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Death Note and Nihilism

The successful manga Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba is about what if one person (the main character Light Yagami) could kill anyone they wish by simply writing down a name.

Since that’s how the Death Note works, *spoilers* it isn’t surprising that Light loses not only his life but also any compassion he had towards the people he personally knew, including his own family.

As a result, the story of Death Note shares possible connections to the philosophy of nihilism by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Analyze those connections in the Death Note manga to nihilism’s definition and practice. Include also how Death Note has been mistaken like nihilism (link) as something to literally follow in real life (link)

Please note that this topic doesn’t focus on the Death Note anime/show but the original Death Note manga only (i.e. where Light was told early on that there is nothing after death by his Death Note’s shinigami owner.) Therefore, that aspect of the Death Note manga connects back to nihilism as an example since nihilistic belief is also about there being no afterlife.

  • I would point out that the show does point out that Light does end up changing things because the crime rate went down tremendously. SO, I wouldn't say 'attempt to change life never works.' To relate an Anime to a Philosopher, we need actual evidence of the philosopher. – SpectreWriter 9 years ago
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  • In regards to your first link, I would be wary of it. He makes mention of Nietzsche's famous quote, "God is dead!" but he does not give context to it, or even make mention-- for those who have not read, The Gay Science-- where the quote comes from. The quote comes from section 125 in The Gay Science and the section is italicized, The Madman. For your sake I'll quote it, The Madman.-- Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!"-- As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why! is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea-voyage? Has he emigrated?--the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him,--you and I! We are all his murderers! but how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breath upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Dow we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction?--for even God putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console our selves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife,--who will wipe the blood from us?.... That is most of the section. For a better knowledge of Nihilism and Nietzsche in general, I refer to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Not only is it free, but every article provides citations to tell you where this idea came from and why they are citing it. It might even be interesting, in staying with the Nietzsche vein, to think about the possibility that either Light or L are the Übermensch (Overman or superman in German). – garland41 8 years ago
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  • Another thing people should take into account is how the anime deconstructs the notion of justice and how more terrifying it is to look at when seeing it is more based on power rather than actual morality, which is itself more relative than people realize. – Vicious237 1 month ago
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Happiness, a exploration of Nihilism.

Happiness is a vampire manga by Shūzō Oshimi. While on the surface it is a supernatural story it delves quite readily into not just other genre conventions such as science fiction body horror and coming of age romance, but examinations on the very concept of humanity, the nature and purpose of suffering and if meaning can ever truly be garnered from horror.

The protagonist is spared from death on the whim, his friend and his friend’s lover, not to mention her family, are much less fortunate. The protagonist and his love interest are subjected to grotesque trials for 50 years only for them to escape and resolve to live apart from humans, which begs the question, both textually and metatexually, what was the purpose of this?

  • I think the edits I made didn't process which is unfortunate. To clarify, Nihilism in the common understanding, is the belief that nothing in life matters, that nothing is really real. Within the plot of Happiness the Protagonist is subject to trials and tribulations that don't reveal a greater understand of the world to him within his story, his suffering doesn't better or worsen the world around him. Metatextually, the world of Happiness is similar and dissimilar to the real world, there are horrific science experiments done on people throughout human history that never yielded any medical insight. Suffering for the sake of suffering being all that was produce. What purpose does it serve to feature such a dispiriting element to the story when the ending amounts to, the main character being again isolated from humanity with the one who turned him into a vampire? – Sunni Ago 2 years ago
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  • A digestible yet philosophical dissection of Happiness would be an incredible read, especially if one takes the time to draw real world parallels--it is difficult NOT to feel nihilistic in this day and age, and tapping into that very real feeling of listlessness, one that inspired the concept of nihilism in the first place, and connecting it with the narrative of Happiness would underscore the humanity (both conceptually and literally) the series appears to be examining. – alliegardenia 2 years ago
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The Representation of Sexuality in Manga

Japanese manga in particular has cultivated a global fanbase while pushing creative boundaries regarding representation. Pioneers like Takemiya Keiko and Yamaguchi Ryoko crafted yuri narratives in the 1970s that tenderly portrayed girl-girl affection, cultivating an early queered fandom. Meanwhile, boys’ love genres like shonen and yaoi emerged independently, generating unprecedented gay male visibility. Works like Junjo Romantica continue building international audiences by frankly engaging queer themes formerly taboo.

