Following on the heels of China's ban on Thai "voodoo dolls"
last May, a new kind of "black magic" is proving popular among
young people. Called the Death Note, the offending object is a
notebook said to bring misfortune and curses upon someone should
their name be written inside it. Based on a Japanese anime show,
Chinese authorities have moved to confiscate the book nationwide in
the last two months after receiving a deluge of complaints from
concerned parents and teachers.
The Death Note, its price ranging from 15 to 50 yuan, was first
marketed in China as a kind of stationery with Beijing
Daily reporting its popularity among primary and high school
In reality, the Death Note is a brazen counterfeit of a key
element in the popular Japanese comic of the same name. In this
story, the Death Note will cause the death of anyone who has his or
her name written inside it. Thus, the main character Light Yagami,
also known as "Kira", takes revenge on criminals who escape the
hand of the law, but failing to realize that in so doing he has
become a serial killer.
After proving a smash-hit when published in the Weekly
Shonen Jump magazine from December 2003 to May 2006, the
series was adapted into live-action films and an anime series in
The curse plot-line has seemingly struck a chord with some venal
Chinese businessmen who jumped at an original method to reap
profits from the comic's underground popularity in China.
So far, reports of the notebook have come from the cities of
Beijing, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Shaoxing, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Nanning among
others. Law-enforcement authorities in the affected areas have
declared a concerted and nationwide campaign against this illegal
publication after the high volume of complaints.
However, students dismiss the notebook as not being a big deal.
"We are under huge pressure to study. This is just a fun way to
blow off steam. We don't take it seriously," a high school student
told Beijing Daily.
High school students in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province also
attributed the notebook's popularity to peer pressure and saw it as
a fad, reported China News Service. "If anybody makes you angry,
you can write his name on the notebook and cast deadly curse," said
one student, adding the notebook would not really cause any
"We don't care that the deaths will not come true. It's just a
game, we do not want our friends, parents and teachers to die. We
write their names in the book as a joke."
However, this easy dismissal has no hold with irate parents and
teachers, who are understandably distraught at finding their names
included in the notebook. They have lambasted the very idea as
potentially deforming children's morals with psychologists and
sociologists alike saying any children enjoying the game must
suffer from some mental problem brought on by an overly strenuous
"First we witnessed the popularity of voodoo dolls, now the
Death Note, which combine to show that children today lack normal
channels through which to convey their negative emotions and
alleviate their feelings of pressure," said Dr. Tian Yuanxiu, an
education psychological expert with Capital Normal University. She
continued to say that any approach sought to relieve depression
should not involve or embrace destructive tendencies, thus
rendering the notebook utterly evil.
She called for more after-school activities to be offered to
students, enabling them to let go of their stress and to enjoy the
company of their peers.
Back in April, the State General Administration of Press and
Publication's Department of Anti-Pornography and Illegal
Publications issued a notice ordering the confiscation of Death
Note and seven other illegal horror-story publications. To date,
tens of hundreds of copies of Death Notes have been seized,
according to various Chinese media.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, May 16, 2007)