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DEATH NOTE – Volume 2 Box Set (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 8, 2009 by  



“The second half and the conclusion to the exciting ‘DEATH NOTE’ anime series.  Featuring more bonus content featuring the English voice talent plus a bonus disc featuring the Japanese bonus content (originally released in Japan) and more!  If you enjoyed this awesome anime series, the box sets are magnificent releases.  Another spectacular ‘Death Note’ release!”

Images courtesy of (C) Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata, Shueisha, Madhouse.  All Rights Reserved.

TV SERIES:  DEATH NOTE – Volume 2 Box Set

COMPANY: Viz Media/Shonen Jump Home Video

DVD INFORMATION: NTSC, Region 1

RATED: T+ (for older Teen)

DURATION: 17 episodes

Release Date: May 2009

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

Through the Power of the Death Note, Light Yagami is close to creating a world in which he holds ultimate authority over right and wrong.  But many obstacles remain, including a second Death Note user who has his own nefarious goals, and the two brilliant proteges of L, the genius detective who once vowed to expose the identity of the Death Note’s owner.  Light is confident that he can prevail, but as the surviving players in the game converge for a final showdown, whose name will be the last one written in the Death Note”?

I first caught “DEATH NOTE” on television via the Cartoon Network.  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 it had received worldwide, I realized that this series must be special and had to check it out for myself.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved the series.

“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 possessing 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 occurring, 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 2 box set features the second half of the series  (17 episodes, Episodes 21-37 on four discs plus a bonus disc featuring the Japanese content that were on the Japanese DVD releases via English subtitles).   The first half featured L suspecting Light Yagami to be Kira and his girlfriend Misa Amane to be the second L.  The group focused their attention on the two until more killings started happening and someone else taking the mantle of Kira.

Here is quick (non-spoiler) summary of what is on volume 2:

DISC 6:

  • EPISODE 21: PERFORMANCE – The Third Kira is revealed.  Meanwhile, Misa gets a warning from REM.
  • EPISODE 22: GUIDANCE – In order for L to catch the third Kira, they need more evidence.  So, L uses Sakura Television to air a special of someone who is willing to reveal Kira’s identity in order to trap him.
  • EPISODE 23: FRENZY – L and the police force go after the third Kira and hope by his capture, all the trouble will be over.
  • EPISODE 24: REVIVAL – After catching the third Kira, the person tells the police force that if they touch the Death Note, they will see a shinagami.  With Light now touching the Death Note, all his memories come back to him.  And he knows now he has the opportunity to go after L.

DISC 7:

  • EPISODE 25: SILENCE – With Kira captured, L wonders why Light is staying with the force.  Meanwhile, once you think things are all over, the murders continue as Misa uses her Death Note to kill more murderers.  And For Light, he manages to exact his revenge against his nemesis.
  • EPISODE 26: RENEWAL – With everything that has transpired in episode 25, the police force choose Light to head the investigation against Kira and will assume the role of “L”.  We then see Light moving closer to creating his perfect world.
  • EPISODE 27: ABDUCTION – The episode introduces two new characters, Mello and Near who learn about the deaths.  Light now has to deal with a new nemesis that goes by “N”.
  • EPISODE 28: IMPATIENCE – Mello has captured Light’s sister Sayu and wants a Death Note notebook.  Light’s father Soichiro is willing to sacrifice his life and for Light, he may need to kill a loved one to further his goal.

DISC 8:

  • EPISODE 29: FATHER – Light and team go after Mello and in the process of apprehending him, a major character is killed.
  • EPISODE 30: JUSTICE – Mello visits Near to give him some important information about the Death Note and immediately, Near has his eyes set towards Light as being Kira.
  • EPISODE 31: TRANSFER – Light has passed on the notebook to another Kira follower who can further his cause of killing of murderers.
  • EPISODE 32: SELECTION – We learn of the back story behind Mikami Teru (the follower of Kira) and why he became a big supporter of Kira’s way. Meanwhile, Light’s high school friend Kiyomi Takada becomes a Kira spokesperson and another follower that Light can manipulate.

DISC 9:

  • EPISODE 33: SCORN – Near arrives in Japan to further his investigation towards Light and also Mikami.
  • EPISODE 34: VIGILANCE – Aizawa needs to know if Light is truly Kira and thus puts him to a test and discovers the truth.
  • EPISODE 35: MALICE – Mello kidnaps Takada and more lives are lost.
  • EPISODE 36: 1.28 – Light finally meets his nemesis “N” (Near).  Meanwhile, Near’s group plants a fake Death Note notebook into his locker.
  • EPISODE 37: NEW WORLD – The final conclusion of “Death Note” as the truth of Kira is revealed.