It would prove illuminating to analyze narrative and stylistic choices within such genres, tracing artistic evolutions alongside shifting sociopolitical climates. For instance, one could investigate changing visual vocabularies surrounding gender non-conformity and transitions in works like Wandering Son or My Brother’s Husband (Satonaka, 2015; Kizu, 2019). How do illustrations of intersectional identity negotiate complex subjectivities in sensitive yet nuanced ways?

Considering cross-cultural reception and fandom practices could reveal much about globalizing queerness. Platforms like Tumblr incubated vibrant transnational online communities thriving on manga appropriations and translations. Exploring community formations through this digital lens may untangle dynamics of inclusion, gatekeeping and cultural exchange that broaden representation’s reach.

Manga provides a rich unconventional text through which to interrogate identity categories’ fluidity. I hope unpacking its stylised disruptions alongside real-world activist campaigns against increasing intolerance proves a thought-provoking avenue for collaborative study.

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    The Overabundance of Fast Media (A case study of South Korea)

    Analyse the advent of "fast media" that has become so popular in recent years – especially in fast moving societies like South Korea. I live in South Korea, and one thing I have noticed is when I get on the subway people are scrolling EXTREMELY fast as they engage in a media called "Webtoon (웹툰)". This media is like a comic book that has been specifically designed for fast digestion and optimised for access on a mobile phone. You could write an article that explores why people are interested in this kind of media (Webtoons, Youtube Shorts, TikTok etc). How does this type of media differ from longer and "slower" forms of media? (E.g. Books, traditional ways of engaging in media like with a TV or at home). You could even briefly discuss the effect this "fast" media has on the brain or mental health (stress, instant gratification and high dopamine). It doesn’t have to be only on South Korea, I’m just emersed in the unique culture and think there is enough for a case study (Think about high work hours, education system – Hagwons, generally a fast-paced society etc).

    • This is a super interesting topic and I think that an exploration of media literacy could work super well with this, and expand it to a global scale. – finnkanedom 1 year ago
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    • I love this idea! I'm definitely interested in how fast media impacts our attention span and the endless cycle of wanting faster content. It may also be worth looking at how our desire for on-the-go media is propelling this. – A.H. 1 year ago
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    • Love this idea. And the same fast media has been the very core of Chinese web fiction where word-count and length was the focus and writers were taught to speed up to the pace to maintain a sense of excitement. Personally, I believe this is the result of our shortened attention span and cognitive processing power as a result from the prevailing social media. Naturally, we are leaning toward short-form content (as they are less challenging to consume) versus traditional, long-form content, or content with higher professionalism and complexity. – Xiao 1 year ago
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    • Very interested in this! There is an essay by Xueting Christine Ni called "Net Novels and the 'She Era': How Internet Novels Opened the Door for Female Readers and Writers in China" which might be a useful reference to explore the economic and gendered conditions of content creation that favour these shorter, free (or very affordable) forms of publication. – clairegranum 11 months ago
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    The hit or miss quality of Manga to live-action

    Though I am personally unfamiliar with the larger catalog of examples available, there seems to be a hit-or-miss quality to Manga transitioning to live-action shows and movies. It seems on average the live-action shows that are not action based are able to capture the essence of the original work. As an example, Netflix’s "The Makanai" is based on a Japanese manga named Maiko-san chi no makanai-san, first published in 2016 by Aiko Koyama and has been praised for its accurate representation. In contrast, Oldboy and Dragonball flopped both with critics and the original fans. Is the ability to transition these works to screen dependent on the source genre, the director/script, or on trying to reshape it to appeal to a western audience? It seems the more gentle, low-risk mangas succeed in adaptations whereas action mangas fall short. Is this a cultural failing or an industry failing? And if they were adapted more accurately, would they succeed to a global audience?

