Death Note One-Shot (2020): Taking It Too Far…?

The fact of the matter is that Death Note has always been fairly global, but it’s never had an existing political figure in it…until now.

For the most part, Scott’s post on this one-shot (and the things I omitted from my comment on it) are what inspired me to write this post, so mosey on thataway if you want a second opinion.

Big warning: Due to the nature of the one-shot and the series, spoilers will be below.

I guess, before I get into the nitty-gritty of this post, I should explain my own history with the series (because I don’t think I remember it all myself, so it’s better to get it down into words). It seems like it would fit right in with all the other mysteries I profess to like, but as with most series of that time, I came to it fairly late and only mowed it down by sitting in a library after eating lunch, although I do believe I tried finishing it at other libraries first and used this library to fill in any gaps.

The anime I first encountered through a cousin torrenting it and then giving the computer to my family without wiping the data, so when it came time to explore what was on it, I encountered an episode of Death Note, meme opening and all. (I’ve since acquired a disc of the first few episodes from the charity store, so I am trying to fix that.)

Sidebar: This computer also had an episode of Naruto, which is how I know one of the OPs (which I mistakenly called Aoi Sora when discussing it at AMQ one time, but its actual name is Blue Bird) without having a huge investment in the series.

The thing that sticks in my mind about Death Note the most, aside from the often-praised cat-and-mouse chase, is the fact part of the series was novels. Normally the novels don’t make it to English unless the series is huge (also see: Boku no Hero Academia School Briefs), so getting access to the Los Angeles BB Murder Case light novel was, as far as I can recall, my induction to light novels without explicitly knowing it as such. (Also, I won’t forget there’s the Akazukin Chacha scene in that novel, which is such a non-sequitur in the scheme of the book that it just becomes weird.)

Well, with all that out of the way, this one-shot is a valiant effort to bring Death Note to 2020 and the real world (admit it, it’s probably worth it merely because Trump and not-Abe show up, plus I don’t think apple diets existed 10 years ago), but at the cost of not really understanding Minoru and seeing him develop as a character like Light did. In a series filled to the brim with plot threads like Death Note, there’s only so much that can be done in 87 pages and something’s gotta suffer, so I get why there isn’t any development. The page constraints also mean Minoru meets his end and then suddenly the entire one-shot stops, which is quite the whiplash.

Sidebar 2: The gist of this is in the comment I gave Scott, but Minoru means something like “to bear fruit”, which works both for the fact he provides Ryuk with apples and the fact his plans…well, y’know…and Tanaka is a generic surname (it’s one of those surnames you’d give a character to show he’s an everyman, much like “Smith” for English) to contrast him against Light.

I hope you followed that spoiler warning I put above, because the one-shot reveals that Near took over the L name, Light has been relegated to the history books after his death and Matsuda still looks like he did 10 years ago (which was…honestly pretty freaky to see). I’m still tempted to call Matsuda an idiot based on memes, but my comments would be unwarranted. Near – I don’t like to think of him as “L” – seems to have grown out his hair (possibly as an attempt to better fit the memory/image of the old L…?) in the time since we last saw him, but even though my love for long-haired boys is pretty bad at the moment, knowing this is Near means I couldn’t possibly like him (‘cos I think Death Note was at its best with Light vs. L, as you can guess from that). The “fight” itself is mostly centred around Trump (?) and Minoru anyway, so aside from showing up and doing his puppet thing, Near doesn’t impact the story in the least anyway.

If you know history, you’ll know the US-Japan relationship is a long and storied one fraught with tension. The fact Viz and Shueisha let the Death Note creators put existing political figures – and contentious ones, at that – into their work either shows how far we’ve come in regards to free speech or shows how much the current political agenda has coloured people’s lives. Death Note has always been unafraid to speak its mind about taboo subjects, but this might have been a step too far…

So what do you think about Death Note and this one-shot? (Note I’ve read the L: Change the World novel but haven’t seen any of the other live-action stuff associated with the series, so there are certain things about Death Note as a franchise I might not know about.)

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