is a manga series created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. The series centers on Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook dropped on Earth by Ryuk, a shinigami ("death god"), that allows Light to kill anyone by writing the victim's name in the notebook. The story follows Light's attempt to create and rule a world cleansed of evil using the notebook, and the complex conflict between him and his opponents.
Death Note was first serialized in 108 chapters by Shueisha in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The series was also published in tankōbon (paperback) format in Japan starting in May 2004 and ending in October 2006, and since then has been translated internationally. The series was adapted into live-action films released in Japan on June 17, 2006, on November 3, 2006, and on February 2, 2008. The anime series aired in Japan from October 3, 2006, to June 26, 2007. A novel based on the series, written by Nisio Isin, was released in Japan on August 1, 2006.
Soon, the number of inexplicable deaths of reported criminals catches the attention of the International Police Organization and a mysterious detective known only as "L". L quickly learns that the serial killer, dubbed by the public as , is located in Japan. L also concludes that Kira can kill people without laying a finger on them. Light realizes that L will be his greatest nemesis, and a game of psychological cat and mouse game between the two begins.
After several murderers, Misa Amane, a possessor of another Death Note, meets Light and tries to help him to do his work but she is captured by L. Light makes a plan involving renouncing ownership of both Death Notes, and all of his memories of them, and turns himself in to L for surveillance. After losing his memories, Light and L start to investigate a criminal group named "Yotsuba" together who had Misa's Death Note. When arresting them, Light recovers all his memories while touching the Death Note, remembers his plan, and forces the former owner of Misa's Death Note, the shinigami Rem, to kill L.
Ohba created "thumbnails," consisting of dialog, panel layout, and basic drawings, to be sent to Obata; the editor reviewed the thumbnails and sent them to Obata with the script set in stone and the panel layout "mostly done." Obata determined the expressions and "camera angles" and created the final artwork. According to Ohba he concentrated on the "tempo" and the amount of dialog; he added that he had difficulty in keeping the text from being too long. Ohba said that he tried to make the story concise and did not want too much text as he believed that "reading too much exposition" would be "tiring" and that it would negatively affect the atmosphere and "air of suspense". Ohba set the basic characteristics of his characters while he allowed for Obata to influence the actual character designs. According to Ohba he did not derive the actual plot idea from one particular source. Regarding the backgrounds and props Ohba said that he put descriptions such as "abandoned building" and let Obata wield most of the creative power regarding the backgrounds and props.
Ohba said that when he decided on the plot he internally visualized the panels while "rolling around in bed," drinking tea, or walking around his house; Ohba said that he needed to feel relaxed while visualizing the panels. After that he drew the panels on white paper in a "very simple manner." The writer added that on many occasions the draft consisted of too many pages and he had to write drafts "two or three times" to find the desired "tempo" and "flow" for the chapter. Ohba added that he liked to read the previous "two or four" chapters "very carefully" to ensure consistency in the story.
Ohba said that his general weekly schedule consisted of five days to create and think about the creation and then use one day pencil and insert dialog into the rough drafts; according to Ohba, after this point he faxed the drafts to the editor. Obata also described his weekly schedule. He said that he usually took one day with the thumbnails, layout, and pencils and one day with additional penciling and inking. His assistants usually worked for four days and Obata used one day to add "final touches." Obata said that sometimes he took "an extra day or two" to color pages and that this "messed with the schedule." Ohba said that on some occasions he took "three or four" days to create a chapter while on other occasions he took a month to create a chapter. Obata said that his schedule remained consistent except when he had to create color pages.
Ohba and Obata rarely met in person during the creation of the serialized manga; instead the two met with the editor. The first time they met in person was at an editorial party in January 2004. Obata said that, despite the intrigue, he did not ask his editor about Ohba's plot developments as he anticipated the new thumbnails every week. The two did not discuss the final chapters with one another and they continued to talk with the editor. Ohba said that when he asked the editor if Obata had "said anything" about the story and plot the editor responded '"No, nothing" [laughs].'
Ohba said that the series ended more or less in the manner that he intended for it to end; Ohba considered the idea of L defeating Light Yagami with Light dying; he instead chose to use the "Yellow Box warehouse" ending. According to Ohba he had the details set "from the beginning." Ohba wanted an ongoing plot line instead of an episodic series because Death Note was serialized and that Ohba wanted a series focused on a cast with a series of events triggered by the Death Note. How to Read 13 states that the humorous aspects of Death Note originated from Ohba's "enjoyment of humorous stories."
