Weekend Review – “Death Note, Vol. 1”

This week’s “Smallville” review will come, but only after I watch the non-HD version tonight, since the HD broadcast I actually did record was an hour of baseball instead.

Cast and Crew Information

Note that this was viewed with English language dubbing. I generally prefer subtitles, but I’ve been thinking about that for reviews. I’ve decided to review it in the default playback format in the source material. If it defaults to subtitles, I’ll review that, but if it defaults to dubbing, that’s what I review.

Full cast and crew information for the series can be found here. This review covers the first four episodes.

Availability Information

Available on DVD. Volumes 2 and 3 are available, though not reviewed here. Volume 4 will be available on Tuesday, and Volume 5 in June.

Premise

A young man is bored with life when he finds a book called a “Death Note.” Following the explicit instructions inside, he learns that he has the power to dictate the time and manner of death for others to a very high degree of control. He decides to use this power to make the world a better place, but there are individuals who are less excited about the sudden volume of murders among the criminal element.

High Point

The public introduction of L. The rivalry between these two takes a philosophical mental exercise and promotes it to a tension driven race between two individuals without making one outcome to their contest clearly more desirable than the other.

Low Point

The predictable connection to the police department.

The Review

This is original in concept and execution. If it weren’t adapted from the manga, it would get a perfect score. I give it 5 out of 6.

The animation is well done, with some impressive effects layered into the traditional work. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is compellingly written. One moment wasn’t a surprise as it was intended to be, but that didn’t make it any less interesting. I give it 5 out of 6.

The voice acting was well done, particularly for a dub. The typical odd pacing and intonation you see attempting to conform to existing lip movements are very subtle and infrequent. The choice of actors and dialogue was well done, indeed. I give it 4 out of 6.

The production was also well done, with very effective lighting and camera work. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response was generally very good. The first episode dragged a bit, but the introduction of an adversary in the second episode made an immediate and dramatic correction in this area. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a strong opening chapter to what will likely become a 9 or 10 volume set when released on DVD. (There are four episodes per collection here, and my research indicates a total of 37 episodes and a movie when it’s all said and done.) It’s well worth checking out. There were a couple of minor quibbles, and it did have a slow start, but it easily overcomes those issues. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Death Note, Vol. 1 receives 36 out of 42.

5 replies on “Weekend Review – “Death Note, Vol. 1””

  1. chad says:

    Series?
    Is this a television series released on DVD (and not a one-shot movie)?

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Series?

      Is this a television series released on DVD (and not a one-shot movie)?

      It seems like there was a live action one shot movie made as well, but that’s not what I’ve reviewed here.

      • Dave says:

        Re: Series?

        Is this a television series released on DVD (and not a one-shot movie)?

        It seems like there was a live action one shot movie made as well, but that’s not what I’ve reviewed here.

        There’s a manga (collected in the States as twelve volumes plus a thirteenth, which is sorta the manga equivalent of a DVD’s special features, originally published in 108 parts in Japan).

        Then, based upon the manga, is the animated series (which this covers). 37 episodes, I believe. It’s airing Saturday nights/Sunday mornings on Cartoon Network’s "Adult Swim" block, but they’re over 2/3 of the way through the series, and this would be a very bad time to start watching. (Many people say they should have stopped after last week, give or take – the last third of the series is based upon the last three or four volumes of the manga, which many fans didn’t care for, as a couple major characters undergo some drastic changes. Don’t post about that here, even in spoilers, as I don’t know how far fiziko has gotten in the series and I’d hate for some of that stuff to not be a shocking surprise.)

        Then there’s TWO live-action movies, though that’s similar to there being two "Kill Bill" movies – the second one picks up basically where the first one left off. Those two movies follow basically the first half of the manga (the good half), though with at least one added character (Light has a girlfriend!), and a different ending (which I find infinitely more satisfying than the manga’s ending). I don’t think these movies have had an official American release, but they can be found, subtitled, if you know where to look.

        And that’s just the stuff out there now. There’s a light novel (pun not intended) detailing one really big case L undertook before he became involved in the Kira case, which they’re also planning to adapt into a third live-action movie.

        Fun fact: In the English dub of the anime, L is voiced by none other than Felix Gaeta.

        • fiziko says:

          Re: Series?

          Don’t post about that here, even in spoilers, as I don’t know how far fiziko has gotten in the series and I’d hate for some of that stuff to not be a shocking surprise.

          I’ve gotten as far as this review, but I ordered volumes 2 through 5 on DVD as I was writing it. (I should catch up significantly come July.)

        • GrimSean says:

          Re: Series?

          Many people say they should have stopped after last week, give or take – the last third of the series is based upon the last three or four volumes of the manga, which many fans didn’t care for, as a couple major characters undergo some drastic changes.

          I’m not posting about it, but I would like to say that I’m among those who didn’t care for the end of the Manga.

          Still, overall it’s a brilliant series and I’m going to go see if I know some of those places to find the live action movies (hopefully they do depart from the original in the way I’m picturing in my head).

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