Guess who’s back with a brand new rap?
You’ve ever seen those Greatest Hits albums a band launches seemingly out of the blue, around ten or so years after they were last relevant? The ones they use to promote their reunion tour that, inevitably, will only land in a city not near you – unless you happen to live in the UK or in the important parts of America? The ones where the cover is a picture of the band trying to pretend they’re still in their prime or recreating a famous photo of theirs? Such albums seem to appear every so often on the iTunes store or, if your hometown is still stuck in the early 2000’s music business model, inside “prestige” store’s music section. Spontaneous generation at its finest.
As you peruse the selection of “new” music, the artist’s name seems to glitter specifically to your eye’s wavelength. You grab the album with a confused “huh” embedded in your face. “I remember these guys”, you think. “I used to listen to their stuff non-stop during high school. Didn’t they break up?” While you say this, you reminisce about a period of time you swear is closer to the today than the almost two decades that actually divide your past self from the blob of humanity you are right now. Curious, you do what every adult would do and direct your sight towards the liner notes on the back of the box. You try to read them, squinting your eyes, before you remember how age has forced you to use reading glass in order to avoid the face crunching expression featuring a mouth wide open you swore you’d never use to read whenever your father used it during your youth. “Copyright 2020.” It is, indeed, a new product. New in fabrication alone, though, since the track listing contains only the better-known portion of their so-called Greatest Hits.
Maybe you buy it on that very moment. Maybe you’d rather pirate it through one of the many many iTunes Plus websites you’ve got saved on your internet browser’s cache data. Or, perhaps, and even more likely, you’ll stream it on Spotify, since that shit’s free and you already own those songs on their original albums, anyways – the ones you downloaded illegally at the time of their release, obviously. Whatever the case, it’ll be only to create an hour and a half bubble that will transport you into the past, that will let you remember how it felt to have no real-world obligations and focus solely on having fun. A distraction at most. Still, even if you do follow the ritual of nostalgia, at the moment of your discovery, you can’t help but think “So, they’re back. Alright, then.” It’s not accompanied by any sort of sentimental reaction whatsoever. You’re not happy, you’re not sad. Your brain simply added a new tidbit of information that you might or might not need in order to fill in one of the many awkward silences of a night out with the boys.
One thing is crystal clear, however. You, who were once smack dab in the middle of the key demographic of the kind of music the band once made, have grown into an adult that just doesn’t really care now. They are a memory. A memory that has no more money left on their accounts and are hoping a rekindled flame will let them pay their bills for the next year or two. In the back of their minds and hearts, surely, they believe they will be able to create waves as high as the ones they made back then, huge waves they’ll ride into cultural significance once again. And they’ll strive to recoup their rightful echelon on the musical charts. It won’t happen. They know it won’t. But that won’t stop them for trying – even if they are fully aware of their inevitable failure.
On that note, the creators of Death Note just released a one-shot special thirteen years after their magnum opus originally ended. It’s called Death Note: Special One Shot because of course a Japanese publisher will try to be as specific as possible when titling things because SEO is important.
Shoud you open your Death Note again?
Relevance - 25%
Plot - 75%
Characters - 90%
Tone - 95%
Hello, Darkness, my old friend…
Remember that odd era between 2008 and 2010? Where anime seemed to be at an all-time high around the entire world? Where weaboos reigned supreme on the web? If you were (un)fortunate enough to visit a comic book convention by your own accord back then, you’d no doubt see a torrent of sixteen or seventeen year olds wearing a long sleeved plain white T-shirt, their unkempt hair tussled around, huge eyeliner-drawn bags under their eyes, stooping down while biting their thumbs, as if that made them look cool. Yeah, that was when Death Note was at its peakest of peaks. Everyone, anime fan or not, loved it or, at the very least, had heard of it. Therer were even real life crimes that referenced the manga series in their investigation. There were memes, unoriginal webcomic artists ripping off ideas from the story in order to make referencial humor that wasn’t even amusing, fanarts images that looked like David Lynch’s nightmares. It was everywhere. It was a thing. It had cultural significance and weight.
And now, just as 2020 begins, we get a completely new story right from the pens of their original authors in order to celebrate… the fact that we are still alive? There seems to be no reason as to why this was created. The series ended more than a decade ago, Both authors are in the midst of working on projects that appear to be doing well, there is no special anniversary right around the corner, no news about another ill-attempt to translate the franchise into a live action. I honestly have no clue as to why this was made. Maybe the magazine housing it was losing readership quickly and straws needed to be grasped in order to have someone buy the thing? Nostalgia equals money, right?
Or maybe these two wanted to be relevant once again, even if for a brief second.
