Death Note Volume 1

Deathnote Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata
Deathnote Volume 1. Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata

The Bottom Line

Death Note is a rare breed: A supernatural crime thriller that features intelligent, complex characters grappling with life and death ethical dilemmas in unexpected ways. The artwork is gorgeous and the writing is whip-smart and suspenseful. While it is a title, it isn't for kids.

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  • Original and engaging supernatural crime thriller
  • Beautifully drawn artwork that bridges the worlds of fantasy and reality seamlessly
  • Intelligent, complex and non-stereotypical characters


  • Dark, mature theme isn't suitable for younger readers
  • Dense and complex story that demands your complete attention


  • Original Title: Desu Noto (Japan)
  • Author: Tsugumi Ohba
    Artist: Takeshi Obata
  • Publisher: Viz Media LLC / Shonen Jump Advanced
  • ISBN: 978-1-4215-0168-0
  • Age Rating: Older Teens - Age 16+ for blood, violence and mature themes.
  • US Publication Date: October 2005
    Japan Publication Date: April 2004
  • Other Reviews on the Web:

Imagine if you could kill anyone you wanted to with a stroke of a pen. High school honor student Light Yagami doesn’t have to imagine. Ever since he picked up the Death Note, he wields the power to rid the world of criminals by writing his victims’ names in its pages. The notebook also comes with something extra: Ryuk, an 7-foot tall shinigami or grim reaper with a ghoulish grin who teaches, taunts and observes Light as he sets in motion events that will have worldwide repercussions.

As Light kills off criminals around the world with the Death Note, local police and Interpol take notice of the rising body count. In order to stop the criminal genius behind the murders, the authorities call in L, a quirky yet mysterious super-sleuth. The intellectual cat and mouse game between Light and L is what gives Death Note most of its suspenseful energy and savvy plot twists.

Like a mix between CSI and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Death Note features detectives and demons that transcend the tired stereotypes of the genre. Ohba gives his complex characters clever dialogue and puts them through dramatic plot twists that leave you guessing at every turn.

Takeshi Obata’s artwork for Death Note is stunning and perfect for depicting both the hellish underworld of the shinigami alongside the just-the-facts-ma’am milieu of the police headquarters. Obata’s fluid, elegant artwork captures these contradictory worlds of light and dark, the ordinary and the supernatural in style.

But make no mistake, with so much of its plot centered around murder, Death Note has its share of bloody and violent scenes. The complexity of the story and dialogue-heavy pages also make it a better choice for older teens and young adults than most shonen titles. All in all, a worthwhile read for mature manga fans looking for something different.