What it’s about: One day, a hyperintelligent but bored teenager finds a notebook with a set of instructions attached: write someone’s name in the book while thinking of their face, and they will die. He immediately sets about trying to use this new power to “purify” the world of all criminals and set up a new social order with himself at the head. In the process, he ends up pitting his wits against an equally brilliant detective trying to put a stop to the ongoing murders.
Why you should watch it: Death Note is a cornerstone of modern anime; it’s one of the few shows almost universally regarded as a decent entry-point into the medium. The story is gripping, fast-paced, and full of twists and turns. Light Yagami is one of the most expert renderings of a descent into sociopathy that I’ve seen in modern fiction, and his conflict with L is endlessly fascinating. The show is the closest anime has come to “Breaking Bad”.
Caveats: The first thing people talk about when it comes to Death Note is the endless “PLOT TWIST”s – a certain level of suspension of disbelief is required with regards to some of what goes on. The second thing everybody will talk about is that the latter half is noticeably weaker than the early material. It’s true that there’s a sudden lurch in the pacing after a particularly critical event, and plot holes begin to build up in the race to the finish-line. But if you’re willing to roll with it, Death Note remains solidly entertaining from start to end.