One of the most entertaining anime releases of 2007/08 has to be Death Note. This series concerning an ingenious high school student who finds a notebook that will let him kill anyone by just writing down their name while picturing their face is very well constructed and executed. With volume five things continue to change. With Light having lost all memory of the Death Note and his role with it, he and L set out to capture the person who is currently executing criminals.
Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student. He's at the top of his class, and on the practice college entrance exams he routinely places first in the nation. One afternoon while staring out the window, he sees a notebook fall from the sky. After class he picks it up and finds some odd instructions on the inside front cover, instructions that tell him how to kill people by simply writing their name down while picturing their face.
A few days after getting the Death Note, Light is in his room when a shinigami, (a Japanese demon,) named Ryuk appears. Ryuk was the previous owner of the Death Note and dropped it in the human world on purpose because he was bored. He wanted to see what would happen and is quite surprised by the results: Light has filled up pages and pages with names. The young man has decided that he'll craft the perfect world, one without crime. To do that all he needs to do is let people come to the realization that all criminals will end up dying. After all, who would rob a gas station if they knew they'd end up dead in a day or two.
With criminals in prison all over the world dropping dead of heart attacks everyday it's not long before the governing bodies, and the public who dub the mysterious killer "Kira", start to take notice. Obviously outside of their league, the multi-national taskforce that's investigating these crimes agree to let the mysterious figure "L" takes over the investigation. L communicates only through a laptop computer, and no one knows his real name or what he looks like. With a razor sharp intellect, L soon starts to track Light down.
When a second "Kira" appears and starts killing criminals, it seems that Light is in the clear. L quickly determines that there is a second killer. This one turns out to be a young attractive girl named Misa who's not too smart, but has fallen in love with Kira and even discovers that Light is the other person who possesses a Death Note.
With L closing in and Misa being apprehended by the genius, Light takes some drastic measures. He hides his notebook, has L imprison him, then both he and Misa give up ownership of their Death Notes. With this their memories of everything associated with the object disappear and Light is just a regular teenager once again.
With the Death Notes gone and Light and Misa both in jail, the killings should have stopped. They haven't. Light has convinced Misa's shinigami to give her Death Note to someone else, someone willing to continue Kira's work. With the murders continuing and there being no possible way that Light could have done them, L puts Light and Misa to a test to see if they really are capable of killing instantly.
Having passed the test, both youths are released....sort of. L still thinks that Light is somehow responsible, so he handcuffs the boy to him. They'll stay together until Kira is caught. Having gotten that out of the way, the two geniuses get to work tracking down Kira. Light soon notices that some upper executives at top companies have been dying of accidents and unexpected health problems. One company, the Yotsuba Group, seems to be immune however and it's obvious to Light and L that one of the company's executives is now Kira. That's all they need to start closing in.
This story keeps changing as it goes and that keeps it fresh and entertaining. A cat-and-mouse game between Light and L would soon get tiresome, but not that they are working on the same side, it's fun to watch them truly working together. The show takes on a bit of a police procedural feeling in these four episodes, and the way that Light goes about analyzing the situation and tricking the members of the Yotsuba Group is quite interesting.
While reading the manga series I was a bit disappointed that Light was no longer Kira. My fear, the same one I would have had if I viewed the anime first, is that the story would revolve around Light being a good guy from now on. I needn't have worried. Like the earlier parts, this story continues to change and evolve in surprising ways.
This disc comes with both the original Japanese audio track as well as an English dub, both in stereo. I alternated language tracks with every episode and found them both equally good. The English voice actors do a good job and don't ham it up as sometimes happens. Given the nature of the show, mainly dialog based without any big action sequences, the mix is adequate. There's some use made of the front sound stage, but not a lot. The voices are mostly anchored on the screen, but that's not really a problem. A solid sounding show. One thing I did notice is that there isn't an option for translations of the signs only. This was a pain when watching the dubbed version since there are notes and such that move the plot forward that are never read aloud.
The 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced image looks very good. A lot of the story takes place in Light's dark room, and the image is intentionally a little soft, but this only serves to enhance the mood of the story. The colors in the daylight scenes are bright and solid, and the wide range of grey tones are well defined. There isn't much in the way of aliasing or banding, making this a very nice looking show.
This disc has another behind-the-scenes featurette with one of the English voice actors. This time it's with the actress who plays Light's father who talks about the role and the show in general. It wasn't that exciting, but worth watching.
Then there's also a commentary track to one episode with the English director and English writer. This was okay, but that's about it. There's also a production art gallery.
One of this show's strong points is the way it's constantly changing.
Just when you think you know how events will resolve themselves something
unexpected happens and the show goes off in another direction. It
keeps you guessing, but at the same time it has a tight plot without a
lot of loose ends. One of the better shows to come along lately,
this disc is Highly Recommended.