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In every period, there is a manga that glues readers to their seats. The thrilling story turns the pages itself. Today, it might be the Promised Neverland or Chainsaw Man. But when manga and anime were not as popular, it was Death Note.
Death Note is a manga drawn by Takeshi Obata and written by Tsugumi Ohba. Across the world, Death Note has received positive acclaim and has been successful in terms of circulation. It has won several awards and accolades and has been marked as a cultural icon in the manga industry.
Death Note follows the exploits of the 17-year-old Light Yagami as he comes upon a particular notebook called Death Note. The book belongs to a Shinigami (God of Death), who use it to kill people. Light believes that the world is rotten to the core.
So when he obtains the book, it seems like a perfect opportunity to rid the world of evil. But it is not far when the antics of Light are noticed, and the world-renowned detective, L, is on his tail. Now, Light faces L to prove that his sense of justice is correct.
Death Note was a phenomenon, and it was easy to notice the buzz surrounding it when it was first released. While there is definitely a lot to talk about in Death Note, the matter at hand is the series’ beginnings. This article will examine the openings of the anime series, give a brief review of the authors, and examine the initial concepts of the series.
Death Note Opening
The anime series spans over thirty-seven episodes and is produced by the prolific studio, Madhouse. The series has two openings.
The first opening is “The World” by Nightmare, airing from the start of the series till the nineteenth episode. The second opening is “What’s Up, People?!” by Maximum the Hormone. It appears from episode twenty till the last episode.
The First Opening – The World
The openings set the tone of the series. Each episode that airs must set a specific ambiance for what is to follow in the upcoming episode. The video and its topics are explored first, once the composers have been discussed. The second is the lyrics and how they relate to the series in general.
Nightmare is the band behind the first opening of Death Note. Their music is generally characterized as J-rock and is produced by five members. Yomi at the vocals, Sakito is the lead guitarist, Hitsugi is the rhythm guitarist, Ni-ya manages the bass guitar, and Ruka at the drums.
“The world” was a single on their third album. Due to the popularity of the anime, the band gained fame across the globe for it. The band also composed the “Alumina,” the finale to the first nineteen episodes.
The Themes In The Opening
The opening tries to capture every nuance of the show. Particular components from the series are depicted in it. The first is Light’s quest for godhood, while the second is his relationship with Ryuk, the Shinigami. The final category is the hurdles to achieving Light’s goal.
Also, there is a subtle depiction of how Light is to use others for his ultimate goal. The opening has heavy Christian symbolism too.
Speaking about Light, he wants to reshape the world. He has a view on justice and believes the world to be rotten. His god complex is also depicted in the initial frame of the opening. Although Light is lying on the floor, his red eyes are shown looking down. The red symbolizes the massacre he undertakes.
Following the initial scenes, we see a grim Ryuk. As a Shinigami, Ryuk is bored, and he wants some excitement in his life. Similar to Ryuk, Light is seen walking in solitude, feeling bored. The two form a connection over the Death Note. The Death Note is symbolized by an apple, also Ryuk’s favorite fruit in the opening.
But when Light goes on a killing spree, he attracts attention around the globe. The world is now after the killer, Kira. However, there are obstacles that Kira faces in his path to godhood. The biggest among them include the detective task force, L, and the detective couple after Kira. How L and Light are depicted on skyscrapers represents the enormity of positions each holds for their ideologies and prowess.
In one scene, Misa is hopelessly wandering in heavy rain. When she looks up, she sees Light under a bright streetlight, showing hope to her. He extends his hand toward her with a smirk, showing how he is willing to use others to achieve his goal. As Misa has nothing else to live for, she is seen extending her hand back to Light Yagami, the Kira.
There is heavy Christian symbolism in the whole intro too. The first indicator is the apple. The apple in Christian theology symbolizes temptation, and it corrupted Light as it corrupted Man.
The second indicator is the adaption of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, where Light replaces Adam and Ryuk replaces God. It also has the left hand of Light attached to a chain, which might indicate the chain L and Light became tied to later in the series.
Another indicator is the rose reflected in the eyes of L when he looks at Light. The rose is symbolic of Christ, implying that L sees Light as having a God complex. Its wilting is another proof of this, as he could not care less for anything except for what incites him.
There is also the dove symbolism that can be observed in the opening of Death Note. In Christian mythology, doves signify purity and benevolence. When it is projected behind Light, it demonstrates how Light is projecting the image of innocence. However, if we think a little more about it, we will know that the professed innocence is actually the nemesis lurking as Judas.
Lastly, another Christian symbolism can be observed in the series. However, this time it is unrelated to Light. That is Pieta, by Michelangelo, where Naomi handles the demise of her detective fiancé with stoicism.
The Lyrics Of The Opening
Like the opening video, the lyrics are clad with profound yet comprehendible meaning. There is a “promise of revolution” that Light wants to bring to the world through the Death Note.
