“Death Note” – Chris Luedtke

I’m gonna be frank about 2006’s Death Note right now: it could not have been done better in a live-action sense. Yes, that’s right. I’ve seen so many crappy adaptations of books into movies and manga into anime that it makes me sick just thinking about some of them. But not this one. For once, someone hit the nail right on the head. Seldom do I feel so pleased after seeing such an adaptation.

For those of you who don’t know, Death Note is about a college student named Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who finds a small notebook called “Death Note.” The main rule of the book is simple: anyone whose name is written in the Death Note will die. Being the natural skeptic, Light laughs at the concept and writes down a name just to humor himself. Soon, that person dies, and Light realizes that the power he holds in his hands could craft a brand-new world free of harsh crime. Light begins to write down the names of prisoners who have committed murder, rape, etc. However, Light’s actions aren’t exactly smiled upon by law enforcement. Soon, infamous detective L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) is hot on his tail.

If you’ve read the manga, then you know the greatness of “Death Note.” The series is only action-packed in a battle of wits sense, and the movie isn’t any different. You won’t be blown away by psycho CGI fights but rather the degree of paranoia that’s put into everything. Every move made by Light or L has a hundred angles, as both try to outsmart one another. The film moves at a lightning speed in its two hours. Trust me when I say this is probably the best foreign action movies you’ll ever see.

The plot here doesn’t follow the one of the manga exactly. It’s nice to see that most of the live action is loyal to its page-turning counterpart, but they manage to set themselves apart. If you’re a fan, fret not, for the few changes that are made aren’t major, at least not in this area. The two hour film manages to squeeze in the first three-ish manga out of its twelve volumes while still leaving some stuff out, but not much. That should tell you something about its extremely complex story. Still, for a two hour movie, you barely feel its time impact. Instead, Light and L manage to battle throughout most of the film without ever laying eyes on each other.

The characters here are insanely well done. Light and L steal the show with their awesomeness. Their characters become so fleshed out that you forget that they’re fiction. The depth to their psyches is well exercised too, although I’d have to say Light’s character is touched upon way more. It becomes engrossing to us to see Light’s character take the actions he does as he tries to create his ideal world. The people he kills, the way he handles those who get in his way — everything Light does is very anti-hero. The same can be said for L, though. His tactics are often ruthless but not to the degree of Light.

There is so much more to Death Note than I’ve let on here. The plot outline I’ve given you is very basic. I haven’t even gone into the rules of the Death Note, nor have I even mentioned the nickname of Light’s killer persona. You could complain about the end of the film since it is not the series’ end, but its really the only way it could end right now. As I stated earlier, this Death Note film only covers about the first three manga. After that it ends and its sequel, Death Note: The Last Name picks up after that. If you’ve got a problem with that, I still say that you watch it anyway. Death Note will blow your mind.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s Death Note review here.

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