Death Note is currently available on Netflix, Hulu, Yahoo View and on Viz/Neon Alley. The 2006 anime lasted for 37 episodes at around 22-24 minutes per show. Yahoo and Viz offer the show for free to anyone able to watch via computer or laptop.
Considering the (justified) brouhaha surrounding the upcoming live action film, I decided to take a weekend to binge on Death Note and see what all the fuss was about.
Before we begin, a few (pun not intended) notes about this article.
First of all, this will only be about the anime by itself.
Second, after seeing the show, the outrage over the race changing of the entire cast is highly justified. And no, I'm not going to entertain your last minute "excuse" that race changing is "okay" because of the Korean Death Note drama. The characters all have Japanese names. Excusing Misa's blonde hair (it's dyed) all of the characters have Japanese features, so you can just save it. We're mad. We have the right to be. Deal with it. So done with White Facebook crybabies trying to force us all to accept Whitewashing and other race changes just because they're not adult enough to accept the fact that it's wrong and those of us not White are correct in being angry. Learn to like it, guys. We're right. This is wrong.
And third, if you do not want to be spoiled, stop reading right here. I'm being serious here. In order for me to capture my raw thoughts on this TV anime, some spoilers will have to be leaked.
So now that I'm climbing down from my soapbox, it's time to dive into the story of Death Note.
The series follows Light Yagami, a spoiled, wealthy kid who has everything handed to him. The only thing not being handed to him are his studies, and I will admit, he actually is honestly good with academics.
He's also bored.
HOW?? Your parents buy you everything. You're in a great district with plenty to do, and for some reason, you have plenty of friends. Why are you bored?
One day, he comes across a Death Note, which is a black notebook in which if you write someone's name in it, they die. There are a few, tiny rules around using it, such as you can't go to Heaven or Hell when you die, if you're going to pick a death, it has to be realistic, (no unicorn stabbings) and a few little pesky things, but nothing too serious. If you can write at a kindergartner's level, you can murder with the Death Note. Fairly simple.
Well in using the book, Light finds himself being trailed by it's original owner, a Shinigami (death god) named Ryuk, who lets him know that when it is Light's time to die, he will write Light's name into his own book. The reason why his Death Note was dropped in the world of the living?
Ryuk is bored too. Oh. Nice.
Initially, Light uses the book idealistically. He only kills criminals and people who are generally awful. He does things in secret, expecting to one day gain accolades for recreating the world in his image as a teenage God. But as the series moves forward, a few non-evil people find their way to the book too, and it isn't long before his descent into madness is made clear. The police, the FBI and several other governmental agencies start to link together the murders, and refer to Light in the news as "Kira" since nobody can figure out his identity.
Death Note has a variety of characters with interlinking stories that all lead up to Light's story, and it isn't possible to watch the show without secretly cheering for at least one of them.
The Shinigami Ryuk and Rem have my sympathy right from the start. Ryuk never actually does anything bad. He has an addiction to apples for crying out loud. And Rem acts as a surrogate mother to Misa (I'm getting to her) and bases her actions on her protection. This ultimately leads to her downfall, which is just heartbreaking to watch.
Misa will appeal to you if you like Harley Quinn. A bouncy idol with a tragic life, she initially becomes obsessed with "Kira" after he unwittingly kills the man who murdered her family in a botched robbery. Once she finds out Kira is Light, she falls head over heels for him in a one-sided romance that endures through several mind wipes. Light does not love her back. He instead chooses to use her, and long after she moves in with him, he is still entertaining other women, further illustrating what an asshat Light is. Misa is used mostly because she can access the Shinigami eyes, at the cost of half her life span, which she pays twice, just for him.
L only lives for little more than half of the series, but his legacy endures for the entire span of the show. A detective fresh out of college, he comes across as a creepy, feral child. Constantly sleep deprived and hunched over, his biggest drawback is that he sometimes second guesses Light, which leads to his downfall. He is succeeded by equally creepy and childish Near, and flat out insane Mello, neither of whom quite match L's essence.
The mystery element is alive and well, as each episode, it looks like Light will be caught, only for the angsty little bastard to escape. By episode 14, you're already convinced that Light is the scum of the Earth, you stop trying to see things his way, and you're just hoping someone will do him in. Every few episodes, it seems pretty clear his identity has been given away, only for Light to find a way to dance around the issue and have the police write him off. There's a little bit of humor sprinkled through to break up the seriousness of the segments, keeping the writing fresh even during times where it feels like the same subject is being re-tread over and over.
The series end is looked at differently by people. Light's end is by far one of the most childish exits I've seen in anime, but just a little more dignified than his manga demise. Some say it's perfect, considering what an asshat he was, while others say it could have used more pizzazz. The final episode has the right people making a difference against him (I'm not referring to Near) and justice is served, but it's a promise that you won't see it coming.
Death Note was an interesting ride, and I can see why it's fans want to protect the story. The epilogue is heartbreaking during the credits, but this is a show that ties up all of the loose ends and doesn't leave to many characters in the dust. If you only saw the Cartoon Network version, you owe it to yourself to catch the original on the above streaming platforms.
Codename Sailor earth
Codename Sailor Earth is a lifelong anime and wrestling fan. IRL she is cartoonist Koriander Bullard, formerly Koriander Ake, a happily married Chicagoan. Her favorite anime is Sailor Moon. A baby in the late 80's, the first anime titles she ever saw were Speed Racer, Voltron and Robotech.