Light is a superb student living in Japan. He’s also bored out of his mind, and looking for a challenge. When he finds a Death Note book it seems the perfect opportunity to use his wits and intelligence. A Death Note is used by the legendary shinigami, essentially avatars of death. When it is time for a person to die, the shinigami writes his or her name in the book, and that person dies. If the shinigami is feeling creative, s/he can even determine the manner of death. Now this power is in the hands of a teenaged boy.
Light is elated with his knew ability. He immediately sets out to rid the world of criminals, hiding behind the pseudonym Kira. His father is the police captain, and Light is well aware that there are often criminals that have to be let go because there is no proof, or because all of the witnesses are too frightened to come forward. He will fix that. The police notice quickly enough that something is going on, and they engage the services of another brilliant teenager, who is known only as L.
This 12 volume manga series is extremely well-written. The tension is kept taut throughout the entire series, yet there is surprisingly little action. Author Tsugumi Ohba does a fantastic job in creating his characters. Is Light good or bad? Should murderers be killed? Should they simply walk free? At what point does power corrupt? Just as in real life, there are no easy answers. Some people hate “Kira” and his ideas, others welcome a world in which crime is always punished quickly and efficiently. There is little black and white.
The tone of the series is very dark, and will not appeal to every reader. But many teenagers are reaching the point in their lives, just as both Light and L have done, in which they are beginning to look at the world around them and create their own enduring sense of a moral code. What would you do if you were given the ultimate power of life and death?