Unfortunately for our wallets, and perhaps fortunately for our reading desires, K and I got our claws on some more manga. It’s tough, because the library doesn’t stock all the latest issues, and reading them online isn’t the same as having it in your hands, though it does slake the addiction overall.

K has been reading Fruits Basket and Hot Gimmick way ahead of me like gangbusters, and I’ve fallen behind. However, I’ve gained the upper hand in knowing what’s going on in Love Hina and Claymore, both of which are really keeping me entertained and happy. It is important that citizens be happy instead of discontented!

We picked up a new series, called Death Note, just to stir up the pot. As if we haven’t enough storylines to latch onto. We saw an entirely different aisle setup with countless new titles in the local Barnes and Ignoble, which put us in a slight sweat. I didn’t ever think I would say, in this day and age of crummy entertainment choices, I am for once inadequate and overwhelmed by the choices of good reading.

Things can get better.

So, in Death Note, this death god named Ryuk gets bored with hanging out with the other death gods and decides to go to earth and stir things up. He leaves his death note, which is a magical notebook, on the earth for anyone to find. The death note has magic powers that adhere to certain rules and contains instructions on how to use the death note properly. The most important power is that if the owner writes a person’s name in the death note while visualizing their face, that person dies.

An honors high school student named Light finds the book and claims it. At first, he is skeptical, but after he kills two people with the death note he is forced to believe. Most people at this point would get rid of the book or try to keep it safe without using it. But Light decides to embrace the full powers of the death note and use them to rule the world while eliminating all crime.

Ryuk becomes Light’s neutral companion. The death god is interested in seeing what a mortal does with his former death note, and is something of a compatriot in Light’s secret. So far, the series is an exploration in the limits and boundaries of the death note, and Light’s struggles to retain control of the growing chaos he is causing.

As hundreds of criminals all begin dying in the same way, the public begins to call the deaths the act of a figure of justice known as “Kira” (or “Killer” in Japanese), while the governments of the world begin an international manhunt. The leader of the investigation is a nameless, faceless operative known only as “L”. This makes “L” immune to Light’s direct power, as Light cannot kill someone unless he knows their real name and what they look like.

Thus begins a cat and mouse chase, as L sets up traps to learn about the scope of “Kira’s” powers and clues to the identity of what people are calling a “telepathic killer”.

The drama is intense, as Light dodges pursuit and kills those trying to learn his whereabouts. He’s smart for a kid, and he has the advantage of the death note with its many permutations. L does everything in his power to learn clues without revealing anything about himself. Any move could prove fatal. Neither of the two is dumb, but one of them is going down in the end.

What’s fun to read about for me is how Light uses the death note. For example, it is possible for him to set the conditions of the death within certain limits. He can set up someone to die right when he needs to intimidate an agent on his tail, or cause a witness to commit suicide several days later to avoid suspicion. He can influence people’s behavior at the moment of their death so that they utter misleading information or do things that implicate other people.

Is there a price for this power? As Ryuk explains, the main price is in the moral and mental strain it places on its owner. We watch as Light goes from considered, adolescent declaration of self-centered desire, to mass murderer who will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. His fall is so total and self-inflicted, can even the victory of “L” be enough for the boy to pay for his crimes? I sense a dark fate for this fellow, and yet I can’t stop turning away as he invents horrific deaths for his enemies.

And all the while, Ryuk stands by watching the chaos and finding delight in the havoc he’s caused. What is his purpose? Is he learning anything? Hard to say.

But it’s awesome, good fun. At last, some inventive thinking and hard consideration for premise and story. I was getting worried there.