Before we get to the parodies, what is “Death Note” itself about? Well, it all starts with two very bored people. One is Japanese teenager Light Yagami, who is straight as an arrow and a model student to boot. The other is Ryuk, a Shinigami (Japanese spirits of death). The Shinigami sustain themselves with “Death Notes,” books which kill anyone whose name is written on their pages.
One day, Ryuk tosses his Death Note into the human world and Light picks it up. After Light works out the Note’s rules and commits a few murders to test it, he decides his new purpose. With the Death Note’s power, he’ll purge the world of criminals, create a utopia, and reign over it as a god. Ryuk reveals himself and becomes the devil on Light’s shoulder. Light’s killing get him labeled “Kira,” (a Japanese corruption of “Killer”). Soon, he’s drawn into a battle of wits with L, an eccentric but brilliant detective out to discover Kira’s identity.
The series began as a manga, written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata. It ran for 108 chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump from 2003 to 2006. Shortly after the manga wrapped, the animation studio Madhouse produced a 37-episode anime, aired from 2006 to 2007. The anime captures the manga’s twisty storytelling, resulting in many fine episodes.
The adaptations don’t stop there. “Death Note” inspired several live-action movies and a TV series in its native Japan. In 2017, Adam Wingard directed an Americanized version for Netflix. Despite that film’s failure, Netflix is gearing up to adapt the series again, this time with the Duffer Brothers’ guiding hand.
How do the “Treehouse of Horror” versions compare?