Monday, 15 August 2011
I’m not a manga fan myself, as of writing I’ve only finished one series and the rest has left me decidedly cold. You owe it to yourself to check out Death Note, a gripping cat and mouse game of wits between the two smartest men/children in the world.
The story follows Light, a genius Japanese kid who is gifted a notebook by a bored Grim Reaper that allows him to kill anyone. It is shrouded in a set of rules and restrictions that lay the framework for the chesslike game Light plays with his nemesis, another genius called “L”. Light uses his power to systematically murder anyone who has committed a crime while L attempts to track them down.
The first most interesting thing about the book are the characters, Japan is usually awful with fleshing characters out properly but the cast is given distinct motivations, personalities and arches, even if they are decidedly on the quirky side. Light himself is a fantastic creation, he encompass both a sympathetic protagonist and a damn sly cat, in much the same way Don Draper does in “Mad Men”. The way he takes impossible problems and effortlessly triumphs in the most genius way possible is a trait the two men share, and a comparison to Don Draper is one hell of a ringing endorsement.
Nothing I have ever seen, read or heard has managed as impressive a job as keeping constant tension over such a long period. The stakes rise as the duo trade increasingly fiendish actions to trip up the other guy. Because from day one the rules have been laid out the developments never feel cheating but incredibly clever and the way you must guess and second guess characters actions is fantastic fun.
Many thrillers twist and turn, it is a staple of the genre, but few twist to such a ridiculous degree as Death Note does, and even fewer pull off even single twists half as good as Death Note manages too. I recommend the books instead of the cartoon because you take it more at your own pace, you’ll definitely instantly want to reread certain scenes time and again. For all its cleverness Death Note is an entertaining series and the language barriers/far outness of the plot should not put you off, this is great stuff regardless of where it comes from.