Known for her bad-ass role as Kira Yukimura in TV drama Teen Wolf, Arden Cho was scathing about Death Note casting overlooking Asian actors in the USA. She initially Tweeted:
What do you think?
All the latest information about Death Note: reports, gossip, releases, analyses, speculation and discussion.
Twitter has been in uproar, cheering on and retweeting US actress Arden Cho's comments about the US live-action Death Note movie, and its strangely Caucasian casting choices thus far.
Known for her bad-ass role as Kira Yukimura in TV drama Teen Wolf, Arden Cho was scathing about Death Note casting overlooking Asian actors in the USA. She initially Tweeted:
Then, in response to Lauren, a commenter who wrote, 'MANY talented Asian actors/actresses to choose from and yet they whitewash the whole film!' Arden posted:
Nor had she finished there.
Finally, Arden Cho had a greeting for Edward Zo (possibly tipped off by the furore on Twitter regarding her comments about whitewashing Death Note):
Asian-American actor Edward Zo had previously - and quite famously - been vocal on the subject of Death Note US live-action movie auditions excluding Asian actors. Silence means approval and neither Arden nor Edward are prepared to be silent on this issue. Nor are a whole lot of other people judging by the amount of retweets and replies each exposee and protest prompted.
What do you think?
There's good taste on show in Nebraska, as students are urged to watch Death Note on Netflix.
Writing for The Daily Nebraskan - independent student paper for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln - journalist Wade Ronspies wrote that the Death Note anime is 'truly one of the most tense and harrowing offerings on Netflix'.
This is after he dismissed anime's apparent local reputation as being just 'for nerds'. It's a fair cop this end, but is that a deserved statement throughout? And if so, do we think that's necessarily a bad thing?
Nerd and proud! Assuming nerd means the same in dreary, old Blighty, as it does in the windswept plains of the USA's Nebraska. What does nerd mean to you? And does enjoying anime, and by extension Death Note, fit into that category?
And more to the point, why do labels apply to our own persona based solely on what we watch, read, listen to or otherwise enjoy? And should we take notice of them, let alone take care to tag upon ourselves only those labels incurring an identification with which we might live?
The sociologist in me is fighting at the bit to answer, but I'd be more interested in what you'd have to say.
Ronspies finished with extolling the virtues of new experience for his student readership, 'It may be different from what you normally watch, and that’s exactly why you owe it to yourself to watch “Death Note.”'
Read more at Netflix Pick of the Week: 'Death Note' by Wade Ronspies (The Daily Nebraskan, November 18th 2015) and catch the anime Death Note at Netflix, or indeed check out our Death Note anime selection right here at Death Note News.
Looking to debate Death Note with fellow political scientists and sociologists? If you're a student or associate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, you can do just that with an event scheduled for later this month.
Death Note is the subject of the first in a month long analysis of anime at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Members of the prestigious university's Political and Social Science Department (Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales) will be meeting to debate aspects of the show.
Their Death Note analysis and debate event will be held on November 17th 2015, at 1pm, in the Lucio Mendieta y Núñez Room, at UNAM's campus in Mexico City.
It's unclear whether members of the public are also free to attend. If you wish to participate, then contacting the faculty itself may be the way forward.
If you find out - on behalf of everybody else - please do report back and we'll update this accordingly.
Beginning today, a brand new Philosophy of Death Note column
by Nathaniel Brown for Death Note News.
The morality of Death Note is curious thing, not least because the complex themes Ohba raises in his manga are unintentional.
When examining the themes of Death Note we as a fandom have a lot of input. Death Note is the perfect slate for a variety of interpretations because Ohba himself didn’t have much in mind outside his desire to entertain his readership. When interviewed he said that he saw a magazine article about the themes of the series he stated that it was “too difficult for me to understand” and the creation of the “deep philosophical themes” of Death Note were a by-product of their desire to entertain, not the other way around.
He’s even on record as saying “some people may have been taking the series too seriously”! (Which in writing this article I’m probably falling into the category of). He was pressed about this topic and did eventually say “no human has the right to pass judgement on another’s actions. No one should play God”; but this seems to be retrospective analysis rather than something he had in mind while writing the series.
Nevertheless, whether Ohba intended to or not his series raises many valid ideas and paves way for multiple readings; not just the one I’m about to offer. The risk in approaching Death Note is to view it with too strong a Western perspective when characters like Soichiro Yagami are so clearly eastern. Nevertheless, it’s through this lens I will (partially) view it because of my greater familiarity with Western philosophy.
The three main ideologies characters could be argued to have in the series are Utilitarianism, Confucianism (with a touch of Kantianism) and Nihilism. We'll start this month with the middle one.
Death Note's Confucian Soichiro Yagami (and Kant)
Light’s father Soichiro Yagami is a fundamentally eastern character with a highly Confucian mind-set. Confucianism (similar, but not identical to the Western philosophy of Kantianism) emphasises collective duty to the whole of society and that the ends never justifies the means!
Soichiro values his family above all other things, and his duty as a police officer next. He was the first to agree to stay on with L after the police force stopped investigating the Kira case, and his guilt in saving his daughter lead him to accept the Shinigami eyes and ultimately die for his cause. He risks his life numerous times during the Kira investigation and his passion for justice makes him an incredible workaholic (his family often had to deliver clothes to him because he worked such long hours, this caused Light to meet Naomi while he was delivering them to him; too her eternal misfortune).
Ohba has stated that Soichiro Yagami is the only “good” person in Death Note.
Despite his dedication to catch Kira, he has his limits of what he perceives as morally permissible to do so and he certainly doesn’t espouse the idea “that the ends justify the means”. This objection is revealed multiple times throughout the investigation; most notably when L wishes to allow criminals mentioned by Yotsuba to die in order to incriminate the organisation. Soichiro opposes on the grounds that “even if they are criminals” it’s unethical to allow them to die even if it is to solve the case. To make this clear, they arguably stand to gain more by allowing these criminals to die (and to be fair, we aren’t talking about purse snatchers here in most cases) since if they can apprehend the Yotsuba Group, more people will be saved from Kira.
Looking it at it from a more Kantian perspective all humans have an intrinsic value, and can never be a means to an end because their intelligence and sentience makes them an end in of themselves meaning things such as murder and lying (which Light does with impunity) never acceptable.
The song sung by Soichiro in Death Note the Musical - Honour Bound and Bound by Honesty - has a distinctly Eastern feeling to it; enhancing his Confucian and Japanese associations.
At the heart of Soichiro Yagami’s character is a man who struggles between his duty to his family and his duty to remain impartial as a police officer. This ultimately leads him to consider committing suicide after he’s forced to hand over the Death Note to Mello to get his daughter, Sayu, back.
