Death Note is an adaptation of the anime and manga series created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Both versions have secured a huge following in Asia and in 2006, NTV and Warner Bros. released the live action version of the franchise.
The plot revolves around a young criminology student named Light Yagami who stumbles upon a mysterious notebook which gives him the power to kill people just by writing their name on it. Along with the notebook comes a shinigami or death god named Ryuk, whom only Light can see. Ryuk, who is a mischievous entity follows Light around a la guardian angel with an apple addiction and provides small comic relief in this rather serious manga adaptation.
Light, who believes that the criminal justice system in Japan is flawed, decides to use the Death Note to the kill off criminals in vigilante fashion and adopts the name Kira, the savior.
Pretty soon, Kira is both admired and detested by the people of Japan, but as the number of unexplained deaths reach over a hundred with no indication of slowing down, Japanese authorities enlist the support of a maverick detective whose identity remains a secret and is known only as “L.” Things start to get complicated as Light and L engage in a battle of wits to see who will crack first.
The movie started off a bit slow. I didn’t like Light from the start because he seemed to be an unsympathetic hero, easily getting corrupted by the power of the book and stopping at nothing to outsmart authorities who were after him. While Ryuk the shinigami looked like a monster, I liked the CGI and his cool vibe. His character was more human than Light, who is prideful and sees himself as a god, who has the license to take life as he pleases. His ruthlessness, while not surprising, was detestable and inexcusable. He was the clear villain in my book, despite his original intent of ridding the world of crime and evil.
The movie succeeded in building the suspense, despite the rather ho hum beginning. As I began to detest Light, I consistently grew more curious about the mysterious L, and when he finally appeared looking like he hadn’t taken a bath for three weeks, gorging on sweets, on full weirdo mode, I was instantly a fan, rooting for him and he tries to prove his suspicions about Light, who by the way happens to be a police investigator’s son. The twist and turns of the story were very smartly written and viewers will find themselves biting their fingernails on more than one occasion, wondering when the outcome of the rivalry will happen.
I would have to say that the movie was very interesting but only builds up to the sequel, Death Note: The Last Name where more characters are expected to be introduced and more drama will ensue between the rivals Light and L. As a standalone, it was pretty good and got me interested in seeing its other versions. As for the sequel, check out the trailer here and my review here.