Anyone else notice how, from the beginning, most animes were of young protagonists trying to reach their goals of becoming the most powerful being in their field of choice? Whether Hokage or a pirate king, they all have, in a sense, a similar path to get to their goals. The protagonists train excessively, save people, are defeated by their rival or current big bad then train again. I’m not saying that those kind of anime are bad, but sometimes they become monotonous and predictable.
But in those days, one stood out from the rest. It’s an anime that, like the others, had a teenage boy lead, but he had a different take on achieving his goal. Enter Death Note. This anime completely flipped the script on becoming a person that creates peace, freedom, and security for everyone. It does this by playing with the various aspects and consequences of power.
So, if you’re searching for a slightly different kind of anime and are open to a few deaths (okay, more than a few) here and there, then this absolute power fantasy is for you. But, if you’re still not convinced, then read on and I’ll tell you why you should take Death Note into consideration.
In the world of Death Note, there are immortal creatures who control the deaths of humans. These creatures are known as Shinigamis. In Japanese folklore, a Shinigami is a god of death that leads people to the afterlife. They are basically the Grim Reapers of Japan.
In the anime, the Shinigamis appear to have a humanoid form with beast-like features and unnatural skin color. They can fly using their wings and absorb the remaining life span of a person that they killed. If they fail to do the latter, there is a possibility that they would die.
Although these Shinigamis have unimaginable powers, some seem unfulfilled with their lives and are just wandering about in their realm.
In the events of the show, one particular Shinigami, named Ryuk, wanted to find amusement as he was bored in their realm. So, he steals the Death Note of another Shinigami and drops it on Earth for a human to find. This event sets up the start of the anime and its repercussions following soon after that.
Rem and Sidoh
Aside from Ryuk, there are two more significant Shinigami characters in the anime. The first one is Rem, a Shinigami attached to Misa Amane, an orphan girl who becomes the second Kira and Light’s girlfriend. Rem unknowingly becomes Light’s pawn in his plan against L and eventually sacrifices herself to protect Misa from danger.
The second one is Sidoh, the original owner of the Death Note that Light has. After Ryuk stole his notebook, he began asking for help from his fellow Shinigamis. Unfortunately, none was provided, so he had to take matters into his own hands. Sidoh then became connected with the Mafia after getting a hold of his notebook and helped them against their enemies to get his notebook back.
A Human with a God-like Power
In our history, there are multiple instances where humans wish they had god-like power. And, even though they tried to make it so, it never came to fruition. That’s why there are tons of interesting stories about people getting said powers along with the consequences that inevitably came with the afformentioned power. And Death Note is one of them.
When our protagonist Light Yagami discovers that the Death Note is real, something clicked in his mind. If he could get rid of every criminal in the world, he could create a utopian world where there is peace, and he is God.
But, unfortunately, this kind of thinking led Light to a dark path where he believes that the end justifies the means, and he’s the only one who can give absolute judgment to anyone. In the end, the ability to kill anyone with a swish of a pen has made Light mad with power.
Another thing that sets this anime apart is it’s focus on intelligence and logic. Instead of using physical strength and brawn, the main characters use the sharpness of their minds and insight to do battle. In this scenario, the saying knowledge is power holds true.
Mental Traps and Master Plans
In the first appearance of the world’s greatest detective, L, he defeated Light by carefully constructing a plan that would slowly reveal who Kira is. He used logic and deduction to deduce that Kira needed a name and a face to kill a person after failing to kill him. L also isolated Kira’s whereabouts by only showing his broadcast to the Kanto region of Japan. This challenge to Light was the first of the many complex mind battles he had with L.
Aside from L, Light also had to outsmart FBI agents, his policeman father, the Japanese Task Force, the Shinigami Rem, and everyone else who was either against Kira’s goal or would be a liability if kept alive. Both L and Light used other people as if they were pawns in a game. They manipulated anyone they could use to further gain an advantage against the other. In the end, Light won the fight against the master detective by cornering Rem into killing L and his aide, Watari.
There Is Always Someone Better
For a few years after defeating L, Light was unopposed in the pursuit of his utopia. Kira became feared and was worshipped like a god around the world. He hid from Japan’s and other countries’ governments by secretly assuming L’s position in the task force and continued his barrage of mass killings of criminals. Unfortunately, like everything else in life, nothing is permanent.
Light’s defeat started with the appearance of L’s proteges, Near and Mello. Both wanted to avenge the death of L by bringing Kira down. Although Near and Mello were both chosen to succeed L, they don’t see eye to eye, which causes them to take a separate path in capturing Kira. Near had the backing of the US government, while Mello finds help within the Mafia.
As the story progresses, both Near and Mello come close to finding the identity of Kira. As a result, Light becomes desperate and too dependent on other people to cover his tracks. Later on, this trust becomes his undoing. Before Mello’s death, he met with Near and exchanged information that would prove to be vital. At the story’s climax, Near, his colleagues, and the task force cornered a wounded Light and made him confess that he is indeed Kira.
At the series’ end, it shows us that power is not corrupt. Instead, it becomes corrupt when the user is corrupted. Power is just a tool to be used, and that it’s consequences and outcome depend on the person using it. It also tells us that human judgment is fallible and only the divine is absolute.
Although wounded, Light manages to escape the warehouse where Near confronted him. During his escape, he looks back at the things he had done and their effect on everybody’s lives.
As he finds another warehouse to hide, Ryuk remembers his promise to Light that he would be the one to write Light’s name on the Death Note at the end of all of this. He also states something in the line of it was fun while it lasted. Before his death, Light sees an apparition of L then he feels the effect of the notebook.
I believe that Death Note is a one-in-a-million kind of anime. Its story is unique and is chock full of characters that you can love. Also, its use of the characteristics of power can’t be seen in other animes. So, if you’re looking for an absolute power fantasy anime, then Death Note is the one for you.