We start in the Shinigami realm, were we see several Shinigami designs. I don’t nerd out about these guys too much. What’s interesting about this is that they’re talking about Ryuk, and this is the first instance we learn that Ryuk was carrying two different Death Notes. We’re already aware that Ryuk was bored and that’s why he dropped the Death Note into the human realm. We didn’t know that he was in possession of two. We also don’t know why it’s terribly important that one Shinigami has two Death Notes, but it’s worth remembering for now.
We come back to the Eye Deal cliffhanger. Light says the trade is “out of the question.” Light explains that he wants to be God of the New World for a long time. He doesn’t want to sacrifice his own life. Ryuk says, “I still felt I should tell you the deal existed just in case.”
There’s a couple of different writing mantras at play here. First off, it becomes abundantly clear in this moment that all the talk of the Eye Deal at the end of the last episode was primarily more exposition from Ryuk, more set-up. While it is very important later in the series, this basically renders the whole end of the last episode pointless. However, it is important that when you plan on having an element at play in a series you present it early on so it can pay off later. I just feel that the way they did it here was a little clumsy. Especially since they cut the episode there.
“He’s not the slightest bit daunted by the fact that I’m a Shinigami,” Ryuk says to himself. We learn that there’s probably more rules of the Death Note he’s not letting Light know.
“Next thing you know I would actually start becoming a real Shinigami,” Light jokes with Ryuk. Ryuk responds by telling him he’s already a “worthy Shinigami.” Ryuk explains that the Shinigami World is rotting, where the Gods of Death don’t even remember why they exist, and that they only write down names because they are scared to die themselves. Themes of religious nihilism come back in at this point. It’s clear that the mythology of mankind which has long revered the existence of beings like Shinigami is entirely underminded by an almost realistic point about Godhood. You can’t die, but your world is so removed from anything human that even sustenance is unnecessary, existence is meaningless, and for the Shinigami in particular, the only thing you’re any good at is ending human lives. It’s a characterization of a world that is deeply interesting and impacting. It also sets up an image of what any “worthy Shinigami” has to look forward too. It’s inherent criticism of the idea of having the power of the Death Note. The realm of the Shinigami is closer to what Light’s ultimate goal would be like than any other image in the whole series. The desolation is internal as much as it is external.
Should I end up talking about the works of Death Note beyond the anime series, it’s important to note that there’s a popular fan theory that suggests Light became a real Shinigami at some point. If I review the films that’s referring too, I’ll explore the theory a little bit.
Light suggest that Ryuk take lessons he learns in the human world to try to make a better Shinigami world. As I’ve already explained, this is Light’s naïve showing through. It’s also a bit of positioning, Light claiming that the human world is somehow better than the Shinigami world. It is as if Light has forgotten that he said the same things of the human world in the first episode that Ryuk is saying now of the Shinigami World.
Light comes up with a plan to figure out his stalker’s name. He says he’s going to manipulate the rules of the Death Note. We cut to Soichiro Yagami receiving reports of six more deaths. However, each prisoner did different things before dying. L receives updates from Watari. L reads a letter, and suggests that details of the deaths can’t be released to the media. This again, seems like backwards movement. L suspected in the last episode that Kira had access to police information. If he already knows or suspects this, the move to black out the media coverage is a mostly pointless move. It could be that this is just a way to confirm that Kira has access to police files, but again, the primary motivation is to make sure Kira doesn’t know his experiment worked. It doesn’t really prove anything. So again, it feels like at times they slow L down so that the series can catch up, but they do so in ways that feel arbitrary about what he’s already done in the series.
Light hacks the police files and goes over the results with us. The limitations of the Death Note are revealed here. Most importantly: Someone can’t express thoughts they can’t have themselves, they can’t get somewhere they couldn’t physically get to, and they can’t represent images that they haven’t seen themselves. These limitations are very interesting and as far as I know this doesn’t contradict anything in the series. But, it will be fun to see if that’s actually true. Light says he left a note, “a meaningless dying message.”
L reads the letter, entirely in Japanese (sorry I don’t know the specific language) and the screen highlights the top row of letters.
We cut back to Light who says he’ll use a criminal for some sort of plan. Then he flips open his phone and calls a girl. Light meets up with said girl and it turns out to be a date. Light explains it’s a cover. Ryuk is told to just watch what happens, which of course is Light telling us to sit back and watch what happens, which is a great set-up.
So we jump to the stalker’s perspective. The agent explains that there’s no cause for suspicion. This is going to be cause for irony later on. This music that plays on the bus ride is so nice and peaceful another highlight of a seriously excellent score for the series. We see the criminal Light targeted earlier get on the bus. He holds a gun to the bus driver and it’s announces a bus jacking.
We get dual perspectives between Light’s thoughts and the stalker’s thoughts. Light passes a note to Yuri, but the stalker intervenes. Light crumples up the note and sticks it in his pocket. Light pressures the situation until the stalker has to reveal he’s an FBI agent and his name is Raye Penber.
Raye seems to recognize the criminal on the bus. Light drops the note and the bus jacker looks at it. He throws the note. Light gets him and we learn the bus jacker can now see Ryuk, who susses out that Light purposefully dropped a Death Note page. This is interesting because up to this point Light’s only used pages attached to the Death Note. It’s important to realize that the pages of a death note have the same power of the Death Note itself. And to explain how often that comes into play in this series now would be to ruin the whole thing.
To Raye it seems like the bus jacker is hallucinating. Ryuk’s dialogue here is again seriously purposeless, he over explains the whole situation that has already been shown to us in the series before. It is a very impressive move on Light’s part, but Ryuk doesn’t need to tell me that. “I’ve said all of these things at one time or another. Well he is the top ranked student in the country.”
The bus stops the hijacker jumps off and is immediately hit by a car. The looks of shock on the characters faces is brilliant here. But it also seems like Raye should suspect Kira at that point in time. Light explains the Death Note entry. This is also a sequence we’ll see several times over, where post-death Light explains what he wrote.
“The Death Note never fails. You will be next, Raye Penber.”
So this is probably one of the best scenes in the series after L’s confrontation. If episode three felt a tad slow, but overall better, than this episode is entirely better. It doesn’t feel anywhere near as long (actually it seemed a bit short in rewatch, like I wanted more). It establishes a lot of things, it shows the logic of how a Death Note manipulation works out in real life, it shows that Light is willing to risk himself in person to make a plan come together, it shows Light’s genius in collecting logic from the world around him and applying it to situations to better his cause. I mean, the episode overall is just incredibly impressive. There are very few shows that ever play the rules of their universes to this extent and if they do its usually later on, not in the fourth episode of the series.
So next time we’re going to do something slightly different. I have the full Manga of Death Note as well, and I will be reading it concurrently with the series. If I note enough major differences between the narratives or the segments between the episodes and the Manga chapters, I’ll make a post explaining them so far. This will be more important when we get to the later parts of the series as significant chunks were removed for the pacing of the Anime, but for now we will see if there’s any minor details worth noting between the two.
Thanks for enjoying the series so far, I’m enjoying writing and watching myself. See you all for next weeks entry.