Other versions of Death Note enhance this very Japanese perspective further. In the Death Note drama, Soichiro Yagami commits suicide with the Death Note after uncovering his son’s identity as Kira. This harkens back to the honour killings that were once common in Japan; most infamously with Kamikaze pilots. Since Soichiro Yagami cannot bring himself to kill his son (that would be a violation of his duty to his family) he kills himself since he failed in his duty to raise a morally upright son.
With real life asserting itself quite forcibly behind the scenes of Death Note News, we're a little late reporting upon a story we saw breaking earlier this week.
Yet this has turned out to be quite a boon, as we've instead watched events unfolding in quite astounding ways at Nashua High School North, in the USA's New Hampshire.
At least insofar as these things normally turn out.
Seventeen Names Discovered in New Hampshire Schoolgirl's Fake Death Note
While no details have been released regarding the teenager, nor her motives in writing the names, unofficial sources* have claimed that they were her bullies. Listing them was merely a cathartic exercise by a besieged young lady.
* Comments on reports published on-line by local news agencies.
No Hysteria in New Hampshire Over Death Note
Third on the list was a classmate named Madeline Charest. As gossip about the discovery leaked amongst the student fraternity, she learned of her placement and 'in fear' visited School Principal Marianne Busteed.
The principal informed her that 'it was being handled and please return to class'.
Perhaps inspired by Charest's visit - especially as it foreshadowed the kind of fuss her mother could kick up - or else in line with general school policy, Principal Busteed drafted an email to parents.
Posted shortly before close of day on that same Friday, it briefly outlined what had occurred - that administrators and a 'school resource officer' had recovered a Death Note from an unnamed pupil.
Iterating that 'at no time was any child in danger', the principal explained that the costume reproduction Death Note itself posed no threat. It could easily be bought from retailers, both in real world shops and online.
She went on to provide a context for the prop:
According to the story, the book is perceived to have some kind of magical power to cause harm to the person listed — there were several of our Titan students’ names on the list.
Before emphasizing those facets bound to most occupy the minds of parents:
Please know that the safety of our students is our primary concern, and that we will fully discipline the student who developed this list in accordance with the Nashua School District student behavior standards
The school then individually contacted the parents of those pupils whose names had appeared within the pages of that fake Death Note. Keeping them in the loop, assuring each that their child was never in any actual danger, and offering counsellors for any student who might feel unsafe at school due to the imitation Death Note.
Nobody appears to have added that said counsellors could also point out the difference between fantasy and reality, with particular regard to how owning Death Note memorabilia does not make one Kira.
Rabble Rousing Parent Facebook Panics over Replica Death Note in Nashua
None of which was enough for Madeline's mother Danielle Charest, whose hyperbolic feats of panicked conjecture and lynch mob mindset grew to most spectacular levels with each newspaper contacted.
But first she took to Facebook.
Reading the comments to the Facebook post is quite something. Quite a few people seemed to wholeheartedly agree with the Nashua mother's statement that this 'was in no way an unsafe situation'.
Presumably because they all thought that a shinigami MIGHT turn up and words written on a piece of paper would come true.
Though in truth, none of them were overly concerned about such things. They were all too busy equating costume notebooks with firearms, and playing armchair psychiatrists in denunciations of the schoolgirl as 'mentally unstable' or a 'sociopath'.
By the time they'd finished warming up, their calls and emails had gone out to every major news outlet, plus everyone from the local Mayor to the President of the United States (and his wife).
Meanwhile, the young lady in possession of the Death Note had reached out on Facebook to Madeline Charest, in order to apologise for any upset and assure her that she really didn't mean any harm.
Imitation Death Note at Nashua High School Sparks Social Panic in the Press
You can't get away from the name Danielle Charest in news reports about the cosplay Death Note notebook found in the possession of a girl in Nashua. As a concerned parent, Charest ensured that she wrested her full fifteen minutes of fame from the incident.
"I think the mystery shrouding this is what's causing the alarm to parents... Parents are afraid. Kids are afraid."
Thus proving that she could neither read Principal Busteed's e-mail, nor search online for Death Note. Unless the 'mystery' was simply when Nashua could expect a visit from Ryuk, Rem or their ilk?
"I pray with every ounce of my being that it's never something that would turn into a tragedy," Charest said. "But how do you know it wouldn't? How do you know this isn't the beginning of a tragic situation?"
Because Shinigami notebooks don't work as advertised outside the pages of a Japanese manga - give or take the anime, television and movie adaptations.
Exactly the same story was repeated on WMUR News on Demand (October 12th 2015), though the editor there at least caught the typo in the headline. This version is notable because of the 200+ comments left upon it, constituting a slanging match/witch-hunt starring Nashua High School North parents and associates.
Grab your peanuts and switch your incredulity levels down low to read them. You'll need it.
Personal favourites include:
There were plenty more beyond those, but once you've waded through with your jaw gaping once, it gets pretty tedious on the return trip.
Meanwhile, my prize for best social scare-mongering presentation of the story in the press goes to Seventeen Magazine for this:
Practical Response from Police and Principal in Nashua Death Note 'Scare'
After all that frothing at the mouth, it might be wondered why the reaction to a Death Note in Nashua was deemed 'refreshing' and 'a common sense approach' way back at the beginning.
That's because - under considerable pressure from parents to act otherwise - those in charge of the situation kept things utterly in proportion.
Principal Marianne Busteed refused to release the girl's name, nor any details concerning disciplinary action carried out by Nashua High School North. If, indeed, any was judged appropriate to the situation.
All this despite a barrage of calls and emails from parents and the press demanding that she spill immediately.
She also arranged a meeting for parents at the school on October 13th. Then, when Danielle Charest and co began to rally people to attend and demand more answers than the principal was legally (and ethnically) able to give, Busteed simply closed the meeting to all but those parents directly involved.
Meanwhile, Nashua police officers did investigate, and representatives were on hand to answer questions and reassure at the Tuesday evening meeting.
We did not find any evidence that the student had intended to harm students or that there were any plans beyond simply placing the students’ names on the list.
However, he had to admit that some parents were left frustrated, as he 'couldn't share all of the information' regarding their investigation, nor personal details about the girl in question, nor anything about potential disciplinary measures.
She's a juvenile. US privy laws protect such things, particularly if she's not been charged with anything.
He also shook off requests that the girl be constantly monitored by the judiciary, including a watch on all her digital communications across all devices. It was neither necessary nor legal in the circumstances.
I assigned multiple detectives to this; it is an ongoing investigation... We don't feel there's an ongoing safety issue.
Police Chief Lavoie confirmed that no arrests had been made, though all concerned continued to take the case seriously.
