Death Note: Relight: #1 – Visions of a God & #2 – L’s Successors

To say that Death Note is one of Shonen Jump’s most popular series would be to state the obvious. The thirteen-volume battle of wits between a high school student and a reclusive detective for the fate of the world has, in some respects, outdone the likes of One Piece and Naruto in terms of critical acclaim. The anime, in turn, changes very little of the story except for converting the mundane writing in the eponymous book into epic feats of spectacle.

Relight takes the anime and turns it into two “Director’s Cut” Specials with the premise of telling the story through the perspective of Ryuk, the Shinigami that began the chain of events by dropping his Death Note onto the human world.

With that in mind, does Relight take a potato chip and eat it or is it Swimming Lessons for this two part Special?

The story follows Light Yagami, a bright, if not jaded, young man, who chances upon a book called the Death Note and,on discovering its ability to kill any person whose name is written in it, begins a one man crusade against the world’s criminals with the view of creating a world under the control of his own Absolute Law. It’s not long before the International Police take notice and L, a brilliant detective shrouded in mystery, begins his investigation of Kira, the alter ego that Light takes on in his crusade.

From an animation standpoint these two Specials are a work of art. MadHouse (CardCaptor Sakura, Demon City Shinjuku), the animation company in charge of production, understood that to keep interest in the show they had to take the mundane situations and use the ’emotion’ of the actions as the basis of the animation; Light’s writing down names in the Death Note becomes the mass execution of criminals, condemned with the writing of their names, cutting them down with his pen as his sword. Monologues between Light and L are set up as spotlights on a stage, highlighting Light in a red aura and those who stand against him in blue. Keep your eye out for the fist fight between Light and L at the half way point of Special 1 which makes it clear that MadHouse are putting their best foot forward with this show.

The soundtrack is haunting, using a full orchestra to outline Light’s descent into the madness that comes with using the Death Note and also to highlight the times when he desperately grabs victory with both hands. Also of note are the insert songs; “Zetsubo Billy” which spices up a climatic chase sequence, and “Misa no Uta” (Misa’s Song) which is used to show just how much power Kira holds over the world and is particularly creepy when sung, regardless of the language.

The English voice work is well above par given that Viz went with the often average Ocean Group for the dub. Brad Swaile (Teen Gohan) has to be given credit for taking Light’s role and making it his own, charting the subversion of an innocent young man into an insane monster with gusto, while Alessandro Juliani (Felix Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica) takes L’s strange eccentricities and does a very good job of bringing them forth. 

On the Japanese side of things Mamoru Miyano (Soul Eater’s Death the Kid) preforms well as Light in spite being a relatively new Japanese voice actor, and Aya Hirano’s (Haruhi) Misa is evidence that she is able to do roles outside of her energetic comfort zone and do them well.

The main attraction in the extras is the mini documentary “Death Note: Rewritten with the Japanese Cast and Crew” which goes a long way to illustrate the process of bringing the Specials to life, explores what the cast think of the characters, and who they thought was the Hero or Villain of the story, a theme that is prevalent throughout the series and the disscussions that have been had about the show well past the show’s end.

I have to say that I have always liked the first half of Death Note’s story more than the second. The second part has always been superfluous, owing its existence to one loose thread from the first half and lacking the chemistry that the first half had, following the departure of certain characters. These two Specials have not done anything to dissuade me of this opinion. However, I can see and appreciate the work that MadHouse put into the production of the second Special. After all, they were adapting the Manga which suffered from the same issue and MadHouse’s goal was to animate the second half, not to make the story end before the time jump, as happened in the live action movies.

Also, it has to be noted that the “Visions of a God” angle of the first Special amounts to two scenes, a prologue and an epilogue, which left me very annoyed. I really wanted to know what was going through the mind of Ryuk, the chaotic bystander, that leads Light down the path of Macbethian destruction and deceit. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and that’s a pity.

In Summary
Death Note Relight is a competently put together pair of Specials that will entertain. Just don’t expect the promised “Visions of a God” to add anything or for the second volume will be anything but an acquired taste.

7 / 10