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I started watching the Death Note anime in 2008 and made it about 2/3 of the way in before giving up for a few weeks. In that span of time, I ended up buying the manga and reading it through from start to finish. Eventually, I did finish the anime too but, on the whole, found it inferior to the manga. Just to note, the music and image quality are superb, but the decision to cram about half of the manga into the space of about 12 episodes really hurt the coherence of the story and left it far less enjoyable than simply reading it and seeing the logic laid out with much greater clarity. In particular, I felt that the characters were more thoroughly fleshed out which made "replacement syndrome" less of a concern. Also, it should be noted that one of the huge advantages of the manga is that it only very rarely goes over-the-top and is thus less likely to be susceptible to ridicule. The ending is also, in my opinion, handled much better in the manga than the anime, although I actually liked the character in question a good deal. It seemed far more fitting and honest in terms of the rather dour perspective that Death Note has on humanity.

In terms of the actual series, it heavily plot-driven. The characters are not necessarily the focus so much as their conflicts with each other are. Certainly, each character has an ideology, but for the most part, this isn't a story about characters progressing as human beings or learning lessons. Primarily, it is a cat-and-mouse game with the world itself as both the battleground and the stakes. Because of this, it's a highly exciting, edge-of-your seat experience that hooks you with the need to find out just how the characters will escape their latest predicament.

This is not to say, however, that Death Note is without its flaws. One of the biggest, unfortunately, is that it can come across as sexist. There are quite a few "geniuses" within the show and not one of them is female. Female characters often seem to exist as accessories to the males — they are defined solely by their relationship to them. There is also the fact that plot elements tend to come up for convenience's sake more than once and the leaps of logic some characters make will strain credulity.

Overall, though, Death Note is an excellent series that manages to grab and hold the readers' interest all the way through. Recommended.
Your accusation of sexism is unfounded. First, if the show is focused on primarily male characters, so what? That's just how it turned out. Would you say that a show focused around female characters is sexist? Or a show that primarily has Japanese characters is racist?

Second, Naomi Misora was quite intelligent. Even though she made a terrible error and paid the price for it, she figured out who Kira was faster than almost everyone minus L. And she wasn't even involved in the investigation! There's also a girl(admittedly, with no lines) named Linda who was shown to be in Wammy's House, an orphanage for geniuses.
comment #16385 DrWillHatch43 5th Oct 12
First of all, I specifically stated that the show can "come across as sexist" rather than outright stating that it is sexist because I recognize that there's no intentional diminishment of female characters on the author's part. Females do get important roles in the story and contribute. The problem I have is that they often only serve a specific function and are then subsequently marginalized. Every major female character in the story is driven by a male presence — Naomi is driven due to Ray's death. Misa, rather than having any ambitions of her own, completely defers to Light and the same with Takada. Even Halle is subservient to Near. That's where it can come across as sexist, since the female characters seem to revolve solely around males, with little reason to exist outside of that sphere. Halle comes the closest to breaking the mold, but then there's the unfortunate fact that Near has to use her gender as a basis for why she's more vulnerable than the others. She is also, sadly, a rather minor character in comparison to Misa. And both Halle and Wedy have blatant fanservice scenes.

Also, Naomi never really figured out who Kira was. Light flat-out told her once he'd ensured her death with the Death Note and she seemed completely shocked. Plus, I think it says something that all three of the least intelligent characters in the series are female — Misa, Sayu, and Sachiko — according to Death Note 13 (which pins them at a level 3 intelligence) although the males heavily outnumber the females. There are 36 characters that the author produces graphs for. Of these, 7 are of females. Plus, Death Note doesn't pass the Bechdel test. Named females do talk to each other, but it's always about Light and which of them is "his."

So that's where I find Death Note problematic — women are followers, never leaders, in this story. The men are portrayed as having ideals, purposes, greater philosophical motives driving them, at least in part. What drives the female characters? For Misa, it is her infatuation with Light (they could have done something really interesting with her parents' murders, but the author simply uses that as an excuse for her to obsess over him). She's played as a joke when really, she's an incredibly tragic character. The same with Naomi. Instead of pursuing Kira based on her ideals, she does so because of her fiancé's death. And Takada is basically in the same boat as Misa.
comment #16387 RedHudsonicus 5th Oct 12
since the female characters seem to revolve solely around males

I think you should view it more as the every character seems to revolve around the geniuses.

Also, Naomi never really figured out who Kira was.

Naomi discovered evidence that incriminating Light, of course she wouldn't had found out who exactly it was given the limited information she had but that was the point, that even so she discovered such things, L even mentioned how she was a great asset in previous works with her. In fact the author said that was the reason he had to kill her, she was to fast and capable and would had created complications with the story development later

So that's where I find Death Note problematic — women are followers, never leaders, in this story

Which again, the only leaders are the two geniuses, Light/L, Light/Near, Mello. Everyone else even the Shinigami are followers.

