March 13, 2007

Anime (well...) First Episode: Death Note Live Action Movie

Remember when I said that "I had a post on the back burner until something specific happens?"

Well, it just so happens that the specific something happened tonight: The Librarian and I celebrated her birthday (a little early). Her present? A copy of the first of two live-action movies of the manga/anime smash Death Note. She's a big fan of the book/show, so I knew this would go over well... and it did; she loved it.
Death Note: Use Only As Directed.
So, what about the movie itself? Death Note, for those of you that haven't seen the anime/read the manga, is (at it's core) a police thriller. Our Hero(?)
Light Yagami, brilliant college student and seemingly destined for great things in the police force as a detective, becomes disillusioned with the justice system's tendency to release (or not prosecute at all) criminals who deserve punishment. One night after being threatened by a maniac scumbag, he finds... the Death Note. Inside the front cover, he sees this inscription:

"A Human whose name is written in the Death Note shall die."

Unbelieving, he goes home and plops into his desk chair. The breaking report of a man accused of murdering a young woman prompts him to, half-seriously, write the killer's name down. The next morning, the papers are full of the news that the killer has died.

Light begins writing down more names of criminals that he believes escaped their just due. By the dozens, all over the world, they drop like flies. So many, in fact, that the media picks up on it... and "Kira" (the Japanese pronounciation of the English word 'Killer') becomes something of a folk hero, meting out justice to those who 'got away with it.'

The deaths of all these criminals is a source of concern to the world's police. And in charge of the case is...
Where's my Bell Pepper?
...Inspector Yagami. Light's father (played brilliantly by Takeshi Kaga, best known as "Chairman Kaga" from Iron Chef, and as Jean Valjean from the Japanese production of the musical Les Miserables).

Even Chairman Kaga can't make headway into the Kira Case, so outside help is called in: the world's top-ranked international detective, the secretive man known only as...
Little known fact: he is the son of James Bond's armorer, Q.

While L quickly narrows down the source of the deaths as coming from Japan, he can get no farther... and Kira uses the Death Note to zap FBI agents that are tailing 11 suspects (including Light). This causes most of the team of police involved in the Kira Case to run away and chase safe targets, like people who use guns and knives.

But the few remaining officers, including Inspector Yagami, completely distrust L, who hides behind a computer screen and talks to them remotely. To win them over, he invites them to his hotel room...
'So, L is in the other room?'  'No, I'm L.'  'No, seriously, where's L?'
...where they find a scruffy young man with a penchant for sitting uncomfortably and constantly eating sweets: L himself... who is pretty sure that Light is Kira.

...and so the battle of two geniuses begins in earnest.

But where did the Death Note come from? It turns out that Death Notes are how Shinigami, or Death Gods (or 'reapers' as the fansubs call them), take the lives of human beings. Light's Death Note was, um... dropped by a shinigami named Ryuk, and once a Death Note is touched by someone, it's THEIRS. Ryuk can't take it back. However, he's fascinated by Light, whom he thinks is 'more like a reaper than most reapers,' so he sticks around...
Ryuk is the one on the left.

Ryuk is the single most important element to the film. As a major character in the manga/anime, it was no problem to draw him (obviously), but if his existence was unconvincing in the movie, there was no way the film would work. You can't see it well in the above picture, but Ryuk is very well done in the flick, and as a result, the movie works, and works well.

I'm not alone in thinking that. Of course, there's The Librarian, who thought the movie was great. There's also the Japanese public, who pushed Death Note, the Movie to number 1 at the box office (rightfully shoving the puddle of dreck that was The DaVinci Code out of that position) for two weeks.

Even though I knew how the series goes, I was still riveted to the screen... it was just that good. Even worse, this was just the first of TWO movies; the duel between Light and L ends in the second film, which isn't available in any form yet, which means I have to wait for the conclusion!!!

I thought the Death Note anime was good, not great, but worth the watch. I think the Death Note MOVIE, if it's ever really shown here in the US (I gather it did run in San Francisco for a short time), would be a huge hit. It'd probably have to be remade with English-speaking actors, but that's only because most people don't like subtitles.

I give it four apples up... some of the lesser roles have not-the-best actors in them, but the rest of the movie, from the directing, the main actors, the cinematography, and yes, even the plot and story, are top-notch. Watch it, and enjoy Death Note.

Oh, and The Librarian insisted that this photo be included:
'Do Not WAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNT!'  Oh, look... Pocky!

Happy Birthday, Librarian!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 05:11 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 884 words, total size 7 kb.

1 Obviously it's hard to be sure without actually seeing it, but from the two still frames you posted it looks as if they filmed someone wearing a furry suit in front of a blue-screen, and used CGI to add the head and hands (which were probably covered with blue on the actor). The body looks different than the head and hands to me, and that's why I think it does.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 14, 2007 04:18 AM (+rSRq)

2 Yeah, I can see why you would think that. When Ryuk is in motion it's obvious that it's all CGI, but not so clear in stills.

And, actually, the head/neck/hands look different from his body in the anime/manga as well. For all intents and purposes, this is about as perfect a rendition of the source material as you can get.

Posted by: Wonderduck at March 14, 2007 07:37 AM (svIB9)

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