The Death Note anime, directed by TetsurAraki and animated by Madhouse, began airing in Japan on October 3, 2006, and finished its run on June 26, 2007, totaling 37 twenty-minute episodes. It begins in the year 2006, instead of 2003. The series aired on the Nippon Television network "every Tuesday at 24:56". The series was co-produced by Madhouse, Nippon Television, Shueisha, D.N. Dream Partners and VAP.
In North America, the series has been licensed by Viz for residents in the United States to use "Download-to-Own" and "Download-to-Rent" services while it was still airing in Japan. This move is seen as "significant because it marks the first time a well known Japanese anime property will be made legally available to domestic audiences for download to own while the title still airs on Japanese television". The downloadable episodes contain the original Japanese audio track and English subtitles, and is available through IGN's Windows-only Direct2Drive service. DVDs of the series are also being released, containing both an English dubbed audio track, produced by The Ocean Group, and the original Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles. Viz announced at Anime Expo 2007 that the first DVD was officially released on November 20, 2007, in both regular and special editions, and also confirmed at Comic-Con International 2007 that the first 15,000 copies of each DVD contains collectible figures.
Light Yagami is an intelligent young man who resents what appears to be a relentless increase of crime and corruption in the world around him. His life undergoes a drastic change when he discovers a mysterious notebook, known as the "Death Note", lying on the ground. The Death Note's instructions claim that if a human's name is written within it, that person shall die. Light is initially skeptical of the notebook's authenticity, but after experimenting with it, he realizes that the Death Note is real. After meeting with the previous owner of the Death Note, a shinigami named Ryuk, Light plans to become a god and establish a new world order by passing his keen judgment on those he deems evil and anyone who gets in his way.
Soon, the number of inexplicable deaths of reported criminals catches the attention of International Police Organization and a mysterious detective known only as "L". L quickly learns that the serial killer, dubbed by the public as "Kira" (?, derived from the typical Japanese pronunciation of the English word "killer"), is located in Japan. He also concludes that Kira can kill people without laying a finger on them. Light realizes that L will be his greatest nemesis, and a nuanced game of psychological cat and mouse between the two begins.
Misa Amane, another Death Note owner, finds Light. Obsessed with Kira after the death of her parents' murderer, she devotes herself to helping Light, but is captured by L. Light makes a plan involving renouncing ownership of both Death Notes, and all of his memories of them, and turns himself in to L for surveillance. Together, Light and L investigate eight people from the company "Yotsuba" who are using a Death Note for their own profit. While arresting them, Light recovers all his memories when he touches the Death Note. He remembers and continues his plan of compelling the former owner of Misa's Death Note, the shinigami Rem, into killing L and his aide Watari.
After L's death, Light is given the position of the "new L" by the Japanese Task Force. Four years later, Near and Mello - two children who were raised to be successors to L - appear, with the goal of finding Kira. In the meantime, Kira has gained much public support, and has contacts. Mello, one of L's successors, kidnaps Sayu Yagami, Light's little sister, as a bargaining chip to get the Death Note. The Japanese Task Force plans to go to Los Angeles to rescue Sayu but ends up losing the Notebook. The Task Force later attempts to retrieve it and succeeds in doing so. However, as a result of an explosion that Mello uses to cover his escape, Light's father Soichiro Yagami dies.
Near begins to suspect the second L of being Kira thus causing some members of the Japanese task force to also openly suspect him. Realizing the risk of being caught, Light has Misa give up ownership of her Death Note. He then finds his next successor, Teru Mikami, a strong, almost crazed Kira supporter. Mikami later recruits a new spokesman for Kira, Kiyomi Takada, a newscaster and one of Light's former college girlfriends. Teru Mikami and Kiyomi Takada continue killing criminals while Light is unable to do so himself. Kiyomi is later kidnapped by Mello and is forced to kill him with a hidden piece of the Death Note. Light kills Kiyomi to avoid her implicating him after she uses the note to kill Mello. Mikami, unaware of this action, writes her name in his notebook, exposing it to the members of the SPK. Near has it replaced with a fake notebook and, in a final confrontation with Light, is able to use it to prove that Light is Kira. Realizing that Light had lost, Ryuk writes down Light's name in his own notebook, killing him with a heart attack.