~written by Tsugumi Ohba
~illustrated by Takeshi Obata
I've been making a habit lately of buying gifts to give away from my favorite comic book shop, and Death Note was a perfect choice for my brother's birthday. I gave him the first three volumes, which I had just finished reading and thought he would enjoy--the series is smart and complex, and I've been enjoying it myself. Plus, I like being the cool older sibling. The fourth volume, Love, collects chapters twenty-six through thirty-four of the manga, picking up where Hard Run leaves off.
Ever since L invited Light to join the Kira investigation, Light has had to be especially careful. While it gives him some insight into the progress of the case, it also allows more opportunities to slip up and reveal himself as Kira--the killer of criminals worldwide. But the appearance of a second Kira has complicated things even further. Light hopes to discover the identity of the new Kira before L and the rest of the investigation team can. This Kira displays powers even beyond Light's and he is determined to use this to his advantage and kill L once and for all.
L isn't nearly as creepy to me as he used to be. He's still a bit strange and awkward though, making it more difficult to really know what's going on in that brilliant mind of his. Light, on the other hand, is a little easier to read. But this doesn't mean he doesn't have a few surprises in reserve. Since L is closing in on Kira, Light is more concerned than ever to protect his identity and that of the second Kira. In previous collections, we've seen the lengths Light is willing to go to from a distance in order to implement his plan, but this is the first time we've really seen such intimate and personal manipulation. Frankly, it's a bit frightening to watch Light's descent and ruthlessness.
The artwork has really settled in by the fourth volume, with very little continuity or consistency issues. The Shinigami death gods are perhaps the most visually interesting. Besides Ryuk, who we already know, Rem is introduced as a major player in this volume. I particularly enjoyed examining the similarities and differences in the portrayal of two characters, those both subtle and obvious. It was also interesting to compare their attitudes, which was captured quite well by the artist.
I am thoroughly enjoying the Death Note collections and Love is no exception; it may even be my favorite so far. I remain impressed by the story's depth and complexity. This is the only "unflipped" manga that I'm reading at the moment, but it doesn't take too long to settle in, thanks mostly to the strong artwork and design. (And a little bit of practice, of course.) There were a few translation quirks in this volume, but nothing that was too distracting. Also, a few cultural references might pass over some readers, but these aren't paramount to understanding or enjoying the book. Death Note continues to improve with each volume and I'm very much looking forward to the next one, Whiteout.