“Human beings are truly disgusting creatures.” Rem (shinigami)
Top student Light Yagami has given up the Death Note and, as a consequence, he no longer remembers that he was Kira, the ‘righteous’ killer of criminals hunted by the police. As part of his deal with L, the unconventional but brilliant young detective who is on Kira’s trail, he has volunteered to be kept in solitary confinement under twenty-four hour surveillance to prove his innocence. Also confined is pop idol Misa Amane, who was the second Kira before she, at Light’s behest, gave up her Death Note and immediately forgot all about the shinigamis and the notebooks. So when the inexplicable murders suddenly begin again, it seems impossible that Light or Misa could be responsible. Released from his cell, Light joins the investigation – although he and L are handcuffed and chained together. Misa is also released, leading to some awkward ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’ scenes when Light visits her, as L has to tag along too.
Members of the large and powerful Yotsuba Corporation appear to be involved in the new spate of deaths, but it will take some highly risky investigating on the part of L and his team to pinpoint who the culprit is – with some unexpected results.
The strain of the ongoing investigation has begun to show. Aizawa, the family man, decides to leave – and in a particularly poignant scene, we see him with his wife and small daughter in the park. Suddenly he breaks down as he realizes that he’ll be able to lead an ordinary life again. Most of the action in ‘Death Note’ takes place at night or in ill-lit rooms, but this scene is filled with daylight: a neat and telling touch.
Now it is young Matsuda’s turn to take over and, masquerading as Misa’s manager, he rashly takes matters into his own hands and, against L’s orders, gets into the Yotsuba headquarters. Out of his depth, he arouses the suspicions of the Yotsuba executives, forcing L to rethink his strategy.
But L has brought two new players onto the team: Aiber, a con artist, and Wedy, a thief; their skills will prove invaluable as Matsuda’s impulsive actions threaten to scupper L’s carefully-laid strategies – and endanger everyone involved.
Light, although he can’t remember anything about the Death Note, constantly questions himself, wondering if he really could have been Kira. And as Misa infiltrates the Yotsuba group so that L can spy on them electronically, she uses all her acting skills to try to identify which of the executives is the one holding the Death Note, including a neat costume swap with a friend so that she can give Mogi, her minder, the slip.
‘Death Note’ has been accused by some critics as being excessively talky. Certainly there are many conversations in these eight episodes (17-24) whether it be the members of Yotsuba plotting their next move or L planning his counter strategy, whilst incessantly continuing to test Light and Misa to the limit in case one of them inadvertently lets slip some incriminating fact. So it’s not until the final episodes of this set, ‘Guidance,’ ‘Frenzy,’ and ‘Revival,’ that the team prepare to confront the new Kira and the drama really kicks into action.
Light’s calculated decision to give up the Death Note means that we get to see the ‘better’ side of him as, with the memory of his crimes erased, he examines his conscience, wondering if he could possibly have committed murder on such a grand scale? It’s difficult, when observing this other Light, not to wish that Chief Yagami’s gifted son had never been tempted by the shinigami’s lure. But anyone who’s read the manga knows that something monumental is building between Light and L, and in some ways, these Yotsuba episodes can seem little more than a prelude to the inevitable confrontation. One thing’s for certain: if Light or Misa lay a finger on a fragment of the Death Note, their memories will return, with devastating consequences.
A dramatic change of opening and ending sequences are introduced in episode 20 (which marks the start of Season 2) with the violently pounding thrash metal songs of Maximum the Hormone providing an apt accompaniment to the fragmented imagery (a representation of what’s going on in Light’s brain, maybe?)
The English voice cast continue to impress, especially Andrew Kavadas as Higuchi, the troubled Yotsuba executive, and Chris Britton, giving an increasingly persuasive and dignified performance as Light’s father, Soichirou Yagami. Both actors give interviews about their roles in the extras, as well as the excellent Colleen Wheeler (Rem) and Vincent Tong (Matsuda); these make a fascinating bonus alongside the usual audio commentaries, a production art gallery, and trailers.
A morality play for the twenty-first century? Or a series of twisted variations on the theme of corruption? In spite of some longueurs, ‘Death Note’ continues to intrigue as the body count mounts higher and the deadly game of cat and mouse (or should that be cat and cat?) between Light and L moves toward its climax.