Justice will, without fail, prevail – Death Note

Death NoteRather than being a ‘Whodunit’ murder mystery, Death Note immediately throws you into an intense psychological hotbox. The opponents facing each other in this hotbox are two characters who both believe that they represent the very definition of righteousness itself.

Manga Title: Death Note
Author/Artist: Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata
Genres: Psychological thriller, detective fiction, supernatural
Demographic: Shounen

The Storyboard:
Raito ‘Light’ Yagami, an honors student ranked highly in Japan and son of a detective, comes across a notebook that’s been seemingly dropped by someone outside his senior high school. Opening the book, he’s surprised to find this disturbing paragraphon the book’s first page:Death NoteAt first thinking the notebook is nothing more than a prank, he takes it home and reads the following paragraphs, which describe the details of how the selected person’s death can be manipulated by writing them in the Death Note too. Still not thoroughly convinced Raito gives it a try, experimenting first on a felon, and next on a random biker who’s harassing a girl he comes across in the street. After the biker really does die in the street from an apparent ‘accident’ – Raito’s doubts about the notebook are completely cleared.

Death Note

Validating the notebook gives rise to schemes within Raito’s mind, plans about how he can go about rectifying what he considers to be an evil world and become a god in the process. Raito begins his purge by writing down the names of one hundred dangerous lawbreakers, many of whom are incarcerated, believing himself to be untraceable due to the mysterious method the victims suddenly die from if not otherwise specified: a heart attack.

Death NoteShortly after, the true owner of the notebook, a shinigami (a god of death or a reaper) known as Ryuuku approaches him, telling him the book now belongs to Raito, and elaborating more on some of the rules regarding the Death Note. Ryuuku is invisible to everyone except the owner of the Death Note and those who touch its pages. He adopts a neutral status about Raito and his mission, claiming he was bored with the life of a shinigami and hopes that this unique human is going to make it interesting for him.

Death Note

Ryuuku the shinigami

In the meantime, Raito’s initial carelessness is actually what gives L, a famous private detective whose true name and identity are unknown, a major clue as to Raito’s whereabouts and methods of killing.

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L is on the case

L is contracted by international officials to investigate the bizarre sudden deaths of the hundred convicts. L’s sense of justice is the converse of Raito’s – he believes in following the law to the letter and any murder, regardless of who is killed – is still a murder. Tracing an invisible thread in the mass of killings, L filters them down to Raito’s location in Japan. Through a clever television broadcast, L also ascertains more about Raito and is able to pinpoint his rough location within Japan.

Instead of running from the threat, the now zealous Raito decides to use L’s closing in on him as a chance to annihilate his opponent. A battle of wits between the two geniuses begins, a battle in which the hunter and the hunted becomes unclear. One thing is certain however, neither Raito nor L will give in until they see that their ‘justice’ is done!

Pencil Sketch:
The story mainly follows the perspective of Raito Yagami, thus you’re enveloped early on in his mentality. Raito holds that everyone believes in justice yet no one’s willing to take the law into their own hands, therefore he sees coming across the Death Note as an opportunity to help the world. The main flaw in this plan is Raito himself; he not only wants to mete out justice, but also hopes to be revered as a god for it, which immediately highlights his delusional thinking.

You could say that Raito is questionably conscientious – he feels pangs of conscience on initially using the Death Note however he soon covers this feeling up with his grand designs to cleanse the world. His ideology/delusions and ego overrule his compassion and he follows the path of his own convictions regardless. What’s more, when L issues his challenge over a television broadcast for Raito (who is dubbed ‘Kira’- a play on the English word killer) he takes a sort of relish in the idea of a cat and mouse game with L, confident that he’ll win.

While Raito doesn’t show a scrap of sympathy for those he kills, he seems to be genuinely caring towards his sister and father – relationships that later may end up being a liability for him in his role of Kira.

Ironically L is not so different from Raito. Both possess a strong sense of justice and are ingenious, meticulous men who show little emotion. L has the habit of sitting cross-legged and even meditating when pondering the Kira case. He shrewdly smokes Raito out in the first volume and using his international contacts, including the F.B.I., draws closer and closer to Raito’s position.

Ryuuku, the shinigami whose Death Note Raito lays his hands on is arguable the truly ‘evil’ character in the story. Whilst doing hardly anything other than observing and explaining to Raito the Death Note’s rules, he openly states that he finds humans interesting due to their struggles and attempts to change things. He keeps a number of facts back from Raito to increase the enjoyment of the murder game he’s watching unfold – all to ease the boredom of his eternal existence.

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Chilling with a shinigami

A range of other characters are introduced later, but I’m only going into the first volume here, so I won’t touch on them. Needless to say, the characters introduced later are every bit as fascinating and colorful as our three main ones so far.

The entire concept of a Death Note brings with it an immediate sense of suspense and of delving into the forbidden. Just like opening a grimoire or esoteric spell book, starting to read Death Note is the same as diving into that taboo world. Right off the bat, the tension begins – a tactic masterfully done by Tsugumi Ohba, drawing you into the psyche of Kira and the paranormal killings which he performs. The manga hits on a deeper level when you find yourself understanding both Raito’s motivations and L’s too, growing closer to both of them.

Takeshi Obata’s art, as any who are familiar with his works knows, flourishes on each page – strongly bringing out the atmosphere and emotions of the characters. The story doesn’t let up for one second, and I was biting my nails along with L, pondering what his next move and Raito’s would be, unable to stop poring over the pages of what I can honestly call a modern classic.

