When it comes to the world of anime, there are very few shows that are universally considered fantastic. One of the most famous series is Death Note, which was a manga that released in back in 2003 that received a 37 episode animated television show in 2006. Praised by both fans and critics alike, Death Note quickly rose to prominence thanks to its complex characters, dark, twisting story, and fantastic writing. Now years later, Netflix has decided to create a live action version of the manga that is set to release on August 25.
Here’s everything you need to know about Netflix’s Death Note:
1. This Is the First Western Live-Action Adaptation
Despite being wildly popular, Netflix’s Death Note will be the first western live-action adaptation of the source material. While the movie had been stuck in pre-production for years, it wasn’t until the streaming service Netflix and director Adam Wingard joined forces that the movie really started to come together. The first trailer for Death Note released on March 22, 2017 and it showed off quite a different take on the source material.
Interestingly enough, this is not the first live-action Death Note movie to release around the world. Excluding Netflix’s version, there have been a total of five other adaptations of Death Note all of which were made in Japan. The first, simply titled Death Note, released in 2006 and was part one of a two part film series by director Shusuke Kaneko. In 2008 a spin off film called L: Change the World was released, and a mini-series followed after in 2016. There has also been a Death Note musical (Yes, really) which was performed in both Japan and South Korea in 2015.
2. The Characters Have Been Changed to Fit the Western Setting
One of the most obvious changes that fans noticed is that almost all of the characters have been altered in someway. With the exception of the demon Ryuk, most of the principle cast have either had their race, look, or general design change in someway. Light and Misa were the most obviously as the latter was not the preppy, popular honor student and the latter not being a famous model.
Director Adam Wingard actually acknowledged and explained this changes in an interview with IGN stating:
“At its core, it’s taking the themes of who the characters are but it’s exploring them in a new context. Ultimately the personalities of the characters a quite a bit different… L isn’t the same. There are a lot of similarities – he likes candy, sometimes he romps around with his shoes off. Those kinds of things, but at the end of the day the take on L and the escalation of his character is very different. He’s still a weirdo. It’s the same for almost all the characters across the board. Probably the only character that comes off as the same way as he does in the anime is Ryuk.”
3. Wingard is a Notable Horror Director
What makes Death Note so interesting is that Netflix decided to bring on a director who has a lot of successful experience within the horror genre. His most notable film is the clever slasher movie You’re Next, but he’s also directed The Guest, and segments for The ABCs of Death, V/H/S, and V/H/S 2. His last movie was the remake of the Blair Witch which was met with mixed reception from fans and critics alike.
Given Death Note has some horror themes running through it the selection of Wingard to direct isn’t a big surprise. Just from the brief trailers we’ve seen it’s pretty apparent that Wingard is infusing his horror background not only into the violence, but in the visuals and pacing of scenes.
4. Willem Dafoe’s Ryuk is The Most Anticipated Character
Despite all of the skepticism and worry around the direction and changes, one factor that fans are all on board for is Willem Dafoe’s Ryuk. In the manga and anime, Ryuk is a Shinigami or God of Death who is responsible for taking human lives when their time comes.Despite being an otherworldy figure, Ryuk is rather aloof and indifferent to most of Light’s actions, preferring to simply watch from the sidelines. When his casting was announced, social media exploded with praise over the casting choice.
Much of this is thanks to how perfectly DaFoe appears to capture not only the raspy voice of Ryuk, but his personality as well. Out of all the characters in Netflix’s Death Note he appears to be the most faithful to his Japanese counterpart in the anime and manga.
5. Netflix’s Death Note Currently Has a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes
Even though Netflix’s Death Note is still a few days away, some critics have already seen the movie when it premiered at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Out of the 8 critics, Death Note currently sits at a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.Many have noted that issues with the story’s direction and how it leans on various cliches found within the genre. Polygon’s Julia Alexander described the film as a “…lazy, unambitious, forgettable movie that lacks any imagination, heart or entertaining values.” David Ehrlich of TheWrap noted that Wingard’s focus on gore caused issues with the story stating:
In a film that tries to cram 10 liters of story into eight ounces of time, it’s extremely frustrating to see so much of it wasted on gratuitous kills that can’t even stack up to the creative bloodlust of the trashy B-movies they rip off.
The reviews weren’t all bad, however, as IGN’s Blair Marnell gave the movie a 7/10. Much of this was thanks to Dafoe’s performance as Ryuk and most of the supporting cast. It’s possible for Death Note to bounce back, but it appears that the movie isn’t living up to the legendary television show.
Netflix’s Death Note releases on August 25.