Review by David Cirone
Overachieving high=school student and future prosecutor Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) discovers a magical notebook cast down to Earth by the death-god Ryuk. Just by writing a victim’s name, Light can cause the deaths of anyone he chooses. With Ryuk’s aid, he uses the Death Note to anonymously bring justice to criminals who cheat the legal system. Light’s actions become noticed by the world’s media and law enforcement agencies, who bring in an equally mysterious genius code-named “L” to capture the supernatural vigilante.
Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami
Manga to anime to film, of course there will be changes in plot and character. Even America’s The Walking Dead has become notorious for major changes in character and plot, but the essential intelligence and psychological depth that makes Death Note so thrilling and absorbing in its previous forms is missing here. The character motivations are paper-thin and plot devices are handled clumsily.
The original manga/anime version of Light is wound up so tight due to his pursuit of perfect grades and a perfect career, he’s already primed for the seduction of the Death Note’s power. That mindset is essential — it’s why the random delivery of the Death Note was able to take root so quickly and so deeply. But the film’s version shows Light already on the verge of corruption — he hangs out in seedy bars and gambles on friendly basketball games. The film justifies his early use of the Death Note with words, but no feeling.