First Published: December 1, 2003 Published by: Madman Australia Manga Volumes: 12 Illustrated by: Takeshi Obata Written by: Tsugumi Ohba
Death Note remains one of the most prominent Manga/Anime franchises with legendary status amongst it’s respective genres. Its take on false-Godhood, along with the repercussions of insatiable yet uncontrollable power leads to one of the best “catch me if you can” type, murder-mystery tales ever told. Giving the power of a God to a teenager who initially judges humanity and it’s mortality at the stroke of a pen is nothing but promised damnation. Its widespread tale of prolific homicide caused by a leather bound notebook, attached with the unholy privilege of a Shinigami (Death God) who blatantly tosses it to an angry youngster as an experiment out of boredom, only convinces 17 Year-old Light Yagami, that he could very well create the perfect world. Yet much like every teenager, they make mistakes and get caught out.
Light’s unsanctimonious acts of betrayal lead him to heartbreak and despair, as his mission for peace ultimately turns him into a selfless, mass-murdering monster that will kill anyone who gets in his way. Death Note creator Tsugumi Ohba, was seeking to create a suspenseful manga concept that involved his fascination of the Shinigami God’s “specific rules”, but not to have it be a fight-style series as there were too many of those on the market at the time of publication. The pilot chapter was first serialised in Weekly Shonen Jump on December 1, 2003, and was a critical hit amongst the manga community. Ohba believed that the series would be rejected by fans, due to it’s dark nature that did not fit the “Jump” family. After being approved, Ohba announced Death Note’s serialised manga series and appointed Takeshi Obata as lead illustrator of the entire franchise.
Death Note is still referenced and recommended by fans, and is recognised as one of the most-popular yet controversial manga’s ever created. Banned in China, Taiwan, Albuquerque, and Russia, its illicit and violent depictions raised concerns among parents and garnered a mixed reputation, becoming a worldwide phenomena. The series came to an end with Volume 12’s release on May 15, 2006; however in June 2019, Jump Square announced a new Death Note Chapter was in the works, and would be published in Q1 2020. Death Note: Special One-Shot was released digitally on Viz Media’s Shonen Jump service and the March issue of Jump Square on February 4, 2020 containing an 87-page sequel to the last chapter of it’s initial run.
⚠ Warning: Plot Spoilers Ahead
Set ten years after the events of the Nation wide manhunt for the argued God and labeled terrorist Kira (Light Yagami), Ryuk decides to return to Earth after ample time has passed to once again toy with humanity out of sheer boredom and to satiate his appetite for delicious Apples. He grants the Death Note upon Japan’s top-scoring student Minoru Tanaka, hoping that his intelligence would match that of his predecessor. Tanaka’s shock and horror lead to him rejecting the Death Note and telling Ryuk that he wants nothing to do with him. Ryuk convinces the teenager to take him home to explain why he should hold possession of the historic notebook. After leading Ryuk back home, Tanaka reads through the rules of the Death Note, understanding how it affected Japan’s way of living after Light’s tarnished legacy. Ryuk does his best to convince Tanaka to lead the same life as Kira; to continue the legacy of Light Yagami as an intelligent teenager who had the will to kill anyone at his fingertips.
After some deep thought and questioning, Minoru decides to hand the Death Note back to Ryuk, and instruct him to return in two years and only then will he fulfill his end of the bargain. Ryuk reluctantly accepts and wipes Minoru’s memory of the Death Note from his subconscious. Two years later, Ryuk returns to earth with the Death Note in hand and plants it on Tanaka reminding him of a plan that was set-in motion two years prior to relinquishing the Death Note. Ryuk deviously queries Minoru about his ultimate plan, presuming that fate was in the capable hands of this delinquent. Minoru tells Ryuk, to the God’s dismay that he was “going to sell the Death Note”. Minoru decides to list the Death Note on social media website Twitter (Yes, this is actually happening) and use the hashtag #PowerOfKira to take on potential bidders and their vested interest of the Death Note.
