Friday, June 27, 2008

Death Note

This is a popular little bit of manga, and I can see why, now that I'm reading it. I like the way it keeps throwing up practical and ethical dilemmas for our protagonist (I won't say "hero") to sort out (though I won't say he does a lot of ethical "sorting"). I like the way it's carried by story--one thing happens after another, promptly--but character and suspense are built within the action.

Unlike all the fans, I'm not someone who deals well with continually ongoing stories, that roll out forever with no hope of resolution in sight. I think I'd love to follow the same characters, but knowing that they're going to be wrestling with the same dilemma for the rest of the foreseeable future is annoying. This is true especially because it rather stunts characters' ability to change; the whole idea of storytelling is that your protagonist changes or grows or learns something over the course of his/her adventures--and I'm not talking about a new rule about their Notebook of Doom. I suspect that Light's never going to realize, over the course of this series, where his morality is off, because that would be the end of the story. So this is a mark against this kind of book for me.

Interestingly, though, I'm told it's not a mark against it for teenagers. Rather, the consistency, the ability to rely on the story to keep on coming, is a part of the draw. I can see that--first, the insatiable appetite, and second, the reassurance that this thing you love will be there for you tomorrow--these are heady things. I've read my share of series of books. Now, though, I'm more of a fan of excellent writers who write different books. Maybe I'm just afraid of commitment.

But the moral struggle of Death Note is really the most interesting part. This week's topic is boundaries and positive values, and the story couldn't be more on point. I'm curious if a teenager is going to react the same way I am--to see Light quickly turning from misguided hero (kill all bad guys!) to uh-oh antihero (kill all cops who try to stop me!), and to hope that he gets stopped somehow. I'm hoping it'll be a blow-out, and that something more impressive happens than the police catching him, but I don't want him to win, because he's wrong. I wonder if a teenager would come to that conclusion as quickly as I did.

1 comment:

Linda Braun said...

I think teens do see the same things we do in terms of how Light goes from hero to villain. And, I think that hero to villain movement is something that teens face in themselves on a regular basis. They think about if they take a certain action will that be a positive action - a heroic action - or will it be a villainous action. They know the difference.

Reading the post I thought about The Wire, again. When you wrote about wanting Light to get caught I actually thought about how in The Wire even the really bad people end up causing one to be sympathetic to them in some way. For example, the horrible drug dealers who get gunned down. Their death's, while understandable, are actually not without sorrow to see them go. Does that make sense?