The revolution is to come in darkness, which shows how Light has to keep his identity shrouded for the change to come. “We cannot allow anyone to interfere” is another parallel to how the journey of Light should not be stopped.
The lyrics then illustrate several aspects of the show, such as the city representing the globe as it has deteriorated over time. Furthermore, there is also the promise of “showing the light someday,” implying Light wants to change the world in his image.
The conflicting nature of Light and Kira is also symbolized in the lyrics. He questions himself and self-proclaims to be a broken messiah inquiringly.
One of the admirable aspects of the music is how the frames perfectly coincide with the beats of the music. The increase in tempo is wholly in harmony with the urgency of the matter. The decrease in cadence also depicts the precarious state of some characters.
The Second Opening – What’s Up, People?
The second opening delves more into the metal rock domain. The fanbase of Death Note is divided on whether it was good or not. But as far as the tone is concerned, it does try to cover the chaotic state of mind of Light.
About Maximum The Hormone
It is a heavy metal band based in Tokyo since 1998 and consists of four members. Daisuke-han is the vocalist, Nao the drummer, Maximum the Ryo-Kun the guitarist, and Ue-chan is the bassist.
The Themes In The Opening
Unlike the first opening, the second opening is not afraid to have fun. It does not tell a tale or represent Christian symbolism, but it is jam-packed with meaning and foreshadowing from the show.
The opening starts with images of six Shinigami; Ryuk, Gook, Gelus, Rem, Nu, and Sidoh. The start with Shinigami might indicate that, like us, the viewers, they are also spectators of the game that Light is playing. The events of the series are entertainment to them, and they want to see how the story will end.
The Shinigami are followed by a plethora of words thrown on the screen, followed by it smashing to reveal the Death Note title in a cross.
The smashing reveals purple electricity with a black background that indicates the mental state of Light. With L, he was keeping his homicidal tendencies toward Kira at bay. But as it is revealed in the series, they break out. He becomes more insane as the opening proceeds.
The scene then cuts to L eating his sweets in a loop as he spins around in his chair. It might be indicating how the mind of L works, where he goes through the events of the investigation repeatedly and is never satisfied.
Afterward, the blatancy of the opening comes in with Ryuk chasing an apple comically. Ryuk is a Shinigami, a powerful being. But he can be controlled through apples shows the irony of the situation that the series attempts to project.
The scene then cuts to Light atop a skyscraper, similar to the first opening. The top of the building supposedly symbolizes how Light looks down upon. But he never ascends any higher, and the situation indicates how Light can never rise above being a human.
The following scenes showcase the supporting cast in a different neo-noir style. Misa is also shown as a model. In one of the frames, roses are delivered behind the legs of Misa. The roses indicate the romance that Misa has for Light. But roses also symbolize her vulnerability as to how Light will use Misa for his own gains.
Subsequently, L is seen kicking the air, and he does not have any support to stand on, unlike in the first opening. This scene is probably foreshadowing how the downfall of L is about to come.
Following the last scene, frames of Ryuk and Misa appear again, and then they cut to Light looking down from the camera angle. His eyes are red here, which displays his god complex. The screaming from the music also ceases at this point. Then, Light calmly walks forward. But as he is walking, many eyes are on Light.
The eyes indicate how they are waiting for Light to slip up and expose himself. This analysis is backed by the fact that his rivals after L, Melo, and Near are also shown. But Light loses his composure as the face of Near comes finally shines. The scene probably foreshadows how Near exposes Light at the end.
Finally, the music breaks into a chorus of madness. Light stares with his red eyes into the sky, contemplating the goal of godhood he wanted to achieve. He then flashes back to all the events that led him to this point. The flashes also show Light locked up, which is ironic since he was murdering inmates.
The cacophony of the music picks up the tempo as an image of rotting Light is shown. But unlike the first opening where he is looking down, it indicates how Light fails in becoming a God.
The imagery is backed by Light shown in the center of the World of Shinigami. The image shows that his efforts have only resulted in his termination, and he was not the God he wanted to become.
The Lyrics And The Music
The lyrics of the song are repetitive and loud. They are to depict the mental state that Light has in the second half of the series. It represents the anxiety that Light has when facing his persona of Kira. It also indicates how deep-down Light feels the weight of all those lives he has taken. “The crime can never vanish” is indicative of that.
The way the music blends in with the haphazardness of the video also conveys the craziness of the series. The sound of the music lowers its tempo when it depicts L carefully managing his persona. But when it breaks, quick and rampant screeching proceeds from the vocalist, showing regret and resentment.
How Was Death Note Created?
It was revealed that Ohba wanted to create a tale of suspense that gripped the reader with every page. It was a surprise to Ohba when he learned that the Death Note was to become a serialized manga and Takeshi Obata would be the illustrator.
The story’s main focus was the book “Death Note” itself. The author actually thought of this when trying to develop something related to Shinigami and inscribed rules. There was no specific theme for the story thereon, and it was that humans should stay in the realm of humans and not attempt to play God.
