Anime Review | Death Note Complete Series and OVA Collection (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 11.12.2016

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Death Note Complete Series and OVA Collection (UK Rating: 15)

There are some series that epitomise their generation, series that break through into the mainstream, series that pull people into the hobby, series that are long remembered. Just one such series is finally getting the release it deserves here in the UK, at last pulling together all 37 episodes into a single collection along with the OVAs, too. This promised HD release was originally set for release in the summer, but suffered from numerous delays. Now, though, it's finally confirmed for 19th December, courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

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It would be surprising to find any anime fan today who hasn't already seen Death Note; it's even receiving a Western Netflix series soon. For the rare readers out there who have yet to hear about the series, a rather brief synopsis is in order. Light Yagami was the ideal Japanese student. He had a great family, perfect grades and a bright future ahead of him. Light saw something wrong with the world he lived in, though, saw it as… rotten. An opinion shared by another, a being called Ryuuk, a Shinigami - god of death - who finds his world has also become rotten. These Shinigami control the deaths of humankind by writing the names of their victims along with their cause of death into a small book called a Death Note. Ryuuk decides to liven up his life with a trip to the human world and passes his note onto Light, setting Light on a dark path of changing the world.

The show chronicles how the huge power suddenly thrust into Light's hands drastically changes him. At first he tries to make the world a better place, planning to kill all of the major criminals in the world with heart attacks and establishing a sense of fear in society that his alter ego "Kira" is a vengeful god, punishing criminals. Light finds an obstacle in his path to world domination, though, in the form of an enigmatic master detective known only as 'L'. The two engage in a dramatic cat and mouse game, filled with action, excitement, plenty of twists, and fantastic visuals.

Those visuals are certainly a big selling point here, with the series finally getting its HD release in the UK for the first time. The show may now be a decade old, but thanks to the fantastic production values at the time, it looks absolutely fantastic here. Honestly, it's worth a purchase even for those who get it on DVD. Only Madhouse could make something like eating a crisp look quite so dramatic or put such energy behind writing in a book.

The story of Death Note is superb and constantly developing, with so many twists and unexpected moments that it makes for truly compulsive viewing. This is very much a character-driven story and the strong multi-faceted and likeable characters help elevate that story to something truly special. Light, for example, isn't necessarily evil; there is a logic to his actions, however misguided his methods (there are many fans out there that still think Light was right in what he did). Then there is the fantastically charming weirdo in L, a genius with some unique behaviour patterns. Even the supporting cast, like the mischievous Ryuk and the disturbed Misa Amane, are superb.

This collection contains the massive 37 episode series spread over five discs in dual audio. It also contains the two special OVAs from Japan. These "Relight" episodes were meant to revisit the story from another point of view, giving a new look to the tale. The first - Death Note Relight: Visions of a God - was billed as showing the first half from the Shinigami Ryuk's point of view, and while it starts up doing that, having another Shinigami ask Ryuk about the human world and his time there, but the series is pretty much entirely made up from the original footage, with the occasional slight difference. The episode runs for around two hours and packs in the first 25 episodes of the series, obviously heavily cut. The second Relight episode - Death Note Relight: L's Successors - throws away the new Shinigami and Ryuk's story and instead has L narrating the finale to the show. This covers 12 episodes cut down to 90 minutes. These OVAs are just okay, with the second certainly the standout; it cuts out some of the weaker parts, at least.

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Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
When landmark series get a re-release or remaster, it's interesting to see if it stands the test of time. In the case of Death Note, it not only still stands up today, but the superb new visuals really give this phenomenal series a fresh lease of life. A must-see for fans and newcomers alike, and easily one of the greatest series of all time.

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