Posted by psgels on 27 June 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews, Death Note


Death Note: Yagami Light finds himself a notebook, dropped by a Shinigami: the Death Note. If you write down the name of a person in this Death Note, he’ll die, no matter what. With this new Death Note, Light begins to create a perfect world, killing off all criminals. Then, a detective who goes by the name of “L” gets assigned to catch him.

Let me first state that Death Note is unique amongst shounen-anime. There are nearly no fights, and nearly the entire anime consists out of people planning and plotting to outsmart each other. Through the course of the anime, Light makes optimal use of the Death Note, and he comes up with a number of really smart and careful plans.

Because of this, the main good points of Death Note, especially in the beginning, are its surprises. Some plot twists are ingeniously incorporated in the storyline, and they make sure for maximum shock-value. This makes sure for a number of really intense episodes, even with the lack of fighting or other forms of physical action.

The graphics and music only contribute to this. The art that is used in Death Note is unique, and incredibly detailed. The animators made some really creative “action”-scenes, which you won’t be seeing in any other anime, and they really makes sure that these scenes are as creepy as they can get. The music consists out of a number of very addictive choir-songs, which fit the mood perfectly.

Still, despite the awesome climaxes, this series didn’t make it in the 90/100-range for a reason, as it’s got quite a few humps and bumps along the way. The most obvious one is the middle part of the series. Death Note has an excellent beginning, and an awesome ending, but the Yotsuba-arc in the middle was so bad that it made me almost lose my faith in the series. The climaxes stop being interesting, and the creators turn the series in some kind of joke of itself. Luckily, the anime picks up again with episode 24, and delivers an awesome climax, but the thorn remains. The beginning is also filled with a couple of nasty coincidences, for example Light’s father being the police-officer who is in charge of catching Light.

There are also a number of rather annoying characters in this anime. I’m referring to the ones that mainly exist for comic relief like Misa and Matsuda. They usually have no purpose at all, and they whine too much to really become interesting. The characters that are introduced later in the series also need a lot of episodes to get enough development to stop getting annoying. There are also quite an amount of people that lack a bit of background. To give one example, we learn just as much about Aizawa’s (a minor character) background as L’s (a major character) background, and believe me, that isn’t much. There’s also a time-leap somewhere in the middle of the series that just lacks proper development as well, with the result that it makes no sense in lots of areas.

Still, despite this, there are a lot of good characters with enough background to become interesting. Light himself is a fascinating person, and it’s interesting to see how he develops and eventually declines. Some temporary and side-characters also turned out really touching, and L, despite his lack of background is well developed and turns into a really enjoyable character.

Overall, it’s not the best anime out there, but it’s definitely worth a watch. It has awesome climaxes, but the fairly low rating comes from the fact that it just has too many areas that could have been improved.

32 Responses

  1. Karry says:

    “Let me first state that Death Note is unique amongst shounen-anime.”

    Maybe because it is not a shounen in the first place ?

  2. psgels psgels says:

    Shounen-jump = shounen for me. :P

  3. dontaskshadow says:

    oh psgels, I would hold off or take back on everything you’ve said, even your 84 rating.

    Reason: simple.
    http://www.animeonline.com/index.php?page=news_details&action=details&id=102438

  4. psgels psgels says:

    Whoa, I didn’t see that one coming. Now that I’ve posted it anyway, I’ll keep this review up for now, and I’ll update it accordingly when I’ve seen that special.

  5. Victor says:

    It was a great anime. The only bump for me was the middle part. Hope I enjoy the animes you rate higher than 85 as much as I enjoyed this one. What is a shounen-anime?

  6. Kite says:

    Maybe they will even show the place Light went to after his death! That’d be awesome! xD

  7. psgels psgels says:

    Victor: A shounen-anime is an anime that is aimed at boys. It’s usually centred around the “confrontation” between different parties. Most of the time, these “confrontations” are overblown fights (Naruto, Bleach, etc), in Death Note, they are plans.

  8. Luna says:

    I LVOE YOU!!! KIRA !!

  9. gagan_goku says:

    Kira rocks
    I loved the episodes in the middle too . L is the cutest.
    And misa is nice too . dont call her unimportant. she might be a comic relief (she is funny)

  10. Eonir says:

    Ugh…. I think they screwed up almost everything after L’s death. A huge missile hidden under a fake desert? And Google Earth noticed nothing during the construction?

