Death Note: Short Stories – Tsugumi Ohba

5 out of 5

An absolute treat for English-reading Death Note fans, Short Stories gives us (I believe) first-time officially translated L short stories from L: File No. 15 and the 2020 lengthy chapter – a-Kira – that appeared in Jump Square. This is in addition to some material that has previously been translated, but is appreciably collected: the epilogue / extra chapter found in the All-in-One edition (c-Kira), and the four-panel shorts plus original single-chapter version of Death Note that were previously reprinted in How to Read. VIZ has bundled this in a handsome, painted Obata cover, and we get a color frontispiece, a table of contents, and two short but appreciated notes from the artist and writer on the inside front and back flaps.

The new chapter would honestly be worth the price of admission – it’s a lot of fun. It’s a condensed shot of all the twists and ironies of Death Note, without repeating the same tricks or characters. Ryuk wants more apples and so finds a new DN owner, and the owner’s plotting has a bit of commentary to it – something that also appeared in Ohba’s Platinum End. Nothing heavy or too complex, and one could say that there’s social commentary all throughout the original DN as well, but this is a bit more focused on government and economics. I don’t want to mislead – this is not a political story, nor is it going to make your brain do any heavy lifting. But I liked that the concept felt updated for the modern world. Obata, of course, is fantastic, with some amazing shinigami designs and excellent acting.

The L stories are very short and comedic, but are not without incredible artwork, and are quite funny. They don’t add anything to the lore, but I’m glad to have them.

And with everything collected – the first iteration of DN, and these two epilogue chapters, plus the straight-humor of the 4-panels and the Ls – it’s clearer how consistent Ohba was with the tone and path of his story; you can see how things are / were always going to end up a certain way, no matter how serious or silly, while also “justifying” that Light’s story in particular took much longer to tell – Death Note ownership is no joke, and knowing how to survive its use required all of his trickery.

A required addition for any English-reading DN fan, but could also serve as a one-shot introduction for new readers if they don’t want to invest in the whole story – allowing that it indirectly spoils the ending, but also suggesting how the journey to that ending is just as important.