Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Should You Watch Netflix's "Death Note"?

How does the Hollywood adaptation compare to the source material? 

[Spoilers ahead!]

When it was first announced that Netflix was going to release a Hollywood directed live-action adaptation of Death Note, there was a lot of concern and anger from fans of the original anime and manga. For one thing, Hollywood does not have a good track record with anime adaptation. Dragon Ball Evolution being the prime example of Hollywood ruining a great anime series. There was also anger claiming that the Hollywood adaptation was whitewashing the Japanese source material by casting white actors to play some of the lead roles. 

But besides all of the negative comments before the movie's release, there were some fans that had hope that Netflix's Death Note might actually be a decent adaptation. I was one of those fans. I've actually thought that Death Note would be the easiest anime for Hollywood to adapt, since a lot of the themes and imagery do have a lot western and Christian origins.

When the day came for the Hollywood Death Note to be released on Netflix, I started watching almost immediately after waking up. I knew that the movie was going to be different than the anime, but I didn't expect such a drastic change to the original story and characters. 

The original Death Note was a psychological drama with supernatural elements and mind games. The Netflix Death Note was a high school romance with supernatural elements and drama that was kinda forced. Netflix failed to produce an adaptation of Death Note and instead gave fans a story that no one asked for...but I actually thought that it was interesting.

This wasn't an adaptation of Death Note but it was definitely inspired by the anime and manga. I could tell that director Adam Wingard appreciated and loved the original anime and manga and put in effort to make a good movie. 

There were some cool looking shots, the music wasn't Death Note-esque but it was still a pretty good soundtrack, and the characters were actually intriguing. For me, a story needs good characters to get a thumb's up and I think that Netflix's Death Note had some cool characters, even though they were very different from the original cast.

While Light Yagami of the anime is a young handsome prodigy, Light Turner is an awkward outcast who is intelligent but not as clever as his Japanese counterpart. Light Yagami is often cold and focused on his goal to become a god and cleanse the world, doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal. Light Turner is emotional and naive. He wants to rid the world of evil, but there are some lines that he will not cross.

For the most part, L is very similar to his Japanese counterpart besides his physical appearance. L is still highly intelligent and quirky but he can be very emotional, especially when Watari is taken away from him. In the anime, L is more focused and rarely has outbursts, but in the anime, L never had Watari taken from him like he was in the Netflix movie.

And then there is Mia Sutton...I think I liked her a lot more than Misa Amane who I actually liked from the anime. Instead of being completely devoted and hopelessly in love with Light, Mia uses Light to further her own sense of justice. My biggest problem with Mia in the Netflix movie is that no time is spent explaining her motivations and she comes off as being a heartless sociopath. 

Yes, Netflix's Death Note does not take the time to fully develop it's new cast of characters. If this was a faithful adaptation, I could forgive that mistake since the audience should be expected to be familiar with the motivations of the characters, but this is a completely new story. 

For example, by the end of the movie, Light reveals his whole master plan to kill Mia, save his own life, and free himself of all suspicion of being Kira. However, there was really no evidence from the rest of the movie that showed Light was that clever. I think a scene or two showing Light outsmarting L and the police would have made this final scene more enjoyable and believable.

I think that if there was more time to tell the story, like if the movie was instead a TV series, than Death Note would have been happily accepted by both new and old fans. But because of the rushed character development, lack of explanations, and some honestly cringey dialogue, Netflix's Death Note failed to live up to it's source material.

So...should you watch Death Note? I watched Death Note three different times and I think I have actually come to like it. I won't call it a great movie or claim that it is Academy Award material, but I think that Netflix's Death Note offers a fun and interesting story that proves Hollywood is getting closer to making a good anime adaptation...though they still have a long way to go.

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