We've long been a fan of Japanese comics, or manga, as they're commonly called. Local publisher Viz, who is responsible for much of the product that American audiences see, sent us a review copy of --and we're blown away. The book, story by Tsugumi Ohba and art by Takeshi Obata, is by far the best manga we've read, and, in our opinion, is readily accessible to those who aren't the average comic book or fantasy reader. The only thing a fresh reader might find offputting at first is the fact that it's printed "backwards" and must be read, right to left (pages and panels, not words). Even so, this book gets our highest recommendation and we cannot wait for the next one.

Even many non-comic book fans have heard the old lesson from the Spider-Man mythos: "With great power comes great responsibility." Light Yagami, a brilliant-but-bored high school student, finds himself in possession of an artifact that literally has the power of life and death: a notebook dropped by a Shinigami (a.k.a. "Death God," perhaps best understood as a type of Grim Reaper). All Light has to do is write the name of a person in this notebook while picturing that person's face, and that person will die--and Light can determine the particulars of that final fate. If Light doesn't specify, the victim drops dead within six minutes and 40 seconds of a heart attack. If he does specify, Light can make the death occur however he pleases.

Once this fantastic element is established, the intrigue, and real appeal of the story begins. What would a responsible person do with this type of power?

Death Note Volume 1