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Manga Review: "Death Note" Vol. 1

Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

Death Note Manga volume 1 cover.

Death Note Manga volume 1 cover.

Quick Info

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Publisher: Viz Media
Published: October 10th, 2005
Page Count: 200 pages
Releases: Single volume edition, 2-in-1 Death Note Black edition, and a giant all-in-one edition
Availability: in print, buy on digital on or physical at,, read on the Shonen Jump app

Story Summary

Light Yagami is a promising high school student. Problem is; he’s bored. He discovers a mysterious notebook, called a Death Note on the ground. He initially thinks it’s a prank, but he discovers that the power of the Death Note is very real. He then sets out to create a utopia that he will rule over as God of the new world. Criminals start dying and it’s up to the mysterious L to discover who the killer, known by his internet moniker as “Kira” and bring him to justice.

The Premise is Interesting

The premise of Death Note is interesting, and I do enjoy the cat and mouse aspect of the story. The supernatural aspect of the story with Death Notes and Shinigami is what makes the story a different type of detective story and it’s more of an occult detective story with the twist that none of the detectives have supernatural powers.

Death Note is an interesting story in the mystery genre because most occult detective stories have the main lead as both a heroic protagonist and the one who possesses a supernatural ability.

The manga takes the premise and flips it; giving the villain the supernatural ability and having normal detectives try to catch him. I like the set up being reverse and following the villain rather than the hero.

L taunts Light Yagami, challenging him to kill him.

L taunts Light Yagami, challenging him to kill him.

The Artwork is Nice, Sometimes it does look Silly

Takeshi Obata’s artwork is good. The characters have a nice design and they look good. But I did notice that some facial expressions don’t match the dialogue that they’re saying. Sometimes it comes off as unintentionally silly rather than serious.

The artwork does look very nice and I like the unique character designs for Ryuk, the Shinigami, or death god. The character designs for the human characters also look unique and memorable since the manga has to make the character designs unique because it’s black and white and not colored pages like graphic novels.

It does look nice overall and I do like the artwork. It is nice to look at, with creepy and eerie imagery for the Shinigami realm and nice designs for the human world in Japan.

The artwork is one of the things that make Death Note stand out among manga and Madhouse did a great job adapting the anime until they changed the ending so it is worth reading the manga to see the real ending to Death Note.

The Characters Lack Depth

The characters are unfortunately very one dimensional and don’t have a lot of depth. This manga tries to appear deep because of Light Yagami’s complex plans. It’s not deep at all, it’s just complicated.

The characters themselves are very one dimensional and easily definite by a single personality trait. The characters themselves don’t have any depth outside of their one personality trait.

The cat-and-mouse game is entertaining, but there isn’t any depth to what’s going on at all.

Light is Extremely Unlikable as a Villain Protagonist

I like the story, but the main character, villain protagonist Light Yagami annoys me because even though he’s the villain, he doesn’t have any qualities that I can sympathize with. And he doesn’t have a lot of character depth either.

What makes him cool is how smart he is, but unlike Lelouch Vi Britannia, a villain protagonist that I do like, he as no sympathetic traits and only care about himself as you’ll see if you read the manga.

People like him as a character because he’s the Rule of Cool trope. He has charisma and that’s why people like his character. I’m not one of these people.

I think that he’s an unsympathetic villain protagonist and that he’s annoying. L is far more of an interesting character than Light Yagami. I love the ending of the manga because it’s very cathartic, but I won’t spoil it for you.

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Ryuk and Light discussing the Death Note.

Ryuk and Light discussing the Death Note.

The Pacing is Slow

Death note has very slow pacing and sometimes I feel it drags when it should be engaging my attention. While it is fun when the exciting stuff happens, the manga tends to bog itself down in too much exposition and explaining plans or the rules of the Death Note.

Sometimes I feel the manga is over-explaining everything when it doesn’t have to.

Parental Warning

As a note to parents, this manga is rated T+, for ages 16 and up because of violence, language and themes. Younger readers are gullible and tend to end up thinking this is real. I’m not kidding; there have been incidents in schools where a student brought A “Death Note” to school with names of teachers and students in it. If you’re a parent, you should probably read this before deciding if your younger teen is mature enough to handle it.

It is not for teens under the age of 16 and it’s on the back cover to look at the ratings.

It’s a Well Done Manga but I don’t like It

Death Note is a very well done manga, in both the writing and artwork. And I don’t like it, I’m not saying that I think it’s “bad”, I just don’t like Light Yagami as a character and I never have, and I watched the Death Note (2006) anime first.

It’s very entertaining to read, but I am not invested in Light Yagami as a character. I don’t like him and I side with L, who is far more interesting.

This manga isn’t deep at all but runs on a cool concept and an interesting cat-and-mouse game to keep you invested in the story.

I don’t like this story but that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad, it just has characters I don’t like.

Reader Poll

Light and L declare war on each other.

Light and L declare war on each other.

Quick Summary

What Works:What Doesn't Work:

Interesting story and world-building

The pacing is slow and it can feel like not a lot is happening

Great artwork

Characters don't have depth

The premise is unique

Characters can be unlikable

Too mux exposition dialiogue to keep up with

My Rating: B+

I recommend it if you enjoyed the anime or if you like mystery manga and mind games. It is worth your time if you enjoy mysteries with a supernatural twist.

It has an interesting story and the characters are fun, but some of them are unlikeable and have no depth outside of a one-dimensional personality trait.

The artwork is really nice and the story is intriguing. It’s not one that I like but I don’t think it’s bad, I just don’t like Light Yagami as a character.

I would recommend checking it out from the library before deciding if you want to buy it or not. If you can subscribe to the Shonen Jump manga app you can read all the main Death Note chapters on their website or the app. I borrowed Death Note from my local library but I subscribed to the Shonen Jump manga app to read it, mainly because my library system didn’t have the last volume for me to borrow.

Death Note is available in both physical and digital releases. The best one for the money is the giant all-in-one volume but you can’t carry it anywhere because it’s so big, but digital volumes are cheap and inexpensive, but you have no guarantee you’ll keep them unless you back them up on a separate hard drive.

The Shonen Jump app is the most convenient for me because I have access to Death Note and Shonen Jump’s entire manga library and I can read it whenever I want. I like it because it’s only 1.99 a month and I have access to this series and many others that I will be reviewing very soon.

It's worth your time to read it, but it’s up to you when it comes to how you want to read it or buy it. Reading it once is enough for me, I don’t really like the series enough to buy it, but if you like it, then you should buy a copy in whatever format is most convenient for you.

My Rating

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