Death Note Volume 3 Review

Picking up from Volume 2, Light and Misa remain in confinement as L tries to ascertain if they really are Kira 1 and 2. It’s been 50 days since they were locked up, and Rem is already putting Light’s plans into effect by assigning a new owner for Misa’s discarded Death Note. But with Light and Misa both having no memory of ever owning a Death Note, it remains uncertain whether Light’s master plan is still on track.


Volume 3 of Death Note certainly ruffles the format of the series up a bit. Ohba temporarily drops the mental feud between Light and L as Light is brought into the investigation without his memories of Kira intact, so we are ultimately re-introduced to Light as he was before being corrupted by the power of the Death Note. Now he earnestly joins L’s team and is on the hunt for the new Kira that Rem has chosen. This switch in dynamics proves to be a very refreshing change of pace for the story, giving us a breather from the intensely psychological nature of the series, and even affording the writer a chance to bring back the comedy of Light and L’s clash of personalities.

Now we follow the duo as they work together to discover the identity of the third Kira, who we discover is working for a major corporation called Yotsuba and in addition to continuing to execute criminals, is also bumping of rival businessmen to increase the profits and power of Yotsuba. The twist with this new Kira scenario is that we don’t know who the third killer is, as he’s hidden amongst a group of 8 Yotsuba executives who take weekly meetings on which businessmen to kill. Neither of them know who Kira is either, they just know that one of them must be. So now the narrative becomes a more conventional find-the-culprit thriller with less complex evil villains, but one that isn’t any less engrossing than before.

And so, at the start of the opening episode: Episode 17, Aizawa manages to persuade L to end the imprisonment of L and Misa on the 50th day of observation and interrogation, but as ever the crafty detective has one final extreme test to put them through before he can be satisfied that they are no longer Kira 1 and 2. They both pass, but the fact there is physical evidence linking Misa to the second Kira’s videotapes means she will remain under 24 hour surveillance, while Light ends up chained to L for the remainder of the investigation. With this safety measure intact, Light and L become partners and Matsuda is assigned the role of Misa’s tracker in the undercover guise of her manager.

This is very much a transitional episode with little action as it concludes the confinement storyline and switches to the establishment of a plotline based around the new Kira. Much as with previous episodes in the series so far, this one is comprised mostly of exposition, but there is some light relief in seeing the rather serious Aizawa and Soichiro getting increasingly annoyed by Misa’s behaviour. No doubt echoing the feelings of many of the viewers out there.


Already in Episode 17 with the reinstatement of amnesia Light to the Kira investigation, we hit the one niggling criticism that I’ve always held of the Death Note series, and it regards the characterisation of this new Light. We first met Light just before the moment he discovered the Death Note and started putting it to use, quickly corrupting him. The only aspect of his pre-Death Note personality that was revealed was that he had a very pessimistic and cynical view of society and the way it upheld justice. Now, throughout the episodes in this volume, we get to see the uncorrupted Light up close and personal for a prolonged period of time, and he is a complete and utter Boy Scout. He refuses to take advantage of Misa’s obsessive love for him to investigate if she was the second Kira, and he repeatedly tries to stop L from putting Misa and the rest of his team in life-threatening situations during the course of the investigation into Kira number three. It really does seem preposterous to me that a guy who could so rapidly become detached and malevolent when given the power of the Death Note, would lack the variation in character to at least be partially okay with a fairly standard, perilous Police sting operation.

Making the uncorrupted Light out to be so virtuous certainly adds a very tragic element to the character, but Ohba makes him out to be practically a saint, and the dichotomy between pre and post Death Note Light is just too much of a stretch for me. There is also the fact that goody-two-shoes Light is considerably less interesting than his evil other self. One interesting aspect of this further insight into Light’s “raw” character is that up until now we’ve viewed L as sort of a mirror image of Light Yagami, only with him choosing justice and righteousness over murder and domination. But now, we see that L really is a more complex individual after all, and it makes you wonder what he would have done had he been the one to discover Ryuk’s notebook.

As mentioned before, with the introduction of the Yotsuba group we are given more straightforward antagonistic presence, and a thematic switch from an examination of society’s idea of right and wrong to a slightly more obvious exhibition of corporate politics and ruthless profiteering. Ohba doesn’t really go into enough detail on the corporate side to really satisfy in that regard, so most of the appeal of this new storyline is in the procedural stuff on L and Light’s side, which starts off in a rather Hi-tech fashion in Episode 18, when L’s team moves into a brand new Skyscraper that will act as both Headquarters and home to Misa and the team members who don’t have a young family to take care of. L in the meantime is rather down in the dumps over not finding any definite evidence that Light and Misa were both Kira from their prolonged incarceration. He still suspects the couple, but at the same time accepts that Kira could have controlled the pair to make them the focus of L’s investigation. However, his malaise is put on the back burner when Light discovers that Yotsuba is enjoying massive success after a number of rival businessmen start dying on a weekly basis.