Ohba began each segment by creating a rough draft; he said that his main weakness was including too much information in each panel. Once each draft "goes through a few rounds" and the elements "are decided on" Ohba split the panels and "solidified" dialog, monologues, and "everything else." Ohba included "specific art" in thumbnails if he believed it was needed. Obata took the thumbnails and edited "camera angles" and expressions exhibited by characters. Obata used the thumbnails as models for his final panels. When Obata decided on the content he began drawing. At this point in many cases Obata determined designs of newly-introduced characters and items. After that point, the editor takes the pages and lettering, special effects, and other type are inserted into the pages; at that point the final drafts are finished.
Ohba described keeping the story of the pilot to one chapter as "very difficult" and he said that he remembered taking "more than a month" to begin writing the chapter. Ohba added that the story had to revive the killed characters with the Death Eraser and that he "didn't really care" for that plot device.
Obata said that he "really" wanted to draw the story after he heard of a "horror story featuring Shinigami." According to Obata, when he first received the rough draft created by Ohba he "didn't really get it" at first and that he wanted to work on the work due to the presence of Shinigami and that the work "was dark." He also said that he wondered about the progression of the plot as he read the thumbnails and if Jump readers would enjoy reading the comic. Obata said that while there is little action and that the main character "doesn't really drive the plot" he enjoyed the atmosphere of the story. Obata stated that he drew the pilot chapter "in a way that would appeal to me."
Ohba brought the rough draft of the pilot chapter to the editorial department. Obata came into the picture at a later point to create the artwork. Ohba and Obata did not meet in person while creating the pilot chapter. Ohba said that the editor told him that Ohba did not need to meet with Obata to discuss the pilot; Ohba said "I think it worked out all right."
Ohba said that he "randomly" selected numbers for use in various situations. He said that in some conditions he wished to use the number four since the word sounds like the word for .
As a response to the interview question "So the series is meant to be all about enjoying the plot twists and psychological warfare" Ohba responded by saying that the statement is the reason why he was "very happy" to place the story in Weekly Shōnen Jump. He said that, because Death Note is aimed at "the young" the reader can "push back ideology" and focus on "pure entertainment." Ohba said that if he aimed the series at an older audience he would expect "more debate over the issues" and therefore he believed that the story would have had to develop in that direction. Death Note: How to Read 13 states that debate about good and evil "sometimes" appears in the series and that the "answer" to the debate is left for the reader to decide.
Ohba responded to the question "If you had to say what the most important thing in Death Note is, what would it be?" by answering "The human whose name is written in this note shall die" while Obata responded by answering "Impossible to say."
Araki said that when he discovered the Death Note anime project, he "literally begged" to join the production team; when he joined he insisted that Inoue should write the scripts. Inoue added that, because he enjoyed reading the original comic, he wished to use his effort.
In addition, a guidebook for the manga was also released in October 13, 2006. It was named DEATH NOTE HOW TO READ 13 and contained data relating to the series, including character profiles of almost every character that is named, creator interviews, behind the scenes info for the series and the pilot chapter that preceded Death Note. Its first edition could be purchased with a Death Note themed diorama which includes five finger puppets inspired by Near's toys. The five finger puppets are Kira, L, Misa, Mello, and Near. In North America, How To Read 13 was released in February 19, 2008.
The second movie, Death Note the Last Name, picks up where the first movie ends, carrying the story through episode 25. An English version, like its predecessor, will play in U.S. theaters for two nights only, October 15th and 16th, 2008, with a DVD release likely to follow soon after.
A third movie, L: Change the WorLd, premiered in February 2008. It is a spin-off focusing on the last twenty-three days of L's life as he tries to solve one final case.
In North America, the series has been licensed by Viz for residents in the United States to use "Download-to-Own" and "Download-to-Rent" services while it was still airing in Japan. This move is seen as "significant because it marks the first time a well known Japanese anime property will be made legally available to domestic audiences for download to own while the title still airs on Japanese television". The downloadable episodes contain the original Japanese audio track and English subtitles, and is available through IGN's Windows-only Direct2Drive service. DVDs of the series are also being released, containing both an English dubbed audio track, produced by The Ocean Group, and the original Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles. Viz announced at Anime Expo 2007 that the first DVD was officially released on November 20, 2007, in both regular and special editions, and also confirmed at Comic-Con International 2007 that the first 15,000 copies of each DVD contains collectible figures.
