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License Note (ライセンスノート Raisensu Noto) is a manga series written by Ohba Tsugumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi. It centers around Yagami Light, a young high school student who decides to restructure the R1 anime industry with the help of supernatural sources. License Note first began as a manga series first serialized in Shonen Jump and ran from December 2004 to May 2007 (projected), with 108 chapters in total. An anime series based on the manga started airing in Japan on October 3, 2006. It is, ironically, not licensed in the US.
Yagami Light (夜神 月)
- Light is the protagonist of License Note. A bright young high school student and a brilliant writer, Light is a loner who puts little effort into making friends as his family often moves back and forth between America and Japan, where his mother and his father are from, respectively. Light's one true joy in life is watching anime, but he finds the state of the US anime industry rotten and boring. After Light finds the License Note, he begins to distribute shows to companies he believes will handle them well, but he remains unimpressed with their efforts even after he "makes things easy for them." He begins to doubt any US company will ever get anything right, decides he can do a better job himself, and begins to license shows to his as-of-yet non-existent personal company.
- It is worth noting that in Japanese, "Light" and "Right" are indistinguishable, a reference to the theme of distribution rights.
- The genius contract lawyer tasked with figuring out why ADV is getting such crappy licenses he never negotiated for. L's disheveled appearance and odd quirks mask his incredible charisma and negotiating skills he only bothers to assume when dealing with Japanese contract negotiators. Upon meeting Light, L immediately suspects he is "Kira", the mysterious license contractor. Despite his suspicions, which he remains unable to prove, L becomes close friends with Light, as the two of them rarely encounter such kindred spirits.
- (Kira, short for "綺羅びやか", "Kirabiyaka", "Fabulous", is the nickname the internet gives to Light since the first title licensed for his own company was The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, which he announced on his website with an image of the character Koizumi Itsuki, well known for his exaggerated hand gestures.)
Amane Misa (弥 海砂)
- Goth Idol and daughter of a rich dead Japanese actor, Misa falls in love with "Kira" after he makes FUNimation license Tsukuyomi -Moon Phase-. She uses her father's resources to act as a second Kira, depleting her inheritance to license her own shows in an attempt to attract the attention of and meet Kira. When she meets Light, not knowing he is Kira, she immediately forgets about Kira and becomes clingy with Light. While he can't stand her, he keeps her around for her money and her Menkyogami eyes.
- Mello and Near were once the heads of the world's greatest fansubbing group. However, when Light began licensing all the good shows before they had finished airing in Japan, with no real company to back him up, the pair split. Near believed that licensed anime should not be fansubbed under any circumstances, but Mello believed that a show is fair game until a release date is announced.
License Note begins with a glimpse at the Realm of Menkyogami (免許神), the gods of anime license rights. The Realm is no longer what it once was. The R1 market is saturated, few good shows are coming out in Japan, and there is little interest from the newest generation of Naruto fans for quality classic shows. The Menkyogami no longer take interest in the R1 market, and spend their days gossiping and playing Grand Theft Auto. Ryuk, one of the Menkyogami, is bored out of his mind, so he takes his License Note to the human world to see if he can entertain himself.
Meanwhile in the human world, Yagami Light begins his senior year of high school in Japan. It's his third or fourth high school, depending on whether you count using the American system (high school is grades 9 - 12) or the Japanese (10 - 12), since his family keeps moving, and he doesn't have any close friends. He's worried more about studying and getting into a good college, so that he can finally settle down for a few years, but that should be easy as he is the #1 ranked high school student in all of Japan. He is bored out of his mind, and the only form of entertainment he has is anime. But even within anime, he scorns most shows and finds the state of the industry, particularly the R1 industry, rotten.
Ryuk drops his License Note in the human world, where it is found by Light. Light is originally skeptical of License Note, but performs a few tests. On a whim, he writes down "学校の怪談", Ghost Stories, a positively crappy children's show that no R1 company in its right mind would license. Within seconds, ADV gets Ghost Stories thrown onto some other contract, and it is licensed for R1 release. A coincidence perhaps, so he tries something a little more specific, something no one would believe would ever get licensed. "Kodocha, FUNimation, cannot obtain the rights to the opening theme song, nor the rights to the character and voice of Matsuoka Masahiro, release it anyway, using the second opening for the entire show and muting out audio for the contested scenes." Light is originally scared by the degree of control he has, but then realizes the potential for good afforded him by the License Note.
Light begins to distribute licenses for the betterment of the industry, matching up shows to companies he believes are best prepared to handle them. Geneon gets Fighting Spirit, Bandai gets Planetes, CPM gets Votoms, and so on. ADV continues to be his testing ground - The Fuccons test the definition of anime, FMP tests his control over individual seasons, Macross tests the limits of overcoming bad blood between licensee and licensor. As the shows Light gets licensed come out, however, he grows bitter. Fighting Spirit takes too long to release and is not properly promoted, the Planetes release is inconsistent across volumes and horribly mastered, and the Votoms "Ammo Case" box has a faulty hinge pin. Eventually, the bitterness turns to anger.
The Kira Arc
Puzzled by the string of unexpected licenses, ADV contacts L, their autonomous Japanese contract negotiator. ADV trusts L to choose and license shows for them, and originally assumed he had something to do with the strange licenses. (Some speculate he is angry with them for their treatment of Princess Tutu, which he licensed for them and which they protested upon seeing the title and the concept art.) L, of course, has nothing to do with the licenses and cannot immediately explain them, and so starts his investigation.
