Death Note (デスノート, Desu Nōto?) is a manga series created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and manga artist Takeshi Obata. The main character is Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook, the "Death Note", dropped on Earth by a death god named Ryuk. It centers around Light's attempt to create and rule a world cleansed of evil using the notebook and the efforts of a detective known as L, and subsequently his successors, Near and Mello, to stop him. The Death Note grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name they know, by writing the name in the notebook while picturing their face.
Death Note was first serialized in 108 chapters by Shueisha in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The series was also published in tankōbon format in Japan starting in May 2004 and ending in October 2006 with a total of twelve volumes. The series was adapted into live-action films released in Japan on June 17, 2006, on November 3, 2006, and on February 2, 2008. The anime series aired in Japan from October 3, 2006, to June 26, 2007. Composed of 37 episodes, the anime was developed by Madhouse and directed by Tetsuro Araki. A light novel based on the series, written by Nisio Isin, was released in Japan. Additionally, various video games have been published by Konami for Nintendo DS.
Viz Media licensed the Death Note manga in North America and has published all the twelve volumes from the series as well as the light novel. The episodes from the anime first appeared in North America as downloadable by IGN. Viz later licensed the anime series and it aired on Bionix. The live-actions briefly played in certain North American theaters since 2008. However, none of the video games titles have thus far been published in North America.
Several publications for manga, anime and other media have added praise and criticism on the Death Note series. The plot and violence from the story have been praised, noting it to be very interesting. However, the series was banned in China due to various problems people had with children altering their notebooks to resemble a Death Note.
On April 30, 2010, Variety magazine announced that Warner Bros. acquired the rights for the Death Note manga to be adapted into a live-action movie in the United States. Warner Bros. has hired screenwriters Charley and Vlas Parlapanides to adapt the manga into a screenplay. Unlike the Japanese Death Note live-action movie trilogy, the US-version will be directly adapted from the material in the manga and will not follow the storyline of the Japanese movie adaptations. As of May 10, 2010, IMDb has listed the movie under pre-production with a tentative release date in 2011.
Light Yagami is an intelligent young man who resents what appears to be a relentless increase of crime and corruption in the world around him. His life undergoes a drastic change when he discovers a mysterious notebook, known as the "Death Note", lying on the ground. The Death Note's instructions claim that if a human's name is written within it, that person shall die, as well as various other rules. Light is initially skeptical of the notebook's authenticity, but after experimenting with it using criminals, he realizes that the Death Note is real. After meeting with the previous owner of the Death Note, a shinigami named Ryuk, Light plans to become a god and establish a new world order by passing his keen judgment on those he deems evil and anyone who gets in his way.
Soon, the number of inexplicable deaths of reported criminals catches the attention of International Police Organization and a mysterious detective known only as "L". L quickly learns that the serial killer, dubbed by the public as "Kira" (キラ?, derived from the typical Japanese pronunciation of the English word "killer"), is located in Japan. He also concludes that Kira can kill people without laying a finger on them, after he uses a convicted criminal named Lind L. Taylor whose capture was kept secret, and who was condemned to die at that hour, pretending he is L so Light kills him. Light realizes that L will be his greatest nemesis, and a nuanced game of psychological cat and mouse between the two begins.
L realises Kira is getting information from inside the task force and sends 12 FBI agents to follow people connected to the Japanese police. Light tricks Raye Penber, his tail, into showing his ID, after which he kills all the FBI agents. Naomi Misora, Raye's fiancee, suspects Kira was one of the people he tailed, but Light finds out and makes her commit suicide using the Death Note.
Misa Amane, another Death Note owner, finds Light, after sending a video in which she claims to be Kira. She posseses Shinigami eyes which allow her to see a person's name and Lifespan, but cost half her remaining life. Obsessed with Kira after the death of her parents' murderer, she devotes herself to helping Light, but is captured by L. Light makes a plan involving renouncing ownership of both Death Notes and all of his memories of them, and turns himself in to L for surveillance, as Rem threatens to kill him if Misa is not freed. Together, Light and L investigate eight people from the company "Yotsuba" who are using a Death Note for their own profit. While arresting the third Kira Higuichi, Light recovers all his memories when he touches the Death Note. He remembers and continues his plan of compelling the former owner of Misa's Death Note, the shinigami Rem, into killing L and his aide Watari, which kills Rem as a Shinigami cannot purposely extend a human's life. Light then gets her Death Note.
After L's death, Light is given the position of the "new L" by the Japanese Task Force. Four years later, Near and Mello - two children who were raised to be successors to L in an orphanage founded by Watari - appear, with the goal of finding Kira. In the meantime, Kira has gained much public support, and has contacts. Mello, one of L's successors who has joined the Mafia, kidnaps the Director of the NPA, but after Kira kills him, he kidnaps Sayu Yagami, Light's little sister, as a bargaining chip to get the Death Note. The Japanese Task Force plans to go to Los Angeles to rescue Sayu but ends up losing the Notebook. The Task Force later attempts to retrieve it and succeeds in doing so. However, as a result of an explosion that Mello uses to cover his escape, Light's father Soichiro Yagami dies.
Near begins to suspect the second L of being Kira thus causing some members of the Japanese task force to also openly suspect him. Realizing the risk of being caught, Light has Misa give up ownership of her Death Note. He then finds his next successor, Teru Mikami, a strong, almost crazed Kira supporter, who kills Kira's last spokesman for their greed which helped Near escape from a crowd of Kira supporters. Mikami later recruits a new spokesman for Kira, Kiyomi Takada, a newscaster and one of Light's former college girlfriends. Teru Mikami and Kiyomi Takada continue killing criminals while Light is unable to do so himself. Kiyomi is later kidnapped by Mello and is forced to kill him with a hidden piece of the Death Note. Light kills Kiyomi to avoid her implicating him after she uses the note to kill Mello. Mikami, unaware of this action, writes her name in his notebook, exposing it to the members of the SPK. Near has it replaced with a fake notebook and, in a final confrontation with Light, is able to use it to prove that Light is Kira. Realizing that Light had lost, Ryuk writes down Light's name in his own notebook, killing him with a heart attack.
The Death Note manga series was first serialized in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump published by Shueisha in December 2003. The series has since ended in Japan with a total of 108 chapters. Later, the individual chapters were collected into twelve separate tankōbon. In April from 2005 Death Note was licensed for publication in North America by Viz Media, and the first English-language volume was released on October 10, 2005. In February 2008, a one-shot special was released. Set two years after the manga's epilogue, it sees the introduction of a new Kira and the reactions of the main characters in response to the copycat's appearance. Several Death Note yonkoma (four-panel comics) appeared in Akamaru Jump. The yonkoma were written to be humorous. The Akamaru Jump issues that printed the comics include 2004 Spring, 2004 Summer, 2005 Winter, and 2005 Spring. In addition Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005 included some Death Note yonkoma in a Jump Heroes Super 4-Panel Competition.
In addition, a guidebook for the manga was also released in October 13, 2006. It was named Death Note 13: How to Read and contained data relating to the series, including character profiles of almost every character that is named, creator interviews, behind the scenes info for the series and the pilot chapter that preceded Death Note. It also reprinted all of the yonkoma serialized in Akamaru Jump and the Weekly Shōnen Jump Gag Special 2005. Its first edition could be purchased with a Death Note themed diorama which includes five finger puppets inspired by Near's toys. The five finger puppets are Kira, L, Misa, Mello, and Near. In North America, 13: How to Read was released on February 19, 2008.