I think it says something that all three of the least intelligent characters in the series are female — Misa, Sayu, and Sachiko — according to Death Note 13 (which pins them at a level 3 intelligence) although the males heavily outnumber the females.

Out of all the major shinigami the most intelligent was Rem at 7 (not including the how to read 13 chapter where it is Nu another female shinigami who is also the second most powerful, right under the king). Naomi and Takada (along with penber) were the smartest normal characters at 7. And also the actual least intelligent character was the male Sidoh at 2, and there were several male characters at 3.

The same with Naomi. Instead of pursuing Kira based on her ideals, she does so because of her fiancé's death

I think you're looking way too into this, it's a loved one, who just happened to be male, Kratos is not considered to revolve around female characters because his wife and daughter died.

since the female characters seem to revolve solely around males,
Plus, Death Note doesn't pass the Bechdel test. Named females do talk to each other, but it's always about Light and which of them is "his."

Misa and Rem, who also revolves around a female character instead of a male one.
comment #16396 marcellX 6th Oct 12
Helle was also an intelligent woman (7) who was driven by the death of her relatives by Higuchi (the 3rd Kira), said she wasn't on either Near's or Mello's side and I think has a Bechdel approved conversation with Takana.
comment #16397 marcellX 6th Oct 12
I think you're misunderstanding me when I say that the series can come across as sexist. It's not that women don't have important roles within the story (they do, such as Misa finding out Higuchi is Kira for example), but there's a broader pattern of marginalization of the female characters that takes place. For example, with Halle, Near points out that Mello will want to contact her because she is a woman and that means that the SPK will be less willing to wire her home. That strikes me as completely illogical — no government agency operates like that and it seems as though her gender is brought up arbitrarily to reinforce her vulnerability.

In regards to the Shinigami, I think you'll find that it's actually a female that's the least intelligent but I really don't think the Shinigami are comparable to humans.

But really, the biggest example I can think of is seen in how the authors treat the character of Misa compared to Mikami. Mikami was a pretty minor character. He only appeared in volumes 10 through 12 in comparison to Misa who became a major character in volume 4. And yet, Mikami is treated with far more respect by the author than Misa ever is. I don't mean in terms of personality, but in terms of character development and resolution. Mikami has an entire chapter to flesh out his backstory (Chapter 84 Coincidence). He is shown to have deep morality-based motives for believing in Kira as well as personal experiences. Misa gets no such treatment — they never go into the loss of her parents, show us a flashback, or anything. She just mentions it to Light. What's worse is that it's made abundantly clear that she doesn't really care about Kira or the mission and only does it to please Light. This can be seen in her conversation with Takada where she relishes the notion that both Kiras will be caught and executed. And, unlike Mikami, who is explicitly mentioned to have died in prison 10 days after the events of the Yellowbox warehouse, Misa's fate within the story is never touched upon. She just kills herself according to the supplementary materials with the author saying she fell into a depression and killed herself or "something like that."
comment #16401 RedHudsonicus 6th Oct 12
In regards to the Shinigami, I think you'll find that it's actually a female that's the least intelligent but I really don't think the Shinigami are comparable to humans.

who was this? as far as I could gather the least intelligent were Sidoh and the very obscure Calikarcha, both male, who also have the least intelligence out of all characters at 2. Also there's no indication that they're measuring it with a different scale.

Also Mikami received the same treatment, the death of her would be murderer caused her to idolize Kira and establish her character and her goals, she was obssesed with Light because he was Kira but couldn't remember this after her memory was erased (the death note erased memories not feelings), Mikami's story just showed why he viewed Kira as a god of justice, in my view Misa had a lot more development and we see what she's capable of even though she's a ditz model. Since the author seems to make things and see how they play out, Misa lost relevance after L's death but it was hard to find a reason to just kill her (as he did with other characters like Naomi and Mello). Mikami's back story only served to show how while he was smart, he was still just Kira's follower who he viewed at as a god Misa also took more time to kill herself, in a sense she was still a lot more stable than Mikami.
comment #16410 marcellX 6th Oct 12
The least intelligent shinigami was Kinddara Guivelostain who has an intelligence level of 1 and is female. She's also described as being very violent. But, more to the point, I don't really think that how shinigami are presented really has any effect on the human female characters. If you produced a work of fiction, for example, about humans and their interactions with hyenas, I don't necessarily think that showing dominant and aggressive female hyenas would suddenly make it okay if the author decided to portray all female humans as passive waifs. I just don't look at fiction like that - especially fiction that presents a human society akin to the modern world.

