Crimespree on Comics: DEATH NOTE

Manga. To a good portion of the comic book fan base it’s a dirty word. Manga. It’s filled with large eyes, over-the-top action, speed lines and incomprehensible plots. I am not a fan of Manga. However, I was introduced to one and begrudgingly gave it a shot. Thank the maker I did.

“Deathnote” is a sophisticated thriller about a young man name Light that discovers a notebook outside his school. Light quickly learns that writing a name in the book causes that person to die. There are many rules surrounding the notebook that he figures out himself and with the help of the notebooks real owner. A shinigami, a “death god” that would cause the deaths of people for fun. Being bored, he dropped the notebook the Earth, to see what would happen. Light picking it up was the best possible way to stir the pot. Light is a brilliant person who wants to see the world become a better place. So he devises a plan to make it happen. Criminals the world over begin to die and soon the police realize that there’s more to these deaths than coincidence. They begin their search for the savior-murderer. Both good and bad, Light’s father is the lead police officer in the case. The police organization hires another brilliant young mind to help find Light, a reclusive expert in everything named “L.” Light and L go on a battle of minds that builds and twists through the entire series in ways that are impossible to predict.

I was very against giving “Deathnote” a try. But all my gripes and all my misgivings were out the door after reading the first volume. The writing is genius and it’s an enthralling and gripping story. Nisio Isin crafted a series that pulls you in and once you are there you need to keep reading. Thankfully, the entire story has completed because waiting for the next volume would be torture. Nisio’s writing of all the characters shows distinct characteristics and personalities. Every one (that makes it through) develops and deals in a world where being under constant fear of doing something wrong could mean instant death.

As someone who isn’t a fan of the “Manga style” of art, I was pleasantly surprised with the toned down, subtle art of the book. It’s a true graphic novel. A thrilling drama played out in a manga style. Scenes that could be viewed as too much are big and powerful but never absurdly so. This is the Manga for people who don’t and won’t read Manga. You might be shaking your head; you might not believe me but read this series. Any fan of noir, detective stories, thrillers or comics in general need to bridge the gap between American comics and Manga, at least just this once.

Thank you to my buddy Danny Scerpella for introducing me to this.

Jo