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Film review

Deathnote is a Japanese manga and anime with elements of drama”,

thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, crime and fiction that was made into

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a movie by Netflix. The movie I recently watched was more similar to

an American angsty teenage horror drama, like Wayan’s ‘Scary

Movie’ than the intellectual battle between two masterminds and a

conflict between right and wrong like in the original anime.

Anime is an animated art form usually in the Japanese language that

is a combination of many genres. Anime in the written form are called

manga. There are many famous anime’s that are popular worldwide

like Pokemon, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Fairytail, One Piece

etc. Deathnote is one among the all time favourite for anime fans.

They deal with topics that are different and complicated than usual

topics, exploring and going out of the ordinary boundaries. Making a

classical anime into a movie, by Netflix is a great promotion for the

whole anime culture when done ‘right’. But the Netflix version

‘unfortunately’ had nothing to recommend it. It is indeed very loosely

based on the original work.

My expectations for this Netflix remake by Adam Wingard

completely shattered within the first three minutes into the film. The

story completely removed from the Japanese setting is

‘Americanised’ and the whole event happens in Seattle. Light Turner

is the main protagonist, who is a highly intellectual and manipulative

character, in the anime who we all come to love, even with his god

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complex and a complete disregard for human life. In the movie he is

portrayed as a love sick, emotionally unstable, confused and scared

teenager who is often, making foolish decisions.

Light Turner one day stumbles upon the ‘death note’ in his

highschool. It is a mysterious leather bound book that belongs to a

death god. This note book has the ability to kill the people whose

name is written on it. The writer would have to write their real name

and visualize their face while writing it. This leads him to a mission

of cleansing the world of evil, by killing off all the known criminals”,

felons and convicts around the world whose names and faces are

broadcasted on the news. He is helped by his cheerleader girlfriend

Mia and worshipped by the people as a god named ‘KIRA’ which

means killer in japanese. The plot twists further when a world famous

and highly intelligent detective who goes by the pseudonym ‘L’ starts

investigating Kira and traces him to Light Turner.

While the protagonist’s conflict with his inner self and character

development is a key point in the anime. His intellectual rival and the

detective in charge of the ‘kira’case, ‘L’ adds depth to the series. This

intellectual back and forth is the essence of a good crime thriller but

this was absent in the movie. ‘L’ was portrayed as a highly emotional

and unstable kid who made rash decisions and had to be kept in check

at all time by Watari his care taker and only escapes trouble because

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of his powerful connections. The character took a downward spiral

from Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to James Carter from Rush Hour. He

jumps to conclusions and even tries to attack Light with a gun after

Watari’s death.

Misa who was Light’s girl friend in the anime is someone who first

falls in love with the idea of Kira and later falls in love with Light

when she discovers the man behind the mask. She is highly loyal and

faithful to light and often gets manipulated into doing his bidding. In

the Netflix version, she becomes ‘MIA’ who is more psychotic and

manipulative than Light. She kills a lot of people on her own and

often edges him on, displaying sadistic pleasure in it. Mia in the end

even betrays light to keep the deathnote for herself. Mia from the

movie often resembles Shakespeare’s lady Macbeth more than the

innocent and loyal Misa. There is also so much unwanted

exaggeration on their romance; it is like they are trying to fill up the

plot holes with make out scenes, but the final betrayal kind of renders

the whole love plot pointless.

The ‘shinigami’ or the death god is another important character that

has drastically changed. Though the death god from the movie was

the most similar to the original, atleast visually. Making him so

manipulative that he ends up as the mastermind defeats the purpose of

‘LIGHT’ the main ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’ of this movie. The

death god we were delivered in the anime was a key character even

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with his chill ‘don’t get involved in human mess’ angle.

Apart from these obvious changes in the characters, that made them

worse and created confusion in the overall plot lines. There are many

other faults that would make even non anime fans or people who

haven’t watched the original deathnote averse to the movie.

The most fatal is the music, the eighties music that had no relation to

the actual scenes in the movie. The blood and gore which was

unnecessary and too much. In the original anime people died from

heart attack rather than decapitation.

The Netflix version in my opinion seems to be made out of the pretext

that the plot holes and poor acting can be buried in bad music, sex

scenes and a lot of bloody and gory deaths. The movie took a good

story and decapitated it in all ways possible. For people who are fans

of the original anime the movie is tormenting. Even for people who

are not a fan of the anime I would not recommend the movie. It is a

unique story line and if you want to watch this supernatural thriller”,

check out the anime deathnote, you will even get it in English dubbed.

If you still want to check out the movie I would warn you to not judge

the series based on what you see in the movie.

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