Death Note – L: Change the World [Light Novel]

Genre: Action/Psychological
Length: 1 Novel
Allegiance: VIZ Media LLC
Writer: “M”
Vintage: 2009
Intelligence Agency Report by: Tricky
Based on the movie spun off from the movies based on the anime based on the manga, L:Change The World tells the tale of the Death Note detective’s final case, one in which the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.

Research Agent Report by: Tricky
Overall 7.50
(not an average)
(Spoilers for Death Note below)So, let me go over this to make sure I’ve got it correct. First, there was a manga named Death Note. It featured a pretty-boy finding a notebook that causes the death of everyone he writes the name of into. This gives him a god-complex and he starts killing off hundreds of criminals with it, so the police call in an amoral pale guy who ends up everyone’s favorite character to stop him. They go through various mind-games that everyone loves, then, half-way through the series, the pale guy is killed off and is replaced by an angry guy and an albino that no one likes. Next, they make an anime of the series which rushes through the second half that no one likes and everyone agrees it’s for the best. Then, they make a couple of live-action film adaptations where it’s decided that everyone will be even happier if they let the pale guy win and so they change the ending, and the movies make a lot of money. Then, they decide to make a sequel to this based on the further adventures of the pale guy fighting a bio-terrorism group with some annoying children along for the ride. Finally, they release a light-novel adaptation of the sequel movie which throws out most of the stuff except for the basic premise, ends up being a lot better, and which, in a roundabout way, I’m trying to review.

Got that? I’m not sure I do.

L: Change The World features everyone’s favorite sleepless, snarky, slightly-creepy detective, L taking on one final case before he dies: the daughter of a pathologist friend of Watari, L’s mentor, informs him of a terrorist group that hopes to use a highly-contagious virus her father created to drastically reduce the world population. It’s up to her, L, an untrustworthy FBI agent, and a few cameos from the original series to stop them in a race against time.

Though technically an adaptation of the live-action movie, the book does a much better job with the concept. Part of it is budgetary concerns: car chases and shoot-outs are more exciting on the big screen, but they take money to make, as well as time away from advancing the plot. Describing such action scenes in words, while less viscerally satisfying, can be just as suspenseful and allows for better plot pacing. What’s more, the conventions of the written medium allows the reader to peek into the thoughts of the characters in a way film does not allow. For a series like Death Note where the plot is so based in secret plans and character suspicions, it is a great advantage to have this look into the characters minds. As a result, complicated intrigues which would be near-impossible to depict on-screen now dominate the plot and it is all the better for it. True, at some points, it does allow the author to brag about how much research he did into effects of communicable diseases (though over-researched stories tend to be better than poorly ones) and indulge in the sort of dime-store observations on the world situation the original series did well to avoid, but for the most part, the change in mediums is an advantage.

The main flaw of the work is plot-based. Whereas the original series was a battle of philosophy as much as skill, with Light Yagami’s motives having their justifications, the villains of this piece are much less nuanced and thus, less interesting. For example, one of the terrorist’s first actions is infecting an adorable ten-year-old girl with the virus, something right up there with puppy-kicking in the category of “things that unfailingly inspire audience hatred.” There is no question that L will beat them, as, hey, it’s his book, and so the suspense becomes entirely of “how” it will happen rather than “if.” Still, if you are a fan of chessmasters trying to out-scheme each other, there’s a lot to like here.

L: Change The World will be of little interest to those who do not like Death Note or L in particular. It is 174 pages of L enacting complicated plans, outsmarting just about everyone in the vicinity while having hilariously poor social skills, revealing details of his back story and motivations, and generally just being L. I do like Death Note, and I do like L, so I thought the book was great, but others less enamored of the character may find it tiresome character-worship. Still, it makes an intriguing addition to the Death Note franchise (if one not necessarily worth the full purchase price) and while not particularly memorable, it is well worth a read by fans of the previous series.