Again this is another rather transitional episode here, as the team gather information on Yotsuba and evidence that the businessmen casualties are starting to benefit the company. There are two minor characters introduced into L’s team: a conman called Aiber, and a thief named Wedy, who aide in the surveillance of Yotsuba. Neither of these characters are given enough personality or screen time to have any impact on the story, though.


Nevertheless, with the introduction of the new members, and the talents of his colleagues shining through, Matsuda becomes increasingly desperate to make a significant contribution to the investigation. So, while working as Misa’s manager on a TV shoot near the Yotsuba building, he decides to sneak off and have a nosy around the place for signs of foul play. He’s succeeds in stumbling upon the Yotsuba executives’ weekly Kira meeting, but is quickly found out by the group, forcing himself and the team to think fast and develop a plan to stop Matsuda from becoming Kira’s next victim.

This is another rather self-contained episode that doesn’t advance the storyline a tremendous amount beyond Matsuda acquiring physical proof that Yotsuba are behind the current Kira murders, but this episode is a lot of fun. Ohba’s good at writing think-on-your-feet, backs-against-the-wall scenarios for L’s team, and he does a good job here of plunging Matsuda into an extremely perilous situation and then dragging him out of it. There are also some amusing revelations about L and some textbook oddball behaviour from him.

The investigation into the Yotsuba group goes from strength to strength in Episode 20 after Matsuda’s moment brave espionage causes L to plant bugs and cameras in the boardroom were the Yotsuba executives conduct their Kira meetings. Now all that remains is for L and Light to figure out which one of the group is the new Kira. The problem is that they won’t have proof that the executives really do have the backing of Kira until the people mentioned in the meetings later die. So, to prevent any further murders, Light conjures up a brilliant plan to reveal L’s investigation to the least likely Yotsuba executive to be Kira, and force him to work for the team and persuade the other executives to cease the Kira murders for the time being.

The pace picks up this episode as Light and L start to get more aggressive in trying to discover the identity of Kira. The tone of Episode 20 matches those of early episodes when L was going after Light directly, and there’s even the reintroduction of L’s psychological testing of Light and his reactions. Also, Misa is given something to do beyond fawning over Light when L manipulates her to force Light into following his plan, and L’s manipulation of Misa is always entertaining.


And so, in Episode 21, Misa becomes bait to try and lure out the Yotsuba Kira by feeding the group information revealing that Misa was arrested and imprisoned by L, and may indeed know his true identity. But what L and Light don’t count on is the presence of Rem and her resolve to protect Misa from harm. With these intentions, Rem reveals herself to Misa and fills her in on the memories she lost, and then reveals the identity of the Yotsuba Kira to her. Now Misa has to figure out a way to prove to L who the real Kira is, whilst also being aware that Rem and Light have set into motion a master plan. The stakes are raised in this episode, and it’s Misa who ends up on the front lines of the investigation with her life in serious danger as she tries to ensnare the new Kira. This episode is the catalyst that switches Death Note back into action mode.

For the remainder of this volume: Episodes 22-24, with the identity of Kira now known, L and Light put into motion a plan that will draw Kira out and force him to use his powers at a time and place where L can observe his actions, this learning the secret of how Kira kills, and maybe shed some light on what happened to Light and Kira when they were in captivity. The pace really hits top gear in the final act of the Yotsuba storyline, high octane action is introduced and there are enough twists and turns to keep you enthralled. And at the end of it all, Light’s master plan from before he allowed himself to be imprisoned is finally revealed in all its devilish glory. Tetsuro Araki’s direction really shines here, transferring the urgency of Ohba’s writing during these chapters of the Mange to the Anime screen with deft stylistic touches.

And that rounds off another gripping volume of Death Note. It’s been a strange volume, in that the story has switched to include a more straight-forward and uncomplicated antagonist, while Light has become a rather boring angel and his partner in crime, Ryuk barely features at all. Yet Ohba proves that he can take a much more simplistic approach to Death Note and still weave an exciting and enthralling crime story.

