Death Note, Volume 11: Kindred Spirit

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421511788
Released: May 2007
Original release: 2006

Kindred Spirit is the eleventh and penultimate volume in the immensely popular and successful manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Death Note has developed into quite a franchise with multiple anime adaptations, games, live-action films, novels, and merchandising in addition to the original manga series. Kindred Spirit was first released in Japan in 2006. The English-language edition from Viz Media was initially published a year later in 2007, but it is also included in the sixth and final omnibus edition of the series, released in 2011. For the most part I have been enjoying the Death Note manga (I haven’t pursued the series in any of its other incarnations), so it was about time I got around to reading Kindred Spirit.

As Light comes closer to bringing the world under his control as the god-like Kira, Near draws closer to exposing Light and his schemes. Near is already convinced that Light is Kira and that he is also posing as L, who is leading the Japanese task force responsible for investigating Kira. All Near now needs is some actual proof that ties Light, Kira, and L together. Light is well aware of Near’s efforts to capture him and that he must be more careful than ever executing his plans. Because of Near’s inquiries, several members of the task force are once again beginning to suspect Light and his motives. Because of this Light is currently unable to directly act as Kira, but he is still a skillful manipulator; there are others he can maneuver into carry out his will. Even so, there will always be some things that are outside of his control.

While some of the previous volumes of Death Note had a nice balance between action and the more cerebral aspects of the series, Kindred Spirit is almost all plotting, planning, and analysis on the characters’ parts. As a result, Kindred Spirit is very text heavy. The internal dialogues overwhelm what little external action is going on. Obata seems to be running out of ways to make the tremendous amounts of thinking that occurs in Death Note visually interesting. The most engaging and dynamic sequence in Kindred Spirits is an all too brief eight pages that has absolutely no narration or dialogue at all. Frankly, it was a welcome break. Despite the fact that the series is quickly approaching its conclusion, the preponderance of text makes it feel sluggish and not much actually happens in this volume. Still, there is some important setup for Death Note‘s finale.

Both Near and Light put complicated plans into motion in Kindred Spirit, each trying to out-think and out-maneuver the other. What was once a battle between right and wrong, and to some extent good and evil, has now simply become a battle of wits and even more so a battle of pride. Unfortunately, I found those particular battles to be much less compelling. Light seems to have lost sight of his original intent and purpose of making the world a better place, granted in ethically complicated and questionable ways. His conflict with Near in Kindred Spirit has become a game rather than a moral calling. I personally found that to be a disappointing development, but it does go to show how out of touch with reality Light has become that he can be distracted like this. I am very curious to see how things will play out in the final volume of Death Note, Finis.

Manga Giveaway: Read or Dream Giveaway Winner

And the winner of the Read or Dream Giveaway is…Dawn H!

As the winner, Dawn will be receiving the first volume of Hideyuki Kurata and Ran Ayanaga’s manga R.O.D: Read or Dream. I had previously read the related series, R.O.D: Read or Die, and was rather surprised when Read or Dream ended up being entirely different in tone. And so for this giveaway, I asked entrants to tell me about manga that surprised them or that wasn’t quite what they were expecting. Normally, I would simply suggest reading the giveaway comments, but since there were only five submissions this month, I’ve decided to simply share them here:

X by CLAMP (submitted by Dawn H):

I think one of the first manga series to really surprise me was x/1999. Back in the 90s, my first exposure to CLAMP was their series Magic Knight Rayearth, which was rather Sailor Moon-ish (though it did have giant robots & a twist ending). So when I saw that Animerica was running a comic in it by the same artists, I assumed (stupidly) that it would be similar to Rayearth (since I hadn’t seen or read Tokyo Babylon yet…this was pre-“everyone had the internet” days, so I didn’t know about it yet). Well…you can probably imagine my surprise when I first read it, heh. NOTHING like Rayearth, unless you count the art style. But I ended up liking it, anyway.

I recently started reading X myself. Even though I had been warned, I was still surprised by how graphically violent the series is.

