As I mentioned before, I’m taking a graphic novel course. This week, I tackled my manga assignment and did a little extracurricular reading I am very excited to blog.
Deathnote by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata is a manga I’ve read a little about before. And boy, I wish rather than reading reviews and stories about its history of run ins with censors, I’d actually read the manga. Take that to mean I may or may not have gotten a donation of most of the run of the books to my library and I let them go. Deathnote, at least the first volume, was really quite good.
A shinigami drops a notebook — a death notebook — into the human world, where it is picked up by 17-year-old straight-A student Light Yagami. Inside the notebook, he learns that this notebook is actually a death notebook that allows him to write the names down of people he wants to die. If he does not specify a method of death within an allotted time, the person whose name is written will die by a heart attack. To ensure that anyone named, say, Sam doesn’t die, the person with the notebook must picture the intended victim to ensure accuracy.
When Light gets the notebook, he is confronted with the Shinigami who dropped it. A Shinigami is a death god (aka: the one who does the dirty business) and he informs Light that he is the only one who can see him. That is, the only person who knows who Light can off is the shinigami; however, were anyone else to touch the notebook, they would be able to see the shinigami and the gig would be over.
Being smart and thoughtful, Light decides to use the notebook for good and not evil — he will be eradicating evil-doers. And he wastes no time in doing so. But the Japanese FBI will soon be hot on his case; even the evil-doers of the world don’t deserve immediate death. It is all too suspicious when they are all dying suddenly of heart attacks.
Deathnote was a super quick paced manga that really felt like a story out of mythology. Much of manga is rooted in myth and legend, and I felt like Ohba really grasped onto that. I loved the illustrations, which moved perfectly at pace with the story line. The shinigam is delightfully horrific looking, and Light wields his power masterfully for what you’d expect of the top-performing student in the country. Although there is clearly some violence in the story line, I didn’t think it was outrageous, nor did I find the concept of being able to kill with the deathnote as offensive as others have made it sound. I know this title is really popular, and I can see why: it’s something we’ve all fantasized about — not necessarily the killing part, but the power to do whatever we wanted without consequences. What a trip. I’ve already picked up volume 2 to continue this one.
As promised, here’s your treat. This week, I was able to find the new Stephenie Meyer goody on my library’s shelves — the Twilight graphic novel. Although I haven’t read all of the series, I have read Twilight and seen the movie. I feel educated enough to judge its merits as a graphic novel.
Let me just say, Young Kim deserves all the credit on this one! Twilight translates surprisingly well to the graphic format, and it is entirely due to Kim’s abilities as an artist. The illustrations at times are photographic quality; more than once I had to really examine the art to see if it was a photo or not. Bella is well-depicted, and I think that it’s a more realistic rendering than what K. Stewart gives her in the film version. She’s imperfect and yet intriguing, and Edward is the same way. Both look their respective ages, rather than older as I think they look in the film.
I’ve read, though, some of the art may be photo-oped — as a newbie to the format, this really didn’t bother me. For die-hard graphic novels fans, this will probably be irritating. You can read a fan’s critique here, and many of the points they make are clearly the opposite of mine.
Kim uses color very carefully here, and when it is used, it is stunning. The story in graphic format moves smoothly, though I found the use of the dialog bubbles distracting at points and even a bit garbled. A bit more editing would have been useful to make those issues less noticeable. Likewise, there were a lot of fonts used throughout the graphic novel, making that a little more distracting.
For Twilight fans, this is a nice companion, though I think some graphic novel enthusiasts will find a lot to like here. The story is good, but the art is what stands out. This will be a series, and I found myself at the end of this one clamoring for the second. Maybe that makes me an underappreciater of good graphic novels, but I’m an equal-opportunity reader. Bring on New Moon.
(If you ask, yes, I liked Deathnote more, so don’t worry – I’m not even comparing them in the least!).