Many of us get into anime as children, obediently watching anything streamed by Cartoon Network. But alas, one eventually outgrows the repetitive TV tropes of PG animation and we lose touch with things we once held dear. This hazy period of your life, before you knew of fandoms and the imminent rise of online communities, is sad and lonely. But every real otaku, the men and women who did not want to abandon the world of Japanese animation, was brought back by the same thing: Death Note, the gateway drug of anime.
Light Yagami is what happens when you don’t treat anger issues in its infancy. Death Note is what happens when you give said person a hitman personified as a notebook. What was that, you say? Let’s say Light sees you in the news for stealing a car. You better pray he didn’t catch your name, because if he did, he’ll write it in his little notebook and death, literally, will come and find you. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility–or a big fat price. Much to Light’s chagrin, the owner of the “Death Note” is a Shinigami named Ryuk, and he’s here to teach us anime watchers a lesson: never trust a Shinigami.
Once Light, now known as Kira (killer), loses his mind and becomes a beacon (lol) of evil, the government enlists their most intelligent men in the hopes of outsmarting the Nazi-like vigilante. Their names are L, Near, and Mello. The narrative is driven by constant intellectual battles between Kira and his enemies. But don’t forget, Shinigamis come with deadly contracts.
Why You Should Watch It
If you happened to skip Death Note on your way into the anime world, I’m sure you’ve blanked out on many conversations. The show is good, but its importance transcends quality. Being an otaku who hasn’t watched Death Note is like being a film critic who hasn’t watched The Godfather. But again, the show is good. L remains one of my favorite characters, even after hundreds (ish?) of anime.
Light Yagami’s story is also one of the darkest ever told in anime form. It is not afraid of being violent, but it isn’t as hard to stomach as Elfen Lied. Netflix is trying to make an American live version of Death Note. I have less than 0% faith in this project. But I mention it because, if you ever intend on watching it, please watch the original anime series first. And then skip the Netflix show. Oh, and also watch it because Ryuk is the most fabulous Shinigami you’ll ever meet. Even more so than Grell from Black Butler (which is saying a lot).
I leave you with L in his natural habitat (and Light, but who cares):
Anime Tuesdays is a Tuesday column of The Nerd League featuring current or exceptional anime we think is worth checking out. To keep up with this week’s pick click here.