The sticking point being that no crime had actually been committed. The replica Death Note could not kill.
The student and their parents were interviewed and were very cooperative and open about what was going on. It was determined that no criminal threatening, nor any other crimes were committed.
Meanwhile, the girl herself has apparently been doing the rounds of calling those listed in her book to apologize. It was never meant to be taken seriously. It was never meant to be all this.
But if she's frightened them, then she's genuinely sorry.
As was said before - all quite refreshingly practical, polite and proportional in response from those central to the situation. (Less so from those on the periphery.)
Now. Is anyone going to deal with the fact that she was purportedly being bullied, and that's why she listed those seventeen names in her notebook in the first place?
Actor Edward Zo is the latest to comment on the whitewashing furore surrounding the US live action Death Note movie.
Yet his might be the hardest-hitting commentary to date, simply because it relates personal experience to back up what so many are saying about inappropriate casting bias.
Ever since a strong rumour circulated that Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, Naked Brothers' Band) will star in the Death Note US remake, there has been much dissent amongst the masses. Voices raised on Twitter and other social networks, petitions, and a lot of angry talk elsewhere.
The issue being that Light Yagami is a Japanese man, who is being played by a white American half-Jewish actor. The important fact there being 'white'.
It feeds into a wider, quite repugnant tradition, whereby only white actors are cast in meaningful roles (or indeed 'roles' full-stop much of the time). Even if it means changing the ethnicity of the character in order to do so.
But one American actor - who was told openly not to bother auditioning for Death Note because he's too Asian - is hitting back.
Edward Zo's Racist Hollywood? Death Note Whitewashing YouTube Testimony
Edward Zo's video message to Hollywood is twenty minutes long, yet well worth affording the time to watch.
It's not merely a rant from an actor feeling entitled to something because of his ethnicity. It's an intelligent, multi-faceted look at the inherent racism of the film industry as a whole.
There's plenty of background, giving history and context, before zooming in on the specifics facing 'actors of colour' in Hollywood today. Not least that there just aren't that many roles with 'layers and depths' available for those who aren't white. Light Yagami should have been one of them.
This isn't just about an actor thwarted in a sought after part. It matters in a much wider setting.
Zo emphasizes the fact that visibility is key here. One demographic dominates the movie industry, and media per se. Whether we wish it or not, such things corrupt our perceptions of other cultures, races, classes, or whatever else feels unknown despite being part of the same human story.
Edward Zo is not Bruce Lee, nor is he Jackie Chan, yet he frequently encounters folk for whom those two gentlemen are their only frame of reference for his skin colour and features.
For Death Note fans, there's the added impetus of Zo's personal experience. A manga fan since childhood, he has long been passionate about Death Note.
Hence the excitement when he learned that a live action Death Note movie was being made in his native USA. It sounded like the kind of vehicle crying out for talented Asian-American actors. He couldn't be more wrong.
Informal inquiries, regarding auditions for his dream role of Light Yagami, led to the grapevine rustling back some unsettling news.
This would have been an amazing opportunity for an actor of colour, for an Asian actor, to take the global stage and break barriers and break stereotypes... (but) they were not looking to see Asian actors for the role of Light Yagami.
Despite being blatantly told not to bother applying, Edward Zo brushed aside the grapevine rhetoric enough to pursue the part through official channels. He asked his manager to submit his profile to Death Note's casting director.
He heard nothing back. Just the news that we all heard, which is that Nat Wolff is in 'final negotiations' to play Light Yagami.
No Asian actor at all, but an apple pie, ex-Nickelodeon, white American.
Not that Edward Zo has anything against Nat Wolff. He enjoyed the Naked Brothers Band and thought Wolff was great in his recently released movie Paper Towns. Nor is any of this necessarily Nat Wolff's fault.
Nevertheless, it feels, smells and looks like cultural imperialism from Zo's point of view.
Edward Zo highlights another example of Hollywood whitewashing
The Cultural Approximation of Death Note
Nat Wolff's lead role casting in Death Note conveys a message loud and clear to all Asians watching. Summed up, in Zo's own words, as:
Our version of your story does not include you.
Hollywood is happy to take stories from all over the world; authors may be any ethnicity, colour, race, creed, hail from any country, write in any language. But their tale will be told through a culturally white Protestant lens.
Thus it becomes white Protestant by tradition, as the loudest voice is usually the one most heard.
While the current highly extensive fandom is well aware that Death Note is Japanese, a whole new audience about to be exposed to a potential block-buster which swears that this is an American story.
Does that matter in the long run? Well put it this way, when you think of Romeo and Juliet, is it a Shakespearian play set in Verona? Original author Masuccio Salernitano would be amazed to find that his tale moved out of Tuscany and no-one today recalls that it was ever there.
And just ask the Welsh what contortions King Arthur went through after being wrestled from our grasp. Let's just say that nothing in the legend now looks like it does in the fragments that remain of our heritage.
Cultural approximation can so easily become cultural imperialism. That's the warning Edward Zo makes with regard to Death Note. Today Japanese, tomorrow white American.
Assuming it doesn't flop like other whitewashed Asian films. We're all looking at you, Dragonball Z and Airbender.
But the actor remains defiant.
Mobilizing on Behalf of Asians in Hollywood - Edward Zo's Rallying Call
Take it from a Briton, Americans really don't like being told they're liable for taxation without representation. Nor any of its modern equivalents. Like 'buy tickets for movie presentations without being in them'.
Hard work and persistence is supposed to realise the American Dream. If no hope in its actuality exists, then the good folk Stateside tend to bite back...
Dear Hollywood, you cannot just bleach the soul out of Death Note literally and then expect the rest of us not to notice. Because we noticed.
... and start revolutions.
It's up to us as young people to vocalise and to mobilize whenever we see something that is not right.
And older people too. I'm so far past young, that Edward Zo looks barely old enough to be out of diapers, but I heard and I vocalised. A life-long believer that silence means approval and no change was ever made without each of us speaking up wherever we perceive something wrong.
Especially when it seems endemic, institutionalized and so commonplace that we barely notice unless its pointed out.
Edward Zo pointed out something important here, and it behoves us to listen to what he has to say. Else nothing ever changes and this one is far bigger than even Death Note.
Books about Whitewashing Hollywood
The news that Nat Wolff has been cast as Light Yagami in the US live-action Death Note movie, hasn't gone down well in some quarters.
Fans have taken to Twitter to accuse director Adam Wingard of white-washing his movie. 'White-washing' is the phenomenon whereby ethnically diverse characters are uniformly played by white American actors.
