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Why is Death Note so popular?

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This post is not intended to invite silly or mean-spirited comments. Rather, I am genuinely confused about the popularity of Death Note. It seems like everyone is DN crazy, with lots of people cosplaying as characters at the past few cons I've been at. When I was in Japan a year ago, DN merchandise was everywhere. Now, there's tons in the dealers' rooms here. I've been watching the series on DVD (am through Vol. 4), and instead of buying Vol. 5, I'm considering just selling off the volumes I currently bought, because I am not really enjoying it.

I think that the premise of the show is intriguing, but I'm wondering why it wasn't an OVA instead of a 37-episode show. I've been watching anime for a long time, and I'm not sure why this particular show is garnering all this attention. Is it because the show hinges on ambiguous morality? Are the characters all that interesting? Is the artwork particularly stylish?

My problem is that the plot seems incredibly contrived. You have two people who are trying to one-up each other on investigative tactics. Each episode seems to go like this:

Light: "I must do this to succeed and triumph."

L: "I anticipated that, and am countering your move like this..."

Light: "Yes, I knew you would do that, so to cover my actions, I will do this..."

L: "Of course you will. I knew it all along. So, my next move is this..."

And so on. It's sort of like watching a chess match, or an episode of Dragonball Z, except instead of moving pieces on a board or increasing power levels, you have a guy in a room with a book vs. a guy in a hotel room with snacks.

I realize this reading appears rather reductionist, but I've had people, people who I respect, tell me this is a great show, and I'm just not seeing it. I don't think it is drawn particularly well, I don't find anything redeeming about any of the purported protagonists, and the rules of the Death Note book itself look more like McGuffins for plot points rather than logical precepts (the thing reads more like tax code).

Does it get better after Vol. 4? Should I keep buying and watching it? It seems weird to note a spoiler alert to a show I haven't finished yet know the outcome to (being a fan of AMVs will do that to you), but given that I know who's dead at the end, what is my motivation to keep watching? I look forward to hearing your comments.

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i think the intrigue of death note is that you have to pay attention to EVERYTHING in order for it to make a bit of sense. I couldn' understand why it was so popular. so i watched a few episodes and as it turned out the dude named "L" i think (the creepy kid looking guy) is trying to prove that "Light" (the person whom all the girls like)

is a dude named Kira (some guy with the power to kill people at will)

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I like mysteries. I watched Murder, She Wrote as a kid. That is part of the reason I am watching Death Note. It is also a show that an adult can enjoy. Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion are two shows that adults and teens can enjoy. We are seeing fewer of those shows out in the anime marketplace. I think that is why you are seeing the few licenses out there being for shows that go for adults and teens. The industry is trying to broaden it's audience.

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I think your analysis of a chess match is accurate. I'm not floored by the show, and I don't think it's the end-all be-all of anime ever, but it is pleasing to me (<-- not so much a fan of shonen series like DBZ or Naruto) to see something more cerebral enjoying the spotlight.

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I think its because one of those shows that reaches into tons of different audiences. It has things for everyone, weither you watch the show for the great animation quality, music, character design, religious/social messages, mystery, the amazing rivalry between Light and L, etc... That's why you can have anyone from a college professor to a 11-year old Narutard can like it on equal levels.

Its almost as if Monster (series or manga) had babies with a boy band, imo.

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Man, Monster has ruined me for so much anime... ;____;


I tried to watch Death Note, as I heard it was a "thoughtful" anime; however, it just seemed like a lot of posturing. I did like the idea, though, but I wished they got more into the "morality question" part and less into the "ain't I cool" bit.

Also it's more fun to cosplay Death Note than it is to cosplay Monster. How does one even cosplay Monster?

Edited by RPGoddess
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It's popular because it minimizes the amount of people who don't like it (aka you) and maximizes the people who do like it (aka everyone else).

Just because you don't like it for a particular reason doesn't mean others won't like it for that reason. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. The thing with Death Note and other popular anime is that they have something that stands out. For Death Note, it's the storyline, animation, and general conflict between geniuses, all combined together, that make it so popular. For other anime like Bleach or Naruto, it's the fact that it's shounen-oriented, and usually shounen-oriented anime with good storylines are very popular. However, what really makes an anime shine is often the manga that inspires it.

Edited by yellowkaiq
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Here's my take on why I feel Death Note has gained a bit of popularity.

1) Scientific and paranormal type crime shows seem to be rather popular. Death Note captures a pretty good feel for that sort of thing.

2) The quirkiness of L and Ryuuk provides for comic relief for a good bit of the series which helps balance out it's serious nature.

3) The beginning of the series draws you in because you're trying to decide whether Light is good or evil.

Those are at least the three main reasons that make sense to me but it's just an opinion after all. Everyone isn't going to like everything or understand why it's popular. I'm probably one of the few people that can't get into the new Battlestar Galactica or Firefly. Some thing just are what they are.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I actually watched the live action movie first. I thought it was interesting and decided to check out the manga. I finished the manga before watching the anime. I only watched...maybe 12 episodes of the anime? It seemed to follow the manga pretty close, but for some reason I couldn't get into the anime that much. However, I could not put the manga down. I was hooked the entire way.

But then again, I seem more likely to read manga than to watch anime nowadays. It's funny because I used to watch anime all the time in high school, but was never interested in reading manga. o_O

Anime and manga are similar to the whole "the book is better than the movie" rule. Many times the manga is better than the anime. ^^0

Edited by .Schala.
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