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The end of Death Note: a poison, creating wicked hearts

Death Note is a “… poison, creating wicked hearts”, said the concerned prudes at Chinese schools after some ‘corrupted’ kids were discovered to be using their home-made murder pages to curse fellow students. This was back in 2005; the first time I’d heard of the now famous Death Note. Since then, I’ve always been interested in the franchise (anything with the power to blacken young hearts must be worth something), and last night, much to my dismay, I watched the final episode of the anime. I’ll miss it.

One thing we can say for certain is that by the end, Light was spiked with ‘poison’ and without a shred of mercy in his ‘wicked heart’. Power, it seems, corrupts. It’s a rather tired sentiment, and yet, Light’s abrupt fall from grace was a painful and disturbing sight to behold. Actually, I couldn’t care less about how he was defeated, it was all about that desperate reaction, the sudden loss of composure when he realizes he has been bested.

Unveiled for the first time, we see that disgusting thirst for power lurking beneath the front of sophisticated cool; a self-proclaimed god suddenly realizing he is but one man, all alone, and about to die. He gets what he deserves, but in his lonely demise, you can’t help but pity him. Suddenly you understand Ryuk’s amused indifference to Light’s lofty ambitions. People die and nothing changes, that’s it, Light-o.

To be frank, Light’s seiyuu Mamoru Miyano turns in an amazing performance for this final episode. Usually, I’m not one to pick out acting, but I must admit to being bowled over by the visceral power and epic range of Miyano’s voice. Similar to Romi Paku’s Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Miyano violently swings between polar emotional extremes, perfectly capturing the character’s frantic and desperate state of mind leading up to his sad end.

As befitting of such an excellent finale, Madhouse up the ante in terms of animation. One especially vivid moment sticks in my mind. Mikami stabbing himself in the heart (with a pen! Ouch!), causing his sparkling red blood to explode forth like some sick human fountain overflowing with fluid.
And I can only commend Takeshi Obata too; I’ve really fallen for the appealing gothic look of Death Note – especially the freaky Shinigami, whose odd proportions and bizarre colours capture a genuine horror aesthetic, echoing the demonic Cenobites from the creepy Hellraiser. I wanted to see more of the barren Shinigami world!

It’s amusing to think that Death Note began life in Shonen Jump, so standing alongside the ever-smiling trio of Naruto, Luffy and Ichigo was an evil bastard like Yagami Light. Moral ambiguity isn’t something we expect from our squeaky clean SJ heroes, but in Light we had a refreshingly ruthless anti-hero. You can’t blame him for wanting to change the world.

Comments

Foshi says:

Interesting. Having read the manga and seen the live action adaptation I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the anime ending. Too me it just felt too plain and unemotional. Light’s death scene didn’t happen with the bang that it did in the manga or movie. Well, maybe it’s just because I had such high expectations. Actually, the entire second half of Death Note was disappointing to me. It was just too rushed compared to the first arc. I unlike most actually like the second arc of the manga. If you haven’t seen the Death Note live action movie I higly recommend you do. It takes liberties with the story, but I feel those liberties add a big emotional impact.

bateszi says:

@Foshi: I haven’t read the manga or seen the live action movies – so I was steering clear of spoilers big time over the last few weeks – it paid off! :)

I actually thought Death Note was at its worst during the Yotsuba arc, in which Light and L were ‘comically’ hand-cuffed together for 5 or 6 episodes and going on awkward dates with Misa. It felt like some crappy sitcom and I didn’t especially like Misa’s character either; basically, she was a useless idiot! Thankfully, the pace definitely picked up once Melo and Near appeared and big characters starting getting chalked off (Light’s father!).

As for the end itself, for me – it was near perfect. I only imagined it could end this way, with Light making such a dramatic fall from grace.

Foshi says:

Yeah, the Yotsuba arc was quite slow, but I didn’t like the frantic pace of the Near and Mello arc. So much stuff was shortened and danced around that it left me confused at times. Actually, I would have liked to see the anime take some of the liberties the movie took.

Light’s fall was a dramatic one, but I just didn’t feel the emotion in the characters that I felt in the movie or manga. Anyway, the only thing about the ending I liked was the at the very end when L’s ghost was looking at Light die. Truly fitting.

kauldron26 says:

The ending of the manga was better, Light should be portrayed as a pathetic piece of trash… not a fallen hero. I loved how the manga ending had Light begging and pleading for his life… i love how he author showed that Karma was a bitch to the core. a tough bitch. but fair as hell. ~sigh~ remember that he is evil… we all love tony soprano and vic mackey but c’mon those mudafuckas are horrible people and Karma shoulda bit them in the ass. The same goes for light…

bateszi says:

@Foshi: Mello was fairly shafted. I think I expected more from his character, especially considering he dies off-screen! I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the point about the pace of the story – I actually preferred the pace of the second half to that of the Yotsuba arc. The first 10 episodes were brilliant though, and along with episode 25 and this final episode represent the high points.

