But I just learnt that there is a pilot series for Death Note with a character who is not Light Yagami. If you have not known how wonderful death note is (or will be with the article in our upcoming publication), please read it, even if you will be repulsed at even being caught with a graphic novel. If you like intellectually stimulating psychological thrillers with a concrete plot and images for words, read it because it is one of those rare masterpieces that come once every twenty years and will perhaps influence many artists, perhaps even American artists, in the future.
Now back to the Pilot for death note – when I heard there was a pilot for the series yesterday night, I immediately went here and read it here. Exposition on the story would follow so if you have not read the pilot, please don’t read the rest of the post due to the spoilers it contains. Stop now at your own peril.
The pilot is set in an alternative reality, flirting with the notion of the influence of characters on death note – in other words, how would Death note impact people who are not like Light Yagami? Those who have read death note would be quite familiar with the notion of the corrupting powers of death note, of the idea that such a weapon is inherently ‘the worst mass weapon of death’ in history
To recap what we know already: Death note assumes human nature to be inherently evil and of the idea of fighting evil as being born of a common desire for justice (and thus natural to every human). Justice forms the crux of the series: should one achieveit through the legal system or bypassing it by being a man who is above the law? The influence of the Death Note on humans is corrupting and damaging. However, in the pilot, the author toys with the idea: what if a very good individual gets the death note? What if one can undo the deaths one has wrought upon with the note: would one want to?
In the pilot, Death note falls into the hands of a 13 year old boy named Taro who is bullied often with no recourse to justice. He encounters the notebook and has no idea what ‘death’ means (he has not reached that level in english yet) so he mistakes it to be a diary and writes that five boys bullied him and named their names. To his horror, all the boys dropped dead the next day due to heart attacks – he instinctively feels it must be due to him but he still does not fully comprehend what is going on. Here is another individual who is a foil to Light: He gets bullied while Light is seen as being dominating, he is average compared to Light’s genius and he feels genuine horror and remorse at the deaths. When Ryuk visits him, he is horrified at the presence of the shinigami for quite some time, again in contrast to Light’s cool reaction to Ryuk. He hears the rules unwillingly and when he learns that he can revive the five by erasing their names from the book, he does so immediately (to the shock of all people, the five are alive and back in school). He is shown to have be fairly intelligent when he gets the detectives to show their badges and later, get his friend out of the mess he created, talk to the detectives and convince them of the existence of death notes. He is in a sense a perfect foil for Light’s behavior later – he is intelligent yet not so much so he becomes bereft of emotions for other people’s death, he is similarily inspired by the idea of justice and punishment voicing similar reasons, he does not kill for personal gain (which Light also professes to do) yet he is also different in that he does not succumb to ambition or power due to the Death Note. The ending is ambiguous; he is shown with Ryuk reading a quiz about Death Note, laughing about whether he has it. There are some hints that he has not parted with the note book (even though he made his friends part with his) but its terribly unclear. I wish there was a strong ending so that the comparison with Light has gone on, but it is still a pretty clear and solid demonstration of the impact of Death Note on an individual and that its power can be resisted, yet it leaves us in doubt in the end, with Taro happily going about with his death note (is he using that to kill? or just having it? who knows?).
The Case from the Pilot remains unclear due to its ambiguous (may I say cynical ending). The themes in the pilot – of justice, of the danger of the book, of the cynical nature of human kind are all present later in the story arc as well as the way intelligence and ambition play into the story. The pilot is still worth a read in my opinion.