Ok, as promised here is my reading of Death Note and the other.
First of all, what is meant with the ‚other‘. In it’s basics it is exactly what it sais: It is what is different from the norm. That also means the other is defined by the point of view, so within Germany everything and everyone from another nation is the „other“ and this shows that the other is something which describes the relationship of certain things (yes even things can be considered the ‚other‘) (Faulstich S. 414).
This conversely mean that not everything I know is for me considered as the ‚other‘, since it is a relationship between me and the thing or person or what ever in question, I have to know about and think about this thing. As long as this is not the case this is not the ‚other‘ at least for me. Erdheim considers the other thus as something that is unknown to us in the same terms as the subconcious is something unknown to us. We do not understand or can grasp it, but it does effect us. (Erdheim S. 167)
The ‚other‘ can come in many different form, and usually it either interests us, and we want to learn about it more, or is shocks us and we are afraid, sometimes even both at the same time. In movies Faulstich categorizes 3 types of the other the ‚exotic‘ ones, which usually deal with exploration of new lands or adventures into the unknown („Startrek“ mightbe a good example or „Indiana Jones“), the other as ‚healing‘ which is meant on a spiritual layer, simply accepting things that we do not understand (e.g. God), and finally, and this brings me to my major focus: Horror. (Faulstich S. 418ff)
In Horror Movies there usually is a monster, presented as the ‚other‘ incontrast to society. This ‚other‘ invades the realm that we know and thus threatens us and people get scared of this, which also shows a major difference to the first category ‚exotic‘ because there the ‚other‘ is actively searched for, not in the horror movie. The monster comes for us.
But what is important to note is, that this monster, since it is thought of by humans, can never be something entirely ‚other‘ because we can only use what we know of! Humans couldn’t possibly fathom something entirely ‚other‘ to what we know, untill we saw it. This shows that the ‚monster‘ always represents something that a society in which this movie/book/comic was produced is regarded as ‚other‘ or ‚uncanny‘.
Ok so much for the theory part, now let us look at „Death Note“, for all unfarmiliar with it, pleas look at my last post, there is a short introduction to the manga/anime. I will try to keep this as short as possible ^^
Ryuk is probably the frst one you think of when considering the ‚other‘ in DN. This makes sense since he is no human, he comes from another worl even and has uncanny powers. Just considerin his looks, hus spiky teeth, the dark wings and his whole get up he is marked ‚monster’Although there is a weird connection to some Visual Kei clothing and make up when comparing…
the dark clothing, rather light skin, dark coloured eyes and such does in a way resemble some parts of Visual Kei Movement (for all who do not know: VK is a japanese movement, is describes primarily as clothing style that deviates from the norm and an indi music style in Japan)
After all the ‚other‘ cannot be anything we do not know at all, visual Key is not the norm in Japan (though it’s is popular among younger generation and is something japan becoem famous for abroad) it clearly is a deviation what is considered to be socially accepted. His charater also has seem attributes given to the younger generation: not caring, not helping, just going with the flow. Ryuk basically becomes more an observer then anything else.
On the first glance Light is the definition of normal. He is exactly what all Japanese students should be like, an ideal. He comes from a respectable family, his father works hard, his mother stays at home and he has a cute yet not overly smart little sister. He is good in sports, good in studies, popular, charming… you get the point. Even from his looks he remains normal, good looking but not in a ’star person‘ kind of way, he dresses in normal, good clothes, has a neat hairstyle, he is optically the opposite of Ryuk and L who even by appearance are visibly different from the rest.
Yet he incorporates the ‚other‘ but a different part of the ‚other the Ryuk I might say. Light is the ‚other within‘. Even before meeting Ryuk it is made clear that he does not fit into this society, he thinks about how boring life is and how meaningless, and how anoyed he is of all those normal people. But this is a thought many people can relate to! Especially young people probably often find themselves thinking something along those lines. But Light is given the Note Book and this gives him the chance to not only change the world, he even goes as fas as wanting to become its ‚god‘.