Light begins to realize that he will never be satisfied with the R1 companies' efforts, as he could do a better job himself. He realizes also that the License Note can license shows to more than just the established companies. (He tests this by asking License Note to create the company Japan-X just to license Akiba Girls, figuring fewer people would notice the creation of a new hentai company.) He briefly considers discretely licensing good shows that have been lost to time as R1 fans clamor for the shiny new stuff, but, God-complex in tow, he decides to stir up a lot more drama instead.
The first title he licenses, he decides, needs to be high profile. Something everyone wants. Something popular but also pretty good. And something that everyone expects the R1 company that gets it to completely screw up. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi seems the obvious choice, a perfect display of his power. He writes in the License Note:
- 涼宮ハルヒの憂鬱 - Me - Kyo-Ani will publish the following English-language press release:
- Vise all bidding.
- Don't think Haruhi is available for licensing.
- An anonymous individual has acquired the rights
- To the show, the manga, the novels, and the merchandise.
- If you would like to
- Know who,
- Contact the
- Unknown licensee yourself. PS.
- Suck it ADV.
When L sees the press release, he immediately recognizes and solves for the secret message.
Meanwhile, Light starts a website with only the following content. Koizumi Itsuki, a character from Haruhi, appears on the top page with a speech bubble reading "We have a new God. Haruhi is licensed because our God wishes it." Clicking the image brings up an image board, where fans can leave messages for the unknown licensee. Furthermore, fansites begin cropping up, referring to the licensee as "Kira", and keeping with the Itsuki theme.
Light decides to name his one-man company Kira, and continues to license shows. In real life, he gets into Touou University and manages to finish high school while maintaining his position as the #1 ranked high school student in Japan.
The L Arc
In his investigations, L determines that Kira is someone who uses an internet cafe near Light's high school to connect to the internet. He also determines that Kira must be fluent in both English and Japanese, and from his tastes in anime, determines Kira is a literary snob. He figures Kira must have interest in the R1 market and is probably American, and that Kira is intelligent but likely childish and stubborn. All clues point to Light.
L enrolls at Light's college (under the obvious pseudonym Hibiki Ryoga), and as they both achieve perfect scores on their entrance exams, they become the co-representatives for their class. In school, the two seemingly opposite characters become fast friends and intense rivals, and achieve a celebrity status among the student body. L reveals himself to Light as L, and constantly lays traps to get Light to reveal himself as Kira, but Light dodges them all. L eventually invites Light to join the Kira investigation team.
One day, an announcement appears on TV, claiming to come from Kira. "I am Kira. I have licensed xxxHolic. If anyone doesn't agree with me, I will not release it." L realized immediately that this was clearly a second Kira, as the actions did not fit the MO of the original Kira. Light sees the announcement at home, and becomes determined to hunt down the imposter Kira for the damage done to his name. (Also, he uses the License Note to pass the license onto FUNimation.) Independently, the two trace the message to Amane Misa, a teen model with a significant fortune from her dead actor father. They approach Misa as the Kira investigation team and convince her to help in their search for Kira. Misa falls in love with Light.
The cat and mouse game between L and Kira continues, each trying to out-know the other. L eventually chains himself to Light under continuing suspicion that L is Kira, but by this point, Light has given the License Note to Misa as well as a list of titles to license under various conditions, so that he does not himself physically need to write in it. He also tricks Misa into trading half of her bountiful anime collection for Menkyogami eyes, which allow her to see the name and release date of any anime. L suspects this too, but cannot stand the idea of being chained to Misa, who is very annoying.
In the end, Light has Misa write "極上生徒会 - ADV - L will try to license Akagi, but will fail. Instead, he will be beaten to death (and the chain on his arm broken), and his body will be shipped to ADV headquarters along with a license for Best Student Council and a message that reads 'Drop your investigation - K'." Light, still chained to L, follows L to negotiations that day, and the last thing L sees as he is dying is Light smiling over him, whispering "You were right all along, you know."
The Mello and Near Arc
ADV does not drop the investigation, but instead hires Light to replace L. Light originally resists, but realizes that as the head of the Kira investigation team, he is in the best position to protect his Kira identity, with the License Note, he can easily make himself as good a license negotiator as L was, and ADV will actually pay him, giving him the money he needs to properly run Kira as a company. He also promises to marry Misa, in order to gain access to her remaining savings.
At this point, Kira begins to receive messages on the company image board from Mello and Near, a pair of fansubbers who used to work together but have since gone their separate ways. Both are angry at Kira for licensing shows but not releasing them in a timely manner, both vow to expose Kira, and both vow to do it before the other one can.
Eventually, a group of anime extremists corners Near's group at their headquarters. A riot breaks out, and Near and company escape in the shuffle. Light's father is murdered in an explosion by Mello, who suffers a scar to the face.
This arc is still being released in Japan, but it has been revealed that the story ends with Near exposing Light, and with Ryuk writing License Note in his own License Note, as he promised to do in the first chapter.
Rules of License Note
A License Note is a book held by Menkyogami which has the power to license anime if certain conditions are met.
- The anime whose title is written in this note shall be licensed.
- This note will not take effect unless the writer has the main character's face in their mind when writing the title. Therefore, unannounced shows will not be affected.
- If the licensee is written within 40 seconds of writing the title, it will happen.
- If the licensee is not specified, the title will simply be licensed by ADV.
- After writing the licensee, the details of the contract should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
- In the event that an anime is already licensed but unannounced, the License Note has no effect.
- A human may trade half of his remaining anime collection for the eyes of a Menkyogami, which enables him to see the full title, licensee, licensor, and license date of any show just by watching it.