    Near knowing everything, Mello being a top figure in the Mafia? Ridiculous. So many things were ridiculous, I can’t count them all.

    Light, as a genius with such a powerful tool could easily destroy every opponent. Controlling anyone’s actions gives you more control than you think. First episodes were wonderful. You mentioned that Light is the only shounen character that declines instead of growing. Well, I have nothing against that. But only when it’s not screwed up. Near was the character that was artificially powered up. Like Songoku throwing his opponents into the heart of the sun. But on a different kind of level.

    I think it was not Light’s mental power that was weakening – it was the scriptwriter’s/mangaka’s.

    1/3 of the series was worthless. It could as well end when it was supposed to.

  11. Venus Vega Is... says:

    although i agree some of the latter
    plot twists were… inane,
    the spirit in which Death Note
    carries itself && the intellectual
    game of cat && mouse played
    between L && Light is something
    so stimulating. Alot of the anime
    is intense && the dialogue extremely
    human…
    you at least gave Baccano! a 93…
    i’m sure Dath Note warrants at least
    a 90 for being such an intelligent,
    intense, && extremely well drawn anime.
    your blog tho

  12. psgels psgels says:

    Venus: Death Note had indeed some great moments, but at the same time there were enough lesser points, which explains the relatively low rating. Baccano didn’t have any of these in my view, hence the high rating.

  13. sara says:

    yep I agree with annoying ones though I guess matsuda was worth it at at the end since he shot light, that was awesome. I think you described how I feel about it so well and I don’t people who drop this show at 17 ,27 etc… and the 2nd half is just like ughhh

    Oh and I HATE shonen anime but I liked this one a lot since it didn’t shonen-y on me, ~~~

  14. Kira Supporter says:

    Death Note…BEST Anime,Story,Movie,Idea…Everything!
    The Smartest! And The Greatest!
    And I was with Kira all the way! And STILL!

    ROCK ON DN!

  15. Serenade says:

    Personally, I think your rating of Death Note is way too low.

    This really is a fundamentally unique anime. Like you’ve said, it’s amazing how it breaks away from fighting/battle tradition (which is the very core of shounen anime), yet maintains an insurmountably compelling, suspenseful, and exciting plot.

    Of course, there are flaws as well. One example may be a lack of background-probing for the central characters, like L. However, I also see this as a point of uniqueness. Instead of relying on the sob stories of each character’s past in order to develop their personalities, the show simply develops them through their thoughts/actions while moving the plot along. Considering the actual storyline of Death Note (a Kira-quest for world domination), the backstories of the characters are irrelevant. Also, with the display of so many different characters — Misa (model/bimbo), L (nobody/genius), Light (perfect student/crazy mastermind) — I think that one of the minor themes of the anime is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from; it’s about what you can accomplish with what you’ve got, here and now.

    Also: minor characters. One thing I like about Death Note is its ability to twist minor characters into major players. Naomi Misora, who started out as just “that FBI guy’s fiancee” turned out to be a real threat-potential to Light. Likewise, although Matsuda was introduced as a moron (it pains me to say this; I think Matsuda’s an adorable idiot), in the end, /he/ is the task force member that takes down Kira. Because, hey, I didn’t see Near whip out a gun and empty some lead into Yagami Junior. (Though I’d love to see that. xD) Oh, and Ryuk. I believe that Ryuk was kept low-profile throughout most of the second half so that his sudden role at the end would come as more of a shock; we all pretty much dismissed his ramblings near the beginning of the series, so it’s a surprise when Ryuk comes back for the kill. All in all, even the minor (perhaps annoying) characters have their time in the limelight, which keeps them forever important to the show.

    …But, okay, I agree that the Yotsuba arc was a letdown. xD

    However. I still maintain that Death Note is one of the most suspenseful and compelling anime I’ve ever seen. Rating-wise, I think it deserves a place in the 90’s, at least. There /are/ flaws, but the sheer wow-ness of the anime and its periodic revivals of suspense outweigh the flaws undoubtedly.

  16. Serenade says:

    Whoo… gigantic post. xD

  17. JJ says:

    Well….there are other suspensful anime that utilize their storylines much better than Death Note.

    Man when I got to the Yotsuba storyline, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing….was that in the manga?

    And plus, the show loses steam after Misa shows up.

    84/100 is right….I would give it an 80/100.

