Death Note Vol. 4
When the second Kira, Misa Amane, shows up at Light’s doorstep, she’s nothing like Light thought she’d be. Spunky, dreamy, and holding an unwavering loyalty to Kira—and an infatuation for Light—Misa is the last person Light would ever consider as a potential girlfriend. Try as he might, though, Light can’t overlook Misa’s shinigami eyes—a power that could give him the ultimate upper hand and lead to L’s demise…
Writer: Tsugumi Ohba
Illustrator: Takeshi Obata
English publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Shonen, psychological thriller, supernatural, detective fiction
Rating: T+ (older teens and adults)
Release date: March 7, 2006
Note: All manga illustrations come from fan-translated scans. The dialogue itself is not the same as official version and differs slightly.
Originally introduced in the Weekly Shonen Jump, the Death Note manga eventually went on to become a commercial success—amassing over 26 million dollars from manga sales alone. The financial victory of the manga drove the franchise to spawn an anime adaptation, a series of live-action films, and more.
Among anime viewers and manga readers, the image of the black, supernatural notebook has become a symbol synonymous with the psychological thrill-ride that is Death Note. In this series of reviews, let’s take a look under that blackened cover and see what lies beneath.
With a second Kira now threatening his arch-nemesis, L, Light Yagami’s luck has begun to take a turn for the better. After L accepts Light into his task force with the purpose of tracking down the copycat killer, both would-be-god and renowned detective find themselves getting close to each other in a race to uncover the others’ true identity.
Despite now having access to task force resources, Light finds that keeping L off his case is problematic, even more so when L opts to have him “act” as Kira in order to lure the second Kira out of hiding. With Kira #2 enacting their own agenda, Light knows he’ll have to move fast—track down the copycat and put an end to them—in order to keep his own identity a secret.
But when the second Kira, Misa Amane, shows up at Light’s doorstep, she’s nothing like Light thought she’d be. Spunky, dreamy, and holding an unwavering loyalty to Kira—and an infatuation for Light—Misa is the last person Light would ever consider as a potential girlfriend.
Try as he might, though, Light can’t overlook Misa’s shinigami eyes—a power that could give him the ultimate upper hand and lead to L’s demise…
This issue reveals a very different, very human, side of the shinigami. With the introduction of Misa, and her shinigami, Rem, we’re told about a special bond that exists between a human and a death god and how it can prove fatal.
Rem explains to Misa that there is only one way to kill a shinigami: to make them “fall in love with a human.” More interesting is that this love is seemingly platonic and defined by a willingness to die for the human. Should a shinigami do something to prevent the death of a human whom they love, the shinigami will die and their lifespan will be transferred to the human-being. A shinigami named Gelus did this for Misa in the past, saving her life at the expense of his own.
Unlike Ryuk’s relationship with Light, Rem is incredibly protective of Misa, and it’s clear that she loves her enough to die for her. When Light threatens Misa’s life, Rem wastes no time in returning the favor. At the same time, Rem desires Misa’s happiness above all else. When the girl expresses her need for Light’s love—misguided as it may be—Rem acknowledges this fact and does what she can to fulfill Misa’s dreams.
Light confronts Misa about killing “innocent police officers” as opposed to only criminals. Her response? “To defeat evil there must be sacrifices. That’s what you’ve done, right? I was only doing the same.” It’s a bit of a cruel irony—and a satisfying one, too—to see Light’s hypocrisy thrown back into his face. Sadly, it does nothing to deter his corrupted ways.
Despite his role as the detective hunting down Kira, it’s clear that L is conflicted because he genuinely likes Light as an individual. When Light reinstates that he isn’t Kira, L agrees with him, but then corrects himself, saying that it would be a problem if Light was Kira, “…Because Light-kun is my first-ever friend.” Light is slightly taken aback—perhaps even touched—by this statement, and seems to question himself when the opportunity to easily take L’s life arises.
The story revolves around the shimigami (or death gods) and their supernatural notebooks that have the power to kill humans by simply writing their names in the Death Notes.
The Death Note has the power to kill in a variety of ways. Any human whose true name is written in the notebook will die of a heart attack within forty seconds (providing the writer has a picture of that individual in their mind at the time). However, the writer can also detail the manner of death within the next six-minutes-and-forty-seconds, causing victims to die of accidents, suicides, diseases, and other nasty things. Those who have traded half their life-spans for the “shinigami eyes” are able to see people’s names and life-spans above their heads, enabling them to kill others more easily.
