Considering the thrills Death Note has offered to this point it was inevitable that there’d be a slight speed bump along the way, and this combination of Books 9 and 10 is it.

From the start of the series Tsugumi Ohba has focused his concentration very tightly on Light Yagami, known to very few as the multiple assassin Kira, and those in direct conflict with him. This is a precarious occupation as Kira can kill from a great distance merely by writing a name in a Death-God’s notebook and visualising that person. Yagami has been a man of vision since his introduction in the opening book, and five years into his masterplan the world has changed considerably due to his actions. People are more guarded and less prone to excessive bad behaviour knowing that the possible penalty is instant death. The wider picture, however, is only really mentioned in passing, and it’s the analytical games of cat and mouse that provide the focus.

Kira has seen off one enemy only for two more to take their place, each equally dangerous, but each of a different temperament. The problem with that is it introduces a cycle of investigation, suspicion and deductions we’ve seen before, at one point all-but acknowledged with a line of dialogue.

Ohba’s attitude to his female characters is poor. Misa, to date the only long-lasting one, has only a very small role and reverts to simpering type, and there’s a surprise return for someone not seen since early in the series. Established then as intelligent, and now in a role suiting that, she’s nonetheless disappointingly compliant. “Huh, women. They’re so easy!” gloats Yagami, and so it proves.

The negative aspects outlined above stick out because until this point Death Note has been comprehensively, all-but obsessively, well plotted. Amid the mental chess and analysis there are some fine moments. At different points both Kira’s challengers are under threat, and both avoid their intended fate in inventive fashion. Another long-lived character breathes their last, an intriguing new cast member is supplied with a significant role, and Ohba throws in several other surprises, but it doesn’t match the previous books.

Artist Takeshi Obata isn’t to blame. He’s supremely disciplined when illustrating yet another long sequence set in a hotel room or office, and excellent when freed from that. A character trait introduced early requires one deductive genius to keep his hands occupied while reasoning, and Obata supplies him with ever more elaborate Lego constructions or transformers. At one point a miniature Thunderbird Island is seen.

This is the penultimate Black Edition, and VI concludes the story. Here Ohba doesn’t let us down.