Death Note Kills Its Original Material

default article image“This is gonna sound a little crazy, but I have a Death God,” Light Turner the main character says to his crush as he is about to reveal one of his secrets.

However, the same can be said for the Netflix adaptation from a popular classic anime into a live-action film directed by Adam Wingard; Netflix predicted its own failure through this adaptation.

Netflix adapted an original anime series consisting of a total of 37 20-minute episodes into a 101-minute live-action film, which right off the bat seems to do the original work an injustice.

Death Note (the Netflix live-action film) takes place in the city of Seattle and revolves around a genius blonde-haired high school guy named Light Turner (Nat Wolff) who recently lost his beloved mother.

Due to this, Light and his father, James Turner (Shea Whigham) who also just happens to be a police official, have a complicated father-son relationship, which comes to play a major role in the film.

One day at school Light finds a black-leather notebook with the words “Death Note” on the cover.

This is no ordinary notebook as it gives one the power to ultimately decide who dies, when they die, and how they die.

However, along with the notebook comes what is referred to a “Death G-D” who in this case is Ryuk (acted by Jason Liles, voiced by Willem Dafoe).

Almost immediately upon acquiring the Death Note, Light Turner and Ryuk begin to communicate and develop an interesting relationship.

Eventually, Ryuk entices and provokes Light to write a name in the Death Note to prove that it has the power to kill.

The anime series gives a view as to what life is like for Ryuk and how the Death Note came into the human world, but, Wingard strangely leaves out this important backstory and just has the Death Note fall from the sky during a storm.

The movie also includes a message about family, hardship, and even love.

However, if you have not watched the anime series, then you wouldn’t know this subplot, therefore, you may still question the random falling of some notebook from the sky.

Another flaw  is the film left out the second-half of the original series. These faults are not the only injustices against the original anime series.

Screenwriters Charles Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides, and Jeremy Slater earn credit for making the plot less complex than it was in the anime series to be fit for anyone to watch.

Additionally, some of the lines in the live-action movie made it appear like it was some type of nontraditional superhero movie.

For instance, Watari (Paul Nakauchi) who is L’s agent, says, “Sleep is key to strong thought.” I can imagine Saitama (the main character from One Punch Man) saying that line to his mentee, Genos.

Any devout anime fan might question the casting by Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert to not include any of the original English or Japanese voice cast to play any sort of role in the live-action film

Furthermore, it’s also puzzling why Mayfield and Schubert saw it fitting to have a separate actor play Ryuk and then have a different actor voice him.

It’s shocking to have an actor of a different race play the character of L, unlike in the original series where L was Japanese.

Also, it’s hard to tell whether this decision was a good or bad, but it was nevertheless inconsistent with the source material.

I loved the chemistry between Margaret Qualley and Nat Wolff in the roles of Mia and Light Turner, respectively. Whenever they were on screen together the film felt more exciting.

Credit must also be given to Willem Dafoe and Jason Liles who played and voiced Ryuk.

Although Ryuk as a character didn’t seem to be on screen as much as he should, it was impressive to see Jason Liles act in full costume and makeup; it reminded me of the original animated version of Ryuk.

I was a bit skeptical of Willem Dafoe’s voice as Ryuk, but he did an excellent job by adding a dark foreboding tone to the character, especially with Ryuk’s signature creepy laughs.

Furthermore, Paul Nakauchi playing the role of Watari seemed comfortable as an uptight and loyal agent participating in a highly secret FBI investigaton.

Lakeith Stanfield as L gave the best performance he could. However, at times he was awkward, uncomfortable, or just unable to get into the character of L.

Yet, strangely, the awkwardness might have been done intentionally in an attempt to portray the personality of the original animated character version of L.

The costumes and appearances of the characters by Emma Potter is just as important as the actors and actresses that portray them.

In particular, I was really impressed with the costume and makeup of the real life version of Ryuk. Unfortunately, there were some small injustices done to the original anime series.

One issue was the decision to have Mia wear black hair rather than blonde hair, which might also confuse those familiar with the original series.

Then, the costume for L’s character was weird since he ended up looking more like a ninja, rather than an FBI investigator.

Similarly, it’s strange that James Turner (Shea Whigham) wore his law enforcement uniform in only two scenes throughout the film.

The music by Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross damaged not only the movie, but disgraced the original series. There was no need to alter the tone and type of music used in the original anime, which was one of the highlights of the series.

The only exception to this is the music towards the ending and climax of the film, which was their best moment.

While the original series does it better, the film attempts to discuss justice, who should wield it, what is ethical in the pursuit of it and how far it should go among other themes.