Minoru orders Ryuk to travel to the local TV station during a news bulletin, and to display a piece of paper that explained this to the public. After the auction of the Death Note goes viral, bids soar upwards from the millions to billions leading Minoru to believe that this is no longer standard corporate millionaire’s trying to get their hands on the notebook, it’s the United Nations getting involved. Much like the original series, the chase begins to catch the owner of the Death Note with the return of Near, assuming his role as “L” the successor to L. Lawliet, the original “L”. With L doing his best to deduce who may be the current trustee of the weaponous notebook, Minoru explains to Ryuk that he has no intention of actually using the Death Note at all, rather having an end goal to the entire plan that he will reveal soon enough.
Commentary & Highlights (Warning: Minor Spoilers)
Wow, this chapter is not what I expected. Assuming this would be a continuation of the initial series, we would receive something in the same vein of an uncontrollable teenager who turns maniacal with power. This is not the case with this one-shot. Minoru’s intelligence shines through his calm and collected personality, which he clearly shows in each panel he appears in. Using his intelligence to play the Death God into believing he would become the ultimate tool of destruction and the successor to Kira, turned the entire series on its head. While Ryuk used Light’s intelligence to his advantage, he fundamentally tricked Light into using the Death Note for any situation to selfishly gain any advantage possible.
Minoru does the complete opposite and uses what I believe to be a trait Ryuk inherited from Light’s gullible personality, when the Shinigami displays a moment of credulous naivety and has the Note’s power stripped from his grasps by this assumed prodigy, to make it a prized possession and bait all oncoming bidders. While this shows the intelligence of the teenager, it also displays his duplicitous plan in motion. I loved every instance presented in this moment, learning everything about Minoru’s dispostion. You may notice that I left out the rest of the plot above, that is because this story’s pay-off is one you don’t want to miss, or be spoiled. It delivers some of the most ingenious moments in the modern take of the franchise. I cannot stress how Twitter’s influence has bought forward a story created when social media was in it’s infancy, but now show’s the impact it truly has on our society.
There is a hidden message laid within each page turned, but I will leave that up to you to discover; but as the story continued I noticed that our new protagonist had no intention of harming anyone. I began wondering what his purpose within the entire plot really was. I understood that our new “Kira” was not one that thought the same, or planned the same as Light, but rather could care less about anyone else but himself. It was different, but appreciated for sure. I can certainly say that reading this chapter years after the final volume released feels right. Placing the story a decade after the original events felt like perfection, and was almost a homecoming for a fan. While you can expect the same quality produced from the initial series, don’t expect it to be the “continuation of Kira’s true successor”. Death Note: Special One-Shot’s placing is unique; it could be looked at as a sequel, but a stand alone entry simultaneously. It certainly is a must read for Death Note fans.
Noteworthy Mentions (Warning: Minor Spoilers)
An amazing entry into the established franchise, that brings forward the quality that we are accustom to within the series.
Its pacing is a little slower than expected, but don’t let that deter you from reading through the entire chapter, there is a pay-off.
Some small cameo’s make for some great tie-in’s of the original story.
Illustration work is incredible. The attention to detail that we all know and love is present, with some of the best artwork absent from manga in over a decade.
Minoru Tanaka’s character is something to pay close attention to while reading. While he’s no Light Yagami, his intelligence shines and reveals how calculating he really is.
We get a depiction of an older Near, or it is assumed to be Near. I would have loved to have seen more of a connection made by “L” here, but his role throughout the chapter seems almost disconnected by what is happening throughout the story.
In Tokyo, an intelligent yet disaffected high-school student named Light Yagami finds the “Death Note”, a mysterious black notebook which can kill anyone as long as the user knows both the target’s name and face. After verifying that the notebook works and initially being terrified of its god-like abilities, Light begins to consider the possibilities of the Death Note’s abilities and sets out to create a utopian world without crime, killing numerous high-profile Japanese criminals, before eventually targeting international criminals and felons around the world.
“Anime Analysis” provides reviews and impressions for the first two episodes of each Anime, and are not reflective of the entire season.