Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Abata
Published: Shonen Jump Advanced (2003)
Genre: Manga; Fantasy
I've never read a manga comic before, so I figured it was about time to try one out. And since I've seen a few episodes over the years of the "Death Note" anime series and liked it, I thought it would be a fairly safe bet to get my first taste of manga through the series. The whole manga and anime thing is a bit of a mystery to me still, though I've seen a few anime films over the years I've really enjoyed. Ninja Scrolls immediately jumps to mind.
With Death Note, the premise is enticing. A death god called a Shinigami becomes bored with his world and his duties with his own book of death, the Death Note. So, he "loses" it in the human world where it's found by a high school student named Light Yagami. Light is incredibly bright, and incredibly bored as well, but when he finds the Death Note and discovers it's abilities he takes on an ambitious plan to become an avenging angel of death. The trick with the Death Note is that if you write someone's name in it, and know their face, they die. And if you write fast enough, you can decide how and when they die.
Light decides to use the book to kill off criminals, the lowest of the low, and even does so in a way to let the public know that there is someone purposefully murdering them. Light's antics provoke a reaction from law enforcement, especially a mysterious and reclusive detective known only as "L." From there, it is a cat and mouse game as Light tries to match wits with L, as he continues to kill criminals and attempts to evade the authorities from discovering his identity. All the while, Ryuk the death god is only too amused by it all and sticks around to watch.
The art style feels like so many others seen in manga/anime, but the death gods are delightfully gruesome and comical. Light doesn't exactly come off as a likeable character, though. In fact, he's a bit of an arrogant prick. Mind you, L isn't exactly a great hero either, as he has some underhanded methods of his own. You almost feel bad for the powerless criminals that are used as pawns in the battle of egos.
The book also leaves off on a bit of an anticlimactic scene with no real resolution. It feels more like a sinister soap opera that forces you to move on to the next volume in hopes of seeing how it ends. There are quite a few volumes to this series though, so I think it'll be a while before things come to a head. I did like it enough to at least give the second volume a chance down the road. The whole reading backwards thing, which is a staple of manga apparently, will take some getting used to--I kept reading from the wrong side of the page each time I picked the book up. Grrr.