Hence such bizarre anomalies as Jake Gyllenhaal playing the eponymous royal in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, despite the Persian prince patently being, well Persian. Or Johnny Depp cast as First Native Tonto in Lone Ranger.
Or Nat Wolff as the Japanese Light Yagami.
But some Death Note fans haven't taken that lying down. If silence means approval, then Adam Wingard heard the disapproval loud and clear.
Death Note Fans Take to Twitter to Accuse Wingard of Whitewashing Kira
NB Some Tweets re-arranged from the order displayed on Twitter, in order to boost clarity in reading the exchange.
Original conversation may be found on September 29th/30th 2015.
This single thread represents just a sample of the 'white-washing Death Note' protests being posted across Twitter over the past couple of days.
They've been coming thick and fast, ever since Nat Wolff as Light Yagami's actor in the US remake of Death Note was first announced. Though we should clarify that Wolff's casting isn't yet finalized.
Variety magazine, which revealed the titbit (Justin Kroll, ‘Paper Towns” Nat Wolff to Star in Adam Wingard’s ‘Death Note’, Variety, September 29th 2015), merely stated that the actor was engaged in 'final negotiations' for the part. That isn't cut, dried and sealed.
Nor have we received news since that a contract has been signed.
However, the debate doesn't appear to be dying down any time soon, as these two Tweets - picked at random from my Twitter stream - demonstrate.
Not to mention articles like that by Melissa Leon in The Daily Beast - Hollywood’s Anime Whitewashing Epidemic: Nat Wolff to Star in 'Death Note' (September 30th 2015).
A guest writer is gearing up to discuss this issue in more depth on Death Note News, but in the meantime, what are your thoughts about this (actual or perceived) white-washing of Light Yagami in the US Death Note live action movie?
And, for that matter, which quarter Japanese, English, Russian and maybe French or Italian actor should play L? That being his ethnicity as described in Death Note 13: How to Read.
Or don't you consider this to be an issue at all?
Vancouver born Osric Chau didn't seem to have a problem, when he gushed over the movie. The Asian-Canadian (mother Malaysian; father from Hong Kong) actor's sentiments were duly reTweeted by Adam Wingard.
Chau's Tweet inspired a vibrant response from the denizens of Twitter, worth the read to snap the current Zeitgeist.
Do leave your comments below in the usual way.
An opinion piece in a British broadsheet prompted one fan to laud the anti-death penalty message hammered home in Death Note.
The editorial by Clive Stafford Smith (The death penalty is in its final throes, but too many are still being executed) took a world wide view of capital punishment in its current state. Only 37 of the 195 countries recognized by the UN retains the death penalty on its statute books, including Japan.
Stafford Smith opined that those nations are out of step within a modern world and that history will judge them harshly. Soon no state will seek to execute those it deems criminal according to its laws. The arguments have already been lost.
The death penalty is no deterrent and its continued usage seems more and more like political expediency.
In response to the editorial, Death Note fan jameshogg commented:
In Death Note, no doubt one of Japan's greatest ever parables against the death penalty, Light Yagami comes across a supernatural notebook that allows him to kill anyone by writing their names. Instead of accepting responsibility for his first killing by testing the truthfulness of the notebook on a street gang member, he rationalises his murder by insisting that the criminals of the planet must perish in the name of deterrence in his "new world", something he's been long dreaming of. Ryuk, the Death God that watches over Light, remarks that at the end of this plan he will be "the only bastard left". Light replies:
What do you think? Is the climate for capital punishment changing in Japan? And will Death Note's central message factor into that? If indeed you agree that fundamentally Death Note is an anti-death penalty story. Is it?
Yet all we ever focus upon is her childish personality, as noisily expressed in all its banal, shallow conversation; her strange, but stylish fashion sense; and her tragic relationship with Light (plus exploitation by the same).
None of us quite registering that Misa killed people long before Light came onto the scene.
Nor did she have any compulsion to target only those deemed 'guilty' by any moral code - be it societal consensus, state law or personal judgement. She used her Death Note to murder anyone who it occurred to her to do at the time.
Including those pretty much used as leverage in a terror campaign.
If you do not try to capture me, no innocent people will die.
All this and more is highlighted and picked over by Pseudomiracle's Teruzuki -
who also reaches some conclusions as to why we're all so willing to ignore Misa's darker predilections as second Kira.
Can we say gender bias and sloppy story-telling?
Fully illustrated, with every point raised supported by Misa images from the manga - demonstrating quite clearly where we're missing a trick or ten (or several trillion), blind-sided by banal chatter and romantic sentiments - it's very much worth the read.
Check out Teruzuki's take on the matter on Tumblr, in her Pseudomiracle journal entry entitled: Some thoughts on Misa’s presumed victim status and the strange absolution of all her crimes for no apparent reason.
I waffled quite a lot concerning Near's possible split personality, hence split the blog entry too.
Part 1 of my Death Note (2015) analysis and review may be found over here. Now here's more about split personalities in the show, before I SERIOUSLY go off on one about torture.
Death Note (2015): Personality Shifts and Kira
The Wammys aren't the only ones subject to plural personalities inhabiting the same body.
Episode 6 in the Death Note television drama bore witness to both Kiras (Light and Misa) losing their memories concerning their murderous notebook usage. Less a split personality than a shifting of their own.
This deliberate amnesia wiped away all considerations of guilt and presumably layers of other emotion too. The TV adaptation of Death Note has flirted with a Tolkeinesque element of dread upon their artefact. Like wearing Bilbo's ring, writing in a shinigami's Death Note induces feelings of angst, pain and paranoia.
The accumulated effect of which must weigh heavily upon a psyche. Serial users experience the anguish verily ladled upon their minds and emotions, twisting their personalities beneath it as a coping mechanism.
Add too the stressful reality in which both have been living - Death Notes aside - with Misa's parental past rearing its ugly head, and L pursuing Light with a doggedness skittering into criminal obsession.
All this is what gets lifted from them, along with their memories, shinigami eyes and ability to see Death Gods loitering in their cells. Though they do then have to contend with being incarcerated and tortured without any context to explain their victimization.
Misa-Misa and the Light Lost to Kira
Misa's personality barely seems altered for the supposed loss of her preternatural dread. She simply switches focus in her verbal bids for freedom, assuming now that her captor is a stalker rather than an investigator in the Kira case.
For Light, the change in personality is much more dramatic.
It's testimony to the talent of actor Masataka Kubota that we can view, as a physical shifting, the stripping of Kira from Light. More impressive still, when you realise that most of it occurred with the camera in extreme close up, showing just his facial expressions and drooping/lifting head.
Light's been referring to Kira in the third person since the earliest episodes. Seeing the change in his visage and eyes, shorn of Death Note related memories, perhaps he was onto something after all.