Misa didn't get the same focus as Mikami did. On that I will disagree with you. We never had a whole chapter devoted to Misa's backstory — seeing her as a child, with her parents, seeing them brutally murdered and then watching their killer go free. That would establish a lot of emotional resonance to her devotion to Kira. Instead, it's mentioned in passing to Light (and subsequently followed by the "make me you girlfriend even though I don't know you!" line). And the fact that her memories were erased is no excuse — Mikami was a huge Kira supporter even before he got the Death Note. So Misa losing her memories does not preclude her from still being a devout Kira follower — she could still adore him for punishing her parents' murderer. But the series makes it clear that she doesn't care that much because she's so happy at the thought that Kira will get the death penalty when she is mocking Takada. That's where I take issue with the presentation of Misa — her character is very shallow and her support of Kira seems to be limited to the fact that he is Light and she's completely infatuated with him.

Plus, the way Misa is treated is more like a plot device than a character — like you point out, when she's no longer "relevant," her role in the story diminishes. Contrast this to Light who had a clearly defined arc. Or even Aizawa, who was always reluctant to trust Light and later re-investigates him. Or Matsuda, who snaps at the end and when his naive trust in Light is betrayed. There's no reason that Misa couldn't have been incorporated into the story as well, but she's just shunted to the side. At the very least, I don't see why the author didn't just kill her instead of using her for fanservice and then not even mentioning her death onscreen, especially because Misa is by far the most prominent female character.
comment #16411 RedHudsonicus 7th Oct 12
I don't necessarily think that showing dominant and aggressive female hyenas would suddenly make it okay if the author decided to portray all female humans as passive waifs. I just don't look at fiction like that - especially fiction that presents a human society akin to the modern world.

But that's not happening and that's the point I'm trying to make, you're focusing too much on the negative and making it more than it is. Also it's shown that most shinigami's mentality is closer to humans, it's not a humans vs animals comparison, specially since biologically, shinigami's are higher beings.

Mikami was the only character that got a detailed backstory, it wasn't because he was a man, without a back story he looked just crammed in. Just because a character has a sad backstory doesn't mean that they should revolve around it, so unlike Mikaki, she was more than her past, Misa had development on her own throughout the story, while Mikaki had to have such a detailed backstory to be able to understand him (Ohba even said that he didn't liked creating flashbacks), if not he's just a some Kira follower Light chose based mostly on instinct, in fact his downfall was that he was so predictable and rutinary, while Misa was an unpredictable character who could greatly benefit or greatly hinder Light and or L, giving the story a sense of two orders being affected by one chaos. Also Misa "was" still a Kira follower after losing her memories and even admitted it directly to L, who started to doubt she was the second Kira simply because it looked way too obvious. Her death is not really that different from Mikami's, who had little relevance and was more to suggest that Near had used the death note on him just in case.

I again like I said, you're focusing too much on the negative and make it bigger than it is, you're even using Light, the protagonist as an example. Misa wasn't the only character who's role was diminished, in fact like I said the difference was that unlike the others, she wasn't killed. Even Mello who was suppose to defeat both Light and Near got too problematic for the story and had to be taken down. And Aizawa only started to distrust Light after L's death, after the time skip, and his role while important wasn't as big as Misa's, and the point of Matsuda was to make Light's death as pathetic as possible, which talks about Matsuda as a character. And also as I said before, there was little reason in universe to kill her, given that she was already suspected as the second Kira, Light had to get new eyes (Mikami), and as a liability for Light, she couldn't had been used as a hostage.
comment #16412 marcellX 7th Oct 12
I honestly don't think I'm focusing too much on the negative. The female shinigami simply don't "count" for me because they aren't human analogs. Shinigami don't need to eat, sleep, cant have sex, etc. They are extremely different from humans and we never see any sort of shinigami society. There's nothing about them that is really comparable to humans. Their gender is arbitrary and doesn't come into play at all for their societal roles. But this isn't true of human males or females at all. The Death Note universe, in particular, shows that there's a degree of societal expectation — look at how Raye talks to Naomi, for example.

And Misa always, to be honest, came across as crammed in to me. I always got the impression that she was just put into the story to make difficulties for Light and move the plot along. Hence why she became irrelevant when her plot function was fulfilled. Giving her a fuller backstory would have gone a long way to alleviating that. For Mikami, even though he was a much more minor character than Misa, the author still went out of their way to more fully contextualize his actions and give the audience a greater understanding of his goals and purposes. I honestly didn't see much development of Misa within the story — she's obsessively focused on Light, but that's really as far as her character goes. She doesn't even love him, since it's clear she would never put his happiness over her own obsession (such as when she threatens to kill any other girl is he with). Misa wasn't still a Kira follower in the second arc after losing her memory. Don't you remember how she told Takada that she had liked Kira but he was probably going to be caught soon and then get the death penalty? She doesn't care about Kira or the ideology, she just uses it as a tool to taunt Takada and says as much with glee. Kira doesn't matter to Misa, it's just an excuse to try to one-up her romantic rival.

