It's been a long time since I watched this series so I suppose it's past time that I posted about it.
Death Note is a unique series in quite a few ways, but the biggest way is this: the main character is the bad guy. This is the only series I've ever watched that that was true, and you'd think with my tendency to like bad guys, that would make this series for me, but it turns out it doesn't. Anyway, Yagami Light doesn't start as as a bad guy. Light is a bored, apathetic honor student who thinks the world is going to hell. One day while gazing out the window of his classroom, he sees a notebook fall past the window. That afternoon he retrieves the notebook, and discovers that it is a Death Note. This black Death Note notebook contains pages of 'rules', the first of which is that if you write a person's name in the Death Note, that person will die.
Light of course thinks it's a practical joke, but when he sees a news story about a kidnapper holding grade school children hostage, he tries it out. He thinks of the guy's face as he's writing his name and the guy drops dead. To ensure it wasn't a fluke, he tries it again on a motorcycle gang member giving a woman a hard time and it works again. Light realizes what he has, and sets himself up to redeem the rotten world by killing all the evil people with the Death Note. He meets the owner of the Death Note, a shinigami named Ryuk, and goes on a killing spree of epic proportions.
And that easily, Light becomes the ultimate bad guy, and gains a nickname around the world of "Kira" (killer).
Another young man, who goes by the name of "L", becomes involved at this point. L is a more-than-genius-level master detective who everyone in the world goes to to solve unsolvable crimes. L is also reclusive and eccentric. He has become aware that criminals in custody are dying, realizes that somehow someone is killing them and goes on the hunt.
The first half of this series is simply awesome. The give and take between Light and L, even before they meet, is outstanding. The swings back and forth as one gets the upper hand and the other fights for his survival are edge-of-your-seat stuff that makes you hungry for more. Light goes to unbelievably complex lengths to outwit L and L goes to incredible lengths to catch him. It's really amazing. Light is nearly brought down by another Death Note user named Misa, but ends up using Misa and her Death Note's shinigami to help his cause.
Here's another unique thing about the series. It's probably the first one that I wish they had made shorter, rather than wishing it were longer. They could have stopped at 24 episodes instead of going to 37. And the reason for that is this:
Midway through the series, Light wins. He kills L. I was so shocked, and pissed off, that I almost decided not to finish the series. To me the strength of this series was the interactions between Light and L (besides the fact that L was my favorite character - so I guess I should have known he would die!). After L's death, I watched other people, including L's replacements Near and Mello, struggle against Light and watched him manipulate people and it wasn't the same. I think I probably only watched the rest of the series to see Light die in the end.
So did I like the series? I liked the premise, which was unique. I like the characters and the outstanding music. I would like to have changed the plot, which had the moral: even if you're a good guy and you're right, you still die when someone else is stronger. I also learned something about myself. Although I have a tendency to like the bad guys, I only like them when they don't kill off my favorite character. Plus I like the good guys to win in the end, preferably before the body count is too high. I liked the series well enough to buy it on DVD, but I still prefer to watch only the first 2/3rds.