@kauldron26: I’m not sure I’d describe Light’s (anime) death like that of a fallen hero. More like a lost sheep.

Also, by forcing us to feel empathy for Light in his final moments, the writers may well be asking us whether he, as a murder, deserves the death penalty – after all, if we’re demanding an "eye for an eye", aren’t we, in the end, just the same as Light – dealing out ultimate punishment in the name of the law. It’s interesting to think about it that way, I guess. We can’t demand death with one hand and deny it with the other.

silver_girl says:

I haven’t read the manga and I haven’t watched the movies but I did watch the anime and it was…well something to remember. I was happy to finally find an anime with a bad hero because I suppose I got sick with the good guys. I loved the first season but never really watched the second to the end-it just lost its charm. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I will surely remember Death Note because it was something different and because it made me think about a lot of things. In some way, I can say, I respect Light because he fought for the perfect world he wanted….crazy, cruel, evil yes, sure but he did all he could and in some twisted way it made me think…

Scarlet says:

I actually had a different view from your review to the ending scene.

Since the begining I’ve rooted for Light, because in all mental capability I’d do the same thing with the notebook.
He tried to change and sadly failed to do so, it wasn’t his “evil morality” or “twisted sense of justice” as it appears many say, in the end it was his childish behavior towards his Rivalry with L that lead to his demise. In my opinion Light was justified and it was Near’s obsessive desire to succeed L that lead him to capture Kira more than his sense of Justice.

and I have read the Manga, and I preferred the anime version to the ending much better.

random says:

i loved death note :) Light ideal’s will not be forgotten :) (if you don’t agree with this..your name is prob in my death note)

Johny says:

Death Note felt really unbalanced. As much as I loved the series till the death of L – the pace, the story, the battle of the two geniuses – the second half with Near and Mello (both characters were completely unconvincing IMO) was a complete letdown. The story became repetitive, needlesly complicated and somewhat lacking logic. Everything seemed to be rushed towards the end. The scene of Light’s ultimate defeat was great though.

bateszi says:

@Johny: Interesting. I know a lot of people share your thoughts on the way the second half of Death Note develops, but I didn’t really have those issues. I do think the story slows down, but that seems to happen during the completely pointless Yotsuba arc. With Light being handcuffed to L and all these inferior villains turning up, it’s more like some cheesy sitcom than the tense psychological drama it started out as. In comparison to the Yotsuba arc, the likes of Near and Mellow weren’t bad at all.

Jen says:

Even though I had followed Light in his Journey since the beginning and loved the story line…..I mean that in a way that the story line was more reality mixed with the unreal, but towards the end I couldn’t help but be turned off by Light especially since I thought he would keep his cool the whole time, not turn into a psycho. But out of all the things that happened I thought the end was very weak because wouldn’t someone who could come up with a fail safe plan anticipate that Near would have figured him out and in the end succeed anyway. I mean since day one Light had been thought of as one of the smartest, but in the end got over confident and ended up killing himself I mean I even saw that he was going to loose and I didn’t read the Manga series or see the movie and It became clear to me that Light was always meant to loose even before the series started….In the end the series could have been much better in my point of view…

bateszi says:

@Jen: No matter what, Light could never succeed because he was corrupted by the power of the Death Note. His motives weren’t pure, he was simply bored and came up with Kira as a way of passing time. I mean, he wasn’t really interested in ‘bettering’ the world or anything like that, he was more into his mind-games with L. Anyway, you’re right to say that Light was fated to lose, because for all of his dramatic speeches, he was always a rather mean-spirited and arrogant piece of work with little to no empathy for anyone else, not even his father. A fascinating character, but not someone I’d like to see running the wolrd! :)

Jaime says:

Pride leads before a downfall and thats the perfect saying for Light’s demise, he underestimated Near believing he could best him like he bested L. I loved watching Light beg for his life as Ryuk told him that it was time for his name to be written in the death note. Overall the series as my respect and adoration and L is one of my favorite characters of all time. The anime fell short of its manga counter part but as an avid anime/manga fan Im use to the anime failing where the manga succeeded.

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