Friday Flotsam: Mostly More ‘Death Note’ and a Few Videos

1. Another difficult week for me. Work feels like a slow-motion train wreck at the moment. But on the plus side I reviewed my financial situation and realized that I’m not really very worried about losing my job, so that took some of the edge off.

2. One of the things that really stood out to me about Death Note, and probably the creepiest thing about it, is the way it portrays its villains. Light and Misa are the kind of characters who, in any other show, would be the good guys: the handsome, intellectual, idealistic young man who is an amateur detective, and the pretty, perky, overly-energized blonde girl who is high on love. They’re the sort of characters you’re usually supposed to like. It’s just that they’re both irredeemable monsters who are willing to kill people without a second thought.

At one point, after they’ve temporarily lost their memories of the Death Note (told you there were a lot of complications) they basically form a classic Shounen trio with L (the quirky detective pursuing them): the idealistic hero, the perky love interest, and the intense rival. It’s pretty sad, really, because they’re declaring everlasting friendship and loyalty in a fun, heartfelt way…and you know that two of them are actually psychotic murderers trying to kill the third, just that they themselves don’t remember that fact.

All in all, the show is a disquieting reminder of how little you can take superficial factors – e.g. niceness – as an indication of moral character.

3. Watched David Stewart’s video on the series the other night (he gives massive spoilers, by the way, in case you’re thinking of checking it out). In typical style he gives some really good insights and assessment of the show, and he agrees with me that the second half isn’t as good as the first, though he ascribes it to different reasons.

One thing that struck me as odd, though, was that he seems to present it as though Light doesn’t really show himself to be irredeemable until the third act: that it’s a certain execution that takes place late in the game that really cements his status as a complete hypocrite. For me, that was solidified very early on with an incredibly evil manipulation and murder of the girlfriend of one of his early victims (who was himself an FBI Agent on his trail). Not just that he kills an innocent person solely to protect himself from suspicion, but that he delights in doing so, making sure even to reveal his identity to her a second before his command to commit suicide takes effect, just so that she knows what’s about to happen. In fact, I’d cite that scene as a textbook example of how to make the audience really hate the villain.

Honestly, the late game murder cited in the video seemed perfectly par for the course to me; Light kills people to protect himself, and often in horrible ways, regardless of whether they’re good or evil, his friends or his enemies. That’s who he is pretty much from the start: the only reason he justifies it in his own mind is that he’s ‘special’ and ‘knows what needs to be done to fix the world’ (so, yeah, he’s basically a one-man Revolutionary State).

4. It’s a little disturbing how many people seem to sympathize with Light (not that Mr. Stewart does, but it seems to be a common trend among fans and in alternate versions of the story to try to play him as, well, ‘lighter’ than in the anime / manga). Yeah, he mostly targets criminals, and the first couple people he snuffs out genuinely deserved it, but really, it doesn’t take long for him to show what a monster he really is. In any case, the mere fact that he presumptuously takes it upon himself to reform the world and that he thinks so little of wiping out human lives from the comfort of his own bedroom should make us recoil in disgust. Ditto for Misa, who seems to get even more sympathy even though she’s even more callous than he is.

I think I might call this ‘Thanos-syndrome’, where irredeemable villains come across as sympathetic to large portions of the audience through charisma, a grand vision, and riding on the trolley problem.

5. Meanwhile someone on YouTube had the idea that maybe L wasn’t quite the right detective for this case. Maybe someone else might have solved it quicker…

6. Another very good video from Pilgrim’s Pass, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite video essayists on YouTube.

One point I really like that he makes is that, though he himself is Catholic and will be pushing a Christian view against an atheistic one, the question itself is much too monumental for click-baity nonsense about “I will destroy my enemies with facts and reason!” Atheist conclusions deserve respect, since the subject itself (or Himself) is not the sort of thing you ought to treat flippantly.

That said, the ‘Simulation Hypothesis’ is just plain silly.

7. And one more really cool video apropos of nothing:

(I like Johnny kicking away the golden fiddle: that the victory is all the reward he needs. Also, can you imagine how impractical a golden fiddle would be?)

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