2 years ago

The Death Note cult: A fictional epic of justice and morality

L and Light from Death Note.
L and Light from Death Note.

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Death Note is one of those series that resonates with both die-hard anime fans and non-anime audiences-- a cult masterpiece that drew enough attention to warrant a Netflix adaptation.

It is widely regarded as a masterpiece in terms of storyline, characterisation and plot by the vast majority of fans. It is the first anime watch for many anime fans.

There are various reasons why Death Note is so well-received and popular. When compared to major shonen anime like Naruto, the series is substantially darker. The fundamental topic of the anime is 'justice' and appropriate punishment for wrongdoing.

Death Note, on the other hand, makes this tired premise interesting by examining how murky morality is and how justice itself may be warped.

Light Yagami, the show's lead, is a high school student who discovers a notebook that allows him to kill anybody whose name is written in it. This notepad is the Death Note, to which the series title alludes explicitly.

When the Shinigami (God of death) who owns the notebook, Ryuk, emerges and warns Light about the repercussions of utilising the notebook, Light's decision kickstarts the plot. The Death Note, although not belonging to the mortal world, isn't all-powerful and in reality, only operates when a precise set of criteria are met.

When the Japanese police force is baffled by a succession of strange deaths of criminals, world-renowned consulting detective 'L' sets about breaking the case by analysing these conditions.

The series quickly devolves into a psychological battle between Light and L, with each attempting to outwit the other. They have an odd relationship as well, with L referring to Light as his first buddy at a pivotal time in the show.

Fans also enjoy L's quirky demeanour and social remoteness. He is unnervingly complementing to Light, who descends during the series into an almost fanatical preoccupation with justice and retribution, all the while attempting to conceal his true identity from the police, especially his father, Chief of the National Police Agency, Soichiro Yagami.

Light, dubbed 'Kira' on social media, eventually acquires a God complex and we witness all apparent morals crumble as he begins killing everybody who is in his way.

Misa Amane, the possessor of a second Death Note, complicates matters even further. Misa, who is unhealthily obsessed with Light, becomes a pawn for Light, employing any and all techniques to deflect L's suspicions while attempting to find his true name and murder him with the Death Note.

Despite being a psychological horror, Death Note did manage to include comedy and that too through Ryuk, the nightmarish Shinigami who is hooked to apples-- mythology's "forbidden fruit."

Ryuk even suffers without them, giving birth to one of the show's most memorable quotes. The show's flare is enhanced by dramatic animation and voice acting. The notorious potato chip-eating scene may be the centre of countless jokes, yet no one can deny the sequence's relevance or execution.

Even though the show suffers after L's death as the initial chemistry between L and Light is lost, and L's successors - Near and Mello, don't seem to cut it, Death Note remains a brilliant series that is well worth the hype.

While the series has its ups and downs and the plot weakens in the latter half of the series, Death Note is an excellent starting point for people who want to escape to the realm of anime. 

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