Case Number 13909: Small Claims Court


Viz Media // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // June 25th, 2008

The Charge

The first rule of owning a Death Note: Don't talk about owning a Death Note.

The Case

Based on the popular manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note: Volume 4 continues the tale of Light Yagami's possession of a supernatural notebook that grants him the power to kill anyone whose name is written on its pages. Since finding the Death Note (dropped by a bored Shinigami death god, called Ryuk) Light has taken it upon himself to make the world a better place by killing those criminals who have escaped punishment. His self-righteous campaign of murder has drawn the attention of a master detective, known only as L, who is determined to capture the mysterious killer they have nicknamed "Kira." To keep closer tabs on Light, L invited the talented college student to help with the investigation headed by Soichiro Yagami, Light's father. When a series of copycat killings occur, the task force concludes that a second Kira is on the loose.

Volume 4 contains the next four chapters of the story, each episode approximately 24 minutes in length.

* Episode 13: Confession
* Episode 14: Friend
* Episode 15: Wager
* Episode 16: Decision

The focus over the course of these episodes is with the second Kira who is intent on forming some sort of allegiance with Light. Following the clues left by the copycat Kira, Light goes to Aoyama to try and identify the killer. However, it is the second Kira who spots him first. Misa Amane, a teen pop celebrity, possesses her own Death Note and she also has an extra ability given to her by her own Shinigami. When Misa shows up at Light's house demanding to be his girlfriend, Light reluctantly agrees if she will help him get rid of L. With suspicion mounting that he is the real Kira, Light needs to discover L's true name so it can be written in the notebook. Misa's ability to see with Shinigami Eyes might be the trick he needs.

I have been hearing about Death Note for a while now. Fans of Japanese comics have been praising it, two live-action movies have been made already and earlier installments of this anime series have received good reviews. I was curious but still hesitant, after all Dragon Ball Z has its share of rabid fans too. So it was with this disc that I watched my first episodes of the series. Some cursory Internet research was necessary to get acquainted with the backstory and Viz Media's website has a helpful episode guide for the volumes already released. However, it wasn't until near the end of my first episode that I started to feel comfortable with the characters and terminology of this world. There is simply a lot going on in this series and plot developments keep coming, the script is heavy with dialogue and it is a bit of an effort to keep up with it all. Yet I watched all four episodes in one sitting and I was craving more.

The quiet, eerie atmosphere makes an impression right away and this mood is just right for the cat and mouse tension that runs throughout the story arc. Light and L are engaged in a battle of wits as they circle one another waiting to spot a mistake that can be exploited. Though the evidence points to Light, L still isn't certain that he has the right suspect. He wants concrete proof of Light's involvement in the Kira murders and he even goes so far as to implicitly dare Light to kill him. Light believes in the justness of his murder spree but the threat of being caught by L and the task force has put a temporary stop to his activities. He wants to eliminate L but his death can't be linked back to him, as the thought of being labeled a criminal himself is so loathsome to Light.

Misa's bubble gum personality adds a lighter element to events. But just when you thought you were seeing a kinder side of Light when he agrees to their pretend relationship, no sooner has Misa agreed to help him than Light begins plotting how to kill her. He is really a morally messed up guy and I am still undecided as to what degree I sympathize with him.

This is a moodier, quieter example of anime and that's reflected in the stereo soundtrack, which doesn't feature much in the way of special audio effects. The music sets the right tone and the dialogue dominates the audio. The English adaptation does a good job of emulating the original Japanese track and either option works well thanks to good voice work. The picture shows no defects aside from a slight softness in the image that seems to be a deliberate effect.

The main supplement is an interview with voice actor Shannon Chan-Kent who performs the English language version of Misa. Particularly interesting is when she talks about how she was directed to match the vocal style of the Japanese actress who originally voice Misa, which was different from her first interpretation of the character. We also see Chan-Kent during recording sessions. An audio commentary featuring Chan-Kent and associate producer Jiro Okada is available for one episode on this disc. It is a casual play-by-play commentary that provides no insight into the series but is somewhat amusing for their off-the-cuff reactions to some scenes. There is also a set of production artwork stills to round out the extras.

It's never easy to join a complex television series in the middle of the story but it's not impossible. A little research into the Death Note story thus far is needed as a minimum and I'd say definitely worth the effort. Better yet, start at the beginning and you'll really appreciate the complexity of this story. For fans of the series, Death Note: Volume 4 continues the tale that has already got its hooks in you. There actually isn't a lot of action across these four episodes but the mind games between Light and L provide enough suspense to keep viewers fully engaged.

If this disc were a drug dealer, it would undoubtedly be guilty because after watching it, I want more.

Review content copyright © 2008 William Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile
Studio: Viz Media
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)

* English

Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Audio Commentary
* Behind the Scenes: English Voice Actor Interviews and Recording Sessions
* Production Art

* IMDb

* Official Site

* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 1

* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 3

* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 5