If you are an avid lover of anime, then you are always hopeful that the next live-action adaptation of one of your favorite shows will live up to its parent anime. In the movie industry however, this never seems to be the case; “Dragon Ball” and “Ghost in the Shell” being a few past examples. Plagued with bad casting choices, and plots too loosely based on the original, “Death Note” falls right in line with the trend.
Originally a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, “Death Note” published 12 volumes between May 2004 and October 2006. An anime series directed by Tetsuro Araki, comprised of 37 episodes aired in Japan from October 2006 to June 2007, and an American film directed by Adam Wingard was released on Netflix August 25, 2017.
The anime, setin Japan, follows Light Yagami, a star high school student who ends up in the possession of a mysterious notebook called the Death Note which holds the ability to take lives as the wielder of the notebook sees fit. After discovering the power the notebook possesses, Yagamimeets Ryuk, the death god watching over the notebook.
Yagami reveals his plan to Ryuk to become a god amongst men and free the world of criminals, under the code name Kira, translating to “killer” in Japanese. Kira’s killings gain the attention of an intelligent, world-renowned detective known as “L,” who quickly realizes Kira needs only a name and face to kill his victims.
As Yagami tries to learn, and kill, the true identity of L, he meets his love interest and second Kira, model Misa Amane, and her death god, Rem. It’s shortly after this L discovers the true identities of both Amane and Yagami: the first and second Kira of Japan.
Adam Wingard’s take on Death Note strays from the original anime, leaving fans of it disappointed from the get go. None of the main characters in the film are of Asian descent, Light’s last name has been changed from Yagami to Turner, as to better fit the leading White actor, Nat Wolff, and the location of the film is set in Seattle. Light’s love interest has changed from model Misa Amane to cheerleader Mia Sutton, played by Margaret Qualley. Mia is not in possession of her own Death Note and so, does not have the death god Rem with her.
Instead, she takes an unusual liking to Light’s Death Note after he shows her what it is capable of. Poor character development and dialogue paired with rushed or deleted background information left a film that felt rushed with lots of room for unattachment to the characters feelings and motivations throughout the work.
This film would have done better as a live-action series, where there could be more time to explore key information about the Death Note, and build stronger character development to evoke the emotion from viewers.
If you’re a fan of the original Death Note series or are a fan of anime in general, you probably will not like this adaptation. If you are someone who did not know what “Death Note” was prior to reading this article, or you can put aside the fact that it is nothing like the anime, you may find some enjoyment out if it. If nothing else, the visuals make this an entertaining film.
Ryuk is beautifully animated, and there is a lot more gore than was expected.
The director also left the end of the film on a cliffhanger, so there is a good possibility we will see a second film that does a better job of sticking to the plot and bringing a good end to the story.