Death Note, Volume 9: Contact

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421506302
Released: January 2007
Original release: 2005

Contact is the ninth volume in the ever popular manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The book was initially published in Japan in 2005 before being released in an English translation by Viz Media in 2007. Death Note is complete at twelve volumes. Generally, the books have been well received although as with any series Death Note has its detractors as well. I really enjoyed the earlier volumes, had some misgivings about a few of the middle books, but have by now had my confidence mostly restored in the series. Overall, at least so far, I would recommend Death Note. It’s definitely more of a series for people interested in mind games rather than action, although there’s certainly some of that to be found in the books as well.

After the first attempt to take down Mello and his crew fails, Light is more determined than ever to regain the notebook Mello holds. Mello and his counterpart Near are much greater adversaries than Light first realized and now he has another Shinigami to deal with on top of them. Devising a plan in which the Japanese taskforce investigating Kira will raid Mello’s hideout, Light feels completely in control of the situation. But he didn’t count on Mello’s willingness to use unusual, unsavory, and drastic means to reach his goals. Outside of this violent battle of will, society has begun to accept and admire Kira and his work to make the world a better place. Even the members of the taskforce are no longer convinced that Kira is entirely evil even if he is a murderer. It looks as though the tide may be turning in Kira’s favor, but there is no way that Mello or Near are willing to allow that to happen.

It is Light that continues to fascinate me the most in Death Note. He is trying to balance three different personas—Kira, Light, and the new L—and does so mostly successfully, although the strain is starting to show. He’s beginning to slip up and make small mistakes and some of his previous machinations are proving to be problematic. While Light is still very confident in his own capabilities, he is no longer able to anticipate the results of his and others’ actions as well as he once could. Mello’s unpredictability in particular has thrown him off. Light remains very calculating and it is difficult to determine which of his reactions are simply for show and which are authentic, and even if he knows himself. There is a superbly executed scene between Light and his father that exemplifies this. He has shown repeatedly that he is willing to sacrifice those closest to him in order to protect himself. His true feelings and how these decisions are affecting him as a person are slowly being revealed.

Because Contact is one of the later collections in the series it relies heavily on the volumes that precede it, so understandably it doesn’t make a very good entry point for a new reader to the series. The first half of the volume is very quickly paced as Light and the remainder of the Japanese taskforce confront Mello and his gang head on. Even when there’s not a lot of action going on, Obata’s artwork captures the tension in the story. The emotional intensity and character’s stress is readily apparent just by looking at their faces. The second half of Contact, while still interesting, unfortunately bogs down a bit. Although, I do get the feeling that something big is going to happen, and soon. I want to be there when it does, so I’ll certainly be picking up Death Note, Volume 10: Deletion.

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