~written by Tsugumi Ohba
~illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Zero, the seventh volume in the wildly popular manga series Death Note, collects chapters fifty-three through sixty-one and picks up immediately were the previous book, Give-and-Take, left off. Like so many others, I have been very fond of the series thus far. And since Give-and-Take ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger, it didn't take me too long to get around to reading Zero. The series' premise is engaging and supported by strong artwork, making it easy to like. While Zero is definitely not my favorite installment, the book marks a significant turning point in the series. Several major and very important plot points happen in Zero which does make it difficult to discuss without spoiling things, but I will do my best.
The capture and arrest of Kyosuke Higuchi, determined by the investigation team to be acting as one of the Kiras, is the key to the return of Light's memories of the Death Notes. The only thing that now needs to happen to ensure the success of Light's plan and to initiate his endgame is Higuchi's death. Much will happen before victory is guaranteed, but even then the question is how long will Light be able to hold onto it?
The first three quarters of the book are spent unveiling the details of Light's plan (implemented several volumes ago) which have been a mystery up until now, even to him, and then watching how it plays out. Unfortunately, despite the rapid pacing of the revelations, the story has almost no tension. Light states at one point that he "spent every second thinking up every possible scenario and how to deal with it," which is certainly impressive but a little boring when everything goes according to plan and he's never shown to worry that there's even a chance that it might not. Light and the story simply feel very passive at this point in the series. Through all of this, L remains convinced that Light is the most likely suspect contrary to much of the supposed evidence. He furiously continues to try and figure it all out before it's too late. The last fourth of the book reveals the aftermath of Light's machinations and manipulations, effectively fast-forwarding through five years. The Kira investigation is still underway, though not much is said about it, and new players enter to challenge Light's control over the situation.
The artwork in Zero continues to be very good; I also appreciate its consistency. A few things that were done particularly well in this volume were the aging of the characters, the shift in Light and Misa as they regain their memory, and, as always, the portrayal of the Shinigami. Light really seems to have lost it in this volume and his facial expressions, while at times a little over the top and never nearly as subtle as earlier in the series, certainly get the point across and then hammers it home.
I knew when I began reading the Death Note series that there was a point about halfway through in which the tone of the story significantly changes and that fans are very divided over this. I will admit that I was mostly disappointed with Zero even though there is still some great stuff going on. However, at this point, I'm going to reserve my final opinion about the shift until I finish the series, which I fully intend to do. Because, while I found the seventh book ultimately disappointing, it wasn't because of the major events in the plot. The story is still very strong and thought provoking, although some elements introduced in Zero really seem to come out of nowhere; it just wasn't executed as well as I have come to expect from this series. I'll just have to see how things go with the eighth volume of Death Note, Target.