Death Note was slated to make its North American television premiere in Canada on YTV's Bionix programming block on September 7, 2007; however, the show was removed from the schedule at the last minute. The Canadian premiere was pushed back to October 26, 2007, at 10:00 p.m., when it finally premiered. Death Note premiered in the U.S. on October 20, 2007, at 11:30 p.m. on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. The last episode aired on Canada's YTV channel on July 4, 2008, with Adult Swim airing it 2 days later. The show also streams online for free on Adult Swim Video, with a new episode uploaded every Saturday afternoon, on the day of its broadcast premiere. Death Note has also been aired by the anime television network Animax across its respective networks worldwide, including Hong Kong and Taiwan.
A two-hour animated TV special aired on Nippon Television in Japan on August 31, 2007, at 8:03 PM. It is a recap which takes place after the series end, where a Shinigami approaches Ryuk in the Shinigami realm in order to learn more about the human world. Instead, Ryuk tells him of all the events leading up to the Mello/Near arc, about Light Yagami and his rival L. Originally, this special was advertised as a retelling told from Ryuk's point of view, but it doesn't give a different point of view than what was originally told. However, it contains updated dialog, as well as a few new scenes, including an alternate ending.
A Death Note video game developed and published by Konami for the Nintendo DS, entitled , was released on February 15, 2007. Kira Game is a strategy game where the player takes on the role of Kira or L. These are just titles, as any character can be Kira or L. The player will attempt to deduce who their enemy is (Kira will try to uncover L's identity and vice versa). This will play out in 3 phases: Investigation, where the player will discuss the case and clues with other characters; Voting, where each member of the investigation team casts a vote on who they suspect is L or Kira based on the player's performance in the previous phase; L/Kira, where the player can either focus their investigation on one member to see if they are Kira (L part) or force a member off of the team (Kira part). A sequel to the game, , was released in Japan on July 12, 2007. The storyline is based on the second part of the manga, featuring characters such as Mello and Near.
A third game, , was released for the Nintendo DS in Japan on February 7, 2008. The player will assume the role of a rookie FBI agent who awakens in a strange hotel and attempts to escape with the help of L, who provides assistance via an in-game PDA. The story is set before the Kira investigation in the original series.
Several characters from Death Note appear in Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars, a fighting game featuring a plethora of characters from Shōnen Jump titles. Light, Ryuk and L appear in Jump Super Stars as support characters. In Jump Ultimate Stars Misa, Near, and Mello are added as support characters as well.
The Akamaru Jump issues that printed the comics include 2004 Spring, 2004 Summer, 2005 Winter, and 2005 Spring. In addition Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005 included some Death Note yonkoma in a Jump Heroes Super 4-Panel Competition. Death Note: How to Read 13 reprinted all of the yonkoma serialized in Akamaru Jump and the Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005.
Tatsuya Fujiwara, the actor who portrayed Light in the film series, compared the theme of Death Note to the theme of Crime and Punishment and viewed Death Note as a "very eccentric story" that depicts a "very permanent theme.
Tom S. Pepirium of IGN said that Death Note's "heavy serialized nature" is what "makes the show so engaging and discussion worthy. Pepirium, saying that translating Death Note is "no small task," said that Stephen Hedley created a dub with "nothing clunky." Pepirium added that Karl Willems, director of the dub, assembled a "stunning voice cast of professionals" with a "solid tone minus some of the cheesy yelling and screaming of other dubs. Play magazine named Death Note as the best anime of 2007 in their "2007 Anime Year in Review" feature. John Powers of the NPR show Fresh Air finds the show "addicting" and equates its similarity to the American TV series Lost.
Douglas Wolk of Salon said that a rumor circulated stating that the creators intended to create Death Note to last half as long as its actual run; according to Wolk the rumor stated that Ohba and Obata had been persuaded to lengthen the storyline when Death Note's popularity increased. In addition he said that fans wrote "thousands" of Death Note fan fiction stories and posted them on the internet.
A.E. Sparrow of IGN reviewed the novel and gave it a 9.5 out of 10. Sparrow said that the author understood "what made these characters click so well" and "captures everything that made the manga the compelling read that it is." Sparrow said that fans of Death Note who read Another Note will "find a welcome home" in the Nisio Isin's work that "adds a few more fun layers" to the Death Note franchise.
Carl Kimlinger, in Protoculture Addicts, called Death Note "morally repellant" and said it "presents a worldview that is both shallow and repulsively misanthropic."
To date, Death Note has sold around twenty million copies in Japan. Death Note was nominated for Best Manga at the 2006 American Anime Awards.