Even at first glance, it's easy to tell that Death Note is a shonen manga of a different color. It runs, not on explosive battle scenes or mind blowing powerups, but on the suspense and drama of human ingenuity in fast-paced, life or death situations. The premise is simple: villain protagonist Light Yagami gains the power to kill anyone whose name and face he knows, and he uses this power to pursue his goal of scaring the world into behaving just as he wants it to... by killing every single wrongdoer he can get the name and face of. However, the greatest detective in the world (known only as L) is hot on his trail. The story hits its stride as the two of them enter a battle of wits of truly epic proportions, each desperately trying to out-gambit the other as L attempts to track down the murderer and Light tries to keep his identity as the murderer a secret, while still killing as many criminals as he can.
It is unquestionably the plot which is at the front and center of this story. It's brilliant and exhaustively thought-out, down to the last detail. Tsugumi Obha is clearly a storyteller who doesn't believe in cutting corners. The characters, though good, are largely static, so don't expect any great emotional depth from them. In fact, the only character who really gets much development is Light. Although his goal is to create a world where evil does not exist, his morals become shakier and more arbitrary until by the end, his primary goal is just to kill anyone who defies him.
As for the show's technicalities, there's not much to complain about. The animation is excellent and the dub is perfect (which is particularly fortunate for this series, since 99% of the time you're listening to someone talk).
Unfortunately, like any other anime, Death Note has flaws, but none of them are crippling. They extend to occasional research failures and moments when you'll feel like yelling at Light or L to "(insert sensible action here)!!!"
Ultimately, Death Note is fresh, unique and gripping, with a feel unlike any other shonen series. Like anything popular, it has haters who insist that it's a piece of overrated garbage and fans who claim that it has the depth and philosophy of Ergo Proxy
or Ghost In The Shell
, when it's really none of those things. It's a fun, well-written shonen manga/anime, which it should seen as... but most of all, enjoyed as.