Emma by Kaoru Mori (submitted by teaNrice):

When I first saw my Library’s copy of the first volume of Emma: A Victorian Romance I had a quick look at the blurb on the back and put it back down unimpressed by what I thought sounded like an immensely cliche plot. It wasn’t until years later that I would realize my mistake. Emma is surprising because it shows that even a seemingly cliche plot like a romance between the upper and lower classes can still shine when the execution is so superb.

Emma is another series that I’ve only started reading recently. The manga is tragically out of print in English, but my library fortunately has the entire series, too. And yes, it is very good.

Kokou no Hito written by Yoshiro Nabeda and Jiro Nitta, illustrated by Shinichi Sakamoto (submitted by Vito):

Kokou no Hito, it’s licensed in Italy under the name Climber and in France as Ascension, great stuff. The beginning is very misleading, young introverted protagonist transfers to a new school, classmates bullies by way of which he also introduces him to climbing and it all leads to a competition, by now it’s sort of leading you to believe it’s going to be a shounen sports competition manga, complete with a mystery progeny showing up. That quickly changes, the rest of the story explores the character, his growth, follows his various mountain expeditions etc. I do recommend reading it and the art is really really good.

I didn’t previously know about Kokou no Hito, but now I really want to read it! It sounds like a series I would really enjoy.

Death Note written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata (submitted by KenshinGirl)

I completely overlooked Death Note when they ran a preview for it in Shonen Jump because the art didn’t appeal to me. I decided to go back and read it a while later when I had no other manga to read, and I was instantly hooked. After that, I couldn’t wait for the next volume and ended up recommending it to everyone I knew. My older brother had no interest in manga, but once I got him to read it, he couldn’t put it down either.

You know, I really need to finish the last couple of reviews for Death Note. Coincidentally, this is a series I managed to get my brother, who isn’t a big manga reader, interested in, too.

A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori (submitted by Literate.Ninja)

I’d say the most recent surprise I got from a manga was reading A Bride’s Story. I got it from my library after hearing about it online, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, since I am somewhat familiar with the culture and time period the book is set in. However, when it turned out to be a warm, touching story of a family coming together to embrace a new member, I was completely charmed, and have since recommended it to all my friends and co-workers.

Another Kaoru Mori manga! A Bride’s Story was actually the first work by Mori that I read. I was absolutely astonished by the gorgeously detailed artwork.

Thank you all for sharing your manga surprises with me!

Death Note, Volume 10: Deletion

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421511559
Released: March 2007
Original release: 2006

Deletion is the tenth volume in the widely successful twelve volume manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Death Note also has a thirteenth, companion volume in addition to anime, live-action, and prose adaptations and spin-offs. Deletion was originally published in Japan in 2006 and Viz Media released the English-language edition in 2007. Viz is also now re-releasing Death Note in two-volume omnibuses called Death Note: Black Edition (because the covers are black), so Deletion will be found in the fifth omnibus. The series has its ups and downs, but for the most part I have really enjoyed it. The story and themes are interesting and Obata’s artwork, as always, is excellent. Deletion picks up the story immediately where the previous volume, Contact, leaves off.

Just when it looks like Light, who is also acting as Kira and posing as L, has finally gotten a one-up on his adversaries Near and Mello, he quickly loses much of the ground he has gained as the two young men start grudgingly working together and sharing information. Near has determined that the new L is most likely Kira and that Kira is most likely Light. Mello shouldn’t be far behind him in reaching the same conclusions. Now, they just need the proof. Near begins by attacking the trust that the members of the Japanese taskforce investigating Kira as built amongst themselves. As they begin to suspect each other and especially Light, who is leading the taskforce, Light has fewer and fewer options left to him for escape, none of them particularly good.