Plus, I didn't only bring up Light. I also brought up Aizawa and Matsuda, characters who had far smaller roles than Misa, but were given much better character arcs. Mello got taken down, too, but he still completed his arc — he overcame his inferiority complex and helped Near although it cost him his life. He was instrumental to Kira's take-down and Near acknowledges him as such. And I'd disagree with you that Aizawa's role wasn't important. While it certainly wasn't a central role, he clearly took initiative and had a character beyond merely being Light's puppet. Matsuada, likewise, got character development — like you said, he helped make Light's death pathetic, but note that he also gets resolution in the epilogue, which again shows how much he struggled with Kira's ideology. Plus, even if there is "little reason" to kill her, that doesn't excuse just shunting Misa to the side when she's been such a central character.
comment #16413 RedHudsonicus 7th Oct 12
Shinigami don't need to eat, sleep, cant have sex, etc.

and all of this things are irrelevant, this has no effect on their personalities, fears, desires, goals or feelings. For example Rem and Gelus like Misa were people who were willing to die for their loved ones. You compare them to humans and savage animals when they're closer to say the different races in a final fantasy game, or a dungeons and dragons game, were there are several races but their biggest differences (like your examples) are mostly aesthetic.

And Misa always, to be honest, came across as crammed in to me. I always got the impression that she was just put into the story to make difficulties for Light and move the plot along.

How exactly is that a crammed character, she furthers the plot along by giving Light more power to fulfill his deeds, she as I said both greatly helps and hinders both Light and L, it showed us a more normal person in possession of a note book, different miscs about the death notes, shinigamis and their realm. Even after losing her memories and eyes she still proved useful to the task force, in fact it gave the only way to kill L. Even you pointed out how she managed to get the upper hand on Haguchi.

Giving her a fuller backstory would have gone a long way to alleviating that

How so? her backstory just like Mikami's didn't add anything that could be used in the story, her parents, her killer and Gelus were death, just like Mikami didn't had really anyone of importance or event that could be used later on.

For Mikami, even though he was a much more minor character than Misa, the author still went out of their way to more fully contextualize his actions and give the audience a greater understanding of his goals and purposes.

As I said, Mikami needed to have a backstory to not be a bland character, without his backstory he's barely any different than any of the other supporters Light could had chosen from, he's completely controlled by Light who he follows without question, without his backstory he almost doesn't have a personality. With Misa, while a great asset, Light had to take her unpredictability, and her personality into account, and even then things didn't always go smooth, though they weren't necessarily a bad thing (Misa finding out L's name by going to meet Light), with Mikami Light would say jump and he would already be in the air asking if that was high enough.

She doesn't even love him, since it's clear she would never put his happiness over her own obsession (such as when she threatens to kill any other girl is he with).

Love is suggestive, it was said that her character was indeed designed to be someone who would do anything for the person she loves, but she had a personality, would get jealous and had a level of morality that would make her kill out of it.

Misa wasn't still a Kira follower in the second arc after losing her memory.

I even mentioned L, so it's clear I was talking about her first loss of memory. After the time skip it had been years living with her boyfriend who she worshiped and since the feelings stay had more care about him than Kira even when he being Kira was the drive for her affection. As she told L, she meet Light and feel in love with him but doesn't know why (when her memories were erased), just as when she meet Light and told him that she idolized him for being Kira and that him being handsome was just a plus (she didn't even expect it).

Plus, I didn't only bring up Light

I didn't said you only brought Light, but that it was a little fallacious to bring the "protagonist" aka the most important character in any story as an example.

Mello got taken down, too, but he still completed his arc

See, this is what I'm talking about, it's not the same, as I said Mello got killed for being too competent early in the story, same as Naomi, they were characters that gave too much of an edge to a side with the risk of ridding the story of the tension, he was said to have been killed because he had learned too much about the death note.

Plus, even if there is "little reason" to kill her, that doesn't excuse just shunting Misa to the side when she's been such a central character.

He couldn't given the way the story was going, but he would have to go out of his way to kill her, and that would just seem forced. In universe killing her would had served no goal since they knew Kira thinks of people as expendable, unlike Tanaka which served to make Mikami use the real death note.

And I'd disagree with you that Aizawa's role wasn't important.

I didn't single out Aizawa, I meant that most people were controlled by the geniuses, both besides from Mikami and Tanaka (at least didn't get much of a chance to show it) had their own goals, drives and way of doing things, Rem is an example of someone who wasn't even tricked but put against a wall

but note that he also gets resolution in the epilogue

Not really, from his conversation on the epilogue he's still doubtful about things, wonders if what they did was the right thing (since the world and it's order have gone back to normal), it's suspecting Near for the death of Mikami (and doesn't look happy about it), and still has conflicted feelings about Light, if anything he's the character that "doesn't" get a resolution.
comment #16414 marcellX 7th Oct 12
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