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      Gilgamesh and shooting the shaggy dog

      Shooting the shaggy dog refers to a bleak ending at the end of a drawn out story. Doing so can create a sense of realism as seen in movies like Chinatown but can also create a sense of apathy in the audience if every turn makes the world worse and the the stories conclusion is just more of that.

      For the writer, the Manga Gilgamesh is a pure example of shooting the shaggy dog. The plot is a world of darkness and depravity and the story’s conclusion leaves off with the question what was all of the suffering for? What was the purpose of the story if the ending doesn’t just drive home the point that the world is bad, but makes it clear that it can never be good?

      • Okay, nice, but you left me hanging. I understand your frustration with the story and the trope, but what's the thesis of your article? Are you trying to say the trope should die because it's not redeemable? Or, is there something of value in the trope and the types of stories in which we find it? Or are you going for something else entirely? Consider these questions, and consider exploring other stories as examples. A Series of Unfortunate Events immediately popped into my head. – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
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      Akame Ga Kill and the apolitical revolution

      The world of Akame Ga Kill is one of the darker world to exist in fiction, if only due to the focus on the horrific nature of amoral and immoral aristocrats who exist disconnected from the masses they rule and their own humanity.

      The plot of Akame Ga Kill is one of a splinter cell, dubbed Night Raid, aiming to overthrow the corrupt prime minister and hoping to liberate their kingdom, they lose allies constantly, in the end only 4 members of the group survive. The Kingdom is overthrown but replaced with another Kingdom.

      The horror of the Kingdom can’t be overstated, but the decision to continue a monarchial system in spite of that is one that begs the question, what’s stopping the decay of the previous system.

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        The continuation of the Berserk manga series, a blessing from the skies or a curse?

        Berserk is an incredibly influential series of manga in the dark fantasy genre of literature and has amassed an expansive following throughout the world. It has branched out into different anime, films, video-games and other forms of media, inspiring countless other artists. Unfortunately, its story could never be finished as Kentaro Miura, the original creator, had passed away about a year ago, leaving the series on a sour cliffhanger.

        As of 7th June 2022, the Japanese manga magazine Young Animal officially stated that it will continue the serialization of the famous Berserk manga series without the visionary Kentaro. Headed by Kentaro’s best friend Kouji Mori, the close friends and coworkers of Kentaro Miura promise to deliver an authentic end to the manga, stating that they know how it ends, since Kentaro would often discuss the narrative with everyone on the team before drafting the scenes, dialogue and aesthetic decisions.

        The question therefore lies within the nature of finalizing someone else’s work after their death. Though the continuation of the series seems to be in capable hands, should it still be continued? Is the authorship and authenticity of the work more important than its continued serialization and commercialization? Will this decision attract controversy from the fans, how so or why not? Will the original vision of the manga’s themes and aesthetic features differ, or become watered down? How can one describe the differentiation between auteurs in an artwork or franchise?

        • Many series, like Star Wars (which imo has gotten worse since George Lucas handed it over to Disney) continue on after their original creator has either abandoned it or passed away. I think the most important thing for authors/artist that decide to continue some one else's work, is that they respect the ideas that the original creator put forward. This is part of the reason (imo) Star Wars fans have reacted negatively towards modern Star Wars. But series like Devil May Cry and Doom are still popular long after their original creators left the series. I think if the people who take over Berserk, respect Miura's original vision, put in an effort to maintain his art style, don't use the popularity of his work to market their own/or their personal agenda (be it political/socially) most fans will probably be somewhat understanding, and hopefully be reasonable in their criticism of the series going forward. Their is no denying their are going to be people who are going to be negative about any creative decisions made post Miura's passing. But in situations like this its usually best to ignore the more unrealistic complaints, and simply address the more reasonable ones. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
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