Whatever the case, the 84-page story was dumped on the internet for free last week and, if there was any sort of publicity or drumroll excitement leading to it apart from a single image published one month ago announcing something related to Death Note would happen, I didn’t hear about it. It simply arrived, like a friend knocking on your door on a Saturday morning, uninvited, but with a GameCube controller and his copy of Super Smash Bros. Melee. on his hands. It’s not like you’re not available to play or don’t want to, it’s just, you weren’t expecting it. “I was bored”, he says. “So, I figured, why not?” And despite the fact you planned to stay in your pajamas all day long, you let him in in order to enjoy a long day of FALCON PUNCH!!ing an anthropomorphic fox for hours on end while your friend keeps trying to pull off Jigglypuff’s one-hit KO sleeping move. Happiness abounds.
Irrelevance inside a nice wraping.
Death Note: Special One Shot feels a bit like that. For the most part. On page one we are reintroduced to the appearance of the Shinigami known as Ryuk, as creepy as always, as ass-facing-the-viewer-in-order-to-create-a-creepy-image-reminiscent-of-classic-Dracula-lore as Takeshi Obata’s talent allows him. It’s 2019 in the story’s universe and the apple-devouring creature that Netflix decided would look more menacing as a C-tier creepypasta Photoshopped image is out and about, looking for a new owner of his Death Note. Why? He’s bored. Which is, honestly, the most human reason I could ever think of for doing anything in life.
This time around, the Kira Ryuk finds is a generic Instagram eBoy-looking dude who, we are told, is pretty intelligent – the kind of intelligent that fails school tests, is a social shut in and is unable to understand English. So, a regular eBoy, then. Unlike Light Yagami, though, this guy not only has a soul, but he also strives to keep it, so instead of killing people willy-nilly in order to make the world a better place or whatever antisocial idea incels around the world have ingrained into their brains, our eBoy here wants to profit out of the fact the Death Note is, in-world, a widespread phenomenon that even appears on Ethics and History textbooks. And how is he going to sell the power to kill people by writing their name without revealing his identity? By using Twitter, of course – and a local TV news station, because despite the fact that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, people still watch TV over there.
The whole premise, at this point, sounded top notch. I was ready to be taken into another psychological detective thriller for kids 13 and up, elated that the authors of Death Note had decided to not repeat the formula that made them worldwide famous at the beginning of the 20th century. It actually felt like an almost logical continuation of the story, something that took into account not only the consequences of the previous 13 volumes of manga actually happening, but also was ready to play with the social media aspect of contemporary life. Even the eBoy design seemed to be on purpose. Was he an Instagram model of sorts? A Tik Tok influencer? Something equally as shitty and useless as those two very real jobs? The possibilities were endless, the art was amazing. All the ingredients were there. Sure enough, the story began to climax into what was sure to be an epic – albeit short – duel of the minds between the new Kira and the new L. I was 100% invested in this.
And, then, suddenly, it ended.
Just like that. It simply ended.
It was like the authors were so excited working on this new entry of their beloved story that time passed them by when, suddenly, there was a knock at their door.
“Mr. Ohba, Mr Obata?”
“It’s me, Hiroshi Gamo, your editor for Shonen Jump magazine?”
“Oh, hey, there, Hiroshi, we weren’t expecting you. What’s up? Fancy some tea or…?”
“Well, you should have been expecting me. Tea is fine.”
“Because I like tea. It’s soft and full of flavor.”
“No, the other thing, why were we supposed to expect you?”
“Oh, yes. That’s because the deadline for your one shot special is coming up.”
“Oh, shit! When is this due?”
“What do you mean tomorrow?”
“I mean the day after today. Tomorrow, as people call it.”
“But the story is far from finished, Gamo! Can’t we get an extension?”
“No. We publish it tomorrow. You already had one extension and the investors are getting impatient.”
“Ohba, we need to think of something fast. An allnighter?”
“No, no, it won’t be enough. We need ten more pages at least, it’s not possible.”
“A to be continued, then?”
“We can’t afford that, the magazine owners will behead us. Literally, I’m afraid. Samurai law has not been banned completely in that office yet.”
“What then? We can’t just end it here. Near has done squat so far and we set him up to be the star of the one shot? Remember the ad we made? HE WAS FRONT AND CENTER! He’s been in six pages so far, we even got him a new design and all! He needs to play an important part in this! Him and Kira haven’t even met or anything! This is a detective story, can’t we do something, I don’t know, detective-like?”
“Sometimes detective fail, my dear Obata.”
“Yeah, that’s not the point I was trying to get across…”
“What if we just end it where we are and add Donald Trump in order to be topical and pretend we have something to say politics-wise.”
“What do you mean add Donald Trump?”
You can read Death Note: Special One Shot completely for free at Sueisha’s Manga Plus website now and pretend it’s 2009 all over again.