So what Light does is uncanny, but it is something society already knows: Killing as a punishment and scare off other criminals‘, death penalty in short. Sure he does it on a larger scale, and more importantly without a trial. You can only wonder how many innocent people he killed (even before killing the FBI agent and such).
But what might even be more scary then him killing is the effect he has on society, because just like Ryuk triggered him becoming Kira, Kira triggered that all those people who already thought the same thoughts as he did now spoke them out. In the anime as well as manga quickly websites that support Kira come into being and in fact many people support him. But for the reader these comments about how great Kira is are still considered the ‚other‘ because in our reality it would still be a taboo.
Just quickly coming back to appearances: Isaid before Light looks exactly what a Japanese protige should look like, true on the surface but in the anime as well an Manga the artis do show differences between Light and Kira. E.#G. as Kira his eyes become more narrow, often large black shadows will cover his face, later here even is shown as insanely laughing making a rather ugly face. The anime even goes as far as giving him occasionally red eyes.
L is the ‚good guy‘ so why even bother looking at him for the ‚other‘. Well especially because of that!Although L is the ‚good guy‘ (Ok Kira would refuse that and claim he is, but that is a different discussion) he is also the antagonist to the protagonist Light.
I also mentioned before how L just looking at him deviates from the norm!
First of all him Name, L is no name and it shows that he is different to the others who have normal names. L is but a latter, also a letter Japanese people cannot pronounce making him even more foreign. also at first he doesn’t even have an appearance, he is but a talking letter in a computer, and at least for the citizens in the anime he always stays this, which is why he can be exchanged so easily.
Once he does make his entrance, he also look peculiar. He is (like Ryuk) rather pale, his eyes as black and narrow. In contrast to the always accurately dressed Light he wears old jeans, and old white shirt and no socks and if it can be helped not even shoes. While Light always has a good posture, L is always bent over, he holds his spoon/Handy/other stuff in a weird manner. Well he has hardly any social abilities, and thus does not fit into society.
Also, he does not hunt Kira because of justice but out of interest. It is a challenge to him, kind of like a game of chess (or tennis? XD) So he as well as Ryuk is in a way an opposite of Light, and still he can be considered ‚other‘ to society, though in a less uncanny way then Light or Ryuk.
Ok what does this bring us to? First the question of what actually is the ‚other‘ in DN? Is there even a representation of ’normal‘ there? (if so, tell me…)
All the main characters deviate from the norm but they also represent already existing ideas of the society, which are felt to be improper and thus the ‚other‘, somehow threatening. In DNs case these thoughts are concerned with justice, but also with intellect. How scary can a genius become having the right weapon at hand (just think of the atomic bomb, and Japan had to suffer the most of it) is such a great intellect even something to desire? Or is it something uncanny that can turn against society any given moment?
yeah I know I left out Misa, and Rem and the policemen to safe space, so I concentrated on the three main characters of the first half, please understand 😉
I’m sorry this became al little flat but other wise it would have taken a lot of space. I you want me to go further into detail on this comment below, or comment and go deeper in your selves, I’m very interested about what you think about this
and also what other topics would you be interested in, pleas suggest Manga/anime and aspects to look out for, I will do my best at it ^^
Thanks for reading, and I hope you will continue following my blog. Also pleas bear with my bad spelling ^^***
Tsugumi, Obâ. Death Note. Shueisha. Tokyo. 2003-2006. print
Death Note. Obâ Tsugumi. Madhouse. 2006-2007. film
Streeck, Ulrich ¬[Hrsg.]: Das Fremde in der Psychoanalyse , Erdheim, Mario: DasFremde Totem und Tabu in der Psychoanalyse, München, Pfeiffer, 1993
Leskovec, Andrea: Fremdheit und Literatur, Berlin [u.a.], Lit, 2009