Death Note is a manga series written by Tsugumi Ōba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, and whose anime adaptation was directed by Tetsurō Araki. It also has several movies and video games.
Here is the complete watching guide for the whole series, including the feature-length and live-action adaptations.
How Many Death Note Seasons and Episodes Are There?
Despite being a cult classic anime series adored by fans around the world, Death Note has only one season, consisting of 37 episodes, which adapt the whole storyline. The series aired between October 3, 2006 and June 26, 2007.
How Many Death Note Movies Are There?
The number of movies is much larger, although they’re just a retelling of the original manga and anime and they don’t really add anything to the plot that you’ve not read or seen already. First of all, there are two anime movies, which are essentially the anime series released in the form of two feature-length movies. They are:
- Death Note: Relight – Visions of a God (130 minutes, released on August 31, 2007)
- Death Note: Relight 2 – L’s Successors (100 minutes, released on August 22, 2008)
As for the live-action series, we have the initial series that consists of seven installments:
- Death Note (125 minutes, released on June 17, 2006)
- Death Note 2: The Last Name (139 minutes, released on October 16, 2006)
- L: change the World (129 minutes, released on February 9, 2008)
- Death Note: New Generation (miniseries, released between September 16 and September 30, 2016)
- Death Note: Light Up the New World (135 minutes, released on October 29, 2016)
Finally, we have the 2017 Netflix-produced live-action adaptation titled simply Death Note, which premiered on August 24, 2017. A sequel is being worked on as of the time of writing this article.
Death Note Watching Order
In this section, we are going to give you the best way to watch the Death Note franchise. The viewing order is relatively simple and you can follow it easily.
Original Run: October 3, 2006 – June 26, 2007
Number of Episodes: 37
Light Yagami is a gifted high school student who judges today’s world to be criminal, rotten, and corrupt. His life changes dramatically the day he accidentally picks up a mysterious notebook called “Death Note”. Its instructions for use say that “the person whose name is written in this notebook dies.”
At first skeptical, Light decides to test the notebook and discovers that his power is very real. He meets the former owner of the Death Note, a god of death named Ryûk. This one declares to have voluntarily dropped his notebook in order to be entertained. Light decides to use the Death Note to exterminate the criminals, in order to build a perfect world in which he will be the god.
He gradually learns to use the powers of the notebook and its rules: the user can only kill a person if he knows his face, by entering his first and last name. He can also specify the cause and the detailed circumstances, the default cause being the heart attack.
The many unexplained deaths of criminals around the world attract the attention of Interpol and the mysterious L, a particularly talented detective, but whose identity no one knows. L decides to investigate the serial killer, nicknamed “Kira” by the general public.
Death Note: Relight – Visions of a God and Death Note: Relight 2 – L’s Successors
Release Dates: August 31, 2007 / August 22, 2008
Running Time: 130 minutes / 100 minutes
These two anime movies are basically short versions of the anime series’ two arcs. The first movie focuses on Light’s killing spree and L’s attempts to stop him, while the second movie follows the conclusion of the anime narrative.
These two movies don’t bring anything new to the plot and they can be skipped altogether, but if you want a recap of the anime series’ most important moments, they’re a great place to start.
Death Note (2006)
Release Date: June 17, 2006
Running Time: 125 minutes
Light Yagami is a brilliant high school student who one day finds a notebook with the power to kill any human being whose name is written on it, but it must be done by following certain specific rules. Thanks to this Death Note, he hopes to make the world a better place, in order to create a society devoid of criminals, vices, etc.
For that, he begins his quest by eliminating the biggest criminals in the world. The Death Note allows you to kill a person whose name is entered with a heart attack, provided you know their face, so the police quickly understand that an individual is killing criminals. But how to find it? How do you find the one we call Kira and who seems to have the powers of a God?
But quickly, a certain L, an unusual detective and having solved cases that no one seemed to be able to elucidate, will stand in his way and try to unmask this mysterious killer of criminals; for this, Light and L will have to confront their intelligence, their talent and their capacity for reasoning.
Death Note 2: The Last Name
Release Date: October 16, 2006
Running Time: 139 minutes
This film is the sequel to the first opus, released in 2006 in Japan. Kira (Light) and L meet, and Light joins the team tasked with investigating the Kira case. A second Kira appears, in the person of Misa Amane, who wants more than anything to meet Kira (Light).
L: Change the World
Release Date: February 9, 2008
Running Time: 129 minutes
The internationally renowned detective wrote his name in a Death Note in order to stop the killer Kira, who is actually Light Yagami. As a result of this, she only has 23 days left to live. Meanwhile, an extremist environmental organization by the name of Blue Ship attempts to destroy the population to purify the planet using a deadly virus.
L is then called to shut down the organization. He will be accompanied by a gifted Thai boy sent by F, the only survivor of a village that was contaminated by the virus, then destroyed by the army, and a young girl who injected herself with the virus but does not present curiously no symptoms, which is also the daughter of the professor who managed to find the antidote to this virus but who committed suicide while the organization tried to steal it from her.
So L has only a few days left to save the world.
Death Note: New Generation
Original Release: September 16 –September 30, 2016
Number of Episodes: 3
Ten years after the death of Light Yagami, the original owner of the “notebook of death”, a supernatural object thanks to which it is possible to kill people by writing their name on its pages, Tsukuru Mishima joins a special investigative unit that investigates murders potentially attributable to the use of the notebook.
Meanwhile, Ryūzaki, the designated successor of the internationally renowned detective Elle, after dealing with numerous cases abroad decides to investigate a series of murders attributable to the Death Note. The cyber-terrorist Yūki Shien, a follower of Kira and eager to retrace her deeds, receives the notebook from the shinigami Ryuk and decides to test it on Taichi Kanagawa, guilty of killing a little girl in the past.
Death Note: Light Up the New World
Release Date: October 29, 2016
Running Time: 135 minutes
Ten years have passed since the fight between Kira and L. The Shinigami, the gods of death, once again send Death Notes among humans, and the world gradually sinks into chaos. Tsukuru Mishima is a member of the Death Note special unit with Matsuda, who worked on the Kira case. Mass murders are now taking place all over the world. L’s successor then begins to investigate this case, which would bring together six Death Note.
Death Note (2017)
Release Date: August 24, 2017
Running Time: 100 minutes
In Seattle, Washington, high school student Light Turner stumbles upon the “Death Note,” a mysterious notebook with instructions stating that by writing a person’s name on it, that person will die in the prescribed manner. Light then meets the god of death Ryuk, the owner of the notebook. Ryuk convinces Light to use the notebook; Light writes the name of a bully and soon after sees him killed in a freak accident.
That night, Light tries again, using the name of his mother’s killer, Anthony Skomal, and the next morning he learns from his father James, a police detective, that Skomal died as Light had written. At school, Light shows Mia the notebook and proves it by killing a known criminal offender during a televised hostage situation.
The two decide to work together to rid the world of criminals and terrorists, using the name “Kira” (derived from the Japanese transliteration of “Killer”, to direct investigative attention outside of their continent).
Do You Need to Watch Death Note in Order?
Since the story flows chronologically, it is absolutely necessary for you to watch the series in order, whichever iteration you pick. It’s best to just watch the anime series, but if you opt for the anime movies, you have to watch the first one before the second one because of the plot. The same goes for the live-action adaptations – you have to watch them in chronological order, as otherwise, the plot won’t make any sense to you.