Then again, dehumanizing or treating the killer within as a separate entity is what allows terrible things to be enacted upon a person without much protest from onlookers.
A much more subtle series of split personalities were on show in TV live-action Death Note episode 6 - the horrifically realistic vision of ordinarily upstanding people turning a blind eye to torture.
Fear, peer pressure, anxiety about appearing stupid or an unwillingness to stick one's head over the parapet regularly combine to create a kind of mass personality splintering. Individuals, communities or whole populations can be persuaded to set aside otherwise extant morality and common sense, as long as the victim and/or their circumstances can be presented as an exception to the norm.
Hence Holocausts occur; or other genocides, wars, lynching, the vilification of individuals and groups, and any other occasion when the loudest voice is saying words like 'subhuman' and suggesting a relaxing of rights, laws and rules as the only way forward.
In the torturing of Misa and Light, Death Note describes this phenomenon with aplomb. It's one of the aspects which first drew me to the story.
Did Somebody Call Amnesty International?
Fair warning: I'm an Amnesty International Urgent Cases activist (hence the Amnesty banner on my Death Note fan-fiction website). I was also an organizer for Holocaust Memorial Day events for years, after gaining my Honours Degree as a Historian specializing in the Porajmos.
Let's just say that I know a thing or two about how human rights and torture work in real situations. It colours somewhat my perception of these scenes in Death Note.
Realism in Death Note's Torture Scenes
Death Note pulled no punches in its scenes of torture during the interrogations of Misa and Light. We'd seen such things in the manga and anime, but there's something more immediate a little more disturbing when it's live action drama.
Nor did it seem particularly gratuitous to me. Though I did note that it was only the female Kira (Misa) who ended up scantily clad and arrayed in tight bodily restraints. Male Kira Light Yagami was allowed to keep most of his clothes on, while held in 'only' handcuffs.
Not that such physical restrictions, worn day in day out for over two weeks, would be particularly pleasant to endure.
I've been impressed by the reasonably realistic elements on display in Death Note's depiction of judicial torture in Japan. You just don't expect that with manga, anime nor the live-action versions bouncing off them.
The quotations above described real life complaints from prisoners tortured in Japanese detention facilities. Yet they could equally have pertained to scenes in episode six of Death Note's television adaptation.
Nor were these the only bits which echoed the true life experiences of Japan's tortured detainees.
... prison officials have been known to use physical and psychological intimidation to enforce discipline or elicit confessions. The government sometimes restricts human rights groups’ access to prisons...
Daiyo Kangoku in Death Note: Japanese Police Extracting Confessions by Torture
It feels like fiction how Misa and Light are dramatically detained in Death Note's episode six. Indeed it should be fictitious.
But we have to wonder to what extent Ohba and/or Obata were making a point in the way that their story aped the truth of what is permissible for Japan's police-force. After all, the television version of Death Note merely followed the canon telling of torture by Japanese law enforcement officers.
And that canon story - or something similar - could be occurring in a Japanese interrogation cell right now.
The daiyo kangoku system, which allows police to detain suspects for up to 23 days prior to charge, continued to facilitate torture and other ill-treatment to extract confessions during interrogation. Despite recommendations from international bodies, no steps were taken to abolish or reform the system in line with international standards.
Far from being fiction, Death Note's telling didn't go far enough in showing the degradation potentially awaiting detainees arrested by police in Japan. A real world Misa and Light could be kept:
Just as depicted in Death Note - but with viewer sensibilities spared the spectacle of Light eating meals with his hands still cuffed, or the humiliation of Misa made to publicly pass water - and all in contravention of international human rights laws.
If the presence of a defense counsel were to be required for an interrogation, it would be difficult to perform the interrogation promptly and sufficiently within the limit ed period of custody.
In addition to a fairly realistic portrayal of how daiyo kangoku may be abused, Death Note also highlights facets of torture which may only be fully understood within the context of Japanese culture.
Like why police officers are pressured to gain a signature upon a prisoner's statement, even if the result is forced confessions - fabricated or otherwise - signed simply to make the torturous interrogation stop.
The Importance of Confession in Japan
When arrested, aged just 20, (Sakurai) was treated like a guilty criminal, he says. "They interrogated me day and night, telling me to confess. After five days, I had no mental strength left so I gave up and confessed."
Certain restrictions upon the police, imposed by the Japanese people after World War Two, has unforetold expression in the modern day. Not least in the huge emphasis placed upon confession, as a sure-fire way to secure a conviction in a court of law.
That historical abuse of police power in wartime saw the agency stripped of the right to legally investigate or interrogate, using methods taken for granted globally by other police forces. For a start, Japanese officers may not listen in on private 'phone calls or stake out properties undercover.
(This may be why it's American FBI agents who L drafted in to follow Light and other Kira suspects. Soichiro and his squad aren't permitted to do the same.)
By limiting police intrusiveness, even in the pursuit of evidence, Japan's post-war civilian population unwittingly paved the way for an undue emphasis placed upon confessions. A statement of guilt is often all that investigators may legally present to a judge.
The importance of confession being that the vast majority of Japanese convictions rests upon one.
In fact, for the two and a half centuries of Japan's Tokugawa era (1600-1868), a confession had to be extracted before any alleged criminal could be found guilty. It was seen as the most reliable evidence around, a notion still firmly imprinted upon the general Japanese mindset.
Others have pointed to traditional elements in Japanese culture to account for the value placed upon confessions.
Practically enshrined in the national psyche is the vilification of personal shame above all else; whilst truth, respect for authority figures and diffidence to one's family - particularly parents and other elders - are elevated as fundamental to the Japanese character.
Confessing to crimes avoids the shame inherent of denying them, only to be found out later. Historically, people really did spill their every misdemeanour for the asking, though we only have the testimony of those doing the asking - and punishing - here.
Which is why Death Note sees L, in constant repetition, challenging Light to confess that he is Kira.
Truth will out and, if not, then its not just the individual shamed. Everyone will be blaming the parents, who couldn't possibly have raised their child with correct and proper values.
A facet which has been blamed for the phenomenon of false confessions willingly produced by those unable to prove their innocence.
Parental Shame and Japan's Judicial Torture
Naturally, as detainees may be held for weeks incommunicado, it's easy for interrogators to withhold information. Particularly that pertaining to evidence that points towards their subject's innocence.
The prevailing ethos is that its better to tell prisoners nothing, lest the 'lesser' proof of innocence be superseded by better evidence. Like a confession.
We see this too in episode six of Death Note's TV drama. Wherein Light crawls on his cell floor begging to know if Kira has killed again during his own incarceration. L's intractability in refusing to impart such knowledge moves Aizawa to compassion.
