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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

The Unfortunate Fate of a Young Man Who Tried to Play God

[From April Issue 2015]


Death Note, Cover of issue 1.
Original story: OBA Tsugumi. Illustrated by: OBATA
Takeshi Published by Shueisha Ltd.

Death Note

This story portrays the fate of a young man who comes into possession of “Death Note,” a notebook that enables him to control death itself. The tale was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from December 2003 to May 2006. In Japan alone 30 million copies of the entire series have been printed, and it has also been translated into a number of different languages around the world. It’s hugely popular both at home and abroad.

One day YAGAMI Light picks up a black notebook with the words “DEATH NOTE” written on it. Instructions written on the back of the front cover state that simply by writing a person’s name in the book it’s possible to kill them. Some days after, the notebook’s owner, the death god Ryuk, appears before him. But Light is not astonished because having already used the notebook to indiscriminately kill criminals, he has come to believe that the notebook possesses a mysterious power.

There are various restrictions on using the Death Note. Most important being that the name and the face of the victim must match. Light kills a succession of brutal criminals, whose names and faces appear on the news. When this series of suspicious deaths occurs, it’s not long before a rumor begins to circulate that a righteous killer named “Kira” is going around executing bad guys. This has been Light’s intention all along.

By playing the part of Kira and executing criminals, Light carries out his plan to control people through fear and thereby create a world free of crime. “I will become the God of my new world,” Light declares to Ryuk. At the same time, at the request of Interpol, the mysterious master detective “L” begins looking into the case. By having information on brutal criminals released at different times in different countries, L measures the timing of executions. From this he determines that Kira is in the Kanto region of Japan.

Light schemes to completely wipe out all the FBI agents sent to investigate the case. Before long L himself comes to Japan. L joins a team heading up the investigation into Kira – a team that includes Light’s own father YAGAMI Soichiro. L eventually comes, on the basis of internal information leaks, into contact with Light and begins to suspect that Light is in fact Kira. Aware he is attracting suspicion, Light also approaches L and offers to help out with the investigation.

As the battle of wits between the two unfolds the investigation is thrown into chaos when AMANE Misa, a second person suspected of being Kira, arrives on the scene. By manipulating Misa, who adores Kira, Light successfully eliminates L before he’s able to prove that Light is Kira. L’s death, however, is never made public, and Light takes over as a second L, making it seem as if the investigation is still progressing. Behind the scenes, a new world is on its way to being realized.

A few years later, devotees, who worship Kira as a god, spread throughout the world, and the armies and police agencies of other countries can no longer oppose him. Just when Light is only one step away from dominating the world, two successors to L, Mello and Near, stand in his way. And the three are embroiled in one final showdown. The fate and ultimate demise of Light, who is obsessed with his mission to dispense justice, touches on the universal theme of the “perils of justice.”

Text: HATTA Emiko

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