  18. Sun says:

    This is the only anime i watched without skipping any frames (normally i use 1.5x) and i’ve watched alot of animes too.
    Here’s a partical list of them
    – Karin
    – Shakugan no SHana
    – Zero no Tsukaima
    – Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru
    – Clannad
    – Kanon
    – Naruto
    – Bleach
    – Higurashi no Naku koro ni (ok~ i didn’t sky any in this one as well)
    – Inukami
    – Spice and wolf
    – Kogepan
    – La Corda d’Oro
    – Nagasarete Airantou
    – Kaze no Stigma
    – Elemental Gelade
    – Hatenkou Yuugi
    – Vampire Knight
    – Prism Ark
    – Da Capo
    – Hayate the Combat Bulter
    – Elfen Lied
    – Lucky Star
    – Sola
    – HellSing
    – Full Metal Alchemist
    – ef ~ a tale of memories ~
    – Darker than Black (this one seems similar to death note to me for some reason)
    – The melancholy of of Haruhi Suzumiya
    Also a hell lot more of manga
    (yes i do have a lot of free time)

  19. Sun says:

    Sorry in the last post ( Higurashi no Naku koro ni (ok~ i didn’t sky any in this one as well)) it is meant to be Skip not sky

  20. leslie says:

    I’ve just started to watch this series so I guess I am still missing some critic review, however, I do enjoy the plot and the character is amazing, plus the animation is very well done. In my view the anime has a very unique way of showing us whats happening out there…different reality or not, monster or not, i guess Light only wants to make it right lol
    Yes I know I am insane lol
    Anyways still haven’t gotten to the dreadful middle part that u refer to as being boring, but I will keep u posted with my opinion…
    Meanwhile I wish for no spoilers!!

  21. Bebop56210 says:

    Ok so I just now finished watching this series, and to be honest I didn’t even like it, nor did I want to watch it at all, but I got curious and I’m glad I did… I like most of the story, but I was hoping L didn’t die, but owell, hell he died even sooner than I thought… as for Light… I hate him… lol I hate those smug characters like that and I thought he was going to win at the end, thank god he didn’t I would’ve went nuts… still would’ve liked L to beat him but hey what can I do… I also like how he breaks down at the end and can’t think of a way out… so he turns into that ignorant child like L said KIRA was… so all in all I was happy with the ending…

  22. DuhMightyBeanz says:

    I find Death Note’s beginning to be extremely awesome…If not one of the best any anime creator could make.

    Someway later,my interest started fading away.It was rather odd in the sense that the series was beginning to repeat itself in the very essence of the beginning,Light VS L.Of course,L lost(duh)but somehow,Light just lost his brilliance in the later episodes.Bugging a place where he would hold his interrogation with only sound and no video?That’s way too obvious for any average person to figure out SOMETHING must have been done within the time frame.

    I would probably have rated it about 70ish.

  23. Jack says:

    So, I watched the first episode of Death Note. I know it’s not fair to judge a series based on the first episode, which is why I want to ask here before I decide whether to drop the series or not.

    First, I want to say this. I really really hate the sentiment that “the world is rotting.” I really hate it. Not only do I completely disagree with the sentiment, but I can’t stand people that feel the same way. I similarly hate the sentiment that “there are people that this world would be better off without.” The reason is that these sentiments come from people who believe they are the sole aribitrator of justice; that justice and morality are black and white. It expresses a shallow worldview that I cannot abide by. For example, I dislike the movie Boondock Saints on three levels: one because it’s a Tarantino wannabe movie that fails so epically it’s hard to see how the two are related, two because it’s completely uninteresting, and three because of the “kill the scum” sentiment espoused by the film.

    Now, given my opinion on the subject matter (whether you agree or not), should I continue watching the series, or should I move on to a different series? I’m pretty busy, so I don’t want to waste time on a series that so far seems like I will not enjoy.

  24. psgels psgels says:

    The interesting thing is that your opinion quite matches the opinion of the antagonist during the first half of the series. Death Note isn’t a series that claims to be right, but rather thought-provoking.

    If you had plenty of time, then I’d suggest it. But if you are a busy person, then I do admit that there are a lot of series that deserve to be watched first.

  25. cristine837 says:

    Great!!!!
    Show makes me relieved all the time so i use to watch Death Note when i have a time after my college work has done.It gave me so much relaxation and also made me happy.

  26. Me says:

    Death Note was much too long. The premise is relatively weak, but the characters were interesting. When he lost his memory, it became stale.

