Friday, April 27, 2007

Death Note 3

Again with the recap, and this time it's counterproductive in a way. If this is your first time watching Death Note, or you missed the second episode for any reason, you would be led to an erroneous conclusion. Namely, that fake L is the real L. But that's what you get with quick recaps. Besides, it's one more reason to go watch those first two eps, as if you needed it.

Some recurring themes first rear their head this episode. L begins jumping to borderline psychic conclusions about Kira's identity and motivations, straining believability somewhat. Precocious young police officer Matsuda Tota's good intentions lead to embarrassing himself; he grows into one of the series better characters, but this is the most minor of his missteps. We also see the groundwork for L and the Japanese police butting heads. Yes, there was some of that last episode, but in general from the whole world's police. Here we have L giving cops busy work and a distrustful glare or two directed at the laptop monitor that represents their so-called equal partner, the great L who can't be bothered showing up in person. L seems to have done all the research he asks the cops to do in advance, and merely has them duplicate it so they'll be more easily convinced of his conclusions. It's a clearly delineated teacher-student role, with L testing his students as a means of teaching them what he already knows. That's all well and good, except they aren't students and are reluctant to see an outsider as their superior. Which is perfectly reasonable since they have a well-respected superior already, their chief of police. L comes in, treats them like kids, and assumes they'll respect him above all others.

This episode's big reveal, which I kind of gave away last review, is that the chief of police is Light's father, Yagami Soichiro. Through his father, who as good a cop as he is doesn't suspect his son in the least, Light has access to all the files on the Kira investigation, or anyways all the ones L has deigned to share with the police. With L having twigged to the fact that Kira could be a student - the latter being too busy to kill people during school hours or sleepytime - Light decides to lead him in another direction by playing with times of death, among other things. It's simple, really. Like a ventriloquist drinking water, Light uses preconceptions to lead his audience toward a conclusion they want to make, but that logic would otherwise preclude. L immediately sees through it, and Light naturally claims it was all part of his plan. He wants L to learn of his police connection, which he does, in order that he might cross the line from murderous vigilante to plain old killer... by offing L. Light grows eviler all the time.

Now instead of cops vs. killer we have L vs. Kira and the police vs. L. Oh, and the police vs. getting killed. Some cops are quitting because, "boo hoo! Kira can kill me from a distance with only my name and face! I'm ascared!" Pfft. Meanwhile, L goes in a slightly different direction than Light wanted. He's not just investigating the police, he's investigating anyone close to the police, and is certain one of them is Kira. So Light goes from being one of thousands, maybe millions in his region, and perhaps a student, to one of hundreds and definitely someone with a police connection. It's amazing that he isn't caught within six episodes, and it's only through an interesting, if convoluted, series of twists and turns that this series has any chance of holding up over 37 episodes.

"Extra life?!" Ah, the endless Japanese obsession with videogames. In this case, though, it's not an extra life, it's an extended lifespan. And, as Ryuk helpfully points out, it's what Death Gods, and only Death Gods, get for writing names in a Note. Humans get squat. Why is Ryuk being helpful? According to him, it's only because of the next thing he points out, that Death Gods don't need news reports to see someone's name, and that the eyes of a Death God can be yours for the low, low price of... half your remaining lifespan. That Ryuk makes this proposition brings up several questions. How long does Light have? Ryuk knows, and could be making the deal to get a big chunk of life added onto his. But he could just kill Light whenever, or kill other humans, using his spare Death Note (remember he had two before dropping Light's). So is he trying to help Light in a roundabout way, get Light's permission before screwing him, or simply see how Light reacts? The last would gel with his stated motivation for dropping the Note in the first place - for fun - but I still suspect he's more on Light's side than he lets on.

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