Sunday, March 1, 2009

Death Note: Another Note - The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases

Our esteemed Andrew Cunningham did a wonderful job translating this novel. Feel free to take that as indicative of editorial bias, but since he's not going to promote it here, someone else has to.
Spin-off products for wildly successful properties tend to be toss-away attempts to cash-in on popularity before a fickle audience moves on. Rarely, something actually good does fall out of the orgy of capitalism, however. Nisioisin's Death Note novel is one of those surprises.

The decision to frame the novel as a tangential prequel to the manga and anime series gives it the space to develop. Even so, it is the limited scale of the story itself that allows it to feel like a natural addition to the family instead of cheap exploitation. There are no ridiculous cameos or strained attempts to touch on characters that have no place. Instead, the reader is given a remarkably grounded, intimate story in the Death Note world. Even if there never is any actual Death Note in it.

That story is remarkably simple: L has a personal stake in a serial murder case in LA and he recruits FBI agent Naomi Misora to serve as his agent in the hunt for a warped, rogue genius from the orphanage that was set up to groom his successor. The writing style is similarly simple and straightforward; very fast and easy to read but capturing the overwrought and almost baroque plotting and counter-plotting atmosphere of the manga. The book's real strength and power, however, is in context when compared to the original source. The mystery itself isn't the most compelling, it is framing of the characters against those in the manga and the expectations that the reader brings with them from the manga that really makes the novel work.

The physical production of the book also makes it stand out. A slick hardcover with striking design, beautiful slipcover and cloth bookmark, the Death Note novel stands out. Each chapter also features a quasi-abstract piece by Takeshi Obata and the book itself opens with a color plate prefaces by translucent paper. The whole book has an air of dignity that fits very well with the pseudo-gothic aesthetic the manga and anime maintain.

Marrying the over-the-top spectacle and self-aware ridiculousness of the manga with an intimate scope and grounded writing style, Death Note: Another Note is highly recommended for anyone familiar with either the anime or the manga.
Wikipedia : Andrew's write-up on the old Eastern Standard wiki : Amazon

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