Death Note (2006) - 8/10 "Light, you know what? You're far worse than a God of Death." - Ryuk
Watching the disastrous triquel of the Japanese Death Note live action trilogy "Light Up the New World" only left me yearning for the first two films that made me love both the adaptation and main star Tatsuya Fujiwara so much in the first place. While it could probably never do justice (pun unintended) to both the anime and the manga, the first two Death Note live action movies were superior examples of anime adaptation done right that still stand the test of time today. Rewatching the first movie at least confirms my belief for this first parter.
I've said it before in my many reviews of these Death Note live action movies why I love this particular adaptation so much - the emotions. While remaining faithful to the source material is seemingly a significant factor to many fans (and this movie has certainly done that in spades), I feel it's more important that an adaptation brings something new to the conversation rather than rehash what has already been said. Death Note (2006) did exactly that, by showing us a Light Yagami with a little more humanity to his personality and a greater layer of emotional depth (as opposed to being a one-dimensional psychopath with a god complex, which while entertaining for an anime, isn't as practical for a live action film).
And what's certainly true is Tatsuya's key role in giving Light said depth. His performances in other anime adaptations have always struck a great balance between emotional and badass, and this is especially true in Death Note. It might be hyperbole, but I might even compare this casting to RDJ and Chris Evans as Tony Stark and Steve Rogers respectively.
That's the other key factor in keeping adaptations interesting and engaging - the casting. You could have a mediocre storyline about aliens taking over New York, but if you have talented actors giving the audience not only believability in playing the characters from the books, but also certain quirks and nuance that made the portrayal just slightly different and more interesting, you could still have a solid movie that's at least entertaining eye-candy. And I feel Death Note (2006) has done both, being as faithful as the medium allows it to be while adding certain amusing changes that gets the audience laughing.
Kenichi Matsuyama as L is the perfect example of that. So far, in all of the Death Note live action adaptations I've seen, he's still the most accurate portrayal of the L I knew from the anime, with his messy hair, his awkward demeanor/sitting posture, and his constant lack of emotions in all things (be it excitement or fear). That stoicism is an important characteristic of L that I think the 2015 J-drama got terribly wrong when they changed it, as I feel it played an important role in polarizing Light's more emotional demeanor (especially in the live action movies). Also, tell me you didn't laugh when L shouted "BANG! BANG! BANG!" in the movie. I read many comments that the live action version actually made that scene far more hilarious (credited to Kenichi's talent).
And it's not just L and Light. Throughout the movie, there were a lot of casting that I liked and felt appropriate, certainly more so when I watched the cheaper low-budget J-drama by comparison. Takeshi Kaga as Light's father, Soichiro Yagami, for example was one of these ideal castings. He has the bulk that made me feel the strength in character just from seeing this huge guy (as opposed to the slimmer Yutaka Matsushige in the J-drama, whom I felt was a miscast) - and again (minus the glasses), very much like his anime counterpart. Sota Aoyama is a less ideal choice (I would've chosen someone younger), but he nailed the boyish naivety of the character nonetheless (him shouting "NICE ONE!" at L's amazing deduction being one of the highlights). Last but not least, how could I forget the adorable and bubbly Erika Toda playing the equally innocent (on the surface anyway) idol Misa Amane? It's these interesting cast choices that remove the problem of a familiar plot because there's always something to look forward to on the screen.
But at the end of the day, I still have to hand it all to Tatsuya. He just brings a certain kind of charisma to Light that it's easy to forget Light's a ruthless murderer like the criminals he persecuted. His boyish charms made it easy to root for him when he becomes annoyed by L, or excited when he's won the game of wits they are playing, or even his amusing banter with Ryuk.
Finally, let's talk about the addition of Light's girlfriend, Shiori. As mentioned earlier, Light's more human portrayal is what made this particular adaptation work for me, and the girlfriend factor certainly adds to that, especially if you consider the movie ending. Personally, I felt that the ending was perfect, and it couldn't have been so without Shiori being present.
As intelligent or brilliant as he might be, Light is still this college student who started out from a path of seeking justice, and at the end, you could feel that as monstrous an act as it might've been, it was also the inevitable choice for Light who feels that he is burdened with this tremendous and important responsibility to the world that he must sacrifice anyone to further his cause. Anyone. I would imagine that it wasn't an easy choice for this college kid, and (thanks to Tatsuya's subtle yet clearly tearful performance) it's certainly a painful one.
"Shiori truly loved you. Didn't you love her at all?" Ryuk asked. To which Light looked up to the sky, slight tears begin to form, and responded, "Who knows?"
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Sept 17, 2020 0:56:16 GMT
Old Man Dream: Update with Three Callaberos. Only about halfway through it at the moment. Because it's a package film with a series of animated shorts, been taking my time getting through it this past week. Never got around to seeing it last night since I got swamped...
Sept 17, 2020 15:44:16 GMT
Old Man Dream: ...in my freelance work. But will try to get through it as I have time to do so.
Sept 17, 2020 15:44:42 GMT
Old Man Dream: Done with Three Callaberos. See if I can do some sort of review for it tonight or if not, tomorrow at the latest.
Sept 18, 2020 1:21:34 GMT