Death Note, Volume 1: Boredom

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421501680
Released: October 2005
Original run: 2003-2006 (Weekly Shōnen Jump)

I’m not entirely certain where I first heard of the Death Note manga series, but I think it first began with a National Public Radio segment. Then I started seeing it everywhere and hear mostly good things about it. Well, at least about the “original” series—a fair number of fans weren’t very happy with the direction it took after it was extended past its initial ending point. Finally, I discovered that my assistant at work was reading through the series and I was subsequently strongly encouraged to do so myself. So, I did.

The first volume quickly introduces the premise and main players of the story. Ruyk, a Shinigami death-god, “accidentally” drops one of his Death Notes in the human world, mostly just because he’s bored. It is found by Light Yagami, the top student at his school in Japan, who quickly discovers what it is and what it can do. Any person who’s name is written with intention in the notebook will die—the writer even has the option of choosing the ways and means of the death. Of course, there are rules and limitations to this power which Light must learn as he goes, because he has a plan—to rid the world of criminals and evil-doers.

But when massive numbers of inmates begin to die in prisons around the world, the world’s governments launch an investigation, turning to the mysterious and brilliant detective known only as “L.” L quickly begins to close on Light, but Light, too, is extraordinarily clever. The battle of wits has begun.

I enjoyed this first installment of Death Note. I wasn’t blown away by the artwork, but it worked well enough even if it wasn’t entirely consistent. I must admit though, the visual design of the Shinigami is quite creative. As a warning, Death Note comes “unflipped” (reading from right to left), which I think is becoming increasingly more common for manga published in the United States. It’s not the first unflipped manga that I’ve read, but it can be disconcerting for newcomers.

The book also seemed to suffer, albeit slightly, in its translation into English. Some phrases just weren’t quite right. I did very much enjoy the storyline though, and will most likely pick up a few more volumes my next trip to the library—I have a feeling they’ll make for quick, entertaining reads.

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