Deathnote is a Japanese manga and anime with elements of drama”,
thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, crime and fiction that was made into
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
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
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
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
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.