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Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba

Title Death Note: Volume 1
Author Tsugumi Ohba
Artist Takeshi Obata
Publisher VIZ Media, LLC
Year 2005
ISBN-10 1421501686

Teaser/Reader Annotation When a young man stumbles across a notebook with the ability to bring death to any human whose name is transcribed inside its pages, he must decide how he will use this power.

Plot Summary When the highly intellectual Light Yagami finds a mysterious notebook he has no idea how the discovery will change his life. The Death Note, as it is known, claims to have the power of life and death – anyone whose name is written within the pages will die. While Light is disbelieving at first, he begins by testing the theory on the criminals that plague the increasingly corrupt world around him. When the criminals begin dying, though, Light begins to realize the Death Note is authentic. The notebook had to come from somewhere, however, and Light's meeting with the original owner – the shinigami named Ryuk – changes his life forever. Light's decision to establish a new world order by placing god-like judgment on a mortal's evil places him in a dangerous spiral with both the law and his own morality. Light must think quickly in order to stay one step ahead of his rival, L.

Critical Evaluation Death Note, while lacking in character development, presents a fresh, interesting concept in manga story telling. While it is not unusual for stories to deal with reapers, or shinigami in the Japanese culture, placing the power of life and death into the hands of a mortal teenager puts a new spin on the tale. There is a sense throughout the first volume of the developing theme of the heavy implication of what holding the power of death would do to someone over time and how it could change a person and his or her view on the world and the people in it. Obata's drawing style, especially when it came to the shinigami, presented a darker version of the afterlife than other manga such as the popular Bleach. Indeed, the over style is significantly more gothic than traditional manga artwork which will appeal to a certain section of the teenage population that might not be interested in it otherwise. For these reasons, Death Note is a good introductory manga for young adults.

About the Author Tsugumi Ohba is the penname for the mangaka who writes Death Note. Ohba's real name, life, and even his or her gender have been kept completely anonymous.

There are only a few facts known about Ohba: he or she was born in Tokyo, collects teacups, and according to the introduction at the front of the manga volumes, develops plots while holding his knees on a chair. The last of these is significant because it is a characteristic of the Death Note character L.

Primary Genre Manga

Secondary Genre Paranormal

Curriculum Ties Japanese Culture

Booktalking Ideas

1) There is an old adage, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” How is this applicable to the manga? Discuss.

2) Japanese storytelling is marked with ambiguous characters, and Death Note is no different. Do you believe Light to be a moral or immoral character at heart? Why?

Reading Level/Interest Age 15+

Challenge Issues None.

Why is it included? Several teenagers I know are reading the series and enjoying it greatly.