Death Note (デスノート Desu Nōto ) is a Japanese manga series created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and manga artist Takeshi Obata. It centers around Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook, the titular death note. This notebook grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face they know. The plot follows Light's subsequent efforts to exterminate criminals and "bad people" using the notebook, and the attempts of the detective L to stop him.
Death Note was first serialized in 108 chapters by Shueisha in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The series was also published intankōbon format in Japan starting in May 2004 and ending in October 2006 with a total of twelve volumes. The anime series aired in Japan from October 3, 2006, to June 26, 2007. Composed of 37 episodes, the anime was developed by Madhouse and directed by Tetsuro Araki. A light novel based on the series, written by Nisio Isin, was released in Japan. Additionally, various video games have been published by Konami for Nintendo DS. The series was adapted into live-action films released in Japan on June 17, 2006, November 3, 2006, and February 2, 2008.
Viz Media licensed the Death Note manga in North America and has published all the twelve volumes from the series, a 13th volume which serves as a "reader's guide", as well as the light novels. The episodes from the anime first appeared in North America as downloadable by IGN. Viz later licensed the anime series and it aired on Bionix in Canada and on Cartoon Network in the United States, and was released on DVD in North America. The live-action films briefly played in certain North American theaters since 2008. However, none of the video games have thus far been published in North America or Europe.
Death Note is one of Weekly Shōnen Jump's best-selling manga series of all time, with sales over 26.5 million copies.
Light Yagami is a bored young genius who resents all things evil. His life undergoes a drastic change when he discovers the death note, a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. After experimenting with the notebook, Light confirms its authenticity and encounters the previous owner, a shinigami called Ryuk. Light tells Ryuk of his plan to exterminate all the criminals in the world, until only people who he has judged to be honest and kind remain. Once he finishes creating this utopia, he means to rule over it as what he calls "the god of the new world".
Soon, the inexplicable deaths of criminals catch the attention of Interpol and the world-famous detective, "L". L quickly learns that the serial killer, publicly known as "Kira" (キラ, derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the word "killer"), is located in Japan and can kill people by supernatural means. Light realizes that L will be his greatest hindrance, and begins a cat and mouse game with him.
Light attempts to create an alibi by helping L and his task force track down Kira. His plan is impeded by a lovestruck second Kira, famous model Misa Amane, and her shinigami Rem. When Misa identifies Light as the first Kira and tracks him down to his home, the two of them embark on a mutually manipulative and one-sided relationship. However, Misa's infatuation with Light drives her to make several errors, and the two of them are increasingly suspected by L. Misa is soon arrested. To save themselves from execution, they temporarily relinquish control of their death notes—returning themselves to a state of innocence by erasing their memories of the shinigami and the notebooks—and are detained under L's constant surveillance.
During their detention, a third Kira quickly appears. When it becomes clear that Light and Misa cannot be carrying out the third Kira's murders, they are restricted to L's headquarters underhouse arrest. The task force identify the third Kira as Yotsuba Group executive Kyosuke Higuchi and capture him. Upon touching the notebook, Light regains his memories of acting as Kira and kills Higuchi, regaining ownership "exactly as planned". The task force learn of the death notes and confirm the existence of shinigami. Light completes his complex plan by manipulating Rem into killing L, his guardian Watari, and herself. Upon L's death, he becomes the "second L", and expands his charade of searching for Kira.
The narrative picks up four years later, with Kira attracting a large network of contacts and a swell of public support. Two young men, raised as potential successors to L, appear - Near, a detective associated with the United States Government, and Mello, a member of the Mafia. As his first act against Kira, Mello attempts to obtain the death note held by the Kira task force, by kidnapping the director of Japan's National Police Agency. This plan is briefly stymied when Light murders the director out of hand. Refocusing on the families of the task force, Mello kidnaps Light's sister Sayu as a replacement; she is quickly rescued, but the death note is lost to Mello. To regain it, Light's father Soichiro trades half of his remaining life to Ryuk for the "shinigami eyes" - the ability to see people's names on sight. During an assault on Mello's HQ, Soichiro learns Mello's name, but does not kill him. He is shot several times during the attack, and dies shortly afterward in hospital.
After this, Near and several members of the task force begin to suspect Light of being Kira. In response, Light persuades Misa to give up her notebook and raises another "Kira", Teru Mikami, a prosecutor and fervent supporter of Kira. Mikami kills Kira's former spokesman for being greedy and recruits Kiyomi Takada, a newscaster and Light's former girlfriend, to replace him. Light reveals himself to Takada as the original Kira, and knowing that he and the other Kiras are under Near's surveillance, constructs a decoy plan to conceal the whereabouts of the genuine death note.
Mello returns and kidnaps Takada, who kills him with a hidden death note piece. Light then makes Takada commit suicide to keep her from implicating him, but Mikami, unaware of Light's actions, attempts to kill her as well. This exposes the genuine death note Mikami has concealed, revealing Light's plan at the last minute. At the story's climax, the two investigation teams meet in the "Yellow Box Warehouse". They are shortly joined by Mikami, who writes down the names of everyone in the warehouse except Light. Near then reveals that he replaced Mikami's notebook with a fake, and by the names written in it, is able to prove Light is Kira. In desperation, Light tries to use the last death note piece in his watch to kill Near, but task force member Matsuda shoots him several times. Ryuk realizes Light has lost and uses his own death note to kill Light with a heart attack, as he had promised to do one day from the beginning of the story.