences of Kira’s actions. We hear a little about how wars have stopped (for… some reason?) and how much of the world has come to worship Kira as a God, but, since most of the action focuses on Kira and his battle with L and the other police sent to track him down, the repercussions of Kira’s existence are left largely to the viewer’s imagination. Not only is thus a bit frustrating, it’s also a bit lazy. So much of the conflict revolves around the conflict between two different ideals of justice–I mean, come on, the tagline for the movie version of this is I AM JUSTICE–that it feels as though Death Note maybe should explore those ideologies a bit more. Death Note is shallow when it should be deep. By remaining almost entirely a detective thriller, it loses the chance to become a philisophical exploration into themes of justice, death, and free will.
Still, Death Note is, again, so excellent as a thriller that it can get away with ignoring the bigger picture. The latter third of the show introduces a plethora of new characters. The best of these has to be Teru Mikami, a crazier, unhinged version of Light who utters the word “delete” every time he writes a name in the Death Note.
A man who enjoys his work…a lot.
The worst of them has to be Near, a child detective gunning for Kira, who, for no apparent reason, has silver-white hair and is a cheap knock-off of the far better-developed character of L.
As for the female characters…
Actually, forget what I said before, this is Death Note’s biggest flaw. Sexism. Death Note is freakin’ sexist. There. I said it. Apparently, the writers of the manga, or the anime, or whatever, actually beleive taht every single woman in existence is eager and willing to die just to prove their love to a guy they met about ten minutes ago because they “just felt a connection” with him.
What the *** is this? Has the writer of Death Note ever actaully met a woman? I begin to wonder.
First, there’s Naomi what’s her name, a supposedly brilliant FBI agent who, for no apparent reason, had decided to become a housewife just because the guy she had fallen in love with said that her work was too dangerous for a woman. Then there was Misa, who willingly cut her life span in half twice because, and I quote, she “just wanted to be useful to Light.” Then there’s Rem, who is eager to die for Misa. And Takada, another woman who gets seduced by Light in under two minutes.
What’s up with this? The most inexplicable part of it all is why all these people fall in love in the first place. Light doesn’t even treat them well. He’s a self-centered, egocentric asshole, in all honesty, and yet everyone falls in love with him…I guess because he’s cute.
I am willing to overlook this for two reasons and two reasons alone. The first is that a lot of the men are just as stupid. The fact that all the geniuses in the show happen to be male could be argues as just some sort of coincidence..not very plausibly argued, but argued all the same.
The second is that the plot is so darn awesome that I am willing to overlook a lot more than I otherwise might be. Still, you have to wonder why Near, for example, couldn’t have been a woman. It’s not as though he had all that much personality. His lines could have been given to a female character and the plot would have been changed not at all. Then maybe he wouldn’t have seemed like such a cheap L konck-off…
No one can compete with L and his strawberries.
Starting with episode 21 or so, Death Note recaptures the grim tone it had had at the beginning. In a way, the lull in the middle actually makes Death Note better, because once people start dying again, the shock value is all the greater. The destruction of L and Kira’s friendship (a friendship that existed only because of Kira’s amnesia, but a friendship all the same) is all the more tragic because we got to see it blossom for 6 episodes or so.
There may be a crime thriller equal to Death Note, but if so, I haven’t found it yet. Most thrillers’ plots aren’t really as brilliant as they think they are. But Death Note’s actually is.