According to Ohba, he thought of the story when he heard a story about a Shinigami. Obata decided to illustrate because he felt the story would be dark, and he wanted to draw it.
The two separately did their work. One expects the two to engage in conversation on how to manage aspects. But the two seldom met each other, and they only communicated through their editor.
The creative process for the manga was different for both the creators. While Ohba used to think of the story for days, Obata had to illustrate that story every week. Writing thumbnails is much easier when compared to drawing every panel. But Ohba said on countless occasions that the illustrations of Obata exceeded his every expectation.
The plot’s speed and the amount of conversation were taken into account by Ohba. He had to keep a delicate balance between the dialogue and the events to not bore the readers.
After the storyboards were finished, they were given to Obata, who adjusted the expressions and panel angles. The illustrator had great freedom in drawing ambiguous notes, which shows trust between the two.
Initial Concepts At The Heart Of The Series
Boredom Is A Vice
The story would not have started if it were not for Ryuk dropping his Death Note into the human realm. Ryuk did this because he was bored. The same mundane routine of the Shinigami world was not exciting for Ryuk. He wanted to do something intriguing, something exciting. So the Death Note was thrown into the human world.
The notebook was picked up by a bored person in the human world, Light Yagami. He, too, was tired of the same old rituals. Finding the Death Note was exciting to him, as it was something with which Light could change the world.
My Justice Is Correct
Although Light was bored with the world, killing a person still takes a toll on one’s mind. As a coping mechanism, Light adopted the persona of a warrior of justice.
Juxtaposing with L, he also believed his method to be correct. L held a belief that criminals should be caught and persecuted. He believed proper mechanisms should be undergone before someone is sent to his final fate.
However, what Kira was doing was murderous in his eyes. Nevertheless, in reality, it was fun for him to solve crimes. Although more empathetic than Kira, L was most curious about the mystery than anything else.
The Precarious Mind Of A Teenager
Early on, one thing that the series excellently portrays is the precarious mental state of Light. He does believe the world is rotten, but unlike other children his age, he undergoes a killing spree as soon as he obtains the Death Note.
When Ryuk meets Light, he is surprised at how many names Light has written down on the notebook, remarking that any other person would be too shocked.
But his immaturity is on display early too. One example is how easily Light is provoked by the taunting L. After all, by showing arrogance, Light exposes himself. This arrogance is natural for a high-schooler, and the writers have demonstrated this element brilliantly.
The Battle Of Wits
This is the most thrilling aspect of the series. Light and L are the two main characters, and they are to expose the identity of each other through any means. Although L has the resources of an entire city at his disposal, Light has an all-powerful notebook. The early chapters successfully set a tone for what the viewer is to expect in this psychological thriller. Each is after the identity of the other and whoever slips loses.
My Views On The Openings
In terms of setting up the series, Death Note does it brilliantly. The plot is so simple that anyone not acquainted with manga and anime can follow. The grim tone matches well with what viewers can expect as it progresses.
If someone is new to the manga scene, they might be confused about the cultural references. Although Death Note is set in modern-day Tokyo, there are still some references, such as that of Shinigami, that are local to the Japanese culture. They do not need to fret about this. With time, one gets acclimated to the supernatural aspects of the story.
For me, I absolutely adore how the story starts. From the opening pages of the manga, I was engrossed. Every page brought something new to the table. The paneling and dialogue were both well-balanced. There was a lack of detail in some places, but overall the series did a fantastic job setting up the plot.
Question: Why Does the First Opening in Death Note Have Biblical Imagery?
Answer: The biblical references are inserted in the first opening to likely tie it with the Light wanting to be God. But unlike God, Light is more similar to the archangel Lucifer. Light, like Lucifer, also desires to overthrow the world’s current system.
Question: Is the Second Opening Appropriate for Children?
Answer: No, the second opening uses a lot of expletives that are inappropriate for children. The music is a heavy metal which might induce headaches in someone young or who is not used to the noise. Furthermore, the colorful imagery of the song might cause seizures. So parental guidance is advised.
Question: Why are the Openings of Death Note Important?
Answer: Like other openings, the openings of Death Note set the tone of the series. The rock music is perfect for the grim setting of the series. The music also perfectly captures the mental state of the main character of the series. These elements combine to make the World of Death Note richer and livelier.
Death Note Opening Explained: Wrapping Up
Death Note is one of the most impressive manga and anime ever made. It appears that every aspect of the show has been designed intricately. The concepts that Death Note tackles are also vital to determine. What makes justice and how much power one person should have over others determines how our society is ordered. Death Note takes on this challenge. Although, its main focus is on the psychological thriller.
Finally, we need to appreciate Ohba-sensei and Obata-sensei for giving us an incredible journey. Although the manga was extended, it still managed to be fun and thrilling. The fascinating writing of Death Note shall always be close to my heart, and I can assuredly say the same of others.