Death Note is a Shounen Jump anime, but forget the generic conventions those two words invoke. Just like Bleach, this is a story that depicts the soul reaping world of “Shinigami” but where Bleach’s version of the afterlife is jammed with pouting pretty boys and nothing else, Death Note’s vision is dark, cold and lifeless. The characters that inhabit this world are surreal, twisted nightmares – imagine a slightly toned down version of Hellraiser’s cenobites.
The shinigami of note is Ryuuku; a permanently smiling, razor toothed man beast. He is growing bored of his job; it seems that these days Shinigami are no longer needed since humans are happy enough killing each other anyway (see: war, murder, terrorism, execution). To spice up his eternal boredom, Ryuuku intentionally drops his Death Note (a book with the power to instantly kill anyone who’s name is scribed inside, including through instructions on usage) into the human world and it’s typically picked up by that worst kind of person, a disaffected and arrogant teenage male (name: Light Yagami) with ideas of grandeur and a clear definition of what’s right and what’s wrong.
Bursting with an obvious social commentary from the very first couple of scenes, Death Note is an involving, elegant and clever supernatural thriller with some stunning gothic artistry. By the end of the episode, Light’s lofty ambitions are bound to crash back to reality. His ideas of creating a better world are admirable but naive and ultimately pointless; to think that he can rid the world of criminals is a denial of (even his) nature, after all he is becoming the very murderous monster he strives to wipe out of society. Star of the show will undoubtedly be Ryuuku – a “wicked”, manipulative and morally deranged personality that represents our (the viewers) presence in the show. Just like Ryuuku, we’re smiling with delight in the knowledge that Death Note is going to get very interesting very quickly.