Death Note is an anime or manga that many have read and is well liked. Well, generally speaking. Death Note, is something which needs to ask the question "What is art?" as well as "What makes a story gritty, as opposed to edgy?" I first need to define a differentiation between gritty and edgy. Grittiness is something which I view as a constant element of a story, it is the knowing that the series is for a more mature audience and pushes the envelope reasonably, King of Thorn did this quite well and I have heard similar things said about Berserk. On the other hand, edginess is an attempt at grittness where the story still panders to a general audience, but pushes the envelope of what is acceptable with or without reason in doing so. I feel that Death Note falls into the latter of the two. To explain, when it comes to target demographics, Death Note is a shounen and while L and Light both bear characteristics of the basic shounen protagonist (but also have their own quirks), I feel that Death Note could have been better as a seinen, or the more mature equivalent to a shounen. Not only would this expand Death Notes extent of depicting realism in more psychological aspects (that is, a mental toll on the user of the Death Note), but also would open up more freedom to the character development and distance the mangaka, Tsugumi Ohba, from the tropes commonly associated with shounen anime and manga, which many angakas find. That said, I could understand the reasons why Ohba would choose to make Death Note a shounen and not a seinen, more so to do with readership than anything else (shounen titles are more popular than seinen ones, generally).
Where to begin with this one... Well, first off: the premise. Death Note is exactly what its name says; it is about a notebook which casts death upon those who have had their names written inside of it. As simple as this premise is, it lends itself to a decent amount of potential, but along with it some problems, my main one is that if the Death Note is an established object, then why is it not common knowledge that such a thing exists? Surely Light was not the only one to have used the Death Note in a less than discrete manner, and, if not, does this suggest that the Death Note is something new. This then begs the question that why, in a world with a set of standardized morals, would the Death Note exist and how did it end up in the right (or wrong, depending on your viewpoint) hands? Additionally, this adds to the question if the Death Note was man-made, that is, a notebook that has been cursed with Demons/Death Gods (if this was the backstory, then the series could have easily turned into a hard-hitting adventure story combining both action and things morbid into a plot more in line with a shounen audience, but this is just me rambling over something that is just not the case). So with this knowledge, you might be able to notice my problems with the integrity of the plot. I know the common rebuttal will be it is just a manga, not a work by Shakespeare, but all books, comics, movies and television shows all need to make sense and not raise questions which question the very nature of the plot like Death Note does.
Speaking of plot, there are some portions of Death Note which, in my opinion could have been left out altogether. First off, some of the character moments surrounding Light came aross more as a bad attempt at portraying a hyper-focused "genius" interacting. One scene in particular stands out to me in this regard: the potato chip scene. The famed potato chip scene, coming from chapter 17 of the manga, is, in my opinion, the tantamount of highly stilted and cheesy dialogue. The crux of this moment "I'll take a potato chip and EAT IT!" just reminds me a little bit too much of lines from the pinnacle of cheesiness: 4K!DS One Piece (specifically, the "rubber knife" scene). And while I find the overall tone and messages that this manga wants to convey as clashing, this scene really infuriated me in a lack of understanding (perhaps on my part, perhaps not) why this would be included, as well as the terrible portrayal of someone who is an intellectual. While this scene helps characterize Light, it provides a harshly inaccurate portayal of what being a misunderstood and awkard intellectual is actually like. Those around me who happen to be an intellectual and also happen to be hyper-focused on things at times, often cannot switch between multiple tasks, exactly what Light does between the potato chips and watching the news. I would argue that this is an utterly miserable misunderstanding in how being hyper-focused works.
That said, there are pluses to this scene, notably in that it attempts to characterize Light beyond tropes, which I believe is a lot more than what most shounen anime and manga can say. That is not to say, however, that this is what I was looking for, as the portrayal was quite irking.
Well, I have kind of stalled on this series, this manga (really, really) annoys me, even despite the praise it has gotten. That said, I am too stubborn to drop it. This will be on the back burner for now with most new updates being spelling, grammar and language revisions. I also may attempt to read another "I'm 14 and this is deep," publication: Magical Girl Site. I caught the first episode on The Anime Network (yes, I know, welcome to 2006) a few months ago and seeing how edgy it was I might as well read the manga and, to quote Marc Antony from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war!" in my review. That said, I am not one who would happen to hate-read. Currently on (a soon to end) hiatus, for now. (Rated 4/10, for now).
More to come...