Reviewby Briana Lawrence,
The battle ends here.
And they all lived happily ever after… no, not really. There's lots of death, lots of drama, lots of maniacal laughter and lots of pen on paper action as Death Note reaches its final pages.
The final confrontation is done in true Death Note fashion: Light continues to defeat himself with logic as he faces off against an equally intelligent opponent. He continues to use the people around him like pawns until he finally trips over his own feet with no more pieces left on the chessboard. When the smoke clears only one question remains: is Kira really a savior or a mass murderer? Like any good psychological story the question is never answered and everything is left up to interpretation.
With the final episode airing in Japan we now know that Death Note has three slightly different endings between the anime, the manga, and the live action movie. Unlike the anime and live action movie the manga offers an epilogue that the anime may or may not cover on a later date. The epilogue takes place a year after the battle between Light and Near and shows what happened with a few of the main characters and the rest of the world. Surprisingly, the epilogue does not show what happened to Misa and it's disappointing to not know what happened to such a vital character. But there is talk of Viz releasing the extra volume “How to Read 13” which does reveal what happened to Misa and offers explanations that weren't given in the series.
With all twelve volumes over and done now is a good time to look back on the series as a whole. Death Note has been one of the longest and best played tennis matches in anime history. Readers have been sitting in the stands looking back and forth between Kira and L. What made Death Note so interesting was that it didn't necessarily have a villain, instead it had two opposing sides that both believe in the same thing: justice.
A battle of wits, no matter how well played, can get repetitive. But Death Note has predominately been able to do something new every chapter. Light continued to outsmart the police in different ways and even slapped them in the face by joining them in their search for Kira. Before this pattern became overused the series introduced Misa. She was the last person anyone ever expected to possess a Death Note because she wasn't a super genius like Light or L. She was the typical annoying anime girl who clung to the main character and bellowed his name from the mountaintops. But it was her annoyance that made her so interesting. In a series full of geniuses it was amazing to see an average person get a hold of the Death Note. Her presence made things even more complicated for Light and she kept him on his toes as much as L did (maybe even more than L did).
The originality of Death Note continued to flourish until the second half of the series. Some fans will tell you that the series went downhill as soon as the Light and L exchange was over. L was a great character but the series did introduce some good ideas after he was beaten. The introduction of Near and Mello as L's protégés was an interesting idea at first. The problem was that they were treated as pieces of L and not as individuals. Every volume always had to point out the fact that Light was still battling L through Near and Mello, but if Light has defeated L already why do we want to watch him battle L all over again? Near and Mello could've been much better characters if the manga didn't treat them like two different halves of L.
It wasn't necessarily L's loss that made the series drag on, it just felt like all the good ideas that went into Death Note were lost. The notebook itself had lost all appeal with each new volume. By the time we reached the second half the book had been passed around more than a cheap hooker. There were no more surprises about the notebook and unless if it were a main character being killed we no longer got to see any criminals die. Light's plan of killing all the bad people in the world was no longer the focus of the story. The series became a big tease because it would introduce great ideas like the Wammy House or the shinigami but then it would forget all about them. The great thing about Death Note in the beginning was that even if it focused on Light we still learned more about the shinigami, the Death Note, and all of the characters.
Characters who were once vital to the story became unimportant. For example, Ryuk had completely faded into the background until the final chapter. Granted, Ryuk was technically in the background pestering Light like a kid in the middle of a car trip but in the second half the pestering had completely stopped. What happened to him constantly craving apples and spinning around the room? What happened to him snickering at Light as he tried to cover his tracks?
For some reason in the second half of the series Light didn't seem nearly as intelligent as he was before. He was constantly underestimating his opponents which was something he never would've done in the beginning. And the way he tried to win in the second half was so incredibly common. Having an affair with another woman? What happened to the Light who purposely gave up his Death Note so he could forget everything, appear to be innocent, and find it again to pick up where he left off?
The final volume brings back all of the things fans have loved about Death Note. Light is as freakishly smart as he was in the first volumes where he was smart enough to put a small TV in a bag of chips. Even if the final volume is very much about Light we still get to see other characters like Ryuk and even the police officers working on the Kira case just like we did in the beginning. Every character is important to the final volume and there are surprises in each chapter, making volume twelve just as enjoyable as volume one and giving it the suspenseful ending it deserves.
Overall : B+
Story : A
Art : B
+ Everything we have loved about Death Note returns in this final volume. The other characters we have known since day one are given a chance to shine.
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