Viz Media // 2007 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge William Lee (Retired) // June 25th, 2008
"You may lend the Death Note to another person while maintaining its
ownership. Subletting it to yet another person is possible too."
-- From Death Note: How to use it
Death Note: Volume 5 continues the story, based on the manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, of a supernatural notebook that kills anyone whose name is written on its pages. Assuming the identity of a killer named "Kira," College student Light Yagami used the Death Note to dole out justice against criminals. The world's greatest detective, known as "L," began investigating the case with the help of a task force led by Light's father. When a copycat Kira came on the scene, L (suspicious of Light but lacking proof) recruited the seemingly too-perfect student to pose as the original Kira in order to draw out the copycat. The second Kira turned out to be Misa Amane, a teen pop celebrity, with her own Death Note and a special ability that Light hoped to use to help him get rid of L. When Light and Misa were arrested and subjected to L's intense interrogation, both killers relinquished ownership of their Death Notes to erase their memory of the crimes. Soichiro Yagami also volunteered to be jailed because he could not trust himself to act professionally while his son was under suspicion of being Kira.
Volume 5 contains the next four chapters of the story, each episode
approximately 23 minutes in length.
* Episode 17: Execution
* Episode 18: Ally
* Episode 19: Matsuda
* Episode 20: Makeshift
The four episodes on this volume take a half step away from the supernatural elements to focus more on the police officers of the Kira task force. As a result, these supporting characters get their moment in the spotlight and the show's consistently strong writing gives them plenty to do. The plot developments in these episodes also reinforce the importance of the police investigation and the specter of Kira still looming over the mortal world -- making this aspect of the story seem less like an inconsequential subplot. Death Note has been filled with ingenuous plot twists and the newest complication is that Light is now (consciously, at least) innocent of the killings.
Soichiro, the chief of the police task force, is put through an emotional wringer in the first episode. In a desperate bid to test his son's innocence, he accepts the task of driving Light and Misa to their execution. The pair is eventually released but remains under suspicion. L's unorthodox style of investigation causes friction within the task force, prompting members to reexamine their dedication to the case. Light and L, tethered to each other, have it out in a fistfight. Matsuda, one of the cops, takes the initiative to show his worth to the team but it proves to be a reckless, dangerous move. Light discovers a connection between the recent Kira murders and a corporation called the Yotsuba Group. And two new members, Aiber and Wedy, join the task force.
After getting hooked on the series with the previous volume, I was eager to see where the story would lead to next, and Volume 5 does not disappoint. As the focus eases on the battle of wits between Light and L, the police investigation is given more attention, effectively bringing it back from the realm of a background subplot. There are good moments of dramatic tension, such as Soichiro's turmoil over his personal and professional loyalties. The episode centered on Matsuda also provides a nice mix of action and comedy. It was nice to see this sidekick character used for more than simply disposable comic relief; and even Misa gets a chance to show her resourcefulness.
This set of episodes gives a lot of screen time to characters that have been in the background for too long but there is a trade off. There is no mention of how Light's mother and sister are affected by his 50 days of confinement. Was there a cover story to explain his (and his father's) long absence, or is it public knowledge that he and Misa are prime suspects? The Shinigami death gods also seem to have taken a vacation. Rem (Misa's Shinigami when she possessed a Death Note) only has one brief scene in this volume so it seems odd to feature her on the cover for this DVD. Perhaps we are seeing less of the Shinigami because Light and Misa have presumably forfeited ownership of the notebooks? I can't believe Light would have given up that power so easily. He must have some trick up his sleeve and I was waiting anxiously for a hint of that all through these episodes.
At the middle of every episode is a pair of "eyecatches" -- graphics that bring you into/out from commercial breaks -- that spell out additional rules on how to use the Death Note. As the viewers learn more and more rules, it is unclear whether the characters of the story know these rules too. It does seem that the progression of our knowledge of these rules has little consequence to the story. On this volume, the new rules concern the borrowing/lending of the notebook. Either this is a hint to Light's plan to regain the Death Note or it means nothing at all.
As with previous volumes, the technical specs on this DVD from Viz Media are satisfying, if not stellar. The image is clean and slightly muted colors work well with the quiet, dark mood of this series. The dialogue dominates the soundtrack but the atmospheric music is a good complement for the varying emotional tones in each episode. A Japanese heavy metal song is used for the new opening and closing animation sequences seen on Episode 20.
On this disc's supplements, the fifth installment of behind-the-scenes recording sessions and interviews is appropriately devoted to the members of the police task force. We hear from the English-language actors who voice Soichiro (Chris Britton), Matsuda (Vincent Tong), and Aizawa (Trevor Devall). Britton also joins voice director Karl Willems for an audio commentary track that accompanies Episode 17. As with previous volumes, there is a gallery of production artwork. The trailer for a live-action Death Note movie is also included. It is interesting to get a look at these characters brought to life as real people (and Ryuk as a CGI creation) but it is a fleetingly short glimpse.
Death Note: Volume 5 is further proof of how strong this series is. With L still suspicious of Light's involvement in the Kira murders, the story forges ahead with new and unexpected developments. The addition of the Yotsuba Group as adversaries gives more importance to the police investigation and that is a nice touch. The only drawback to the disc is that there are only four episodes. Suspense builds with every episode and it's an unavoidable frustration that the show ends just when it seems poised to go into new territory.
Review content copyright © 2008 William Lee; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Viz Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Scenes: English Voice Actor Interviews and Recording Sessions
* Production Art
* Audio Commentary
* Death Note Movie Trailer
* Official Site
* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 1
* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 3
* DVD Verdict Review - Volume 4