From first acquiring a Death-God’s notebook Light Yagami has determined to use it in order to mould the world more to his liking. He has been utterly callous and single minded in following through this plan. By the midway point of Book 7, when the action shifted forward four years, it seemed he was well on his way, but there have been complications. Two other near genius level personalities have emerged, Mello and Near, both of whom know that writing a person’s name in the Shinigami notebook can result in that person’s death, and neither of whom trust Yagami, who’s actually heading the Japanese task force looking into the anonymous killer referred to as Kira.

As this book begins, Yagami has access to two notebooks, and a third is in the possession of Mello, who can see the Death-God accompanying the book. Near, a more benign investigator, isn’t totally aware of what the notebooks can do, nor all the conditions governing them.

It’s taken nine books, but writer Tsugumi Ohba has finally resorted to glossing something over with an all too convenient “He’s probably not smart enough to think that far ahead”. It’s weak, but entirely forgiveable considering the astonishment Ohba has provided to date. Unfortunately, though, while the twists occur as usual, the book tips over into melodrama on a couple of occasions, and there’s a distinct feeling of the story being prolonged beyond a natural lifespan over both the opening and closing chapters. Those opening chapters do set up a greater purpose, and what happens over the first half of the book shapes the second in an unpredictable way. It also prompts another of the ethical discussions Ohba’s so good at slipping into his stories. Kira’s actions are widely known, along with his seeming ability to kill anyone without getting close to them, so how would world leaders react?

Then, however, we’re bogged down in questioning and deduction between three geniuses, and in isolation it’s not convincing. Yagami has been shown to have a sociopath’s nature, quite willing to sacrifice those who love him, and there seems little reason he’d become embroiled in these distractions when able to pursue his broader agenda and concern himself with the consequences later. At one point he even gloats “The world is coming to Kira’s side. Soon Kira will be justice.” Ohga’s been so good for so long, and he’s vindicated by the events of Book 10, but setting matters up for that results in what appears to be sub-par plotting. The entire sequence reads far better when read continuously in the larger format Death Note Black Edition V.

As he has been throughout the series, Takeshi Obata’s illustration is impeccable, drawing the reader through another text heavy and psychoanalytical volume, bookended by two action sequences, the second of which closes matters. This ending is extremely abrupt and continued in book 10, but that’s a casualty of compiling equal sized books from what was originally serialised as individual chapters in Japan. This content along with volumes 10-12 earned the translated Death Note an Eagle Award for Favourite Manga.