Art: Takeshi Obata
(2008). New York,:Tor. ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1985-2
Japanese high school student Light Yugami is brilliant but bored, until he finds the notebook of a shinigami—a death god, and discovers that anyone whose name he writes in the book will die. Perhaps because he is the son of an important police inspector, Light begins to use the Death Note to bring justice to the many criminals who prey upon the weak, and plans to make himself into a death god for a new world. The rules of the Death Note are complex, the police draw closer in their search for the vigilante killer, and Ryuk, the shinigami, works constantly to wrest control of the Death Note back for himself, especially so he can cause the death of Light as he had originally planned.
You’ll never feel the same way about picking up lost papers again, once you read about the complexities of the Death Note belonging to Ryuk, a Shinigami death god. Anyone whose name is written in the book will die, and brilliant student Light Yagami uses the book for vigilante justice against a growing plague of manga criminals—but can he save himself?
After the nightmare of Fruits Basket, it was a relief to discover that manga can make sense, even read backwards. This bullet train plot is intelligent, yet full of action and gore. The characters are well constructed--complicated and multi-dimensional, especially Light, the good son, clever boy, and ruthless killer. The interactions between Ryuki the shinigama and Light are the best thing in the book. Ryuki, who speaks with less gravitas and receives less respect than your average Western Grim Reaper, engages in constant repartee with Light, which helps create the books disturbing, sophisticated mixture of humor and fear. Again coming as a relief after the repellent Fruits Basket, the art in Death Notes is excellent and deserves much of the credit for the book’s affect—modern problems and ancient powers combining in unsettling fashion. The drawings contribute to the impression of narrative drive, and the people are a well drawn mixture of personalities. The western appearance of the hero is still mysterious, but at least he doesn’t have square eyes. The shinigama is a graphic masterpiece--cocky, agile, and terrifying—a nightmare waiting to happen for some younger readers.
About the author
The author would like to tell us that he was born in Tokyo, collects teacups, and develops manga plots night and day while holding knee on chair (Death Note Volume 1: Boredom). He has won many Japanese manga and anime awards.
Japanese secondary education--its role in the story?
Is Light’s use of the Death Note right or wrong?
Find out if the shinigama is based on Japanese mythology.
Reading Level/Interest Age
fantasy violence (publisher); tone or attitude toward death (According to anime expert Jonathan Clements, this book was banned in China after school children started decorating reproductions of the Death Note and writing in the names of children and other teachers [Wikipedia])
Be knowledgeable about the book and prepared to discuss it calmly. Provide complaint form per board policy; gather student responses; Share American Library Association's 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten list—lists Death Notes 1-3: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/yalsa/booklistsawards/greatgraphicnovelsforteens/annotations/07ggnt.cfm
Repeated student recommendation; interest in learning about manga; YALSA list
Student input; YALSA list