The Grey World – Revisiting the Story of ‘Death Note’ and the Low Glowing Brilliance of K-Drama ‘Stranger’

I’ve always been a fan of grey days. The world makes more sense to me when it’s not overwhelmingly bright or impenetrably dark. There are very few things on this earth that are starkly black or white and I like when my days reflect this. It becomes a question.

“What kind of day will this be?” is what I end up thinking most times. Grey days are days full of whimsy. Thoughtful days which can bring surprisingly simple answers at the end of a surprisingly convoluted road.

‘Death Note’ is one of my favourite anime. I’m a fan of a good mystery. Detectives and a noir setting are more than enough to draw me into a story. It’s the reason I went through a Scandinavian crime phase and the reason why Batman is my favourite superhero. Brilliant people on opposing sides, their morality dancing in the twilight. That’s all I need. Complex humans doing complex things. So, I’ve picked up the ‘Death Note’ Black Edition manga compilations published by VIZ and re-immersed myself in the tale of ‘Death Note’ (story by Tsugumi Ohba, Art by Takeshi Obata).

I love Light Yagami. I also hate Light Yagami.

I love him as a character: a handsome, initially bored, genius with a god complex and polarizing motivations. On the one hand, he wants to create a better world without criminals; on the other, he intends to create this world through very criminal actions. Light, with his beautifully ironic name, is blinded by his conceit, by the light of this new world in which he has envisioned himself as the god.

I hate that Light gives into depravity. Any moral misgivings he has at first are eventually thrown aside without a second thought. He slashes at the world with his pen but he just leaves behind blemishes until the entire page is blotted out with thick black ink. He only destroys, forgetting the essential step of creation which must come after. At least, that’s what I’ve been thinking upon returning to the story. He’s not an easy character, Light. There are points where he sits somewhere between angel fallen from grace and well-intentioned vigilante forced to work within the darkness.

The one thing I can always say without hesitation? The artwork is gorgeous.

September brought me quite the lovely present in the form of the second season of the Korean drama ‘Stranger’, also known quite aptly as, ‘Forest of Secrets’. I remember when I first saw the image for this drama on Netflix, the main protagonist Shi Mok, played so wonderfully by actor Cho Seung Woo, walking through a dark hallway, his black coat swirling atmospherically around him. It was love at first sight. I had to watch it. I did. It was amazing.

It was a joyous moment when I saw that it was coming back. My weekends were greatly illuminated by ‘Stranger’s second coming. All the twists and turns, and false leads, the existential ‘what-if?’ questions and scenarios, the acting, the cinematography. Everything. I stan it. I stan it as a person that equally loathes and is confused by stan culture.

Shi Mok is particularly intriguing because as a child he had brain surgery which left him unable to process emotions. Our hero comes off as cold and apathetic, he’s very much removed from the influence of his ego and the ego of others. So, unlike Light Yagami, he can’t get drunk on his own conceit. His work as a prosecutor can potentially shape the world for the better. Except, in many ways, society is exactly like a forest: full of shadows, lurkers, and endless paths. Corruption falls upon the forest like a mist, forcing Shi Mok to navigate using his inner compass which runs on a sense of justice constructed from reason and logic rather than any inner emotional motivations or philosophy.

Watching the web unweave can be just as fascinating as the process through which it was initially created. There isn’t just one correct line to follow, there are many, and they all intersect at some point or the other. What I’m really saying here is: you should definitely watch Stranger.

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