Death Note (デスノート ) is based on the Japanese manga series written by Ohba Tsugumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi. The series revolves around male protagonists Yagami Light, a genius student who is bored with life. One day Yagami finds a supernatural book, the “death note,” from the realm of the shinigami, or the gods of death. Any human in possession of the Death Note can control the death of any person by writing that person’s name in the book. From that point forward, with a shinigami named Ryuk that only he can see now following him around, Light decides to rid the world of all criminals and become, as he puts it, “the god of the new world.” But when a series of criminals suddenly all die by the same cause – a heart attack – the police begin to investigate and hire world-renowned criminal investigator L to pursue the killer of the criminals, now an urban legend known a “Kira.” Soon, an intense battle of wits, deception, and intrigue ensues, and no one is safe or above suspicion.
Death Note is one of the most fantastic anime series I have ever had the pleasure of sitting through, and that’s not hyperbole. I never saw the series until sitting down to view this set from Viz Media for review and I ate it all up in two days, I was instantly hooked. It has all the elements that make for an addictive series – suspense, thrills, mystery, and a charismatic anti-hero in Yagami Light one should really despise, but for some reason you constantly find yourself rooting for.
The writing is clever, giving us an exceptional battle of wits between L and Light like an old school cat and mouse detective film. Furthermore, there are characters outside of L and Light that make the series interesting. Light’s perpetually put upon “girlfriend” Misa is a character one can’t help but both laugh with and feel pity for as she is continually wrapped around Light’s finger, almost like an abused spouse who can’t bring herself to leave the abuser.
And the graphics in Death Note are nothing short of breathtaking. From the portrayal of the shifting mode of Light’s dual-personality to the incredibly evil look of the skeletal Ryuk who would fit in well on the cover of a heavy metal album cover, the character designs and backgrounds are visceral, dark, and gloomy, detailed and edgy, in keeping with the mood of the series.
Death Note is presented in an AVC 1080p encodement that is only middling at best. Some motion artifacts are obvious when the picture pans horizontally, showing a lot of aliasing around the line art. I have heard reports that the aspect ratio may have been slightly altered as well, with some stretching of the artwork, but I can neither confirm nor deny that since I have no other versions of this series to compare it to. Basically, this is not one the best transfers of an older anime series I have seen brought to HD.
The audio, offered in the original Japanese-language mix and an English dub (as well as French, Portuguese, and Spanish dubs), sounds wonderful for a stereo-only mix. We get both the Japanese and English tracks in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and there is a wide stereo image with good dynamics and a solid low-end. Dialogue is clear and full. The Japanese cast is magnificent all around, although I did find Miyano Mamoru (Yagami Light) to overact just a bit. The English voices, however, don’t quite match up to the level of drama and gravitas required for this series, but are acceptable if you are a fan of dubs.
We get a really good bundle of extras in this set, from four episode commentaries to behind the scenes features with the English voice cast members and a manga of the pilot chapter of Death Note. All packaged in a glossy collectible chipboard slipcase.
- Both Death Note condensed series “feature films” also included in this set together on one disc
- Behind the Scenes – Light (English Dialogue) (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:21)
- Behind the Scenes – L (English Dialogue) (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:09:16)
- Behind the Scenes – Ryuk (English Dialogue) (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:10:01)
- Behind the Scenes – Misa (English Dialogue) (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:08:27)
- Japanese Animation Director and Character Designer Interview (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:03)
- Production Art (1080p)
- Episode 1 – Director’s Commentary
- Episode 7 – Director’s Commentary
- Episode 11– Director’s Commentary
- Episode 14 – Director’s Commentary
- Clean Opening & Clean Closing #1 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:02:32)
- Death Note Rewritten with the Japanese Cast and Crew (SD; 00:11:09)
- Original Japanese Promos (1.78:1; SD; 00:03:39)
- Production Art: Characters (1080p)
- Production Art: Sets (1080p)
- Credits: Relight #2: L’s Successors (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:21)
- Death Note Pilot Chapter Manga
The Final Assessment
It may be a decade on, but the impact and power of Death Note has not diminished at all. This series is still fantastic, still addictive, and still one of the best ever committed to video. This Omega Edition set from Viz Media is a must for any anime fan.
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