Type: manga, 12 volumes
Genre: mystery, suspense, horror, drama, supernatural
Writer: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Timeline: 2004-May 2006
The life of Raito Yagami, eminent high-school student, makes an about-turn one day as he finds a notebook with the words "death note" written on the cover. The notebook used to belong to a shinigami (god of death) named Ryuuk. According to the instructions written inside, the owner of the notebook can use it to kill any person whose name is written inside, provided that the name is real and the writer has that person's face in mind. Skeptical at first, Raito eventually realizes the power of the Death Note is real, and decides to use it to cleanse the world of evil. However, in spite of the public's approval of the mysterious killer's acts, there are some who see this "cleansing" as a genocidal act, and the "redeemer" (whom the public refers to as "Kira") as nothing more than a serial killer. The worldwide-renowned detective L is hired to find and apprehend Kira, and thus begins a thrilling and eventful cat and mouse chase...
Tending for realism rather than the canonical anime-style, the art truly redefines "beautiful". It's probably teh only thing that catches one's attention and keeps the reader hooked until the action starts.
The characters' expressions are stunningly realistic, sometimes even frighteningly so, and the action flows smoothly from panel to panel. The timing of the action scenes borders on perfection; one can feel the intensity of that particular moment.
The quality of the artwork is met, if not surpassed by the quality of the storyline - a fast-paced, intricate plot, with twists and turns beyond a normal human's understanding, Death Note is bound to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning 'till end. The leitmotif of the story is the difference (and sometimes striking similarity) between good and evil, and generally focuses on the nature of evil. It becomes obvious at a certain point that the criteria by which one is considered either good or evil is purely subjective, because man cannot rightly judge man.
The characters's personalities are perfectly outlined; one can form a clear opinion on a certain character from his/her first appearance in the manga. As with the storyline, duality is the characters' main trait (the only one who seems not to abide by this is Soichiro Yagami, Raito's father). One could safely say that the main characters are both pawns and players; the relationship between Raito and L is probably the best example.
Death Note is probably the best manga ever, from all points of view. It has gorgeous artwork, so detailed and realistic it makes your eyes water, a captivating storyline (though "captivating" is too weak a word to decribe it) and interesting characters... and it's the only manga I've read that both scared me half to death and made me laugh.
If you're looking for some good mystery/suspense story, I wholeheartedly reccomend reading Death Note. It's worth every single second of your time.