Death Note is based on the popular manga (Japanese Comic) and loosely based on the anime series of the same name. I've never read the comic but I just finished the anime episodes, and I have to say the Live-action version, Death Note and Death Note the Last Name does the franchise justice. This series is one of the best I've seen from Japan In a while. I will review both films because while the first film, indeed phenomenal and definitely can stand on its own, the story is very much linked together. Suffice it to say, the live-action adaptation is better when seen one after the other, and this last chapter is what gives the saga between Light Yagami and the truly odd, sugar-devouring, detective called "L" its closure.
Plot synopsis loosely derived from the DVD cover:
In "Death Note", Tatsuya Fujiwara plays the role of Light Yagami, a genius law student who picks up the "Death Note" and uses it to "cleanse" the world of evil. Upholding justice obsesses him and he envisions himself as a god in the crime-less utopia he plans to create. As criminals continue to die in unexplainable ways, people start saying that it must be the work of a "messiah", of whom they call Kira. L, played by Kenichi Matsuyama, works for the International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO) and is deployed to solve the Kira mystery.
In "Death Note 2: The Last Name", the story continues as Light devises a plan to be part of the Kira Task Force headed by L. While the two geniuses are busy dealing with each other, a second Death Note drops into Earth. Rem, a Shinigami (Death God), brings the second notebook and Misa Amane (Erika Toda), a pop star and Kira worshipper, comes into possession of it. Becoming a Kira herself, she accepts the offer to have the 'Eyes of the Death' which will enable her to know the name of any person without being told.
As Misa and Light work together to get rid of L, a new character, Kiyomi Takada (Nana Katase), comes into the picture as the third Kira. With the disclosure of the new rules of the Death Note, the mystery becomes more complex, with a satisfying storyline and a completely unpredictable finale.
That's just scratching the surface, as Light continues to experiment with the capabilities of the book, as well as to internalize all the rules to call upon some serious manipulation of the rules to work to his advantage. Absolute Power corrupts and Power corrupts absolutely--What would a human being do with the power of life and death?
Man has no right to play GOD.
This film reflects why imperfect human beings should not hold such power, men are fallible, vulnerable to desires and vanity. You see an almost accurate telling of one person's corruption and descent into madness, and how a genius can seem stupid. It also tries to reflect on the different views of a society and how a small "nudge" in the wrong (or right)direction by a government or individual can affect how things are seen by its people. The issue of capital punishment is also explored in both films. Some may say that the film also contains a social commentary.
The battle of wits between L and Light Yagami is definitely one to watch; as the two geniuses struggle to stay one step ahead of the other. It is rather curious that such a complex match-up of intelligence also proves that the two are actually two sides of the same coin but on opposing sides. L is pretty much a charming if eccentric presence as the sugar-loving detective. I didn't know that sugar does provide energy for the brain until I observed him gulp down significant amounts of candy and dessert. The thing that proves Light Yagami quite dangerous is the fact that he believes that he is doing the right thing and whatever steps he has taken may seem cruel, it is justified. When one believes his cause his just, one becomes more determined than the common opponent.
Death Note is smart storytelling, the plot twists and thrills are non-stop, each scene has a relevance to the next. The thrills/suspense are more CEREBRAL than visual with a very solid structure. Upon watching these two films, keep in mind that this is Fantasy-horror, the "Death Gods" have that manga/anime look, they may have that cartoonish look, but they look almost exactly like in the comic. The screenplay is pretty intense, it is genre-busting, battle of wits thriller that involves the supernatural world. (Although some anime films do surpass other films in terms of plot) I will stop here, since with this film, the less you know, the better it would be.
Death Note 1 & 2 really caught my attention. This is intelligent storytelling and for the most part, kept me on the edge of my seat. It made a good transition from comic to film. The two dvds are very much worth every penny!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4 ½ Stars]
Just what would you do if you hold this notebook in your hands?
These two films have been selected at the 2007 New York film festival.
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