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Death Note, Vol. 8

VIZ // Unrated // December 30, 2008
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted January 21, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Series:
The cat and mouse games continue in volume 8 of Death Note, but this time Light Yagami realizes that his new opponents are no trivial rivals that he will easily best.  With two geniuses tracking him down and revelations made to the Japanese task force Light is having a harder time staying ahead of his pursuers, even while the rest of the world starts to accept the rule of Kira.
Series Background:
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. 
In this second season, which takes place five years after the first, L is out of the picture but two new prodigies pop up to hunt Kira:  Near and Mello.  These two were raised in the same facility as L, but they have very different methods and are in a competition to see who can bring Kira to justice first.
This volume:
With Kira's will becoming law, the governments of the world start issuing statements saying that they will not go up against the unknown killer.  Even the president of the United States caves in, and that's just what Light wanted.
Though the second Death Note has fallen into Mello's hands, Light isn't about to let it stay there.  Using Missa's 'Shinigami Eyes', he has her look through countless mug shots of gangsters until she sees one without a time of death.  This pinpoints who has the book, and from there it's easy to track the whole gang down.  The Japanese task force storms Mello's hideout and though they defeat the criminals, Mello isn't as unprepared as they thought and doesn't go out with a fight.
Realizing he's at a disadvantage, Mello meets with his rival Near to compare notes.  The information that Mello reveals convinces Near that Light is actually Kira.  But how to prove it?   Near enlists the help of some unlikely allies:  The Japanese Kira Taskforce.  In front of Light, he voices his opinion of who the killer is, and this added suspicion starts some of the members thinking.  With Near, Mello, and his own task force suspecting him, Light gets pushed into a corner, and that's when he's most dangerous.
Like the previous volumes, this disc is exciting and engrossing.  This show keeps you guessing and just when you thing you know how events are going to work out, they pull the rug out from under you.  The events all follow logically from what had gone on before, and Light's convoluted plans are amazingly tight and don't rely on luck nearly as much as most TV show schemes do.
One of the strong points of this series is the fact that Light is super-intelligent and that is demonstrated by his actions.  A tightly scripted series, it follows the manga closely and Light's schemes are intricate by believable.  He's a great anti-hero because viewers can't help but be impressed with his intellect and ability to out think everyone else in the series, but at the same time he's a mass murderer.  Series creator Tsugumi Ohba straddles that fine line and manages to make a likeable killer.
The DVD:


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 with Cathy Weseluck (Near) and David Hurwitz (Mello).  Then there's also a commentary track to episode 30 with the English director with Karl Willems and voice actress Cathy Weseluck (Near). Like most anime commentaries, this was okay, but that's about it.  There's also a production art gallery, a trailer to the live action film, and a clean opening and closing.
Final Thoughts:
This intricate game of cat and mouse between two exceptionally bright people is entertaining and engrossing.  Light's Machiavellian schemes are beautiful in both design and execution.   An excellent series, this is a must-buy for anime fans.  Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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