  27. Mario-Kun says:

    Hiiiiii …… The end I would like to me is this living ligth dominate the world because it is the master. What becomes of ligth shinigami is totally inconsistent and impossible, so if you were human memories erased, if not, do not explain much laziness and impartiality of the other shinigami,
    The end of this anime very good but not worth what was the anime, by the end according to my opinion should stay alive L q and was one of the most important characters of the anime, but to give the fine that was given leave us with a bit of mystery and questions about what happened really to L. .. finally one of the best animes though a bit short ….

    Bye

  28. Topaz says:

    Just sayin, if you like the anime, read the manga. It is sooooo much better it will blow your mind! [SPOILER: THIS IS ALL MIKAMI'S FAULT!!!!]

  29. Dink says:

    Loved this anime, really made me think. Great detail was payed to the plot and although it may well have been a little too fluffed out i think that some of that fluff was necessary to give the view an idea of the intelligence behind Kira and L such as the part at the beggining where he rigs up this complex sequecnce to destroy the deathnote in his drawer should anyone go searching for it. Not essential but extra bits like that certainly gave the overall anime a bit more depth. Also the live action versions are awesome and stuck quite well to the anime guide lines

  30. Pharellla says:

    Death note is the only anime i have seen that you dont have to wait till episode 8 for it to get good! You get hooked from the start which hasnt happened with any other anime for me ,,even Code Geass,,so id say 84 is a very low rating and yes L shouldnt have died so soon,,and it got slow for a bit but you cant deny those intriguing moments of suspense and even the build up of the final episodes were intriguing! DeathNote is really like no other,,has it flaws but is definitely an a plus!!!

  31. Andy says:

    Hey could you recommend me an Anime similar to Death Note (or Code:Geass)? I am aware that both of these have some problems in their storytelling especially in their 2nd seasons but from the general premise and style I really enjoyed both of these shows.

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:14 PM)
    Synecdoche is incredibly rich in detail, and keen return viewers can find a lot of things they missed the first time thru. Kaufman didn’t have a single teacup in a shot that didn’t mean something. Pacing is a bit of an issue, but if you notice the passage of time you can see that was deliberate as well. The movie could’ve been livelier, but for a movie about death and decay that would’ve been a bit of a sell-out.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:01 PM)
    @Emma: Birdman and Synecdoche have a lot of thematic elements in common, and given that Synecdoche was released in 08 makes me realize that Alejandro González borrowed quite a bit from it; although in the end they are different enough to justify Birdman’s existence. Where Synecdiche was a better written movie, I feel that Birdman was the better directed one.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:15 PM)
    And I’d go as far to say this beats out birdman for me by miles.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    The film is a solid mood piece thanks to the in tone cinematography, a great performance from Hoffman that along with his characters drama makes for an emotionally investing film. And before it gets TOO sad theres all those bits of dark humour fitted in there that work out pretty well. This is probably my favourite work by Kaufman currently.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    Well Bam, I had a go of synecdoche there. A bit of a slow burner, near the end slightly drawn out, however that last stretch was forgiven by that bonkers ending.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:23 PM)
    The voice of the main character got kind of annoying though, the dub wasn’t all that good either.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:22 PM)
    This was based on/was a homage to a series by the Gigantor creator and having grown up with gigantors 90s reboot this felt like a nice throwback, plot is fairly simple but used effectively. It’s a shame that it feels like there was more to tell but at seven episodes I suppose it avoids outstaying its welcome.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:20 PM)
    Decided to marathon Giant Robo, I think this was mentioned by someone on here before. I guess it was fairly entertaining, great action direction, looked good for its time, you don’t notice the hour long episodes go by, adequate characters, nice retro artstyle also, not sure if I got excited over this as big O and Mazinger however but still fun enough nonetheless.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:10 AM)
    Seeing Hoffman in before the devil knows your dead and his character being dependent on drugs, that was another thing that hit me a bit knowing the circumstances of his death. Watching most wanted man I could also see that he was wearing out physically.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:00 AM)
    This is not Anno bitching about otakus jacking off to his characters and turning around and selling Rei panties, this isn’t the idiots at Shaft throwing around meaningless camera angles and the oh-so-symbolic teeth brushing scenes, this is a human being looking you in the eye with fear and telling you that he’s dying; morbid, honest, moving and remarkable.

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