Otaku Corner #12: Death Note Vol. 5

Death Note heats up in Vol. 5

Brandon Beatty, editor-at-large

Hello readers, and welcome back to “Otaku Corner,” the section of GI that covers quality anime and manga series for those who deserve the best in Japanese animation. Thus, with this great expectation, our motto is “For the otaku, by the otaku!” (patent pending). I’m continuing our coverage of the worldwide smash manga series Death Note, written by Tsugumi Ohba, illustrated by Takeshi Obata and English adapted by Viz Media LLC.

Before I get into the review, I want to give those who have not yet read the manga a quick summary of the story plot: Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a top student with immeasurable prospects who suffers from an extreme case of boredom. That changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook of death dropped by a shinigami (Japanese god of death) named Ryuk. Any human’s name written in said notebook dies, and after a few uses on known and would be criminals, Light vows to use the Death Note to rid humanity of evil. However, Light’s work does not go unnoticed by law enforcement authorities who, in turn, send world-renowned detective L to stop Light aka Kira.

In volume five of Death Note, Light and L (aka Ryuzaki) are playing masterful-yet-blistering mind games via TV, hidden cameras, police officers and even on a college campus! These actions ultimately led Light and his cohort (yet disposable girlfriend) Misa Amane to be confined by Ryuzaki in separate locations. After weeks in confinement, Light was able to dispose of the Death Note and his memories of using it. As a result, Ryuzaki forces Light’s father, Soichiro who is head of the Kira Task Force to perform a final test of Light’s and Misa’s innocence, which resulted in Soichiro performing a mock execution that not only clear Light and Misa, but also continued the partnership of Light and Ryuzaki. Later on Ryuzaki and company established a new base of operations ( largely bankrolled by Ryuzaki), that with new resources leads the task force to find that Kira has returned; only, this time he’s using his powers to the benefit of the Yosuba Group, an multinational business group.

However, this victorious gain is not without setbacks as Aizawa leaves to return to the NPA because of a disagreement with Ryuzaki, and Matsuda’s near death forces the task force to form a new plan. Fortunately, clear heads prevail, and at the end, readers are introduced to the Kira Eight, a group of men who work for Yosuba who are  dedicated to destroying anyone (including their own members) who would stand in their way to obtain absolute power. This is seen at the very end when one of their members is “sacked,” meaning that poor individual is another victim of Kira.

Fans of Death Note will not be disappointed in the new arc as it forces the main characters to again join forces against Kira in a new persona: Greed. As I continued reading, I realized that these eight men are after power and are determined to use Kira to achieve these goals, instead of simply joining forces to use their combined talents to be a success. Obata-san has again performed the skillful combination of plot and philosophy, this time adding in a mix of corporate corruption. The usual supporting cast of Ryuk and Rem (Misa’s shinigami) make their appearances but do not endanger the new plot, coming in only when absolutely needed. Obata-san’s drawings continue to succeed in keeping the plot fresh, especially when presenting the Kira Eight where one of the men truly has the appearance of a demon. I have, so far, in reading this series, not been disappointed as every new volume has without fail brought the elements of ethics and mystery without being silly. I also would be wrong in not giving Viz Media their lion’s share of the credit, thanks in part to the great translation and adaptation of Alexis Kirsch and the Shonen Jump graphic novel team. This again proves that Viz was the right choice in unleashing Death Note upon the U.S.

Will the Kira Eight prevail? How long will Ryuzaki and Light continue their “alliance?” Will the Death Note claim more lives? And, will Misa succeed in wrapping Light around her little finger? The answers to these burning questions and more are coming in the future of Otaku Corner.

Brandon Beatty is editor at large of Gaming Insurrection. He can be reached by email at gicomics@gaminginsurrection.com

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