I’d heard of the infamous Death Note through the grapevine before I actually read it. At the time I was reading Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman, and met someone who recommended I read the manga. One of the things the person who recommended it to me said was, “It’s a psychological experience; it gets deeply into your mind.” I honestly couldn’t agree more.

death note



Always Watching Over You – Dengeki Daisy

Dengeki DaisyManga Title: Dengeki Daisy
Mangaka: Kyousuke Motomi
Genres: Romance, comedy, drama
Demographic: Shoujo

The Storyboard:
Dengeki Daisy establishes a familiar romance setting with a difference: Our protagonist Teru Kurebayashi has never even met the man she admires!

16 year old high school student Teru’s sole remaining guardian, her older brother and computer engineer Souichirou Kurebayashi, passed away and left her with two things: a place to stay and a cell phone with which to contact his friend – the mysterious ‘Daisy’. Teru keeps in touch with Daisy by texting, telling him her daily experiences but usually only revealing the good things. As her invisible protector, Daisy keeps her funded and with a roof over her head.

Dengeki daisy

Teru Kurebayashi

Unknown to Teru, Daisy is actually very close, working as a janitor at her own high school.

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Tasuku Kurosaki aka Daisy

At the start of the volume, we see Teru is the victim of bullying at her school; being a pretty destitute student on a scholarship, she’s the subject of abuse from the student council, and in particular its president Rena Ichinose. Rena picks on Teru in various ways, which Teru doesn’t take lying down. She struggles back – only to make more trouble for herself.

On one occasion Teru accidentally breaks a window in the skirmish. Without revealing his identity, Daisy, whose real name is Tasuku Kurosaki (a 24 year old man), tells Teru she has to work for him daily doing odd-jobs around the school to pay back for the broken window. Using his cover as an opportunity to keep an even closer eye on Teru, he helps her out whenever possible.

helping out (2)

Helping out…

Teru soon finds out that Daisy is a hacker of note, hacking into the school’s network to get into the locked PC of a crooked teacher. Said teacher has been seeing Rena, and embezzling the school’s funds, so Daisy remotely takes over the teacher’s computer, announcing that he’ll leak information about him if he doesn’t give himself up.

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A hacker of note

Though troubled after learning Daisy is a hacker she decides to continue trusting in him. As the story progresses she’s further drawn into circumstances where she needs Daisy – and thereby Tasuku’s – help. Contrary to Daisy’s wishes Teru finds herself becoming closer to his alter-ego, his presence becoming an important part of her life, even though she still feels deeply for the enigmatic Daisy.

Teru is drawn unwillingly into dangerous situations, making it more necessary for Daisy to intervene as Tasuku, despite the fact that for some reason he doesn’t want to reveal his identity as Daisy to Teru.

Pencil Sketch:
Teru is a relatively ordinary high school girl in dire financial straits, however rather than being downcast and giving up, she’s scrappy and gutsy, showing defiance in the faces of those who taunt her. Still, her weak side shows when her difficulties mount up and we see the side of her that’s really been hurt by the loneliness of an orphan’s life. Mild-mannered and helpful, she’s an immediately likeable protagonist if not somewhat stereotypical.

Tasuku Kurosaki aka Daisy isn’t your average charming male stud, he has an endearing side that he often doesn’t show to Teru, instead presenting himself as a heartless slave driver – getting her to do manual labor while he slacks off with his laptop. At the end of the day he’s probably doing it to toughen Teru up and ready her to be able to deal with the hardships she’ll no doubt face in the future (he can’t be around forever…right?). To top it off Tasuku’s resourceful when it comes to computers and gangster-like in dealing with those who threaten Teru. He cares for Teru a lot but a secret from his past to do with her brother prevents him from being able to open up to her.

A supporting character with a larger role is Rena – the president of the student council. Funnily, she’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a president, mainly because of her involvement in seedy relationships. She’s haughty, snobbish and malicious towards Teru initially, but as they become more involved with one another Teru comes to see Rena as a friend. This sentiment touches Rena too, who begins to warm to her. Rena is actually very insecure and self-conscious, throwing herself onto men and making some naive relationship choices.

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Rena and…a friend

Another character who appears towards the end of volume one is Masumi Takeda, a man around Tasuku’s age. He starts work as a PC instructor at Teru’s high school, but it’s soon revealed he has ulterior motives linked to Teru’s brother and Tasuku’s past. He’s scheming and manipulative whilst putting up a helpful front – suitable villain material for future chapters.

I felt Dengeki Daisy, while not doing anything groundbreaking, has a lot going for it. It’s not a reverse–harem for one thing, and isn’t focused solely on romance but also on the gradual building of relationships between its main and supporting characters. The humor is standard yet truly funny, drawing plenty of chuckles from me throughout reading. While not being the gender the manga is aimed at, I could actually feel the alluring pull the artwork and plot has that draws you into the unrequited romance between Tasuku and Teru.

dengeki daisyOne of the points I thought Dengeki Daisy made well is that although Teru truly cherishes and respects Daisy, she finds herself unconsciously drawn to Tasuku in times of need. I thought this was something worth mentioning because no matter how capable we are at navigating and socializing in the virtual realms – a real solid person beside you is something irreplaceable.

The comic moments in shoujo manga are something I’ve come to find endearing about the demographic and there’s no shortage of them in Dengeki Daisy. Particularly worth checking out are some classic moments between the ‘master’ Tasuku and his ‘slave’ Teru!

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Slave driver Tasuku