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:

The second volume box set of “DEATH NOTE” comes with plenty of special features.  Here is what is included on each disc:

  • Disc 6Behind the Scenes Part 6 – (8:18) Featuring Colleen Wheeler who does the voice of the character of “REM” and Andrew Kavadas who does the voice of the character “Higuchi”, Production Art, Audio Commentary for Episode 23, Clean Opening and Ending themes.
  • Disc 7 Behind the Scenes Part 7 – (10:47) Featuring Alessandro Juliani who does the voice of the character “L” and French Tickner who does the voice of the character “Watari”, Production Art, Audio Commentary for Episode 25, Death Note Live Action Trailer, Shonen Jump Video and Manga promotionals.
  • Disc 8Behind the Scenes Part 8 –  (10:37) Featuring David Hurwitz who does the voice of the character “Mello” and Chaty Weseluck who does the voice of the character “Near”, Production Art, Audio Commentary for Episode 30, Shonen Jump and Manga promotionals.
  • Disc 9 – Behind the Scenes Part 9 – (15:25) Featuring Heather Doerksen who does the voice of the character “Kiyomi”, Kirby Morrow who does the voice of the character “Mikami” and Brad Swaile as the voice of the character “Light”, Production Art, Audio Commentary for Episode 37, Shonen Jump Home Video and Manga promotionals.
  • Disc 10 – This bonus disc contains the Japanese special features that were featured on the Japanese release with English subtitles.  Included are:

– Behind-the-Scenes with the Japanese Voice Actors – (23:25) Hosted by Haruka and Aya (both are cosplaying in white and black outfits) as they take part in enjoyable, fun and crazy interviews.    Interviews with Kappei Yamaguchi (who does the voice of the character “L”), Mamoru Miyano (who does the voice of the character Light), Shido Nakamura (who does the voice of Ryuk), Naoya Uchida (who does the voice of Soichiro) and Eriko Watanabe (who does the voice of REM).  Also, how NTV news announcers did voice acting to portray  the anime news announcers for NHN Golden News.  Interviews with “Death Note” anime director Tetsuro Araki.  Also, to bring a connection with the “Death Note” anime and the live action films, actor Kenichi Matsuyama who plays the character of L in the live films has a voice acting role for the anime series.
Original Japanese Death Note Interstitials – (25:02) These interstitials were used as promos at the end of the anime series.  Promoting “Death Note” anime merchandise, the live action film and more.
– Interview with Animation Direct and Character Designer Part 2 – (7:49) Interview with Director Tetsuro Araki and Character Designer, Masaru Kitao.
– Conversation with the Japanese Cast and Crew – (17:19) Interviews one-on-one interviews with the Japanese voice actors.
– Expanded Art Gallery – Featuring characters, props and sets

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.  Whereas I enjoyed the first half of the series as it focused on Kira vs. L, the second half seemed to go slower in pace with the filler-like episodes that dealt with the Yotsuba Group.  But it took a few episodes to establish Light Yagami working in the Kira Task Force, working together with L and eventually having to watch as Light would try and succeed in winning everyone’s trust.  Once episode 25 came, immediately the series went on overdrive as we started to see Light Yagami in a different light.   A man who has been consumed with power and now feeling he is invincible.

That is until he meets his match with “N” (Near).  Different styles of handling the investigation, to watch this cat vs. mouse storyline to now shift between L and N became quite enjoyable and suspenseful.  Especially to see how far Light would go to achieve his goals and the people close to him that he would use (or kill) in the process.  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 release these episodes of the series and sell them in two box sets 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.

I thought it was an awesome touch for VIZ to include the fifth disc of special features that focus several of the Japanese features including the numerous interstitials.  I was very happy to see many Japanese special features (English subtitled) included with this box set.

I did wonder if the “Death Note Rewrite” OAV would be included in the box set but the two hour episode (Vol. 1) of Rewrite focusing on Ryuk’s perspective will be released in the US on June 16, 2009.  There is no announcement of when the second “Rewrite” OAV will be released in the US.

Overall, “DEATH NOTE” is a well-acted anime series (on both the Japanese and English side of things), cool characters, well-written and suspenseful episodes, stylish animation and a unique, compelling anime series that I highly recommend from beginning to end.  Another wonderful release!

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