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DEATH NOTE – Volume 1 Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

November 9, 2008 by  



“Perhaps one of the most unique and compelling anime TV series to come from Japan within the last decade.  Cool characters, cool music but most of all a gripping, dark storyline with a number of twists.  Definitely a must buy for anime fans!”

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TV SERIES:  DEATH NOTE – Volume 1 Box Set

COMPANY: Viz Media/Shonen Jump Home Video

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1

RATED: T+ (for older Teen)

DURATION: 500 minutes (20 episodes)

Release Date: November 18, 2008

Episodes written by Takeshi Obata, Tsugumi Oba and Toshiki Inoue

Directed by Tetsuro Araki

STARRING:

Mamoru Miyano/Brad Swaile as Light Yagami

Kappei Yamaguchi/Alessandro Juliani as L

Shido Nakamura/Brian Drummond as Ryuk

Aya Hirano/Shannon Chan-Kent as Misia

Chris Britton, Vincent Tong, Treveor Devall and more

Meet Light Yagami, a brilliant but bored high school student whose life is changed when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinagami, or god of death, named Ryuk.  When Light discovers that any human whose name is written in the book dies, he vows to use its power to rid the world of evil.  But every action has its consequences, and Light soon finds himself in a life or death battle of wits with the mysterious genius detective called L.  Humanity itself becomes the battleground to determine what form of justice will prevail!

I first caught “DEATH NOTE” on television.  I’ve heard so many impressive things in regards to the storyline and also saw the series featured on NPR.  To get the critical acclaim that it has worldwide, this series must be special.

And special is what “DEATH NOTE” truly is.  From beginning to end, this series has just grabbed my attention because of its well-written cat vs. mouse storyline.

“DEATH NOTE” is a 37-episode TV series that was created by Studio Madhouse and featured on Japanese television in 2006-2007 and featured in the US in 2007-2008.  The series has spawned a popular manga series, a novel, three live action films and has captured the attention of anime and non-anime fans worldwide.

The series focuses on the character of a very smart high school student named Light Yagami.  Bored with his life, he comes across the “Death Note” that has special instructions that if one was to write their names on the Death Note, the person would die.  They would die of a heart attack if there were no instructions on how the person is to die.  Or die the way the person possesing the Death Note wrote down.

The Death Note is from a Shinigami (death god) named Ryuk who seems to be bored in his own world and thus starts to enjoy how a person like Light starts to use the Death Note.

For Light (who goes by the name Kira), starts out using the Death Note by writing the names of criminals.  He starts to win supporters due to his ideology of creating a new world without these criminals.  But with so many deaths occuring, the police and the International community begin to fear this serial killer.  And along the way, Light is suspected by the police as a person of interest (a person who could be “Kira”) and then Light starts to use his Death Note on those who are onto him.

Thus a mysterious detective named L is assigned to the case and the series becomes a compelling storyline of will L find a way to catch Light Yagami or will Light Yagami kill L first?  Two geniuses trying to outwit the other in a thrilling storyline that is so unique, I’m confident in saying that it’s one of the most original anime to come out in the last decade.

The volume 1 box set features on the first half of the series (twenty episodes, five DVDs, four episodes per disc) as Light Yagami (Kira) moves forward to create his new world, while L and the Kira Task Force try to stop him.  Also, that there may be another person in the world who may possess a second Death Note as well.

AUDIO & VIDEO:

“Death Note” was a TV series and I found the animation to be quite cool as it showcased a dark, stylish feel to it.  Featuring a good dose of J-rock and style to it’s overall presentation, Studio Madhouse did a wonderful job in this series and bringing out the illustrations of Takeshi Obata and the storyline of Tsugumi Ohba to television.  The dark atmosphere really is well displayed in this anime series.

But the most appealing part of this series is the awesome voice acting.  Being the Japanese language purist that I am, I watched the series with Japanese voice acting and it was done very well.  But I have to admit that I was really impressed by the English dub voice acting.

Brad Swaile as Light Yagami, Battlestar Galactica actor (Felix Gaeta) Alesandro Juliani, Brian Drummond as Ryuk and Shannon Chan-Kent as Misa did a tremendous job.  As did the other English voice actors.   A job well done!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Personally, I wasn’t sure what kind of “special features” would be included on the DVD box set but you do get a really awesome behind-the-scenes interview with the English voice dub talent.  Here are the special features featured on the Volume 1 Box Set:

  • Disc 1 – Behind the Scenes with Brad Swaile “Light”, Clean Opening and Ending
  • Disc 2 – Behind the Scenes with Alessandro Juliani “L”, Japanese Director and Character Designer Interviewer
  • Disc 3 – Behind the Scenes with Brian Drummond “Ryuk”
  • Disc 4 – Behind the Scenes with Shannon Chan-Kent “Misa”
  • Disc 5 – Behind the Scenes with Chris Britton, Vincent Tong and Trevor Devall “The Kira Task Force”

And on each disc, production art and trailers are featured on each disc.  What I enjoyed about the behind-the-scenes footage is that they were lengthy and not super short.  You really get a good insight on the actor’s take (from the beginning of the series) of their character, the challenges they faced in doing the vocal work and much more.  So, it was very cool to have these extras included on each disc.

I can’t tell you how awesome this TV series is.  “Death Note” is truly special as it really show how power can corrupt but taking that cat versus mouse type of storyline of two geniuses trying to outwit each other.

There are literally so many twists and turns in this anime series that it really captures your attention and has you on the edge of your seat.

As for the DVD box set, I think it’s just great that Viz Media chose to feature 20 episodes of the series and sell the box set for a great price!  I definitely like Viz Media/Shonen Jump Home Video really doing anime fans a great service by following a US TV Season Box Set style of pricing instead of selling the episodes as separate volumes.  You’re definitely getting your bang for the buck.

Overall, a well-acted anime series (on both the Japanese and English side of things), cool characters, well-written episodes, stylish animation and a unique, compelling anime series that I highly recommend!  A+

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