Adapted from the Japanese Manga and Anime of the same name, Death Note looks at what happens to a person when given the powers of a god. The power to take a life simply by writing down a persons name. Disenfranchised by the Japanese legal system’s failure to prosecute criminals, ambitious law student Light Yagami, played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, dishes his own form of justice and becomes one of the most sought after and popular figures in the world.
Light stumbles upon the Death Note, a notebook of a Shinigami called Ryuk. Each Shinigami, or death god, is given a notebook with the power to take a persons life. All the user has to do is write a persons name within its pages and the person will die of a heart attack within 40. There are other option available besides a heart attack, but the user must write out how the person is to die if they want it to be more elaborate.
When criminals start dying en masse from heart attacks, the police launch a manhunt with the help of a mysterious detective known only as L, played by Kenichi Matsuyama. The taskforce is led by Chief Detective Yagami, played by Takeshi Kaga (of Iron Chef fame), who just happens to be Light’s father. Their search for Kira, the Japanese pronunciation of killer, leads them through a number of cat and mouse games. As the trap closes on Light, he uses every rule in the Death Note to his advantage, abandoning every value that he once held dear.
Director Shusuke Kaneko brings the spirit of the characters to life with his excellent casting. Light is given a more laid back appearance and comes across more characteristic of man his age compared to the original story. L is nearly identical though, with the same dress, posture, mannerisms and addiction to sweets. He’s perhaps the most identical to the original material and thankfully so considering his uniqueness.
You don’t have to be familiar with the Death Note story to know what’s going on here, everything is laid out as openly as possible and newcomers will have absolutely no problem learning the story of the Death Note of the characters. If you have watched the anime before you’ll appreciate that they use the same voice actors from the English dubbing in the live action movie.
Overall, Death Note is a good adaptation of the original manga and anime. It’s the first in a two part series and is extremely promising. While you’re inevitably going to have changes, they try to keep the movie as faithful as possible and it pays off.