Two Heroes Dueling

Death Note

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
Two Heroes Dueling
And a Bloodstained Euphie.

[Contains minor Death Note spoiler.]

I didn’t actually finish Death Note. What I enjoyed (in company with many, I think) was the vast and extremely complex contest of deduction between L and Kira/Light. (Did anyone ever manage to decide whether or not L was moe?) When this contest finished, the show was bound to sag; unfortunately the next arc didn’t hook me in quite as quickly as it needed to to maintain my interest. But it’s easy to criticise.

And in criticising I would forget the primal brilliance of that battle of minds. Provided you didn’t try to pick it apart, but just let the story carry you along, it had the subtle, swift movements of a physical contest, like boxing or fencing. Epitomised by L’s TV broadcasts in the early episodes. Massive credit is due to ‘Ohba Tsugumi‘, or whoever owns the pen-name (if it is a pen-name), for coming up with the concept.

Storytelling loves dualities, going back at least as far as Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and it’s easy to track the attraction of contrast, not just in narrative (consider Zoroastrianism or the proliferation of the iamb). Perhaps because of this near-ubiquity, it’s hard to get a contest of heroes to be really gripping, but Death Note managed it.

That last paragraph sounds pretty pompous to my ear, but such is life.

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7 responses to “Two Heroes Dueling

  1. I bought the last three volumes of Death Note today, funnily enough. This is more of an exercise in seeing it through more than anything because the story dropped in quality at the end of the L vs Light arc – up to that point it was a masterful exercise in intelligent storytelling and examination of justice and morality.

    I didn’t like the hype but for all that it’s still a great series. L as moe…I suppose there isn’t a male equivalent definition so I’ll go along with that.

  2. If you’re fond of the L/Light rivalry and find that the biggest draw of Death Note, I recommend watching the live action movies. Best ending of the three versions in my eyes, since it’s the manga ending made to fit a movie plot that hits the highlights of the first arc without feeling rushed. While the manga is my favorite of the three versions, I can understand why others might find the second half a bit of a drag. Anime is the worst version of the story, because they drag through the first arc, rush through the second, and crap up the ending by trying to make it beautiful.

  3. I found early Death Note to be enjoyable for just the reasons you listed: it was fast-paced, but it wasn’t because of explosions or violence or anything like that. It was fast-paced intellectual dueling – a true battle of wits on the screen that really has you going back and forth and trying to follow along with the combatants’ trains of thought.

    I think they just ran out of original ideas, and dug themselves too deep with their constant plot twists. Death Note’s transition from its development to its conclusion leaves quite a lot to be desired, and really loses a lot of their audience.

  4. The manga might pique your fancy, if you don’t read it all at once. I found myself zoning out towards the end as the explanations grew more and more wordy and I started skimming whole lines of text once I figured out the thread of logic.

    This, of course, is in contrast to where you’re stuck listening to what I presume are long expositions for 24 minutes, as per anime. One exception where the manga comes out on top, I guess.

  5. @ Martin: It would be an interesting (if unpleasant) exercise to survey the field of LightxL yaoi doujin, and see if L is usually the bitch or the butch (speaking plainly). Maybe one could pay a fangirl to do this.

    @ DeathToZippermouth: Someone with something good to say about the live-action movies? I’ll bear that in mind. I can imagine that the anime might be the weak part of the trinity.

    @Xerxes: Exactly. Someone (DTZippermouth?) was arguing that Death Note is in effect a shounen show, but it replaces physical contests with mental ones.

    @ Owen: Good point that manga has an advantage as a medium there. In fact (moving away from anime and manga) I’ve argued in the past that one advantage dead tree format storytelling has is that you can always put the book down. Take The Return of the King, for example: Tolkein gave it an endless ending, but when reading the book you could always take a break. In the cinema, however, you’re forced to endure something which, even with cuts from the book, is frankly too long at one sitting.

  6. I kind of found the first volume of Death Note to be like the Ghost in the Shell manga. A lot of explainations and heavy in dialogue. Only Ghost in the Shell only went one volume long.

    I’m still on the fence about watching the anime. I saw the first episode, and it was good. But from everything I’ve heard about it, I’m leary of picking it up. (Granted I’m still buying Chevalier D’Eon and Beck. I’m so far behind the times).

  7. Pingback: Four Gundam Bishies « The Animanachronism

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