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‘Death Note Short Stories’ Offers Relevant Commentary About Society, Especially the Part About Donald Trump – No, I’m Not Kidding

What happens if you put the Death Note up for sale?

Death Note

Slight spoilers for Death Note and Death Note Short Stories

I’m one of those Death Note fans who bought a black notebook in the mid-2000s and wrote “Death Note” in white paint on the cover. I was really into the series, going so far as to buy that bulky manga set and watch the multiple live-action adaptations that came out. The initial setup of “what would you do if you had this kind of power” intrigued me back in the day, especially since we were getting it from the perspective of someone as flawed as Light Yagami.

As our Princess Weekes wrote, quote, “Light is a bastard.” In fact, in my opinion, he’s the perfect example of the most dangerous kind of man – a charismatic one who manages to convince so many people that he’s right. Light’s superpower is his intelligence and his way of words, which is an awful combination when you arm someone like that with a tool of mass destruction.

This is especially true when you compare his story to the characters in Death Note Short Stories, which I actually found a lot more compelling than the original series – and I LIKE the original.


The cover to Death Note Short Stories
(Image: DEATH NOTE TANPENSHU © 2003 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.)

Is Kira’s story truly over, or does his influence linger?

In this complete collection of Death Note Short Stories penned by the series’ creators, Tsugumi Ohba (story) and Takeshi Obata (artist), discover tales of lives irrevocably changed by the sinister influence of the Death Note, with surprising and thrilling answers to the question of what it truly takes to use the Death Note…or fight it.

Contains stories “C-Kira,” “a-Kira,” the Death Note pilot chapter, vignettes of L’s life, and more.

What if the Death Note wasn’t used to kill criminals?

Ryuk appears in front of Minoru
(Image: DEATH NOTE TANPENSHU © 2003 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.)

Death Note Short Stories does something really interesting: it gives the Death Note to people who legitimately don’t have an interest in killing, or if they do, it’s not “criminals for the sake of justice.” Ryuk simply wants to find someone who will feed him apples for as long as possible, after all, he had years with Light, so he’s looking for the next person to “entertain” him just as much – if not more.

It might be because of where my headspace is in 2022 compared to the early 2000s, but I found myself more invested in these short stories than in Light’s attempt at creating his idea of a more “just” society. It kinda reminds me of how I feel about The Purge’s setup of “for 12 hours, all crime is legal” and wondering why everyone immediately jumps to murder.

Death Note Short Stories gives us a couple of different characters who use the book, and each one comes with their own commentary about what someone would do if they could kill someone in an instant. What I like is the fact that not everyone defaults to “must immediately kill people” so we get a nice range of perspectives, and with those perspectives come some hard truths to swallow.

For example, there’s a “Kira” who is going after the elderly. This causes a couple of different things to happen. There ends up being a group of elderly people BEGGING Kira to kill them because they’re in too much pain to live, but with that comes comments from society that sounds VERY similar to the way people were talking when COVID first hit. “These old people may be alive, but they’re just a burden. Killing them is helping the oppressed.” There are people justifying the deaths of the elderly because they’re just a burden and I felt like I was on Twitter in 2020, watching folks justify COVID deaths because “it’s only affecting old people.”

Since the short stories are straying away from a character who ends up viewing himself as a god, we get a more relatable perspective. Of course, the idea of killing bad people is one that someone would have, but there are characters who are genuinely disturbed by the idea of killing anyone, and others who find more… financial uses for the notebook.

Is Donald Trump really in this story???

Arguably, the main story in the book focuses on Minoru Tanaka, who gets a hold of the Death Note and decides to sell it. In 2020, this special one-shot was released and quickly got noticed because, well, it featured the President of the United States who, at the time, was Donald Trump. While he’s not named in the book, it’s easy to see in the art who this is supposed to be. It’s also easy to see that it’s Trump when you read how he responds to the Death Note situation. I won’t spoil it, but his grand “solution”, when faced with Ryuk, is on par with what he’d do.

Death Note meets Trump
(Image: DEATH NOTE TANPENSHU © 2003 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.)

Minoru’s story is my favorite in Death Note Short Stories. It really hits the nail on the head on how the government would react if such a terrifying weapon was available. The bidding war is unsettling because of how truthful it is. The price the notebook goes for is in the same vein as “Elon Musk has enough money to end world hunger but bought Twitter instead.” Like. The money being offered for the book could solve a whole lot of problems, but instead, various governing bodies are focused on getting the book first and pinky swearing that they won’t use it (lol yeah, bullshit they won’t). Minoru, having grown up learning about the Death Note in school, knows this, and uses it to his advantage.

That’s the other part of Death Note Short Stories that I like – seeing how the world has processed the existence of the notebook. This is reflected in characters from the original series (such as Near and the task force who went against Kira), and newcomers, like Minoru, revealing that he actually learned about Kira in school and understands that there are those who are pro-Kira and those who are against his actions. This helps guide him to his own decision when he gets a hold of the notebook, which differs from how others use it in the other short stories.

All the rest

When Death Note Short Stories isn’t focused on different Kiras using the notebook, it offers a couple of different gag comics with the original cast. Along with the 4-panel comic strips that focus on things like “Ryuk’s existential crisis about Misa carving apples into bunnies” are stories that focus on everyone’s favorite “I sit awkwardly and live on candy” detective, L. It’s a nice little break between the main plots going on.

All and all, this is a must-have for Death Note fans, and perhaps even fans who may have thought the original series was a bit much to deal with. It’s a good manga to show why we were all intrigued with Death Note and why its premise is still worth talking about today.

You can check out Death Note Short Stories over at Viz today!

The rules of the Death Note
(Image: DEATH NOTE TANPENSHU © 2003 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.)

(Featured Image: DEATH NOTE TANPENSHU © 2003 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata/SHUEISHA Inc.)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)