Death Note (Japanese: デスノート Hepburn: Desu Nōto) is a Japanese dark fantasy psychological crime-thriller manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The story follows Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook from a Shinigami named Ryuk that grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face he knows. The series centers around Light's attempts to create and rule a world "cleansed of evil" as what he calls "the god of the new world" using the notebook, and the efforts of a detective known as L to stop him.
Death Note was first serialized in Shueisha's manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The 108 chapters were collected and published into 12 tankōbon volumes between May 2004 and October 2006. An anime television adaptation 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 also released in 2006. Additionally, various video games have been published by Konami for the Nintendo DS. The series was adapted into three live-action films released in Japan on June 17, 2006, November 3, 2006, and February 2, 2008, and a television drama in 2015. A miniseries entitled Death Note: New Generation and a fourth film were released in 2016. An American film was released on Netflix on August 25, 2017.
Death Note media is licensed and released in North America by Viz Media, with the exception of the video games and soundtracks. The episodes from the anime first appeared in North America as downloadable from IGN, before Viz Media licensed it and it aired on YTV's Bionix anime block in Canada and on Adult Swim in the United States with a DVD release following. The live-action films briefly played in certain North American theaters in 2008, before receiving home video releases. In 2015, the collected volumes of the Death Note manga had over 30 million copies in circulation. The series has received ample critical acclaim, with praise aimed at the originality, character development, storyline, themes, and unique combination of the horror-thriller, dark fantasy, and crime-drama genres, which has led to it being called one of the best manga series of the decade.
Light Yagami is a genius high school student who discovers the "Death Note", a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it, as long as the writer is thinking of that person's face as they write. After experimenting with the notebook, Light meets the Shinigami Ryuk, the notebook's original owner, who dropped the notebook to the human world out of boredom. Light tells Ryuk of his plan to rule as a god over a new world free from criminals, where only people he deems morally fit to live remain. Light becomes known to the public as Kira (キラ), which is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the word "killer". Ryuk, invisible except to those that possess the Death Note, follows Light around and takes enjoyment from Light's meticulous actions as Kira.
Kira's killings catch the attention of Interpol and world-famous detective "L". L, who is highly intelligent, has surmised that Kira can kill anyone by knowing their face and name, and tricks Light into revealing his location in the Kanto region of Japan. L creates a small anti-Kira task force from the local police to help discover who Kira is, including Soichiro, Light's father, requiring Light to take several measures to keep the Death Note secure. Light and L begin a game of cat and mouse to try to further their own ends.
Once Light is in college, he joins L and his anti-Kira task force in hopes of finding a way to learn L's name and kill him. Light's plan is impeded by a love-struck second Kira, famous model Misa Amane, and her Shinigami Rem. Misa finds out that Light is the first Kira and offers her assistance to him. However, Misa's infatuation with Light causes her to make several strategic errors, allowing L to gain enough evidence to detain her as the second Kira. L suspects Light is the first Kira, leading Light and Misa to create a plan to throw L off track. Light allows himself to be detained, and both relinquish ownership of their Death Notes, erasing all memories they had of using it. While detained, a third Kira appears, proving Light and Misa's innocence, and L releases them into house arrest in his headquarters.
The anti-Kira task force identify the third Kira as Yotsuba Group executive Kyosuke Higuchi, who has been using Misa's Death Note. Higuchi is captured, and Light touches the Death Note, regaining all his memories. He kills Higuchi to retake possession of the notebook. After apprehending Higuchi, the anti-Kira task force learns of the Death Notes and their function, and the existence of Shinigamis associated with them. Light then manipulates Rem into killing L after putting Misa in a life-threatening situation. Because purposely killing to prolong the lifespan of a human violates Shinigami law, Rem also dies. Upon L's death, Light becomes the second "L" and continues his charade of searching for Kira while carrying out the killings himself with help from Misa.
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, are revealed – Near, a detective associated with the United States Government, and Mello, a member of the Mafia.
Mello uses criminal means to get closer to Kira. One of Mello's plans results in the death of Soichiro. Meanwhile, Near's investigation of Kira leads him to suspect that Light is acting as both the current L and Kira. After Soichiro's death, Near plants seeds of suspicion in the task force. In response, Light persuades Misa to give up her notebook and raises another "Kira", Teru Mikami, a prosecutor and fervent supporter of Kira. Mikami recruits Kiyomi Takada, a newscaster, to serve as Kira's public spokeswoman. Realizing that Takada is connected to Kira, Mello kidnaps Takada. She kills Mello, and is in turn killed by Light. However, Mikami's actions as a result of the kidnapping enable Near to set up a trap that implicates both Light and Mikami as Kira. The task force and Near's investigation team capture the two of them and force a confession out of Light. Ryuk, realizing Light is no longer able to entertain him, kills Light with his notebook, as he promised to do so in the beginning of the story.