"Death Note" the anime is finally arriving on American shores and it's about time. The manga is hugely popular in both Asia and the USA and has even been banned in China due to it's perceived bad influence on students. There have also been two live-action films. So how does this story translate to the small screen? Having not read the comic, I saw this show with fresh eyes and it practically ruled my life until I finished it. This is one of the most intriguing, complex, and unique television shows of any genre and you will be missing out if you choose to pass it by.
The story focuses on a boy, Light Yagami, who comes across a notebook at school one day. He takes it home and reads it's contents, finding instructions for using this "Death Note" (as it's labeled). Any human whose name is written in it, dies. Naturally, one would assume that this was a joke, so he tries it out on a criminal holding hostages live on television. It works, all right. A normal child would probably burn it, or at least hide it away and never use it again, but Light is an exceptional boy, one with an (almost) unrivalled intellect and a severe hatred of crime; not to mention a megalomaniacal streak a mile across. So he decides to use his new found power to rid the world of criminals and establish a new world order with him playing God and delivering justice as he sees fit. Shortly after finding the Note, Light meets it's owner, a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk who is one of the most psychotic-looking anime/manga creations ever; like the Joker had a baby with a feathered demon or something. So why would a shinigami like Ryuk want to leave a Death Note in the human world? Why, because he was bored and that's just how Ryuk rolls. He's a disturbingly likeable character with an addiction to apples -which symbolize original sin, of course, and serve as kind of a symbol for the series- and an antagonistic nature that has him constantly cackling in the background as the events of the series play out. He also gives Light somebody to talk too in his solitude, lest the series get too bogged down with voice-overs.
Soon, people take notice of the deaths and the hunt for Light is on. He is dubbed "Kira", a Japanese corruption of "killer", and a special investigation team is formed, headed by a reclusive genius detective that goes by the name "L". L's intellect matches Light's and the chess-like move-and-countermove game between them is mind-boggling to watch and forms the base of the series. As a character, L is a true original: a pale-faced boy with deep black owlish eyes, a series of of unsettlingly bizarre habits and mannerisms, and an insatiable sweet tooth. He is the closest thing "Death Note" has to a true hero (discounting the side characters such as Light's father, who risk their lives by aiding in L's investigation) since the protagonist is a cold-blooded killer who soon begins hunting and killing those sent to investigate Kira. The result of all this is a wild ride that will leave your head spinning at times and make you appreciate just how good writing can get for a television series.
Once you start this show, you will not be able to stop as the plot constantly thickens, more characters are introduced and killed off, earth-shattering developments and brilliant schemes play out before your stunned eyes, and the story just keep adding more and more layers until you feel immersed in this world of constant struggle for the future of the earth. All this from one notebook. It was a cool concept to start with, but the unbelievable writing is what makes this anime must-see material. Welcome to your new obsession.