If a shinigami takes action to extend a human’s lifespan—a human that they love—then the shinigami will die and their remaining lifespan will be transferred to the human.
Misa mentions—without much detail—that she has a friend who is interested in the occult. Misa told her friend that she had created “fake ghost footage” to mail to the local TV station; in reality, these were her Kira tapes, and she lied to her friend in order to get the tapes sent untraceably through her.
A half-sane stalker corners a girl in a dark alleyway, professing his love to her. When she declines, he threatens to kill her and then himself. A shinigami interferes, causing the man to die of a heart attack.
Misa is just as cold in her killings as Light. Despite her expressed desire that she doesn’t want to “kill innocent people,” Misa does just that. It’s discussed that she killed several police officers (as seen in the last issue), and she even goes so far as to offer to kill her friend who sent the tapes to the TV station.
Misa explains to Light that her parents were killed before her eyes, and that the criminal was later punished by Kira; hence, her dedication.
Light determines to kill Misa once her usefulness to him runs out. When he threatens to end her life if she won’t do what he wants, Rem interferes and makes the same threat to Light himself. More threats fly when Light tells Misa he’s going to date other girls. “I’ll kill them,” warns Misa.
Light admits to L that he’s afraid he might really be Kira, but that he’s unconscious of it, perhaps even killing while he’s asleep at night.
While in interrogation, Misa asks Rem to kill her in order to avoid leaking information about Light. When Rem refuses, Misa tries to bite off her tongue in suicide.
Eight uses of d***, two uses of h***, and one use of ba*****. “Idiot” is used five times as an insult.
Misa dresses in a rather flirtatious manner. A panel shows a shot beneath her short dress, allowing us to see her panties. Light’s sister, Sayu, makes a comment about this to her mother.
When Light tells his mom that Misa is his girlfriend and that they don’t need dinner because they had room-service at a hotel, Sayu comments, “What’s this? Scandelous!” Truth or not, that’s certainly how it sounds.
Misa herself is disgustingly infatuated with Light, and, though Light clearly doesn’t return the feelings, Misa is quick to read into anything he says. When Light mentions going to his room (to talk), she quickly perks up, clearly thinking of other things. “It’s only seven o’clock!” she chimes. “The time of love is just starting. We can go out to eat and get things really rolling after that…”
Misa self-admits that she doesn’t mind if Light “uses her,” so long as he loves her. Light explains that he has to begin dating multiple girls in order to keep L from drawing the connection between himself and Misa. She’s not happy with the plan, but Light kisses her in order to pacify her feelings.
In order to excuse his imprisoned absence, Light tells his father to say that he’s begun living with his girlfriend.
Surrounded by a crowd of adoring fans, Misa exclaims, “Someone touched my butt!” L is clearly the culprit and plays the part well, but only to disguise the fact that he’s swiped her phone from her back pocket. It prompts another on-looker to ask, “Can I touch it too?”
Bound in a straightjacket, under 24-hour surveillance by L, Misa asks if she can use the bathroom (because it’s the only time they’ll untie her). When L refuses, saying that she just went a few minutes ago, Misa retorts with, “You get to see me pee again. Isn’t that what you want you pervert?” This leads L to question whether that’s true.
A sticker on Misa’s laptop reads “sexy dynamite.”
Other Negative Content
Light manipulates the feelings of Misa and Takada, while simultaneously posing as their boyfriend and using them to his advantage. He seems to have an inferior view of women, seeing them as easy to fool and control.
Elsewhere, L reveals a bit of his own grittiness when he captures Misa, putting her in a seemingly-torturous straightjacket and forcing her through intense interrogation. The method isn’t altogether clear, but it is clear that torture of some kind is underway. It’s mentioned that L’s restricted Misa from water for three days before she finally talks.
Volume four feels awkward at the onset—not so much because of the plot-complexity of a second Kira, but because the second Kira turns out to be a hyper-active girly-girl who just so happens to also be a famous model.
That, and she’s infatuated with Light… and wants Light to make her his girlfriend. And he more-or-less agrees to do so.
