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:
- Soichiro Yagami is a kick ass police officer, stately with moral integrity and persistent in his bid to bring in the bad guys. But his blind spot for his son, born of paternal love, means that his otherwise great attributes cannot succeed.
- Misa Amane has so much love to give, but its direction leaves her open to its exploitation. Halving her life and pressed into ever more murderous pursuits.
- Matt's powers of observation are said - in Death Note 13: How to Read - to be truly amazing. But his proneness to boredom, when 'looking at the same thing, which never changes', denied his ability to utilize such skills, as Kira and crew escaped their hideout over the road.
- Light's megalomania curtailed his chances to slip under the radar, writing on without detection, as much as the magical constrictions inherent in his Death Note. As soon as he began to believe his own hype, clues were scattered in his wake, rendering his eventual downfall inevitable.
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.