December 10, 2007

If you were given the power to kill anyone in the world, at any distance, in any manner, and seemingly without consequence either in this world or the next: what would you do with it?

This is the question posed by the manga/anime Death Note.

When a death note, a amall notebook originally belonging to the shinigami, falls into the hands of Yagami Raito ("Light"), he finds himself able to command the death of literally anyone, so long as he knows their name and face, simply by writing their name and the manner of their future death into the death note within a specified time. He chooses to bring about a brave new world by killing off the criminals of this one; but when the forces of law and order discover what is happening and try to stop whoever it is that is doing this, the line between justice and injustice and even the line between good and evil blurs very quickly. After all, besides his own intellect, the wielder of the death note has one single method of protecting himself and his vision. As the net strands tighten, increasingly the choice becomes that of using it or being caught.

To simply discard the death note carries a penalty of its own. Once found, anyone can use the death note, to write in any name they wish. To release it back into the world is to deliberately relinquish the power of killing, with no guarantee that another might not use it against you -- and if they did, you might never know whether or not it was the death note that was the cause of your death.

In our world, deathnote-styled notebooks have surged into popularity, even as many schools and even an entire country has tried to ban them on the basis of being "unwholesome". Yet something in the idea of this easy non-consequential power strongly appeals to the youth of this generation; even as it casts uneasiness and perhaps even fear into those who have gone before. Outside the schoolyard, one linked murder has occurred, as yet unsolved -- but only one, worldwide, though the manga and its television and film interpretations have now been circulating for five years. Actual killings in the name of God are far more common -- and would we place upon God the reponsibility for such killings?

We all handle tools of murder, each and every day. Though anger and hate and fear and other killing emotions abound, the vast majority of us choose never to exercise those tools in that manner.

Is it the threat of consequences that stops us, in this world or in the next? Is it only the messiness that stops us? the reluctance to physically do such a thing?

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