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Mar. 10th, 2008

branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)

You know, I quite liked the first half of the Death Note manga. And I might well have liked the second half if it hadn’t followed the first. My problem with DN is that it’s two stories in very different styles, and those styles don’t go very well together–certainly not in the order they fall.

The first half is a heroic story, in the proportions of its characters. Light and L are very akin. They have similar genius, similar motivation, similar disregard for merely mortal laws as long as they can serve their grand ideals. For the sake of that they will murder and torture, and that puts an edge and highlight on their cat-and-mouse game with each other. The story is about them, not really about the rest of the world; it’s an intimate story of grand abilities and grand flaws in high-powered contention.

And then we have the switch.

The second half is about the rest of the world. Near and Mellow are both mortal-sized; they don’t match Light the way L did. The story of the second half is a realistic moral tale rather than an heroic intellectual fantasy. The wages of sin catch up with Light, in the person of fallible and rather nasty fellow humans, who reflect the fallibility and nastiness of Light himself. It’s a fascinating story in its own right.

But, after the first half, it was a real emotional letdown to me.

Either story alone would have worked. If the story had skipped straight from L to Light’s death, in whatever form, that would have worked as a suitably ethical capstone to the epic part. If the story had left out the heroic opponent and gone straight from Light’s rise to the pursuit by humanly small opponents that would have built smoothly into a complex example of Realism. Both together, though, small coming after heroic, doesn’t work so well.

Which I rather regret, because I think I would really have appreciated the artistry of the second half if I hadn’t been pining for the highly-colored fantastic tone of the first.

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