This Week in Pop Culture: Death Note

As someone who’s a pretty big fan of anime, you can imagine that I was pretty excited when Netflix announced they were adapting the anime Death Note (one of my favourite animes) into a live-action movie. Admittedly, I did have some concerns with the logistics of the adaptation, but I wasn’t letting those get my enthusiasm down.

Death Note is about a teenager, Light, who discovers a notebook with the power to kill people. Both the anime and the movie start out with the same premise, however the movie takes a turn from there. On a grand scale the overarching plot between the two shows is similar but it is clear that some liberties were taken with the characters and the story details when Netflix made their movie adaptation. These changes, for me, were probably what made this movie less enjoyable than it could have been. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and in a sense that applied here. But perhaps I was just being picky because I am a fan of the anime version. It would appear that other people (who have not seen the anime) had a different opinion and thought very highly of the movie where I only thought it mediocre.

My personal opinion remains that this movie is okay at best. It can be best described as an Americanized version of an anime which races through 740 minutes of content in roughly 80 minutes. You can see where this would be a problem, I assume. As a result of this condensing, some details have been changed (such as the character Mikasa in the anime becoming Mia in the movie, two characters which share very little in common), or skipped altogether (such as Light’s involvement in the Kira investigation in the anime). Even taken out of the context of the anime I still feel like this film tries to do too much in too little time and suffers for its efforts by feeling rushed.

I should perhaps mention that the anime adaptation of Death Note isn’t the original form of the story either, which first appeared as a manga (or comic). Anime are notorious for changing or adding details when being translated from manga to show, but to the habitual or seasoned viewer that becomes expected. I personally prefer the anime iterations of nearly every story rather than the manga. Never having read the Death Note manga, I am unable to provide insight as to whether or not the movie has strayed from it’s content.

To sum up this review, if you have never seen Death Note in anime form, you very well may like the thriller-esque movie, but will almost invariably be left with questions. If you have watched the anime then you will have to try very hard to view this movie in it’s own context and your knowledge of the anime won’t likely help you to answer the questions left by the gaping holes in details. If you’ve seen the anime and intend to watch the movie you should also be prepared for a let down in that the metaphorical chess game between Light and L is diminished to a few short, but very charged, interactions.

My rating: 3/5 stars.