Blu-ray Review: Death Note – The Complete Collection

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Death Note returns to the UK in a brand-new Blu-ray release but does the series stand the test of time? and more importantly what can you expect from the contents of this Blu-ray release by Manga Entertainment UK? Well let’s take a look in our latest review!

Synopsis:

Light Yagami is a genius high school student who is about to learn about life through a book of death. When a bored shinigami, God of Death, named Ryuk drops a black notepad called a Death Note, Light receives power over life and death with the stroke of a pen. Determined to use this dark gift for the best, Light sets out to rid the world of evil… namely the people he believes to be evil.

Should anyone hold such power? The consequences of Light’s actions will set the world ablaze.

Our View:

During the golden-age of anime there were numerous franchises that broke the ‘boundary’ that had been pre-determined by people and became more main-stream with the general public. Of course the ever popular (and approachable) Dragon Ball Z was one of these franchises but Death Note was also another series that gained popularity; and for an entirely different reason. Dragon Ball Z may have offered violence, but it did so in a rather childish-almost-comedic-fashion; but Death Note on the other hand offered that realism, depth and deceit that you couldn’t find anywhere else – and as a result it attracted many fans because of it.

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Fast-forward nearly a decade into the future and Death Note remains as popular as it ever was; with both older and younger generations being familiar with the entire series – including those who have no real interest in anime in general – and now Manga Entertinment UK are re-releasing the series on Blu-ray. So; what exactly is it about? And why does it draw so much attention? Well Death Note follows the events of Light Yagmi, a highly respected high-school student, who after discovering a mysterious notebook known as the Death Note, begins to deliver his own sense of twisted justice.  How exactly does this happen? Well whoever’s name is written in the death note will die shortly afterwards. The full specifics are a lot more detailed but alas Light Yagami uses this book to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of convicted criminals throughout the world in order to bring true peace.

Of course with so many mysterious deaths taking place it’s not long before the police, and in turn a special investigation unit, begin to take notice and it’s here where the series begins to take it’s most ‘interesting’ twist. That interesting aspect being the ‘cat-and-mouse’ between Light Yagami and the mysterious detective known as L; who in turn begins to lead the Police’s investigation into these murders. Throughout the next handful of episodes we see both Light Yagami and L play mind-games with each other; sometimes in the open and sometimes in private – both of which are waiting for the other person to slip up and make a mistake. It’s this compelling experience that makes Death Note so thrilling to watch; will Light Yagami be captured, or will L be killed by the mysterious abilities of the Death Note. Well you’ll have to wait it to find out; but this is just a small piece in the ever-changing-puzzle that makes Death Note so thrilling to watch.

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Amazingly that’s not all; as Death Note does something that, in my eyes at least, is quite unique. The rules and pacing of the series often change within a heartbeat to keep things fresh and new; and even after a decade it still feels exilerating to watch. For instance just as things begin to settle between Light and L – with both parties investigations coming to a stalemate – another Death Note wielder appears on scene and begins to stir things up. This particular character is attracted to the Death Note user, who by now is named Kira, and opts to do his bidding – to which an interesting relationship forms; a relationship which reminds me of The Joker and Harley Quinn whereby The Joker constantly abuses his authority of Harley Quinn and it’s the same here in Death Note. That’s not all either as when this particular arc of the series comes to its conclusion, which in turn sees Light become leader of the investigation, we are introduced to another Death Note user who – in actuality – is being controlled by Light Yagami in order to keep his secret of being the real Kira hidden away.

It’s bizarre how a series that is only thirty-seven episodes long manages to contain an extensive amount of story as well as continusiouly change its character; and while at times elements of the series may seem slow paced they do nothing but build-up to the events of another death, or trick, being played out by the key characters. Death Note brings a compelling and unique experience anime and it also remains relatively faithful to the original source material and adapts it quite well; something which should also please fans as it has done for nearly a decade.

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Of course; seeing as Death Note is nearly ten years old it’s with no surprise that many of the UK population has already seen it (if you haven’t where have you been?); so what’s different with this release? Well for starters it has been remastered in High Definition and offers a superior quality product to the original DVD release (something of which we discussed in our comparison article); additionally it also bundles the OVA movies – of which retell the events of the entire anime in four hours – within this collection. One adrenaline fueled series, two movies; all of which have been remastered in High Definition and presented in both English and Japanaese audio, all presented in this single collection. It’s a masterpiece; but unfortunately it does not feature any bonus features – which is of course a bit of a disappointment.

Extras:

In a surprising turn of events Manga Entertainment have opted to author their own Blu-ray Discs as opposed to using the masters created by VIZ Media in America;  a fact which also explains the relatively lengthy delay this title received. So why is this surprisingly disappointing news? Well it means we lose out on all of the extra features that were previously included with the DVD release.

