REVIEW: ‘Death Note: Special One-Shot’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

death note

From the original creative team of writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata, Death Note makes a return with a Special One-Shot exclusively published online through Viz Media. Translated by Stephan Paul and lettered by James Gaubatz, this one-shot occurs 12 years after the initial events of  Death Note.

The familiar and still terrifying shinigami (death god) Ryuk makes his way back to Earth for nothing more than apples. His character design is unchanged as Obata pencils Ryuk as the gangly, towering death god in leather-clad. Something I noticed in particular, Ryuk’s forehead was shaded in a lot more in this Special One-Shot that rendered him as more menacing than I remembered. However, Ohba’s subtle humor placed in Ryuk’s thoughts tunes readers into how Ryuk hasn’t changed one bit, still a bored death god with nothing to do and an interest in how humans behave.

Obata’s script focuses on a protagonist who is a foil to Light Yagami. As opposed to rushing into using the death note, he asks Ryuk to come back in two years. Puzzled and irritated, Ryuk, a shinigami of his word, does exactly that. Readers soon discover that as opposed to using it after this two-year wait, our protagonist Minoru Tanaka puts the death note for sale online. This modernized take is a well-crafted idea that sets the narrative in focus. 

death note

The usage of social media sets up an interesting and new challenge for the FBI and the Japanese Police Department. Readers begin to see characters from the original  Death Note appear as the story unfolds. Obata draws every familiar character with ease. It feels nostalgic to witness an ungraded wardrobe to some of the detectives. I almost did not recognize Near as the current L. Obata gives Near longer hair than his previous boyish, unkempt bob. His characterization shines through the artwork. Near clues his detectives into his plan to capture Minoru, now named A-Kira, the panels show Near fidgeting with toys and sitting in strange positions. Obata did not need to explicitly state in his script that Near still retained his child-like behavior and adopted mannerisms from the previous L and instead, entrusted artist Obata to convey this. 

As the investigation heightens, Ryuk is thoroughly intrigued by the events that are unfolding. Everyone on social media is bidding on the death note and politics are beginning to play a role. It culminates into whole countries bidding on the death note. It is interesting to see Ohba critique the current stand of greed and power riddled throughout politics without directly discussing these points. This has always been a strength of Ohba as a writer and it is enthralling to see he has not lost his touch.  Even with a very on the nose inclusion of a controversial political head,  it never feels inauthentic or over the top.   

death note

Paul and Gaubatz together on translation and lettering made reading the Death Note: Special One-Shot a breeze. I felt like all of Ohba’s ideas were translated clearly and concisely. Ryuk’s dialogue was in square-shaped text boxes. Any human that spoke had standard oval-shaped speech bubbles. Obata’s clean and sharp artwork provided a nice backdrop for the lettering to rest against. Obata’s panels always featured detailed but spacious backgrounds for lettering.

Death Note: Special One-Shot proves that Death Note can adapt and utilize a modern setting to tell an intriguing and well-paced story. While I would have loved more of a high-stakes cat-and-mouse detective story like the original Death Note, it is refreshing that Ohba and Obata tell a unique story that didn’t replicate their original series. 

Death Note: Special One-Shot is available to read now for free on through Viz Media.

Death Note: Special One-Shot

TL;DR

Death Note: Special One-Shot proves that Death Note can adapt and utilize a modern setting to tell an intriguing and well-paced story. While I would have loved more of a high-stakes cat-and-mouse detective story like the original Death Note, it is refreshing that Ohba and Obata tell a unique story that didn’t replicate their original series.