The DVD

Death Note Volume 3 is presented on DVD to the exact same standards as the first volume, so I will simply quote the A/V section of my previous review here:

”Presented anamorphically in the original 1.79:1 ratio, this NTSC>PAL conversion looks pretty good. Death Note was animated by MADHOUSE at a higher budget than your typical “longer” series and it looks very slick indeed, it also incorporates computer animation and the hazy shading you tend to find in large budget shows, yet the inevitable digital banding is not very noticeable at all. The series also has a very bleak colour scheme with lots of greys, and while low-level noise is certainly present in the image, it is nowhere near the amount I was expecting. In general the colours are very strong, sharp, natural and no bleed, alas the amount of chroma noise in the image does let them down a little bit, but considering the muted nature of the image it’s hardly an excessive amount. Brightness and contrast levels are very impressive, and detail is good with no noticeable Edge Enhancements. There does appear to be a very fine, ghosty haze around character outlines which isn’t easy to spot, and I can’t decide whether this is some sort of banding effect or a form of composite ringing, certainly there are no other noticeable forms of composite artefacts like dot crawl or cross colouration. Overall though, this is a fine transfer where even the NTSC>PAL ghosting isn’t too distracting.


In keeping with their more streamlined policy towards audio options, MangaUK have provided the original DD2.0 surround audio track and an English DD2.0 surround dub. The Japanese track sounds very clean and is generally quite pleasing. The dialogue is always clear and audible, with no distortion when things get more heated, and the bass sounds solid and forceful when needed. Dynamics across the front stereo soundstage are strong, breathing life into the fanciful sound design, but the rear channels occasionally sound a little flat in comparison to the front stereo channels. Luckily it’s not noticeable enough to cause any concern.

The English track is of comparable quality to the Japanese, with just the dialogue sounding a little quieter in the mix, and ambient noise – most notably room echo – being much higher in the mix, in fact in some scenes they really pile on the room echo to the point of disruption of the dynamics, which is a shame. Optional English subtitles are available, with no spelling or grammatical errors that I can recall. All on screen text is also adequately subtitled.”


Extras

Exactly the same format as with Volumes 1 and 2 here, with two audio commentaries and two voice cast interviews, backed up with a production art gallery on each disc.

Disc 01

Audio Commentary for Episode 17: Recorded by Voice Director: Karl Willems and the actor who portrays Soichiro Yagami: Chris Britton. It suffers a little from the same problem of the commentators stating what’s happening on screen like in previous commentaries, but this is by far the best audio commentary to date. Britton takes a more analytical look at the episode and his work in it, and Willems follows suit and imparts some interesting information on the dub recording process.

English Voice Actor Interviews And Recording Sessions: This is a ten minute three-way interview with Chris Britton, Vincent Tong, and Trevor Devall, who voice the police trio of Soichiro, Matsuda and Aizawa respectively. Because the featurette covers three cast members this time round, they only have the screen time to discuss their characters rather than their career history and approach to voice work. We don’t really get much information from this featurette that isn’t easily inferred from watching the show, but at least each actor seems genuinely enthusiastic about the show and their characters.

The final extra feature on the first disc is a Production Art Gallery.


Disc 02

Audio Commentary for Episode 23: This time Karl Willems is paired with Andrew Kavadas, who voices Higuchi. It’s a rather uninteresting commentary that is full of the inane banter that made the commentaries on the previous volumes such a chore. Karl Willems is particularly bad here, and doesn’t even know basic facts about the Misa Amane character, repeatedly making comments about her being underage, and even stating she is younger than Light and estimates her age at 15. Misa is actually older than Light and 19 years old at this stage in the series - and he’s only the guy who oversaw every aspect of the English dub!

English Voice Actor Interviews And Recording Sessions: The voices of Rem and Higuchi: Coleen Wheeler and Andrew Kavadas are both interviewed in the same featurette, and while Wheeler tends to talk about her working method in the show, Kavadas talks more generally about the character of Higuchi and his role within the series. The most interesting aspect of this featurette is when Wheeler mentions how she and Karl Willems listened to Kimiko Saito’s voice work as Rem on the original Japanese track, and then sought to emulate that performance for the English dub; they even show a side by side comparison.

Aside from another Production Gallery, the only other extras on this disc are trailers for: Buso Renkin, Naruto: The Movie, Mar, and Bleach.

Overall

Death Note takes a little hiatus from the intense mental fencing between Light and L in Volume 3, with Light having lost all his memories of being Kira and now working side-by-side with L in tracking down a new, even more evil and self involved Kira murderer. It’s a welcome change of pace that is scripted with the usual meticulousness by Tsugumi Ohba, and directed with real verve by Tetsuro Araki. As far as the DVDs are concerned, there are no surprises here: good A/V and a handful of moderately engaging extra features.

Film
8 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
7 out of 10
Extras
5 out of 10
Overall

8

out of 10

Last updated: 28/04/2018 08:09:42

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