Today horror director Adam Wingard has released his own adaptation of Death Note on Netflix. Starring Nat Woolf and Keith Stanfield, the film revolves around an illusive and ominous notepad that, if you write the name of someone in it, they’ll die. Eep. This all veers off into a plan to kill all the criminals ever but, obviously, the mass deaths soon spark interest from the police and as soon as they realise this may be the work of a killer, not a huge murderous coincidence, Light tries desperately to avoid capture.
The intriguing, albeit convoluted, plot was first created in 2003 as a Manga serial that eventually turned into graphic novels. This would spark a rather popular anime show, a live action television series, and three live-action films, culminating, naturally, in an American remake. Whether you like Wingard’s latest or not, the anime TV series created by 2006 by Tesuro Araki (who also created Attack on Titan,) is by far the most popular.
Following the same story line, the anime would stretch over 37 episodes. It’s funny because sluicing all that action down to merely two hours proves to be Wingard’s downfall in his recent efforts BUT a seemingly singular plot over this lengthy course causes pitfalls for the anime too. But it’s such a mesmerising watch…
As mentioned earlier, Death Note revolves around Light – a high-school kid who gets his hands on the book and tries to prove he is God by killing off bad folk. But the series follows the Manga by sending Light down a series of convoluted and insane plot points that stretches your attention as far as it does the plot. At the core is this cat and mouse game between Light and L which is electrifying, especially as L is an enigmatic and eccentric detective, able to peel back Light’s megalomaniacal plans right to the last intricate detail. But as soon as L comes close to capturing Light (or the dubbed godlike name for him Kira), Light escapes thanks to a more fiendish plot.
Herein lies the exhaustion. Death Note could genuinely be a perfect show. Cut the plot down to a nice and neat 10 – 15 episode show, and it’ll be an unforgettable one. But as the episodes drag on and on, it becomes more absurd. Not necessarily a bad thing (more on that later,) but the length can wane your investment in it.
There are also elements to the Death Note anime series that are a bit, well, sexist as fuck? Misa is introduced as a female character who also happens to have a Death Note. However, luckily for Light, she is obsessed with him. So much so that she’d turn up in skimpy outfits and rage at any other girl who comes across him, helping him murder whoever just for a chance to date him. Her boobs bounce as though the laws of gravity were not applicable to them and it’s honestly an awful depiction of any female woman.
So why am I suggesting to you all to watch this near 40 episode length show over the weekend? Because it is over the top, entertaining, and mysterious. As Light wiggles from the police’s capture with absurd plots, you are hooked into wondering how is he actually going to get caught. L’s eccentricity is also brilliantly done and he is every bit as compelling as Sherlock or The Doctor. The relationship between the pair is fiery and fantastic, creating such a wild ride that is impossible not to enjoy at some level. Plus Ryuk, Light’s Death God companion is certainly a hilariously creepy treat. There is also deep theology about whether killing criminals is a good thing. After all, who gives you the right to choose? And how far would you go to cover your tracks?
A hard slog in some places, ridiculously enjoyable in others, take a big bite out of the Death Note apple alongside the new film this weekend.
Death Note is available on Netflix.