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Shall We Begin? A Death Note User’s Guide

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Shall We Begin? A Death Note User’s Guide

Death Note (live-action Japanese films) by Various Directors (2006-2016)

Quickie live-action adaptations of popular manga are pretty common in Japan and happen for just about every huge series sooner or later. Death Note was no exception, with the manga’s story being split into two films, 2006’s Death Note Death Note 2: The Last Name, both directed by Shusuke Kaneko.

The story across both films is largely faithful, with some exceptions: at the start, Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is already in college instead of high school and has a girlfriend, Shiori. Furthermore, Near and Mello, as well as the manga’s time jump and location hop to America, are completely absent for pacing reasons.

While the CGI effects used for Ryuk and other shinigami are a bit primitive and the choice to use Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Dani California” as a credits song for both films is a bit baffling, these are still fun films overall that keep the story’s spirit, if not its letter.

A 2008 spin-off film, L: Change The World, directed by Hideo Nakata with Kenichi Matsuyama reprising his role as L and taking place after Death Note 2 (which alters L’s ultimate fate from the manga rather drastically) sees the reclusive detective fighting a bioterrorist with a virus one hundred times deadlier than Ebola. A 2016 sequel to the first two films, Death Note: Light Up The New World, directed by Shinsuke Sato, sees a new cast of characters take stage in a cyber-terrorism plot, including L’s successor, Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu), who joins a task force investigating the possibility that Death Notes are loose in the world once again after a deadly string of murders.

All of these films, except Light Up The New World, have been released by Viz Media in the United States on DVD with both English subtitles and a dub track featuring the anime’s English cast reprising their roles.

Death Note (live-action TV series) by Various (2015-2016)

In 2015, Nippon Television, one of Japan’s leading TV networks, premiered an 11-episode miniseries of Death Note, directed by Ryūichi Inomata, Ryō Nishimura and Marie Iwasaki and starring Masataka Kubota as Light and Kento Yamazaki as L. Despite taking some serious liberties–most notably making Near and Mello one individual with a split personality rather than two separate people–this is still a fun adaptation with its own particular charms. It is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

As a prelude to Death Note: Light Up The New World, a three-episode miniseries bridging the decade-long time gap between the first film and World called Death Note: New Generation was released in 2016 on Hulu Japan. It is currently not streaming anywhere outside of Japan.

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