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Death Note

In: English and Literature

Submitted By pkmaximum
Words 2074
Pages 9
Travis Tameirao
Professor Marinelli
April 16, 2014
Monsters in Literature & Film

Research Paper Rhetorical Draft

Schopenhauer was the first to ignite the idea of the will to live; a basic principle he claims is the most fundamental aspect of life. This attribute is likely found in every living human on the planet. On the other hand, the will to power is much more in depth. The concept was brought forth by Nietzsche and appears many times throughout his works. The will to power can be described as follows: “when one is endowed with power, one finds pleasure in utilizing ones own power. Also, when someone has the will to power they will become in love with the very idea of using their power to dominate others even by ways of cruelty” (Nietzsche). In the graphic novel, Death Note, the deeds of the protagonist of the story, Light Yagami, represents the destruction of one’s rationality and devotion to the will to power principal. What starts as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to save the world for Light becomes a path built on the pleasure of his own dominations and rise to power.
The premise of Death Note is both simple and provocative: floating above the human world is the world of the shinigami, gods of death who cause human beings to die by writing their names in notebooks. Occasionally, either by accident or malice, a shinigami drops it’s notebook into the human world and an innocent person picks it up. In Death Note, brilliant and handsome young high school student Yagami Light picks up a notebook dropped by a shinigami, who has fortunately written the rules of the Death Note on the cover. The most important rule is the most simple—if you write down the name of a person whose face you know, that person will die of a heart attack within forty seconds (T. Ohba). Light later discovers many permutations—the most significant is that he can specify both the time and the manner of a person’s death. With very little hesitation, Light decides to try out the notebook, first on a criminal who has made the news by holding children hostage, and then on a bully who threatens a young woman. Through Light’s experiments, he realizes that the notebook is an instrument of righteousness that will allow him to rid the world of its rottenness by allowing him to execute criminals and evildoers around the globe. As a result of Light’s revelation, he then beings to start filling the notebook with numerous names. As light himself is acutely aware, this power has the potential to make him a godlike figure, dealing out justice to humanity, and giving him the opportunity to create what he believes will be a genuine utopia. This outcome is fine with him. The only problem is that the rest of the world, especially governments and police agencies, disagree with him. In particular, the Tokyo Metropolitan police force, which includes Light’s father as chief of police, decides that they must catch the perpetrator, Kira, at any cost. To accomplish this, they bring in a mysterious and brilliant detective known only as L. While also young, male, and brilliant, L is in other ways the antithesis of Light. L is an awkward, odd-looking loner who was brought up in an English autistic orphanage. L lives for the thrill of solving mysteries as much as Light lives for the joy of bringing his brand of righteousness to the world.
The first chapter/first episode of the series is exclusively about Light’s convictions. First, the shock at perhaps having actually taken a person’s life, and then the total horror when he’s tested it again and realized that he’s killed people and yes, it’s his fault. The anxiety he feels, that he’s capable of feeling, does inexcusably deny him from the title of sociopath. Light is so disturbed by his actions that he can’t eat, cannot sleep, loses ten pounds in the first week and looks as though he’s about to throw up. Finally, the resolution: doing this could make the world a better place. “Even if I sacrifice my mind and soul,” (Ohba and Obata) Light states “[T]he world is rotting. Someone has to do it” (Ohba and Obata). Light acts initially under the impression that a Shinigami is going to come take his soul as soon as he’s found, and when Ryuk arrives he is surprised that he is not going to be punished.
The cat-and-mouse duality that is present within Death Note builds psychological tension and moral complexity to the story. Some other characters in the story view Light with admiration; the level of crime reduction leads to the police force to acknowledge the work of Kira and positive benefit his judgment had across society. However, Kira’s efforts have been accomplished through frightening people into positive ethical behavior, leading to some uncomfortable moral questions concerning free will and how exactly human nature is viewed. In many ways, Light’s campaign has echoes of the ancient Chinese school of philosophy known as Legalism. As opposed to Confucius, the Legalists believed that humans were inherently evil and needed strong rules and regulations to keep their baser nature under control (Fu). In these terms, Light’s actions would be literally a godsend, and as a result, many people worshipped Kira.
Death Note has a lot to do with present-day Japan and with its current moral, social, and cultural dilemmas, such as the use of the death penalty, the fear of crime, the problem of bullying, and a pervasive sense of meaningless and alienation that seems to affect increasing numbers of contemporary Japanese. The narrative clearly draws on all these issues to create a densely textured work that revolves around such moral questions as societal safety and equilibrium versus free-will and potential chaos, the danger and allure of cult leaders, and the role of the media in creating these cults and fanning social fears and unrest (Saito, Pilot and Jiang). This is portrayed in Death Note, through the development of a television program called, Kira Hour, ostensibly to keep the citizenry informed on Kira’s latest doings but actually to use the killings as a means of amplifying their ratings.
Death Note is not solely a fantasy of male empowerment. There is another character who possesses the Death Note, Misa, an attractive young model who is, if anything, even more ruthless than Light. It is through her machinations that L is killed. However, Misa has her own weaknesses—she is completely in love with light and dependent on his ambiguous emotional support. In many ways, Misa embodies some of the threatening aspects of contemporary Japanese femininity; despite her conventional cuteness, she is, at best, amoral, scheming, and cold. Light, on the other hand, simply makes use of her for his intentions (Yoko Sugihara). “Historically Japan has upheld rigid traditional gender roles in its culture. Males were taught to be strong and tough and encouraged to have control and dominance over children and women. Japanese women, on the other hand, were taught to be reserved, subservient and obey their husbands in their marriages and act similarly to their male children in their old age” (Yoko Sugihara).
Light differs from other monsters because he believes in his own self-righteousness and considers himself to be a “God” of a new world; a world absent of criminal activity. In an effort to accomplish his goals, Light vows to kill anyone that stands in his way. When police and law enforcement begin investigating the spontaneous killings that take place, Light uses his intelligence and conniving abilities to kill off the whole FBI and threaten the Japanese police force enough to abandon the case. It is through Light’s deeds that his monstrosities become clear. He uses all of his attributes, good looks, popularity, father’s job status, love, etc. to manipulate others to do his bidding and then kills them when they are no longer of use to him. Light is so dedicated and elaborate when developing his tactics that he manages to kill a Shinigami. Light’s ideal world never has a chance to come to full fruition because of his death. “However, when Death Note came to a close, there was enormous controversy on Japanese Internet forums over Light’s philosophies and goals, with people saying ‘if he hadn’t died, would he have been able to create the perfect world?’ ‘Wasn’t he right after all?’ etc.” (Kazuhisa Fujie).
Light can be contrasted from other historical figures with similar profiles: Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, etc. Undisputedly, Light significantly reduced crime-rates across the globe through his distorted sense of justice and eventually won mass support, so he may have been right in some senses. However, the “criminals” that Light was executing through the use of the Death Note, were merely presented to him through case files in the police-database or by use of the media, where in fact those criminals have only been accused but not convicted. In this sense, it is highly probable that Light executed many innocent people who have been falsely accused or framed. Like, Hitler and Stalin, there were many just causes for their campaigns that allowed them to gain the massive support that they had, for example, the need to replenish Germany’s economy after World War I, that said, the means used to achieve those ends by Hitler were not justified by a large majority of others and therefore execution of the Nazi regime sparked World War II. In this sense, if there were another powerful Kira, Light would likely be judged as one of the criminals who should be punished. But, in the ideal world of Light’s Kira-philosophy, Light is beyond judgment or punishment. He can get away with anything while everyone else can get away with nothing. The repercussion of this is chaos; a safe, fair society needs judges even for those who judge (Kazuhisa Fujie).
From a Freudian perspective, Death Note, is a classic example of the omnipotence of thought, a power that seems particularly attractive to adolescents, a time of light dealing particular with issues of power and identity (Levine). Commonly, omnipotence of thought narratives revolves around telepathy or telekinesis, for example, Stephen King’s, Carrie or Otomo Katsuhiro’s, Akira. In these works, the adolescent heroes are given the wish-fulfilling power of being able to obtain vengeance on anyone who has abused them. In Death Nonte, not only can Light punish his enemies but also he can convince himself that he is justified for doing so. Light’s opponent, L, possesses a different kind of mental omnipotence, the alpha-intelligence that allows him to figure out Light’s actions and reactions. In a phenomenological sense, the notebook creates its own complex meaning. It is an immensely powerful object of desire, but, with its pages and content of detailed written names and death dates, it is also an object onto which identity is literally but lethally projected. Furthermore, in Death Note, false names are often used for purposes of safety and subterfuge; in other words, the power to name or recognize identity, becomes the power to kill. Thus, in an era where people increasingly use false or alternative identities in cyberspace, perhaps it makes sense that real names should take on nearly iconic properties. In its perverse way, therefore, Death Note, may be a call to protect our individuality in a world where the special character of individuals seems increasingly under threat. In Death Note, secret identities are all ultimately revealed, and it is the shinigami, Ryuk, who kills Kira.

