POP!: Why I adore Death Note

I already talked about Death Note. It made me a storyteller and simply gave me a good time. The thing is: the story is probably the most intelligent and coherent story ever. It has an ingenious structure. I just wanted to talk about it a bit. Never were characters so smart, never have they been more fleshed out, never seemed a plot so clever. So, let’s dive in. It all begins with the beginning. 

Usually, characters are either thrown into a world and have no choice but to participate (Harry Potter), or others who a drawn into the story and have to survive it (Star Wars.) Death Note has an entirely different premise. No one is chosen, no one is thrown or drawn into it. It all comes down to two factors. Factor one is, that the Shinigami Ryuk dropped his notebook in the human world. The protagonist just happened to be there. Ryuk had no intentions of Light finding it. This is a freaking change of pace for me. There is no „chosen one“ or someone who „has to save the world.“ The entire plot doesn’t even mention such ambitions. It was just mere coincidence that started the plot. Terrific.

Usually, the protagonist is the good guy. (Maybe except Game of Thrones.) But Light, the protagonist, is the bad guy. Some say he is an anti-hero turned villain. For my part, he has always been the villain the entire time. (But that is splitting hairs.) The „crude“ twist here is, that the protagonist doesn’t use his powers for good. He punishes, i.e. kills, only criminals and those in his way. This whole shabang could start an epic debate about good and evil. But for the sake of its writer, who said it wasn’t part of the plot, we’ll leave it out here. Anyway. Light uses his power to become the God of a new world. This whole premise is so entirely different from others. Most storytellers tell stories to rise to power, or the fall of a character. I mean, becoming „God of a new world“ is some kind of rise to power, but its initial thought is vastly different. Terrific. 

Usually, the antagonist of the protagonist is a twisted version. We see it in Batman vs. Joker, Flash vs. Reverse-Flash or Aquaman vs. Black Manta. This is how Western storytellers enact their plots. Tsugumi Ohba, the writer, made L, the antagonist, somewhat a ‘twisted’ version but only on the outside. Light is handsome, L is a bit – how do I put it – ‘messy.’ Yet, L has an ingenious character design. No flashy costume, no visible differentiation from others (maybe his bags under his eyes, but that is only minor), and only wears a white sweatshirt plus jeans. The outside may count, but the inside is where is really counts. He is so smart, and this drives the plot aggressively forward, that he always draws the right conclusion. He concluded that Kira only needs a face and a name, he concludes that Kira is in Japan, he concludes the first kill was an experiment, he concludes he killed the FBI agents, to make my point, he concludes that Light is Kira. Terrific.

Usually, the plot is mostly piece for piece, or bit for bit. Harry Potter goes to Diagon Alley, then the Hogwarts Express and then to Hogwarts. Luffy enters a new island and a the whole separation and fights go along until the final fight. This is not inherently bad. Death Note just did it differently. It drove the plot by the characters actions. Lights actions as Kira make L move and L’s move made Light move. (So on and so forth.) There is no plethora of plot devices or MacGuffins except the Death Note itself. The whole plot revolves around L trying to mislead L, and L trying to frame Light. This whole narrative is so smart, and so well written that I wonder what kind of Tsugumi Ohba really is. Sidenote: Is he a genius himself? Is he highly gifted? What made him be so smart? Sidenote ends. Anyway. Fucking terrific job. 

Death Note gave me a great time. First the anime in 2007. Then the live action version plus the spin-off in 2008. I will always come back to it from time-to-time in order to think back and enjoy it for another time. I wish who Tsugumi Ohba truly is, I wish how he approaches writing, and I wish I knew what he thought while writing Death Note. One Piece is the greatest story ever told. But Death Note will always take the crown for being the most intelligent, smart, clever, coherent, perfect and simply fascinating story. Ever. 

Published by N. Burg

N. Burg is a writer. He discovered his passion for writing at the age of 17. Since then he wrote a vast body of work. He also likes reading, cats, the manga One Piece, and thinking.

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