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The First Death Note Live Action Movie
Death Note's First Live-Action Movie
About the film:
Death Note, a popular anime series, was adopted into a live-action film for the first time in 2006. The film quickly became a hit in Japan, outperforming even The DaVinci Code at the Japanese box office. Death Note has been made into 2 other movies, called Death Note: The Last Name and L, Change the World. The first one, simply titled Death Note, is the only one I've seen so far.
About the Anime:
For those unfamiliar with Death Note, the plot is centered on a notebook called a Death Note, which comes from another world that is inhabited by monstrous creatures called death gods, or Shinigami. The Death Note works like this:
- Any human whose name is written in the Death Note will die.
- You must have the person's face in their mind when writing as well, so that humans with the same name won't get confused.
- You can specify the manner of death within 6 minutes and 40 seconds of writing their name.
- If you do not specify a cause of death, the victim will simply die of a heart attack.
Ryuk, a Shinigami, is bored with the drabness of his world. So he sends his Death Note to Earth, with instructions on it written in English, the most popular human language, and waits for someone to find it.
Enter Light Yagami. A very intelligent student at a university, Light Yagami's father is a police officer and Light is disgusted with the number of criminals he perceives the system as being too lenient on. So when he finds the Death Note, at first, he writes a convict's name from the T.V. news in the notebook, thinking the whole setup is an elaborate prank. When he finds out that person actually does die of a heart attack, he becomes determined to use this newfound power to eradicate crime and create a better world. Ryuk the Shinigami is impressed by Light's willingness to use the Death Note, as most humans would probably be too nice or cowardly.
Light starts executing criminals with boldness, hoping to become the god of a new world free of crime. As police start investigating these "bizarre deaths" of criminals all over the world, they begin to feel unsure of what to do or how to track this mysterious serial killer. Enter L.
L is a shadowy master detective who communicates to the Japanese police via computer, with voice disguising software and no video. Since he suspects that the killer is in the Kanto (Tokyo) region of Japan, he asks for Japanese police cooperation in solving these bizarre murders. The head of the investigation happens to be Light's father. Will they find out that Light is the notorious "Kira", a man hailed as a savior by some and despised as a monster by others?
My Critique of the Movie:
Overall, I'd say I was very impressed by this film. There was good acting in all of the major roles and the intensity of the story was good throughout. The movie does a good job of presenting the moral ambiguity of both sides; L allows an innocent person to die in order to prove that Kira is in fact in the Kanto region of Japan, while Light murders his own girlfriend in a final, desperate attempt to escape suspicion. The movie is interesting to those who like action and suspense and philosophically interesting as well.
I felt like the movie, as well as the Death Note series, does a good job of raising interesting questions about right and wrong. I think a lot of people, fed up by faulty or overly lenient criminal justice systems, might look to a real-life Kira as a hero or savior. However, you have to ask yourselves if that's right and what about the wrongfully convicted? It also raises the question of whether any one human being should have power over life and death like that. In short, Death Note (both this movie and the series as a whole) strikes a great balance between being intellectual and being exciting.
I usually don't watch Live Action anime movies. With stories involving a lot of magic, I think live action doesn't make as much sense as animation because CG special effects mixed with live action can sometimes look fake and sloppy. In animation, magical and unreal things can happen seamlessly and look like part of their normal surroundings.
There's also the fact that anime characters usually look nothing like real Japanese people a lot of the time. In my opinion, Death Note was a good choice for adaptation into live action because a) the characters already look more Japanese than most anime characters and b) the only magical special effect they needed to do was Ryuk, a lot of this story can be told without the reliance on flashy CGI.
This film did a great job of delivering the heart of the anime into a live action format. I really think this movie is a must-see for fans of the series. Anyone who enjoys movies that are both intellectual and suspenseful would also enjoy Death Note.