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Death Note, on Nippon TV
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Caution: spoilers.

This is a very dark series, not just in theme but also visually. It's definitely a very cool story, and I found every episode riveting. All the twists and turns are just terribly interesting, and I looked forward to seeing new developments each week. Anyway, there's a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk, who sets the story in motion. If you're used to shinigami from other anime like Bleach, just let me say... Ryuk makes Mayuri Kurotsuchi look like Brad Pitt. Anyway, according to this series, shinigami have books called "Death Notes" in which they can write the names of humans, and they'll die. There are various rules and instructions for the use of the Death Note, which Ryuk wrote in his and then left it lying around in the human world. He did this because he was bored. Apparently, shinigami don't bother using their Death Notes anymore, and he wanted to see what would happen if a human got ahold of one. He also later mentions that a few other Death Notes have made their way into human hands in the past.

Ryuk's Death Note is found by an honors student named Light Yagami. At first he doesn't believe the Death Note is for real, but he decides to try it out anyway. Of course he uses it to kill a criminal who had taken hostages, and later some punk who was apparently about to rape a woman. But by the end of the first episode, he's already wiped out most of the world's well-known criminals, and is determined to use the Death Note to kill all of the people in the world who he deems evil. And he wants to become the god of the new world he creates by getting rid of all such people. Which obviously makes him very dangerous... it eventually becomes obvious to the viewer that he's gone insane, perhaps possessed by the Death Note, though of course around other people he can still act like his old self.

Meanwhile, this sudden wave of criminal deaths draws the attention of the authorities. The second episode shows a meeting of the ICPO (International Criminal Police Organization) discussing the recent deaths of criminals, wondering if it was murder and if so how it could have been accomplished. And then the world's greatest detective, known only as "L" begins his investigation. He sets a trap for Light, who the public have started calling "Kira," from the English word "killer." Light doesn't really care for the name, but he is pleased that so many websites are secretly popping up in support of his actions. He believes that while most people will publicly say killing criminals is wrong, in private they will approve; and he appears to be right, for the most part. But L tricks Kira into confirming his suspicions that the legend which is quickly developing about him is true- that these deaths are murders, that they're being committed by one individual, and that he lives in Japan. So now both Light and L want to stop each other. Each believes himself to be Justice and the other to be evil. Each is quite clever. But neither knows the other's true name or face. This is where the show begins to get truly interesting. I don't think of it quite so much as a game of cat and mouse, as I do a game of cat and cat, if you will....

Well, before long Ryuk informs Light that a shinigami can see a person's true name and remaining life span when they look at them, and a shinigami could give this power ("shinigami eyes") to a human possessing a Death Note, in exchange for half that person's own remaining life span. This would help Light out tremendously, especially considering he doesn't know L's true name, and so can't kill him with the Death Note. However, he is unwilling to trade half his own life span for this ability. But he does spend some time experimenting, learning ways of using the Note, some of which Ryuk himself was unaware of. Meanwhile, a special task force is set up, led by L (who calls himself Ryuzaki), and also includes Light's own father, Soichiro Yagami. There are a number of other members of the task force, including Shuichi Aizawa, Touta Matsuda, Kanzo Mogi, L's assistant Watari, and maybe a couple of others. I never really got to know most of them much at all. The one I mainly remember is Matsuda...

Eventually L reveals himself to Light (though of course he doesn't use his real name). He suspects Light, if only slightly, of being Kira, but nevertheless brings him onto the task force. And eventually a second Kira emerges. She is a fashion idol named Misa Amane, who idolizes Kira because he killed the killer of her parents. (Matsuda is a big fan of Misa's.) Eventually she meets Light and wants to help him, as well as date him, but Light isn't interested. Still, she has the shinigami eyes, given to her by Rem, the shinigami who had given her a Death Note. So she could prove useful to Light in learning L's true name. Of course, things are not nearly so simple...

Um, never entirely sure what to say and what to leave out, here, but of course I also can't remember everything that happens, it's so complicated. But eventually L decides Misa is the second Kira, and his suspicions of Light increase. The two of them are taken into custody, but not before Light devises a plan that involves giving up both their Death Notes. This means they both lose any memory of their activities as the Kiras, and neither can believe they are truly suspects in the case. The killings stop for a time, but eventually start up again, and the two of them are released... but L still suspects them, even though he has no proof. He becomes depressed about having been, apparently, wrong, and about the fact that if he was right, then Kira's powers can pass from person to person, that Light and Misa had been controlled by the real Kira, or whatever. So he gives up on the investigation.

But Light goes back to investigating the case himself, and discovers that now instead of criminals being killed, business people are being killed. And the deaths all benefit the Yotsuba Corporation. There is a group of eight members of the corporation who have regular secret meetings about who to kill. They all believe one of their group is Kira, but they don't know which one. Meanwhile, Light's discovery refreshes L's interest in the case, so they start investigating the Corporation. However, Kira, whoever the new one is, offers a deal to the government. Stop pursuing him, and he promises no politicians will be killed. The government agrees, and so anyone who wants to remain on L's task force will have to give up their regular jobs as police. Most remain, but Aizawa quits. At the same time, L brings two new people onto the team: a con man named Aiber and a thief named Wedy (who we like).

Anyway, eventually Light and Misa both get their memories back. And the Kira task force discovers that Kyosuke Higuchi, of the Yotusba Group, is the new Kira, and he's stopped. Also the task force finally learn the about the existence of Death Notes and shinigami. But L still believes Light to be the original Kira, and Light devises a plan that leads to... a few characters leaving the show: L, Watari, and Rem. After that, the show skips ahead five years. Light has graduated college and joined the police, and he's now officially joined the Kira investigation, as the new L. And Aizawa's back in the group. As the original L is long gone, and Light is in charge of the Kira investigation, he seems to be well on his way to fulfilling his vision of a new world, and there are plenty of people who have already begun to worship Kira as a god, even if they don't know who he really is....

However, Light hasn't won yet, because it seems there were a couple of potential successors to L, Near and Mello. Near gets the job, and becomes the head of an American task force investigating Kira, the SPK (Special Provision for Kira). He contacts the Japanese task force, calling himself N, and the two groups ostensibly work together, though there is a certain degree of rivalry, obviously. Especially when Near comes to believe Light is Kira. Meanwhile, Mello hasn't given up on catching Kira, himself... he just goes about it in his own, unofficial way, which includes working with gangsters and breaking any number of laws. So it's rather a three-way battle between Light, Near, and Mello.

There is also another new Kira, eventually, named Teru Mikami, who worships Kira as a god, and has been given a Death Note to carry on while Light himself cannot openly kill anyone. Nor can Light directly contact Mikami. Um, I should say there was a show on TV called "Kira's Kingdom," hosted by Kira's spokesman, Hitoshi Demegawa. However, he was soon killed, and replaced by a new spokesperson, Kiyomi Takada, a former girlfriend of Light's, who was now a newsperson, who is also a staunch supporter of Kira. She'll act as a go-between for Light and Mikami, after Light reveals himself to her as Kira.

Well. By that point there's not many more episodes left in the series, so I can't think what else to say. I can't really go any further without spoiling the ending. All I'll say about that is, I was content with how it ended, though I would like to have seen something of the aftermath of everything....

Oh, and you might want to check out Bad Horse Death Note, by Tom Smith. It's a very short song about this series, to the tune of one of the songs from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. And it's awesome.

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