‘Death Note’ (デスンート) is the story of Light Yagami and his quest to create a better and more just society for humanity than is being offered by Japanese society and those other societies around the world. So when he picks up a note book, The Death Note, he believes himself capable of instilling a perfect form of justice in which criminals cannot get away with their heinous crimes. In this volume the reader is presented with a story in which Light is getting used to the Death Note and the many functions it can, and cannot, perform. The reader is also introduced the context in which Light is actually living e.g. family, him being a bored student and also the amount of crimes being committed and not being ‘dealt’ with effectively.
Death Note is an enigma. It is irritatingly slow paced, in some places really slow, whilst presenting its reader with a scrumptious feast in regards to the issues it attempts to tackle. These include the likes of justice, equality, free speech and whether these things can function together within a modern democracy like Japan and the UK. The beauty of the story is that it leaves the reader to decide.
However, what the story lacks is a likeable protagonist. Light is a person who believes that they are right a hundred percent of the time. Usually he is. That, combined with this kind of manic dictatorial personality he possesses ensures that he is in the list of “All-time hated boy geniuses”. This includes the likes of Wesley Crusher (from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’) and Adric (from ‘Doctor Who’).
This kind of dictatorial, scheming, manipulative to the core protagonist is only made worse because his plans are always right. Take the incident on the bus. His plan works from the outset because the death note is so powerful. That is what makes the story unlikeable in a way. There is no fair contest between Light and L because Light is always ten steps ahead and L twice the amount behind Light.
‘Death Note’ is a great manga, but only in so much as the themes it navigates rather than the story itself. The foundation is reasonably strong, however, for Ohba to push on and really get this giant of manga out of the shade and into the sun, where it belongs.