4 out of 5
Over the years of my various fandoms, I’ve bought a few of these types of add-on books for book or comic or cartoon series. They are, almost invariably, not worth it: unless whatever it is is purposefully structured to have obscured information that’s meant to be supplied by a supplemental source – and this supplemental source is thus created with or by the same creatives behind the original material – any “secrets” or “things you missed” and etcetera or either stretches of the truth, or non-canon suppositions about nonsense, or just damned obvious bits and bobs. When the add-ons are more processed focused – behind-the-scenes – it can definitely up the value, as long as, again, there’s a sense that it’s something of an official production and not just a cash-grab.
Death Note, vol. 13: How to Read is something of a mish-mash of both these things, including the boring indulgences of the former variations baiting of readers with promises of Things Heretofore Unknown! However, it manages to overcome this indulgence by, well, over-indulging – it does a deep dive of this nature in an exhaustive, chapter-by-chapter fashion, which sort of defeats the cash-grab vibe by, verily, giving you your money’s worth in terms of the efforts taken to compile everything. My eyes may have glossed over and my interests waned during the second or third go-around of all the different Light and and L backstabbings and Death Note swappings, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but appreciate it: Death Note is a series that asks for rereads and some questions, and How to Read is helping you out with all of that, to the very best of its ability. Yeah, I lost track of of who traded whose Note for what and when and why, and so that’s taken care of in multiple explanations, and is just a drop in the bucket of all the other things How to Read attempts to clarify. And so I was brought to accept: maybe a lot of this wasn’t of interest to me, but I was able to pick and choose what was, and so by including everything… I assume other readers can do the same. Though I do think there’s at least 50 pages here that could be cut due to just rehashing the same material from different points of view.
Any exhaustion experienced from treading through the repetition is dashed away by the other part of the book: the behind-the-scenes stuff. Extensive Q & As with writer Tsugmi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata are very interesting, and lots of fun, and the questions do a full circuit of step-by-step process, and thoughts on the comic itself, and then extras like favorite books and movies.
…Plus… extras! Bonus humor comics that appeared during the time of publication in the anime mags, and the “pilot” episode of Death Note that garnered the attentions to have the thing serialized.
I think most DN readers will have one or two questions left over after the series, and some casual Googling will provide those answers. However, it’s likely those answers actually came from How to Read in one form or another. The supplement is not required reading by any means, but it is worthwhile reading for those interested to know more about the series’ artist and author, or as a compressed revisit of events after the fact, or just to solidify what you already know.