Teru Mikami is probably one of the most interesting character to be introduced in Death Note, certainly in recent volumes. He is also the only characters to have his entire past revealed. To do so, Ohba and Obata resort to a flashback sequence which feels a little out of place at first but ultimately I think it works. Plus, it gives Obata a chance to show off great skill at drawing a character at different stages of maturity while still remaining recognizable. The tone of the flashback also shifts away from the surrounding narrative. It almost reads like it could be a religious text. If Kira is God, as many people want to believe, Mikami is his prophet. Mikami is undeniably intelligent, smarter than even Light expected, making his adherence to extreme moral beliefs even more terrifying and disconcerting. It is obvious that he could be a very dangerous person working on his own. The question remains whether Light will be able to control Mikami’s fanaticism or not.

After a few volumes with some very significant action sequences, Deletion is a return to the more cerebral elements of Death Note. Instead of running in with guns blazing, the men battle it out with their minds as they try to out-think and out-maneuver their opponents and sometimes even their allies in order to take control of the situation. This doesn’t mean things have become any less intense, dangerous, or deadly. Near has forced Light to take risks he would rather not and Mello is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike to appear. Even Mikami is proving problematic as his ideals quickly diverge from those held by Kira. Panels do become a bit text heavy through all of this as characters explain things or think things through. While some are spelled out very thoroughly, other leaps of logic are difficult to follow. Usually the characters end up being correct, but I can’t help but feel that they are making some unfounded assumptions or conveniently forgetting things as needed. Still, I am very interested in learning what happens next in the following volume the series, Kindred Spirit.

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.

Death Note, Volume 8: Target

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata

U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421506296
Released: November 2006
Original run: 2003-2006 (Weekly Shōnen Jump)

Although I have been enjoying Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s popular Death Note manga series, I was mostly disappointed in Zero, the seventh volume. Still, there was plenty of good stuff going on and I definitely wanted to finish the series. I was looking forward to seeing where Ohba would take the story in volume eight, Target, especially considering the major plot developments that occurred in the previous book. Target collects chapters sixty-two to seventy of Death Note and picks up immediately where Zero leaves off. There are four more volumes after Target, five if you count the readers’ guide, but Death Note hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet. The series is in a very different place than when it first started, which is to be expected, but I still find the books to be engaging.

Four years have passed since the death of L. Light is now able to pose as his deceased opponent, making his secret identity as Kira even easier to maintain while serving as a primary investigator on the case. Public opinion has begun to favor Kira and Light has grown complacent in his relatively secure position. But L’s intellectual heirs have joined the game and Light will once again have to do some quick thinking. Mello has kidnapped his sister and is demanding the Death Note held by the Japanese police be turned over to him in exchange for her life. Light reluctantly join forces with Mello’s rival Near while striving to keep his multiple identities hidden. Near and Mello are both after Kira and the notebook, although for very different reasons, and Light will have to do all that he can to maintain his quickly dwindling advantages. And just as it looks like he might be in the clear, interference from the Shinigami realm changes everything.

Near and Mello make for interesting characters, but I’ll just come out and say it—I really miss L. The interaction between him and Light was fantastic and without L around to keep him on his toes Light seems to have lost some of his spark. Both Mello and Near come across as being rather young and I find their leadership roles and the amount of responsibility given to them hard to believe even considering their brilliance. The two of them will present Light with some decent challenges, especially since Light appears to be out of practice and Mello is more than willing to be ruthless in his methods to get what he wants. Although neither Mello nor Near are yet on par with L in regards to their intelligence, their general strangeness certainly is. Even with L gone, the conflicts between Near, Mello, and Light should prove to be interesting as they all try to outwit one another.

For the most part, Target hits on the major plot points from the previous books fairly well, but the series has progressed far enough now that it would be difficult for a new reader to jump in without being confused by some of what is going on. Death Note can be a bit text heavy at times since much of the story’s tension comes from characters’ internal dialogues as they try to out-think one another rather than from dramatic action sequences (although there are some of those, too.) However, readers are nicely led through the sometimes convoluted thought processes and Obata’s strong and consistent artworks greatly supports the story. I still prefer the series’ earlier volumes, but Target has helped regain some of the confidence I lost in Death Note while reading Zero. I’m not entirely sure where Ohba and Obata are heading, but I look forward to finding out in the ninth volume, Contact.