Works Cited
Yoko Sugihara, Emiko Katsurada. "Masculinity and Femininity in Japanese Culture: A Pilot Study." Sex Roles 40.7-8 (1999): 635-646.
Death Note. By Toshiki Inoue. Dir. Tetsurō Araki. Madhouse. 2006-2007.
Fu, Zhengyuan. China's Legalists: The Earliest Totalatarians and Their Art of Ruling. M.E. Sharpe, n.d.
Kazuhisa Fujie, Daniel Komen. Death Note: Fatally Fun Facts. DH Publishing Inc, 2007.
Levine, Michael. Analytic Freud: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. Routledge, 2002.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Unabridged. Random House LLC, 2011.
Ohba, Sugumi and Takeshi Obata. Death Note. 13 vols. Shueisha, 2003-2006.
Ohba, Tsugumi. Death Note 13: How to Read. Paw Prints, 2008.
Saito, Toyoji, Rebecca Pilot and Shanhe Jiang. "Why Japanese Support the Death Penalty?" International Criminal Justice Review (2010).

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[ 1 ]. From the Japanese pronunciation of the English word killer…...

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...attempt to dictate my response. In these kinds of situations, children very clearly understand that history matters. * When you go into a doctor’s office for the first time, you invariably have to fill out an information sheet that asks about your medical history. Some of these forms are very detailed, asking questions that require information from rarely accessed memory banks. Why does a doctor ask these questions? The doctor is trying to construct an accurate picture of your state of health. Your health is heavily influenced by the past. Your heredity, past behaviors, past experiences are all important determinants and clues to your present condition. Whenever you return to the doctor, he or she pulls out a file which contains all the notes from past visits. This file is a history of your health. Doctors understand very clearly that the past matters. * Some of you might be thinking that these examples are not very compelling because they both deal with the very recent past—they are not what we think of when we think of history. Let me give one final example that is more to the point. In 1917 the Communists took control of Russia. They began to exercise control over how the history of their country ought to be told. They depicted the tsar as oppressive and cruel. The leaders of the revolution, on the other hand, were portrayed in a very positive light. The Communist government insisted that these leaders, and in particular Lenin, understood more clearly than any one......

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