Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 10th 2009
DVD - Box Set 2
After being told by Rem that she was the second Kira and that Light was the original, Misa takes the initiative to execute a dangerous plan to reveal who in the Yotsuba Group is the current Kira. Upon learning that Kira is Higuchi, Light and L concoct a scheme to corner him into revealing how he kills. As that plan comes to fruition, so too does Light's grand plan from months earlier to exonerate both himself and Misa from suspicion and then get both of them to regain their memories. L, thrown by learning that Shinigami really do exist, is left vulnerable to Light's ultimate scheme to eliminate him, as is Rem to Light's manipulation of circumstances surrounding Misa. With L finally out of the picture, Light assumes his identity and presses the task force to continue its investigations.
Five years later, Light's plan to remake the world has come close to fruition. Kira now has fanatical adherents and the task force still seems no closer to catching the remaining Kira, but Light's rosy view of the world gets shaken up when the task force learns that L had a planned successor: the boy Near and his bitter rival Mello, who each have resolved to finish what L could not. In such a deadly game of wits, the consequences of failure are dire indeed, and some who get involved will not live to tell the tale.
What Viz Media calls the Volume 2 Box Set is actually the last four DVDs of the singles releases gathered together in a quint-fold case decorated with the rules for the Death Note, hence giving the set coverage of episodes 21-37. Even the Extras included on the original singles releases are the same on each disk, including a “Behind the Scenes” installment, limited production art, and an audio commentary featuring ADR director Karl Willems and one or more English voice actors for one episode on each volume. So what, aside from shelf space economy and a condensed price, might entice someone to look at this release instead?
How about a bonus disk of Extras? Disk #10 is subdivided into Videos and a Gallery, the latter of which includes more than 350 character and item images broken down into several categories and a 13-minute video showing backgrounds. The former includes four videos totaling over 70 minutes. The first, “Behind The Scenes With The Japanese Voice Actors,” which was apparently made early on during the series' Japanese TV run, features seiyuu Haruka Kudou (Light's sister Sayu) and Aya Hirano (Misa) cosplaying in white and black (respectively) vaguely Gothic outfits complete with lots of chains and big fake weapons. This 23-minute piece, which includes a recap of the first few episodes and appearances by various cast and staff members, is surprisingly entertaining and often more than a bit goofy, though it does make the interesting revelation that some of the newscasters in the series were voiced by actual Nippon TV announcers. Haruka and Aya reprise their cosplay in “Original Japanese Death Note Interstitials,” a collection of thirty or so advertisements for DVDs, CDs, and the live-action movies apparently made over the course of the series with occasional guest appearances and regular bouts of additional goofiness. (These two videos also make it clear why Ms. Hirano also does some professional modeling.) Following are two more serious staff/cast videos: an eight-minute interview with the animation director and character designer and a 17-minute interview with stars Kappei Yamaguchi (L) and Mamoru Miyano (Light) and producer Toshio Nakatani. The content of these are mostly typical interview fare.
The episodes themselves cover the last leg of the Yotsuba Group arc, Light's climactic showdown with L, and the “five years later” story arc involving Near and Mello which constitutes the last third of the series. Although the first half of the Yotsuba arc was arguably the low point of the series, the attempt to identify and trap Higuchi gradually ratchets up the tension in a more satisfying manner and gives Misa some of her most effective moments; on only one or two occasions after this (most notably her catty relationship with Mikami) is she anything more than a tool or pretty window dressing. This run also shows how Light, despite having defeated L, is still haunted by his legacy, and how, for all his cleverness, he does not handle himself well when finally outmaneuvered. Along the way it does not hesitate to kill off even major characters; as one might expect, the body count of “name” characters is rather high by the final climax. The series ends in the only way it really could, by tying itself to certain comments made back at the beginning and revealing Light for what he is: an immature boy with a very dangerous toy and a god complex.
In a sense, though, that is one of the underlying themes of the series. As various side characters comment on more than one occasion, the battle of wits involving Light and L, and later Near and Mello, can be likened to children playing a game; to make sure we get that point, Near is shown doing some very child-like things while in the midst of the investigation, which seems much more deliberately eccentric than L's odd passion for sweets. They may be incredibly brilliant, but Mello is the only one of the four who seems grounded enough to truly be able to function in a “normal” world. Matsuda may be the most naïve and childlike of the investigators, but even he, in the end, has his act together better than Light.
The highlight of this run of episodes is unquestionably the meticulously-crafted episode 25, which according to the included interviews is a favorite of the production staff and some of the seiyuu. Its religious allusions may be a little too blatant, but it is still the most beautifully-rendered and carefully-written episode in the whole series. (That it includes one of the series' biggest plot points doesn't hurt, either.) The pathetic Shinigami Sidoh also entertains, though perhaps moreso in English than in Japanese. The weak points are the irritating character of Near, the way Sayu is just tossed aside after serving her purpose, and some questionable flaws in Light's logic in the later stages, which are hard to attribute to him getting cocky since Near has, by that point, proven to be a formidable opponent. The way the President of the United States (who is given a Bush-like accent in English) merely caves into Kira is practically reprehensible despite the spirit of dramatic license, but this is hardly the only anime to portray the American President as an distressingly easily-manipulated, fortitude-light figure.
The quality control on the artistry suffers a bit in the early 20s, especially in the character designs, but the rest of the time Mad House delivers a sharp-looking, well-animated work filled with vaguely gloomy overtones and its emphasis on Light's evil grins. This run shows the series' long-standing predilection towards especially pretty female character designs with a satisfyingly wide variety of looks, though L's design is one of the most distinctive of all male character designs in the current decade. The musical score is prone to frequently going overboard, but when matched up with suitably dramatic material it never fails to deliver. The second opener and closer prevail throughout.
The English dub also does its typical solid job. Some of the original performances were brilliant, but Alessandro Juliani of Battlestar Galactica fame still provides his own excellent interpretation of L and Samuel Vincent is a hoot in his whiny take on Sidoh. Most importantly, Brad Swaile finds just the right balance of conviction and evil in his performance of Light, with his effort in the very difficult last episode being especially remarkable.
Yes, the second half of Death Note is even more awash in hyped-up melodrama than the first half, but somewhat like Code Geass, the melodrama can easily carry a viewer along for the ride. (Either that or annoy the viewer to no end.) And while Light may have seemed earlier on to have a spiritual brother in Geass's Lelouch, the ending of this series, compared to the ending of that one, clearly delineates the two. Motive matters just as much as the means when evaluating protagonists, and in this Light is ultimately found wanting. Anyone who can watch the final episode and not truly recognize Light as the villain isn't paying attention.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Episode 25, artistry, strong English dub.
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