Sunday, May 03, 2009

DVD Review: Death Note - Volume 2 Box Set

The anime version of the popular Death Note manga concludes in the Death Note Volume 2 Box Set. The series comes to an end but not before a flurry of new characters, twists, and shocking character deaths.

[Note: If you are not familiar with Death Note, you should probably check out the review of the Volume 1 Box Set first to learn about the characters and premise.]

When we last left the characters of Death Note, Light had relinquished ownership of his notebook in order to lose all his memories of it. He did this in order to gain L's trust and eliminate suspicion that he was Kira. He even arranged it so that another person, an exec at a large corporation, could continue killing as Kira in his absence. The episodes on the Death Note Volume 2 Box Set begin with L and Light working together to find the current Kira.

The current Kira is caught in dramatic fashion but when Light touches the man's notebook, all his memories involving the notebook return (as well as his evil personality). Light kills the current Kira and resumes his plans to stop L from within his organization. L and the task force also learn of the existence of shinigami, the gods of death that normally use Death Notes.

Much happens over the course of the episodes on this set. Light triumphs against one foe only to gain a brand new one just as suspicion of him grows in the Japanese anti-Kira group. He grows colder and more sinister in his attempts to keep enemies off his trail and further his goals for a new world. He manipulates a shinigami's feelings to make it do his dirty work. He exploits the affections and admirations of two different women to get them to kill as Kira. He considers killing his own sister when her kidnapping threatens his plans. He even uses his own father to attempt to kill one of his enemies. The scene with Kira in the hospital with his father shows how evil Light has truly become.

These episodes also give us a look at how the world has reacted in the years since Light first used the Death Note. Tasteless TV producers make programs appealing directly to Kira and his fans. One man even claims to be Kira's official “spokesperson” and organizes a riot against the headquarters of the new group going after Kira. People's names make them vulnerable as criminals refuse to reveal their names and kids threaten bullies with the promise of putting their names on the Internet. Even whole countries aren't immune to Kira. The President of the United States receives a call from Kira and gives in to his demands.

There are many interesting themes and questions within Death Note. However, the simplest one is that absolute power corrupts absolutely. At the beginning of the series, Light is a brilliant young man with a bright future. By the end of the series, he is a shell of his former self. He has become a sociopath with a God complex who is hellbent on ruling a new world with only those he judges worthy. The contrast between the the young man he was and the man he has become are what make the final sequences of the series so haunting.

The five-disc Death Note Volume 2 Box Set is packaged in a handsome digipack with a slipcover that mirrors the Death Note Volume 1 Box Set. Inside, you will also again find representations of the instruction pages of the Death Note (the text is different this time around). The first four discs of the set contain the episodes. The fifth disc is a brand-new bonus disc exclusive to this set.

The excellent presentation from the last set is carried over to this one with little to complain about transfer-wise. The episodes are available with both Japanese and English audio with available English subtitles. Unfortunately, the ridiculously long sequence before the main menu remains on these discs. However, the sequence is also skippable like the previous set.

There are a nice amount of extras on this set. The first four discs each feature a behind-the-scenes featurette with voice actors for the English dub of the show, audio commentary on one episode each with people involved with the English dub, and production art. The first disc also has the clean version of the show's second opening and ending.

The extras on the fifth bonus disc revolve around the original Japanese version of the show. There is a behind-the-scenes featurette with the Japanese voice actors along with an interview with the the show's animation director and character designer. There are also conversations with the Japanese cast and crew as well as the original Japanese interstitials and a larger gallery of artwork.

If you enjoyed the first Death Note anime box set, then you will likely enjoy this one too. These episodes leave you at the edge of your seat until the very end. Although things get a little confusing at times, the journey to the show's conclusion is often exciting. While this is the end of the anime series, there is plenty more Death Note out there including three Japanese live-action films, a companion novel, the original manga series, and a Hollywood remake potentially on the horizon. This is likely not the last time you'll ever hear of Death Note.

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