Thursday, July 6, 2017

Anime Corner: Death Note (2006-2007)

For a show that came out during the height of the emo craze and was filled with all the imagery and themes of something that would not age too well, it came as a pretty huge surprise to me that this series holds up as well as it does. It seems like the kind of mid-2000s pseudo-punk/goth time capsule that would be looked back on with a sort of nostalgic passive animosity, but as an overall story and character study, Death Note has a lot going for it and some undeniable staying power.

You can't really talk about Death Note without first going into the characters, as it features two of the more well-established leads of any anime from the 21st century. Light Yagami is one of those villains that you can't help but to root for, as his goals seem essentially pure at first, but as the old adage dictates, power corrupts. And watching the developing darkness of Light (ha!) is an amazing bit of storytelling. L, his nemesis, takes on the more heroic role but is introduced in an almost antagonistic way, which really flips the script on the standards of how a show presents good and evil. Their rivalry/friendship dynamic makes for a hugely entertaining and unpredictable aspect of the story.

The pacing and focus of the show changes up several times and while this is sometimes not pulled off the most effectively (near the end of the series, a few choices are made that I don't particularly care for), it does keep the potentially redundant plot from growing stale. Several characters are introduced and disposed of, and while several deaths are to be expected, others are genuine surprises. The script keeps you on your toes, and with this level of unpredictability, the tension and thrills come all the more naturally. And by creating captivating characters on both sides of the moral fence, no time feels wasted in developing them further.

From a visual, auditory, and technical perspective, this is a pretty top notch show that doesn't have many weaknesses as an overall production. I can't say the music stood out to me, but as I was watching it I was never distracted by bizarre or unfitting musical selections, but the way they implement the soundtrack doesn't call for it to be a major highlight, so it's never less than passable. The animation, while generally pretty standard, utilizes some cool, darkly stylish methods that add to the twisted tone of the show. As I said before, this show doesn't disappoint on a purely technical level.

This is one of the most popular anime shows of all-time and it's really not hard to see why. I wouldn't consider it one of my very favorites, but I enjoyed it immensely and find myself thinking back on it quite frequently, using it as a sort of template to judge other shows by -- especially for how they handle character arcs. Absolutely worth watching, and an essential anime in a lot of ways, even if it should have been shorter.

Episode count: 37

My grade: B+

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