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The American Blu-ray release of Death Note, which saw the thirty-seven episodes across five Blu-ray discs, featured all of the DVD bonus features retained and used; however with this UK Blu-ray release we have nothing. Usually this wouldn’t be a bad thing, as most bonus features tend to be textless songs and trailers; however the DVD Release of Death Note featured cast interviews, character artwork, production assets and so much more – so to lose this on the ‘definitive edition’ of the franchise is frustratingly disappointing; especially if you planned on upgrading and getting rid of the DVDs.

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Of course a logical explanation could be had; it’s possible it was done to cut BBFC costs down, or it’s possible MangaUK removed the bonus features in order to give viewers access to the films (as previously the films were sold separately or included as part of the Limited Edition Blu-ray set in America). Whatever the answer is; if you really want the bonus features you can get them on the DVD version – which is still currently available for a relatively low price.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x6
Region: B
Running Time:  2:40:21 (Disc 1), 2:40:05 (Disc 2), 2:40:02 (Disc 3), 2:39:48 (Disc 4), 2:39:50 (Disc 5), 4:28:52 (Disc 6)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: LPCM 2.0 (English & Japanese)[TV Series] & Dolby Digital 2.0 (English & Japanese) [Movies]
Subtitles: English (White/Grey)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Death Note is a popular anime series that sees Light Yagami attempting to provide his own form of justice by using the Death Note; a book previously owned by the Shikigami Ryuki that can kill people by simply writing down a persons name. The result of this discovery, all of which is overwatched by the shikigami Ryuki for a bit of fun, sees a legendary cat-and-mouse chase with Light – nicknamed Kira by the community – being chased by ace-detective L. It’s engaging, it’s deceitful and provides plenty of suspense – and this is only the first arc of the series.

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The momentum continues throughout the series, with new characters being introduced and the rules gradually changing to accommodate the newer characters, until the very last episode; an episode which still divides people today. Was it justice served; or was justice done incorrectly. We can’t change the past; but thankfully thanks to this new High Definition remaster we can watch it in superb quality. Sure enough the quality is as good as you would expect; however given it’s age – and the way the series is animated – a fair amount of grain can be seen on the screen; so don’t expect that crystal clear quality from Blu-ray sets released today.

It’s not just the TV series which have undergone the HD remaster process either; as both the movies – of which retell events of the series with slightly adjusted animation – have also received the HD treatment. Interestingly enough the opening and closing segments of the show use the original Japanese versions (the previous UK and US DVD used localized versions with English text for the opening and closing credits); so it shows that original Japanese assets are being used. In regards to audio quality then only LPCM (for TV Series) and Dolby Digital (for the movies) are included; but thankfully the original English and Japanese audio are left intact – is it good, or is it bad? Well they are nostalgic whichever version you watch. It’s also worth noting that the subtitles are not only grey-ish colour, which also confirms that these discs were authored by MangaUK as opposed to an American distributor, but the subtitles for the opening and closing songs do not appear unless full subtitles are selected; an issue (of sorts) which is most common on Universal Picture UK Blu-ray releases and seems to be replicated here on this MangaUK release of Death Note.

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Overall this Death Note Blu-ray Release is a great. Not only does the series still retain the elements that made it enjoyable all those years ago but it’s been remastered in High Definition for the ultimate experience; an experience which is enhanced with the inclusion of the films. Sure enough it’s a great set, and in some aspects offers reat value; however it is disappointing that non of the bonus features from the original DVD release were carried over onto this Blu-ray release but some could argue it is a small price to pay in order to get the series on Blu-ray within the UK.

Score: review-stars-4

Death Note – The Complete Collection, which consists of both the anime series and feature length films, will be available on Blu-ray from the 19th December 2016. Alternatively the series is also available on DVD as a Complete Series collection.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

One Response to Blu-ray Review: Death Note – The Complete Collection

  1. Geek Supreme says:

    I loved everything about Death Note until recently. As you say, the mystic of the story captured even those who were strangers to the whole anime culture. Just a couple days ago Netflix released the trailer for the American movie adaptation they have been working on, so that shows how much the show is still growing outside the regular fandom.

    However about a year or so I watched Code Geass and boy, it completely changed my perspective on both series. Anyone who has watched them both knows what I mean: the similarities between Light and Lelouch are uncanny.

    For some reason I thought Code Geass was created before Death Note, hence the whole time I felt Light was just a copycat of Lelouch. Then I realised that actually Death Note’s manga was created a couple years before Code Geass started airing, so it might be the other way around though.

    I don’t know where I am now in respect to both series. What I do know is that Death Note is the anime I choose whenever I want to introduce a friend to anime, and that means a lot.

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