The police officer's whisper that 'it's alright' is instantly deemed detrimental to L's tactics. The overt torture of Light - isolated; bound; scrutinized 24/7; his sense of time forcibly confused; kept ignorant of news in his case, and without counsel but for that telling him that he's guilty, confess and be done - was over at that moment.
It's no accident that what followed involved Light's father and the belief that he would confess to Soichiro alone, if imminent death - murder to assuage parental shame - threatened that truth would be taken to the grave.
What may be less obvious, to many watching the show, is why an upstanding citizen like Soichiro Yagami would countenance the torture of anyone, let alone his own son?
Indeed, how the rest of his team could continue to comply with L's edicts.
Complicity in the Torture of Death Note's Kira
Protestations were issued by most members of the Kira Countermeasures squad - well versed in human rights principles and able to spot when interrogations had gone too far - but each quickly backed down again.
The entire squad conveying tacit approval, even when the majority couldn't watch the torture in action. All but Aizawa left Light alone with L, no longer witnesses to his plight.
That's how most remain complicit in on-going human rights abuses in reality around the world - by their silence, looking the other way, keeping themselves ignorant and generally acting in denial of their own ability to intervene. Aped powerlessness and not getting involved are the most subtle forms of approval.
Also the most prevalent way in which people demonstrate complicity in torture.
After all, you know that torture exists in the world. What have you done about it? Today? Yesterday? At any time in your life? If something, then thank you so much. If nothing, then what excuses do you give yourself?
Those are likely to be akin to the kind of excuses within the minds of the Japanese police officers watching Misa, then Light, tortured in Death Note. Though they scream, shout, stamp around and shake their heads going, 'No, this is wrong' (then finally half of them walk out), they don't actually DO anything about it.
Even Aizawa's quiet rebellion, regarding the embargo on information for Light, doesn't precisely constitute stopping it. Though that was coincidentally the end result.
Any one of those present could have physically over-powered L. Instead they attempted to reason with him, then backed down at the first counterpoint raised by the Wammy detective. Like he had the right to do what he did, even as a foreigner torturing Japanese citizens upon Japanese ground.
But people can be talked into complying with anything, if no-one else joins in the stand, and a clever speaker reassures them that everything is alright.
If all else fails, then torturers like L can always fall back upon that old fail-safe - fear. Governments do it all the time, as do newspaper editors, civic leaders, parents, whole religions are founded upon it. Fear remains the best way to control individuals, groups, communities and populations alike.
Terry Pratchett observed, in one of his DiscWorld books, that the fundamental question plaguing humanity most of the time is, 'Am I going to get in trouble for this?'
Rather tongue in cheek, but it lies at the heart of why so many - knowing torture to be wrong - fail to act when faced with even the threat of danger to their own self. Or the notion that someone somewhere will tell them off for acting rationally and morally.
Mogi demands L stop torturing Misa. L responds, "Would you prefer to conduct the interrogation yourself, in the same room?" And Mogi's reservations are instantly silenced.
L's threat doesn't even make sense. Why should him desisting his torture equate a police officer thrown alone into a room with the scary Kira suspect?
But it sounded like danger, delivered in a reasonable tone which implied that was the only way it could be. Thus fear did the rest.
Did L Have the Right to Torture Light and Misa?
No. He didn't.
Not by Japanese law - he's not a Japanese police officer, nor has he taken an oath of legal service under any Japanese code of practice. In short, the government and people of Japan had not handed him a mandate to act, and even if they had, a new law would have needed to be passed to allow him to behave quite like this.
Not under international law - Light and Misa were born with certain rights, immutable and without exception. That includes the right not to be tortured.
Not even Kira.
Why Can't Death Note Kira Suspects Be Judged Under the Law?
They can and should be.
When early protests are sounded, amongst officers seeing how Misa is being held - full body restraints and a blindfold, whilst forced to stand throughout her incarceration; under 24/7 surveillance (without even the uncertain dignity afforded by a female guard doing the watching); subject to verbal intimidation; without counsel nor formal charges levied against - L is unsympathetic.
He disdains all suggestion that Misa is bereft of her human rights, seeming almost bored as he irritably explains the situation to those witnessing it.
"The ability to kill people just by looking at their face cannot be judged under the law," L tells the law-enforcers, apparently quite convincingly too, as all of their complaints simply melt away.
Do you agree with his standpoint? Actually it doesn't matter whether you do or don't, nor if the the Kira Countermeasures squad are persuaded to this point of view as they seem.
(Though they, at least, were in an immediate position to assess the situation and intervene. You'd have to discover it was a thing, then start bombarding influential people with letters, including Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Minister for Justice Yoko Kamikawa, National Police Agency Commissioner-General Tsuyoshi Yoneda and - fictional - Chief Superintendent Goda, plus your ambassador to Japan and the Japanese ambassador to your country. Those are the ones with the clout to save Misa, and the regard for public and/or international opinion, which means they can be pressured into doing so.)
Regardless of L's persuasive qualities, your opinion, the Kira team's cowardice or the (usually secret) commands coming down the hierarchy from the highest levels, a fundamental fact remains the same:
Misa retains the right to be judged under law, shinigami eyes or not.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- The birthright of all human beings born on the planet, hence the word 'universal' in the title. Enshrined by Japan's government, publicized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and here's a version in Japanese.
In short, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - and its counterparts found in the Japanese Constitution and other laws - exist to protect people like Misa and Light from the likes of L.
Unfortunately, there were no police officers around courageous enough to enforce it. A state which undoubtedly has its echoes in real life Japanese interrogation cells.
I really have gone on enough in this blog entry. That's what happens when two passions collide in circumstances of great scrutiny, and I know way too much about both.
I hope it was informative, and/or entertaining, at least.
Coincidence or not, there seems to have been quite a run on news reports about Death Note fans in China just recently.
More specifically about how Chinese fans of Death Note and other banned media
access their favourite manga/anime, despite state censorship of the same in their country.
Chinese Twitter and Torrents - Death Note Fans Evade State Censorship in China
First up was an article for Forbes by Lauren Orsini - a writer who focuses upon fandom and fan phenomena around the world - entitled How Fans Embrace Japanese Cartoons Over the Great Firewall of China (Forbes, July 10th 2015).
Prompted by the previous month's blacklisting of 38 Japanese anime/manga in China, as per a directive issued by its Ministry of Culture, Orsini's piece investigated how fans still manage to gain access to all that was banned.
Not to mention staging anime conventions (100,000 attendees last year) and enjoying a thriving cosplay culture. There is no prohibition in place for cosplay.
