I wonder why the trip never felt long.
The cat and mouse game between Light/Kira and Near is over. Meeting face to face for the first and quite possibly the last time. The two geniuses are now prepared to face the consequences should either of them become the loser in this battle of wits. The showdown is taking place inside of an abandoned warehouse with The Japanese Task Force and the SPK(Special Provisions for Kira) as witnesses. Does Near really possess the proof needed to defeat Light? Or will Light once again emerge victorious, and become the God of the new world? -summary
Well here it is, the final volume in one of the best Japanese Manga series I've read in the last ten years or so, and could make my top ten(should I ever get around to making one). Death Note volume 12 continued at what it did best, which was deliver very strong storytelling, by keeping the reader in the dark with its suspense. This final volume made the trip worth it for me.
Author Tsugumi Ohba once again stuck to his guns, and didn't fumble in his execution to me. The volume begins with its build up leading to the final confrontation. But, on the way there, Ohba continues to keep the reader aware of the current situation taking place with the public. A majority of people are firmly on Kira's side, and their fanatical behaviour when supporting their god can be very disturbing in its realism. This is made obvious when an enemy of their god is dealt with.
Ohba also continues to move in the right direction with character development. Light Yagumi continues to display his determination on changing the world. His motives clearly proves that he's willing to use any means necessary. However, Light's development went through too much of a dramatic change. His tactics seem to push him away from being a savior into a complete villain, but I felt his tactics were necessary, more on that later. As far as the side characters are concerned, I felt most of the them fulfilled their roles, and none appeared to have been wasted to me.
The final volume also ties up the loose ends. The last couple of chapters takes the time to explain all of the elements that lead to the climax. However, a small amount of fans didn't quite appreciate the direction, because it took the route of being dialogue heavy, which to me is kind of strange, because Death Note was never really action driven. I actually find this gripe to be very stupid.
I think the attempt to provide closure was successful. Many anime and some manga have the notorious reputation of providing too little closure or none at all. For the most part, I find a majority of open endings to be creative laziness at its best. Thankfully, Death Note doesn't fall into this, and the series has satisfied many readers with myself being one of them.
The series is jam packed with suspense up to the closing moments. The tension had the right amount of build up with great pacing. Some panels contained little to no dialogue, instead, only artwork consisting of facial expressions displaying the tension, fear, and even confidence of the characters. The writing which remained very well done can keep many gripped with its unpredictability. The artwork by Takeshi Obata remained consistent, and on the same level as the previous volumes, with very good attention to detail from facial expressions to firearms.
Now the one issue some fans are divided on happens to be the ending. Without giving away the outcome, I'll say that the ending does work from my point of view. Some felt that Light's motivation and his goals for world conquest were childish at best, and he was nothing more than a mass murderer with childish ideals. In which, numerous times throughout the series, this is exactly how he was described by both L and Near, and they're somewhat right. However, as childish as his beliefs may have been to some(even though I can't imagine a child thinking this way), one still can't overlook the fact that Light did change the world for the better, with war and crime being almost non existent, to include, criminals were afraid to commit crimes. I think people simply don't feel comfortable with one man wielding so much power. In many people's minds, I think it just boils down to the opinion no man has the right to play god.
Personally, I think Ohba's direction with the ending can be debated forever, because it leaves things up to your own interpretation. Therefore, the way I see it, Light didn't have a twisted sense of justice. He simply had a vision that some people didn't agree with. Once he was given the tool to make the changes he believed necessary, he took the route that was morally wrong to some. Perhaps on the way, his judgment became clouded the closer he came to his goal, and in the process, he may have became corrupted. Ohba plays on another age old theme "Absolute power, corrupts absolutely". However, this can be debated in Light's case. In order to create a new world or destroy a threat people have to die: family, friends, innocents, whatever. That's just the way it has to be sometimes. I can't think of one nation that has been built with no bloodshed. Light must have seen this at one point. In fact, he actually did question his motives. But he saw the bigger picture, a world full of hard working people free of crime, war, and terrorism. He actually achieved that, so perhaps his vision wasn't as flawed as some would like to believe.
In closing, Death Note to me is an excellent cat and mouse thriller that examined numerous themes up to the end. In addition, the series definitely overachieved in its suspense, plot, and tension. I have read the series several times, and it hasn't really gotten old to me. I definitely recommend the series for at least a check out, to fans of graphic novels and suspense filled thrillers. Death Note may not be the best manga in existence, but I feel it makes a strong case in being a contender. Volume 12 contains chapters 99 - 108.
Pros: Gripping and suspenseful to the end, major players are the complete focus, good ending...
Cons: ... yet the jury is in the air on it, dialogue heavy for some