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Alright, Death Note, you and I have been putting this off for far too long. The truth is…

I actually enjoyed Death Note.

Woah, hold on a second now. There are a lot of qualifiers that go with that statement. Death Note is by no means a perfect anime… hell, at this point it isn’t even a good anime. I enjoyed the idea of Death Note. I liked the concept. I liked the battle of wits between L and Light. I enjoyed the visual elements, the dramatic lighting effects, that woman walking off to the gallows… Death Note had a lot of really pretty things on the screen and some interesting bits behind them.

The major problem is that Death Note didn’t seem to have an end planned out. With the battle between the chessmasters raging on, you would think that the author would have some sort of meaningful and carefully laid out ending that he was building to, full of symbolism and depth. I mean, certainly, there are moral lessons that can be taught with this! The subject matter itself was a man killing people as a method of executing greater justice, was it not?

Here we have our protagonist (for I dare not call him a hero), Light. I actually have a picture of him that hangs on my wall as part of a dungeons and dragons alignment chart. He holds down the Neutral Evil square. He started off wanting to cull away the evil that corrupts man and save the world, but the moment he killed Lind L. Taylor, he threw away any pretense he had of being a righteous man and stepped into the ranks of deluded serial killers. He is portrayed as some sort of magnificent bastard and, for the first part of the series, he is some sort of vision of the dark side of self-righteousness. It should be noted that he is an attractive, intelligent, upper-middle class, talented elite. If he isn’t set up for some sort of amazingly tragic fall, than I don’t know who is.

With that in mind, surely the question of the series becomes not whether Light will be defeated and die, but how. After all, we can’t let him him build a perfect world once we, the audience, see his imperfections. It goes against the spirit. So, in steps his antagonist (for I dare not call him a villain), L. L was a crime against cosplay, letting anyone with bad posture, ratty jeans and a white shirt call himself “in-character”, but let’s set that aside for the moment. L was a force of law, please note that I don’t call him a force for good, just law. He was the exact opposite of Light’s facade, unkempt, unconventional, unhealthy, but just as smart. I enjoyed their back and forth and I wondered how it would end.

Then, it ended. I thought to myself, “Oh wow… but, he hasn’t brought Light to justice yet… I wonder what is going to happen.” That was episode 25. There was one more episode in the season, I figured that L had some sort of final, beyond the grave gambit going. Nope, episode 26 was a clip-show with a cliffhanger… and then episode 27 came in. Welcome new characters N and M… please check your credibility as an author at the door.

It is like the Death Note author died at some point in late production and his assistants rolled the body into a closet and continued working! What is this crap? N is just as unconventional as L but likes toys rather than sweets? M likes sweets but otherwise shares no personality traits? What’s worse, N appears to be psychic. Not ONLY does he KNOW that Light is Kira, he can pinpoint the exact person that Light would trust with the source of his power (the thought of Light trusting anyone was strange enough) out of 80 televisions playing simultaneously!

“That guy. Watch him for a week and see if he does anything suspiciously.”

“But, sir. L at least had some sort of logic behind his actions, he took things in steps that he could explain to us… why THAT guy?”

“I read the manga.”

Okay, so we’ve watched a game of chess right up until the point where all the white pieces are cleared from the board. Two guys then come in, one sets up Pokemon cards and the other brings in Pogs. Freaking hell, Death Note! Are we expected to buy this crap?

So M dies and no one cares. If L represented justice, then I guess M represented… cauliflower, I dunno. Finally we have a showdown between Light and N, who at this point is looking like L, White Version. I dare say, he is L without any of the flaws or credibility. They have their final battle of wits showdown thing and Light’s great final plan is TO HAVE A GUY PEEK IN THROUGH THE DOOR. *facepalm*

Oh, but wait, it gets better! The door peeking is blocked by a notebook swap! He couldn’t write down the name properly because he didn’t have the proper notebook! Surely, Light could have instructed him to sew a piece of the paper into his jacket and use that for the important ultimate moment… but no.

In fact, the only meaningful thing in this entire exchange was Kira being shot to crap by the only cop who used to think that Kira might be acting for justice. Feeling horribly betrayed, that cop opened up and fired, bullets ripping through Light. As a guy who thought that the first season was decent, I sympathized most with that character. Here we both were, realizing after a lot of stupid events that the thing we had thought might be good was actually crap.

You know the worst part? Everyone knows the second season sucks. Everyone. Everyone. It isn’t a state secret. It is so blatantly apparent that they released Death Note Rewrite: The Visualizing God. In that movie, they summed up all the events from episodes 1-25 and then tacked on a different ending. After L died and Light screams at his headstone for a bit, the deathgod he got his powers from kills him. He dies without ever knowing why. THATS RIGHT. THE STUDIO THOUGHT THAT “ROCKS FALL, KIRA DIES” WAS A BETTER ENDING!

Or the live-action movie. I never watched it, so disgusted was I with Death Note at this point, but someone once attempted to describe the ending to me. Apparently, L writes his own name in the book, giving himself a time-frame in which he can defeat evil and save the world without having to worry about death. He does so and then dies at the end, knowing that the world’s criminals are safe from Kira.

Honestly, that sounds like the best ending of the three… but that is the real problem here… there just isn’t a decent ending to this story. I firmly believe that the author didn’t have any sort of ending in mind when he started and, as such, he didn’t build up to anything meaningful. The fact that the ending can be swapped so easily is evidence of this. I readily accepted a second-hand account of an ending as better than the actual ending because, at this point, anything would do! Forget symbolism, forget signifiers, forget foreshadowed and cathargic death of personified gray morality! As long as the damned thing ENDS.

But the nightmare never truly ends, does it? When I got to Kon, I see them… the L cosplayers, the Kira-fans in their Kira shirts… there are so many fans out there. I once had an argument with a fangirl about how Death Note was the best anime ever made! What is THAT nonsense? Are you telling me that an anime which was rewritten not once but TWICE because its ending lacked meaning is the best ever? What about the anime that get is right the first time? What about shows that can combine beautiful artistic elements with a well-written story about gray morality and bring it all together in a single package? Do they rank lower than Death Note?

Dear readers, I submit for your consideration that if you would like to watch a beautiful and sad story about good intentions gone awry, fallen heroes, gray morality, human nature, hope for tomorrow and you want it all to be perfectly laid out in 26 episodes…

Watch Gungrave.

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6 Comments

  1. I have to say, not much pisses me off more than what happened to deathnote, an anime I actually DID like at one point. It turned into something truly horrible over the course of 5 minutes. I wanted to cry.

    • Like I said, it was like the original author died halfway. If you asked me about Death Note just after Ray Pembar died, I would have given you a glowing recommendation. Heck, it speaks volumes that I still remember Ray Pembar and Lind L. Taylor. It just kept getting steadily worse.

  2. I should watch the first season of DeathNote.

    And you still need to watch Cowboy Bebop.

    • I have it all. Right here… I just need to finish these other, lesser anime until I get disgusted enough to seek quality.

  3. It strikes me that it seems Death Note went the way of DBZ. It began as the intricate play of two men, ostensibly on two sides of the law yet increasingly consumed by their need to defeat their opponents. A simple, engaging premise.

    The second half to recapture the same spirit but with the newest model of opponent. Now Light had to level up to Shinigami Mk. 2 (may or may not involve long hair). I swear you could stick a training montage into the intersession and do it with a straight face.

    • Just him writing really fast with his right hand and doing one-handed push-ups with his left hand. In the background: “LIVE TO WIN! TIL YOU DIE! TIL THE LIGHT DIES IN YOUR EYES!”


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