It seems that Sina Weibo - China's answer to Twitter - is a key source of information on where to locate Japanese entertainment, either on-line or in one of the many Anime Viewing Clubs now springing up everywhere. There are also forums dedicated to keeping fans informed, many of which have been around for over a decade.
It's mostly Chinese dubbed anime which is being wiped from the nation's easily accessed web channels. But the Japanese language is so close to Chinese, that many fans simply find a 'raw' (undubbed) version streamed in a plethora of places online, and watch them instead.
Otherwise, it's BitTorrent to download Japanese anime or manga, like Death Note, which has a huge fanbase in China.
All this is a summary of the fascinating fine detail in Orsini's article. I recommend that you check it out for more information and photographs.
Why Does the Chinese Government Hate Death Note ? An Anime Historian Spells it Out
On Sina, 33,000 of them had passed on news about the ban - itself a form of protest - while another 4,000 openly commented in disparaging terms about it. She quoted one Chinese fan, who railed against his government as acting in 'fear of youth violence' and using censorship to '(promote) Communist cartoons)'.
Yet the hashtag #DeathNote goes on with 10,000 people currently using it.
Finally we heard from Clements - an historian penning books on many aspects of East Asia besides anime - who qualified all the statistics and subjective experience before into an on-going time-line.
He described how this latest suppression of Death Note and other manga is indicative of a much wider trade war with Japan. Which hits the hearts and minds of Chinese citizens, simply because the stakes are so high on both sides.
For the Japanese, the goal is simple - there are 1.3 billion consumers in China, with a language and culture close enough for entertainment exports from Japan to be quite easily embraced. Breaking that market would be highly profitable.
Moreover, there's a precedent for how popular Japanese anime may be in China. Back in 2004, a survey found that six of China's top ten cartoons were actually Japanese imports.
This downright freaked the Chinese authorities out.
They saw only the possible undermining of their Communism ideals, with Death Note one of the greatest culprits of all.
Chinese television has little in the way of detective stories, because officials want to promote the notion that China has a low crime rate. Death Note is not only swamped with detectives, but it seems to validate the criminal. At least in the early stages, wherein Light is such a sympathetic character.
It's a tale which hinges upon supernatural and/or superstitious elements, both of which are suppressed in China. They are elements which could encourage religion, also not part of the Chinese Communist Manifesto.
Moreover, Death Note is viewed as pandering to a feeling of 'entitlement' amongst the youth of China. It's fundamentally a 'teenage power trip', whereby Light Yagami takes on all authority because he can. You have to wade through dozens of episodes before he seems to attract any kind of comeuppance.
Again not themes embraced by China's ruling officials.
They all had much more to say than I've crammed in here, so that segment of the broadcast is worth a quick listen.
More books about anime by Jonathan Clements: The Anime Encyclopedia and Schoolgirl Milky Crisis - Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade.
China's Death Note Ban Seeks to Restrict Casual Access
Two days later, BBC Trending followed through with an editorial (kerry Allen and colleague Barney Rowntree) and blog (Mike Wendling), which expanded upon many of the themes touched upon in their programme.
It was (snappily) entitled Japanese comics that are too racy for Chinese censors... but still popular online (July 27th 2015) and featured much more from Dr Jonathan Clements, as well as examples of some of the comments being posted onto Sina Weibo.
An extra snippet that I found particularly interesting came from Clements:
The issue with a lot of Chinese censorship isn't about a blanket ban that keeps 100% of material out. It's about making life as difficult as possible for people who actually want it. A ban like this is about restricting casual access. (Dr J Clements, BBC Trending, July 27th 2015)
And there we have it, as I've discovered that the other blogs and articles I'd got prepared were basically reporting upon or rehashing the BBC commentary.
Pretty much like this one really!
Death Note fans, were you aware that we have a code of conduct - enshrined into being by Kira himself - which commands us to destroy all evidence of our own lives, if such could potentially be sought by police?
Nope, neither was I.
Yet that is precisely the conclusion set to be reached by Indian investigators, as they pen their final report into the tragic death of teenager Rahul Sridhar. (For more context, see Rahul Sridhar: Lucknow Teen Suicide Linked to Death Note (April 2015))
Police have devoted three pages to the fifteen year old's obsession with Death Note, including noting that Rahul had updated his Facebook cover picture to depict Light Yagami. Thus proving that Kira was his hero, or at least someone whom he saw as representative of himself.
The official report says that this explains anomalies in the boy's behaviour shortly before his alleged suicide, particularly the burning of certain papers and wiping clean portions of his digital history too.
The boy was patently emulating Kira, prior to the latter being arrested by L. This is the infamous Death Note Code to which we surely all adhere.
In both cases - fact and fiction - the result was a lack of evidence by which the full story may be pieced together by police.
Sorry, investigators, as someone fully entrenched within the Death Note fandom for quite some time, I have never heard of such a code being prevalent amongst us. In fact, Rahul's death is the first time I've ever encountered even a suggestion that it might be a thing.
It's not, nor should it ever be.
And I do hope that such scaremongering doesn't lead to Indian parents all panic snatching their children's manga from bookshelves, nor petitioning politicians, libraries and stores to ban Death Note as a dangerous influence.
Particularly when it's a conclusion reached through lack of evidence.
In the meantime, RIP Rahul Sridhar, I do wish your own life could have been otherwise. You were one of us.
Imagine how short the story would be if Kira's Death Note wasn't bound by so many rules, or if the shinigami eyes came without a cost.
Moreover, contemplate how utterly tedious that telling might be.
These are the considerations occupying Kinetic Literature's Kuiper in a thought provoking article entitled Death Note and Sanderson’s Second Law of Magic.
Running with Bruce Sanderson's assertion that 'limitations are more important than powers' in magical fantasy tales, Kuiper takes another look at Death Note. The adage holds up to scrutiny when applied to its supernatural elements - magic as represented here by the notebook(s) and shinigami deals.
Not their awesome power, but their fatally corruptive powerlessness is more than merely important. It's fundamental to the plot.
Musing upon that 2nd Law, I'm struck by how often its true beyond successful story-weaving of magical universes. The most compelling characterisation (or inanimate objects) frequently comes in what is missed, lost or otherwise undermining the efforts of protagonists.
Just think MacBeth in his mindless ambition, manipulated by his missus and misinterpreting the clues set out by the Wyrd Sisters; Heathcliff in his damaged mind and sensibilities, his suffering of abuse transforming him into a bully; or Jane Eyre's 'plainness' blinding people to the fact that she was actually quite radical in her Feminism for her Victorian era.
