Death Note (2006)


Based on the best-selling manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, this film opened in Japan to box office success, keeping the top spot at #1 for two weeks. The popular manga also inspired an anime series that's currently still airing in Japan, with its North American debut soon to follow from Viz Video. Directed by Pyrokinesis and Azumi 2 director Shusuke Kaneko, I heard about this film last year, and it sparked my interest, but I eventually forgot about it until it was finally released on DVD earlier this year. I got my hands on the Hong Kong collector's set of the first and second films since the Japanese editions currently don't have any English subtitles. I took my time watching the film, but when I finally sat down and checked it out I was blown away. This is an incredibly original and engrossing film that keeps you glued from the minute it comes on. Starting off with a series of deaths, we follow Light Yagami (played by Battle Royale's Tatsuya Fujiwara) as he is in the possession of a mysterious supernatural notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written inside it. The original owner was apparently a "Shinigami" or Death God (I.E. Grim Reaper) named "Ryuuk", who acts as a neutral spectator as he hovers over the notebook's new owner.

The book also comes with its share of rules and explanations that cover any possible plot-holes the story may have. For instance, you not only have to write the person's name down, but also think of their face at the same time, to ensure that you don't kill another individual that may have the same name. Also, you can specify the time and cause of death, otherwise, the victim will simply die of a heart attack. Obviously these series of deaths cause a stir among the community. Light Yagami is dubbed "Kira" by fans on the internet, which eventually reaches the Japanese police that call upon a mysterious detective simply named "L" who later proves to be a worthy opponent against our lead, as the two play a clever game of wits as the film progresses. Since this "L" character has no real name or has been seen in person (aside from the old man whose purpose is to open and close the laptop that "L" uses to communicate with the police via a camera and microphone), this obviously makes it quite a task for Kira to kill him.

You won't even notice the two-hour running time when you're busy watching the film, and trying to guess what happens next. The ending, however, didn't come as much of a surprise to me, since I predicted it earlier on, but it was still executed to perfection and I have no complaints. The look of the Death God, Ryuuk, isn't exactly great, but you soon learn to forget the video-game CGI of his character and accept the fact that it probably wouldn't have been any better had a live person donned a suit. I'm just starting on the Anime series right now, so I couldn't really say what the differences between the two are, but from what I've heard they are both fairly close, with the exception (of course) to more story. I've never read the manga either, but it seems to be a toss-up between the three medias, which is a rarity. Normally books or comics are better than the films that follow them, but it's a mixed bag with this series, it seems. Either way, I enjoyed the movie and I'm sure I'll enjoy the series as well. Look for the DVD to hit the US later this year.

Interesting and highly entertaining, this film proves that original movies can still be made, but once again leave it to Japan to do it. Highly recommended.
Interesting and highly entertaining, this film proves that original movies can still be made, but once again leave it to Japan to do it. Highly recommended.