Book #51: Death Note 1: Boredom (2004)

978408873621_jaaka: Death Note 1: Taikutsu (デスノート1 退屈)
written by: Tsugumi Ohba
illustrated by: Takeshi Obata
language: Japanese with bits of English
length: 194 pages
finished on: 18 Feb 2014

Back in 2010 I watched/got addicted to the anime version of Death Note, the story of a teenager, Light, who gains the power to kill anyone by writing their name in a notebook. He uses it to kill criminals whose details are publically available. After an investigation is launched against him, it turns into a mindgame played between him and the mysterious L, a consultant to the police. I had already noted that the manga is not a long one – if I compare it with other famous mangas like One Piece or Naruto, those run up to about 50 volumes, but Death Note maxes out at 9.

I picked up the first one when I came out of an onsen in January where they had a big manga library, and was surprised at how much I could read (since it’s mostly in Japanese apart from the “How to Use” sections which are written in English with a Japanese translation). So I decided to order it from Amazon – luckily, you can get copies for ¥1, so I was only paying the ¥240 delivery fee.

I was slow to read through it all, and it turns out that actually, there are a lot of hard words, especially in the sections where the police talk to each other (although having seen the anime, I should perhaps have been able to predict that). The pace of the manga itself is also very slow. By the end of the manga, although shots have been fired between L and Light, they haven’t met yet, and most of the story is told through discussion between either Light and his demon companion Ryuk, or between L and the police. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what’s happening, as we establish what Light is doing all the time with the Death Note in the first chapter, and thereafter just assume that it keeps on going – it’s not really depicted again so much, so sometimes it’s easy to forget why the police investigation is happening.

My Japanese is not all that great yet, so although the book helpfully includes “furigana” (phonetic guides) on all the kanji, it’s often not enough, and I had to constantly check the dictionary in between reading. That’s tiring, though, so I often just skipped the word. So there are plenty of cases where I probably missed out on an important plot point as a result. I guess I don’t really care that much, though. Perhaps in another two or three years if I keep studying Japanese I’ll be able to understand even more.

I’m kind of interested in reading the next one, but my next foray into attempting to read Japanese will probably be One Piece, since I’m curious about why it’s so popular. Also, the slow pace and hard vocabulary have put me off a little. The other option, of course, is to read it in English. Perhaps I should try that instead.

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