(I know it’s not Sunday today – I’m traveling at the moment and WiFi can be quite sparse here. I also have less time to write content that I’m happy with, so I apologise for any delays in the coming weeks).
Death Note is a really compelling anime TV series that explores themes of judgement, justice, and power. The supernatural element comes in the form of the Death Note, a notebook in which the names of individuals can be written to yield their deaths. The notebooks are used by shinigami, or death gods, to extend their own lives, but every now and then, a shinigami drops their notebook into the human world, and a human can wield this power.
So begins Death Note, when Yagami Light picks up the notebook of Ryuk, a mischievous shinigami who was bored and curious to see what effect it would have on the world if he dropped his Death Note in it. Light is the #1 student in his high school, and touted to join the #1 university in Japan. He picks up the notebook and quickly learns the rules that dictate it. After this, he takes it upon himself to rid the world of criminals, and rule the utopia that he imagines would blossom in the light of his almighty hand of justice.
Police are perplexed by the mysterious murders of inmates and eventually enlist the world’s best detective, L – a man with an intellect on par with Sherlock Holmes. This sets the battle of wits in motion between Yagami Light and L.
I watched this at a relatively influential age. I remember thinking of my own sense of justice as right, and it was as similarly immature as Light’s. That is not to say that the law does not have its weaknesses and drawbacks, but I think that the point Death Note drives home is that no one man should have that kind of power, and the age-old adage of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. The story forced me out of my comfort zone a little (though still retained light-hearted elements that made it not only watchable, but enjoyable).
There are many twists and turns and unexpected outcomes in Death Note. It should thrill any fans of detective fiction, all the more if you love supernatural horror too. For me though, Death Note transcends the entertainment value it has, and teaches us about mob justice and unlawful righteousness without coming off too preachy.