Of course, there’s something deeper and darker beneath Light’s suave surface as he smiles disarmingly and embraces Misa in a treacherous gesture of love. It’s this treachery that keeps this would-be romance from detracting from the overall plot and downplaying the mood of the genre. Going into this issue, I was at first skeptical about how the manga was going to get away with throwing such a stereotypical anime girl into the mix without detracting from the series’ overall broodiness. Initially, it feels like a bad soap opera just waiting to happen. Somehow, though, Death Note manages to get away red-handed by making Misa deceptively intelligent and giving her a proper motivation for her dedication to Kira.
As a character, Misa is somewhat baffling—stereotypical, even—but she still manages to initiate herself into the rest of the cast with ease. Yes, her overly-emotional attachment to Light is eye-rolling at times, but, under Light’s delicate guidance, Misa transforms into a prominent threat for L and the rest of the task force. In this regard, she merges well within the plot, and her backstory is certainly some interesting character-building material.
Once volume four assures its readers that Death Note isn’t about to become a full-blown love story, the plotting chugs forward steadily. Light’s struggles to hide his identity only mount as his close encounters with L, his initiation into the secret task force, and his “girlfriends” are added into his current troubles. New problems and conflicts keep the pacing feeling tight and fresh, and the dynamic between Light and L continues to expand. By the time L openly declares Light his “first ever friend,” their relationship has reached a dangerous new level that even Light begins to question.
Among the coolest new plot points is the deadly bond of a shinigami and the human it loves. If I know my story-telling gimmicks well (and I like to think I do) than this new info isn’t just for show. I think we’ll be seeing a reinstatement of this plot point in some future issue…
L reveals a bit of a dark side in this volume, which—at first—comes across as a bit of a shock. Putting Misa through some undetailed torture seems rather harsh, even if the evidence does almost exclusively point to her being the second Kira. I think it’s interesting, though, to contrast L with Light in this regard. In previous issues, we’ve seen Light loiter behind purposely, just so he can stare unflinchingly into the dying faces of his victims. While Light seems to enjoy the power he has over his conquered foes, L makes no such display while he has Misa confined. There’s a certain business-like frankness in his dealings with her, and he doesn’t particularly seem to enjoy the process, deeming it a necessary evil in order to catch the ultimate culprit. It’s an interesting development point for L that paints his otherwise white form with a tint of grey.
Technically speaking—yes—there continues to be some translation awkwardness. Some sentences feel too long—or too clunky—to be believable dialogue, despite the fact that they convey all the necessary information. There’s a rather glaring plot hole in the case of Misa’s friend who sent off the Kira tapes. Though L discovers this individual’s fingerprints on the tapes, and admits that they don’t match up to the rest of the evidence convicting Misa, no investigation is ever made concerning the owner of the prints. I found that a bit unbelievable, particularly given L’s knack for researching deeply into every possible small clue.
Be sure to withhold first-glance judgment when picking up Death Note Vol. 4. This volume may be called “Love,” but there’s hardly a trace of any real romance to be found. Instead, we’re treated to yet another dose—and another flavor—of Light’s manipulative abilities to gain and use trust. For Light, this is yet another relationship built on treachery. Between his smooth interactions with Misa and his slick dealings with L, Light manages to maneuver the suspense of the plot and keep readers guessing.
For the discerning, Christian reader, this volume of Death Note marks the beginning of some sexualized content, but, aside from one less-than-genuine kiss, it’s hardly anything more than talk much of the time. Now that L has begun using some harsher methods in his investigation, there’s also a good opportunity for discussion points—contrasting him to Light and questioning what makes his methods so similar or different to Light’s own.
Death Note Vol. 4 masters the art of suspense, keeping readers glued to the pages with almost constant threats. By the last chapter, a lot has changed, and Light has put himself in his most vulnerable position yet. It’s an unexpected twist—certainly—but it’s undoubtedly one that Light has methodical control of, too, making it a dangerous situation for L, indeed.
In Volume #5, we’ll take a look at an all-new face of Light, as well as the advent of a corporate threat that’s gotten its hands on the Death Note’s power. Stick around for future reviews!
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+ Skilled art direction
+ Steadily building suspense
+ Skillfully handled "romance" doesn't detract from plot
+ Good discussion points
+ Themes of loyalty, sacrifice, love, and friendship in the face of duty
- Otherwise colored panels are in black and white
- Some translation awkwardness
- Plot hole concerning Misa's friend
- Some sexual content, profanity, and discussions and threats of violence