Saturday, April 21, 2007

Death Note 2 or Kira: Big on the Internet

Did I say episode one gave us the series' premise? Well, that was only half true. Light wanted attention, and he got it, but not just from criminals. Police all over the world have taken notice, as well as one special person, the famed detective known only as L, who will act as Light's foil throughout the series. Or I should say, Kira's foil, as that's what they're calling him now. Yes, you guessed it, Kira is the cuter, Japanese way of saying "Killer." I swear, it never gets old.

This episode starts with a quick recap of the previous ep's events. It's only useful if you suffer from short term memory loss or watch way too many anime to keep them all straight, but it's formatted like a highlight reel and therefore isn't bothersome. At any rate, it's over before you can be bothered getting upset.

Light's obsession deepens and his plans grow more complex. Though I doubt other people ever concerned him overmuch, he's now making a point to avoid all social interaction to concentrate on his studies, sleep, and of course, killing. He interacts with other people as much as is necessary to keep up appearances and no more, which works against him a bit since people generally prefer it if you go out of your way to interact with them. When you don't, their first impulse is to suspect there's something wrong with you. After all, if nothing is, then there might be something wrong with them, or you might have something more important to do than spend time with them. Heaven forbid!

When the police decide to take action, they call a meeting attended by representatives from numerous countries... all of whom speak fluent Japanese. It's the Eastern equivalent of English-speaking aliens. Sure, Americans speaking English, Germans German, and so on would be more accurate, but then you'd need subtitles for any significant demographic. Not to mention the increased difficulty, and likely cost, of hiring voice actors from overseas. It's only logical to have everyone speak the same language, that being the language your target audience is most likely to know. The drawback is, everyone kind of blends together, and it's hard to tell when someone isn't Japanese. The character designs don't help here, but then they'd have to be nigh photo-realistic or comically exaggerated, neither of which are warranted for such a quibble.

In addition to L, who, as the second male lead, completes the main cast, we find our supporting cast bolstered with additions of varying significance. Last episode we met Light's mother, whose role begins and ends with the words "Light's mother." Now we meet his sister, who is more interesting but no more important to the story. We also meet Light's father, Yagami Soichiro, who we'll be seeing much more of. Naturally, Light is in Japan, and L is smart enough to have figured that much out already. One clever and just barely believable ruse later, L has narrowed down Kira's location to the Kantou region and we get our first glimpses of the Japanese police force, who will be aiding L in the hunt. We also find that Kira has a growing fandom, and you know what that means. Kira shrines, Kira fanmail, Kira fan fiction with self-insert love interests... doubtless there's even Kira fanon, where Kira has been retroactively turned into a daring crusader for justice, a righter of wrongs, an avenger for modern times. Anything but a bored teenager with absolutely corrupt power.

Whether you like the series or not, this episode is worth watching to see Light's plan for keeping the Death Note from prying eyes. It's a real treat. Along those lines, if after two episodes you still aren't hooked, it's probably safe to say this series isn't for you. Some shows start more poorly than they end up, while others take their time putting pieces in place before getting underway with the story proper. Death Note holds plenty back for later, but at this point you know what you're in for. Except you don't. You know what the feel of the show is going to be, but there are many twists and turns to come. It's an animated chess game, and if you're a chess fan you know how exciting it is to see two great minds meet on the proverbial battlefield. If you aren't, it's like two martial arts masters, only they fight with their minds instead of their bodies.

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