Where would those stories be if Jane Eyre was pretty enough to be snapped up by the first passing fancy, long before Rochester ever clapped eyes on her? Or if MacBeth had common sense enough to say, 'Hold on! Wtf am I doing?' Or if Heathcliff had just punched Hareton in the gob within days of being brought to Wuthering Heights, disdained Cathy as being a bit too shallow and selfish for his love-starved psyche and grown up accordingly as a well-adjusted member of society?
Short. That's what. And boring. Tales not worth the classic tags and endless reprint editions.
That same fascinating propensity towards fatal flaws can also be seen in the personalities of Death Note:
In such insertions come the brilliant hooks of story-telling. They carry the plot-line into creating a manga classic, standing the test of time and providing endless subject for discussion amongst its on-going fandom.
Such I think was recognized by Tsugumi Ohba. The power of limitation in personality is pretty much spelled out by Near at the end there. He acknowledged that he was flawed and so was Mello. But together they made good each other's deficiencies.
Thus embracing their individual powerlessness - and rejecting the crippling restriction imposed by Wammy's House in solving cases competitively - they were able to surpass L in bringing down Kira.
I'm with Sanderson and Kuiper alike. The story is in the limitation and that truly is its magic at its most elementary.
Whether I agree with the viewpoint or not, it's always interesting to approach a familiar tale from a brand new angle.
Over on her eponymous blog, Lady Theresa Christina has assessed Light Yagami's morality from the point of view of her Christian faith.
Naturally he doesn't do well under such a microscope. Kira might think himself God of this New World, but the Christian God has his own Views on the worship of deities other than Himself and they didn't include any mention of young Mr Yagami.
Lady Theresa Christina doesn't just state the obvious here. She digs down into why Kira's hubris is unacceptable within a Christian world-view. A short and sweet article, but worth a glance, if you're as fascinated as I am by the theology, philosophy and/or ethical standpoint of the stories.
Coming from a similar place - theologically speaking - The Eternal Optimist blogger Anna Streetman also explores the Christian values in Death Note. Her piece (Death Note: An Anti-Religion Anime?) broadens the scope a bit to include many different themes running as an undercurrent through the story.
Most of all, she discerns a thread warning of the dangers of blind faith. Particularly when your deity is a serial killer.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading that one.
Here's a true story which made headlines while I was busy moving house. It takes place in Connecticut, USA, where a thirteen year old boy caused chaos, terror and confusion by taking a Death Note to school.
By 'Death Note', I don't mean the standard issue given to shinigamis. I mean one he'd made himself with a staple and some sheets of paper folded in two. Nobody died.
I feel like I'm insulting your intelligence having to clarify that, but apparently its a thing that whole herds of adults - some in positions of authority - wouldn't consider for themselves. Their panic and, dare we say, over-reaction led by example to stir even their Tween children into worrying for their lives.
So to reiterate, the homemade Death Note didn't cause heart-attacks, nor any other mode of fatality, within 40 seconds.
Nevertheless, the police were called and the seventh grader arrested. He's been suspended from Jewett City's Griswold Middle School until the end of term (actually just a few days in this instance), with his future inclusion dependent upon the result of a police investigation.
A Connecticut Kira at Griswold Middle School
The boy had been rumbled by a class-mate, who saw his Death Note and spotted that there were names written inside.
The friend 'phoned home, fearing for his own life. Whereupon his father pretty much lost the plot in panicking and instead of saying, "Son, such notebooks belong to the realm of myth and fantasy, you're quite safe. Do you want me to come anyway?" Dad 'phoned the school and demanded that they keep his boy safe until he got there.
Apparently the class-mate's name wasn't even amongst those scrawled within.
School Superintendent Paul Smith stated that there was 'less than six' names listed. (So five? Four? Why is he the superintendent of a school, if he can't count up to six?) His office confiscated the notebook on Friday (June 12th 2015), then sat on it all weekend.
The following Monday, the police were called in to deal with the dangerous thirteen year old and his book. The parents or guardians of those children listed within it were privately notified.
Then on Tuesday, a school-wide e-mail went out to every parent. Mass panic ensued forthwith.
Jewett City Parents Panic Over Juvenile
I'm the last person to assume that what is written in the papers is unadulterated fact (I lived through the Miners' Strike in Britain), but if even a modicum of truth is reflected here, it's almost hilarious.
Well it would be, if a child's educational future wasn't hanging in the balance.
Let me illustrate with how some parents were quoted in the media:
At least this one sounds a little more measured in his reaction:
Meanwhile School Superintendent Paul Smith did imply that some parents had been downright rational about it all, asking him if the notebook couldn't be considered an expression of creativity.
In an interview with Wolverine Radio, Smith explained that he'd been over many quite innocent scenarios as suggested by parents in conversation with him. But his stance was that 'the school really has no reaction but to go all the way to the extreme of this is a credible threat.' (My Griswold, News, date not given)
Though, in fairness, the mass e-mail sent to parents that Tuesday did iterate that the school judged their children to be safe and all end of term events would continue as scheduled.
However, Connecticut State Police Sgt. Shane Hassett told the press, "Those in the book were meant to die."
He doesn't state how.
Pst! The Death Note isn't Real
Am I being too scathing here?
Perhaps I'm missing the point or prematurely losing patience in the sheer relentless with which these kind of stories keep coming up. Maybe my cynicism and lack of compassion comes from knowing all about the manga. Therefore grasping its preternatural plot-line enough to know that a wouldn't be a credible threat in the real world.
But I don't think so. A simple internet search, or a question in a book-store or the library would inform those parents just as much.
So where is the common sense? Where is the touch upon reality?
Just once, I want to hear about a parent, police officer, teacher or educational administrator pausing to think, 'Erm, does this Death Note work as advertised? Because if not, then it's fundamentally a few bits of paper folded together in a home-made booklet.'
There's a very easy test to find out. Place your hand upon the paper. Do you see a shinigami? Nope? Then it's probably not going to give anyone a heart attack, give or take those allowing their blood pressure to rise out of sheer paranoia.
In fact, there's an even easier test to discover its authenticity. Are you a character in a Japanese manga? No. Then it's not a blasted Death Note!
Between me and you, the object is fictitious. If your child bought a pair of plastic fangs, would you panic that (s)he had become Dracula? No! By the same token, a black notebook, however well designed and/or horrifically inscribed, does not make your kid Kira.*
Now let's address a more pertinent question - why is your child so desperate that to kill - even in fantasy - seems the only way forward? Or is it that your little one is a bully? In which case, for the sake of those being psychologically intimidated, parent him/her.
Or better still, why are YOU living in so much fear that a 13 year old with a piece of paper sounds so very threatening?
These are the questions which seem key to me.
* Though finding a stick and waving it around as a make-believe light-saber DOES make you a Jedi knight. That's how I became one.
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