Director – Shusuke Kaneko
Cast – Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Asaka Seto, Shigeki Hosokawa, Erika Toda, Shunji Fujimura, Takeshi Kaga, Yu Kashii, Shido Nakamura
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Oh boy do I love this film. Several years ago I stumbled upon this film one boring night and after reading the plot summary thought to myself, “sure, why not?” and I am so very glad I did that. This flick has one of the coolest plots I have ever seen, and plays the “cat-and-mouse” investigative work to perfection. Based on the highly popular and very good anime series that debuted the same year(which I had no clue about when I first viewed this film), this flick once again shows Japan’s amazing sense of creativity. If you are looking for a highly engaging and original film, then I am glad you are here.
“Death Note” stars Tatsuya Fujiwara(who starred in “Battle Royale”) as Light Yagami, a pre-law student with a hatred towards Japan’s current system of justice. Too many criminals are let go due to witnesses backing down over fear of intimidation, and too many laws favoring the criminal’s defense. One night Light comes upon a notebook that seemingly fell from the sky right in front of him. It is titled “Death Note” and claims to give it’s owner the ability to kill anyone, anyhow, as long as they write the person’s name in the book while thinking of the person’s face. Light tests the Death Note on a criminal who just got away with murder, and sure enough, the criminal dies. Light sees this as his opportunity to rid the world of the criminal filth and the fear that comes along with it. Accompanied by Ryuk, the Grim Reaper assigned to the Death Note, he begins to kill of hoards of criminals. The media has caught on to what is going on, and refers to the person killing the criminals(Light) as “Kira”. Some see Kira as a god of what is good, and a destroyer of evil. Others see Kira as a vigilante who must be stopped, someone who has become just as low as the murderers he kills. A special task force is put together to stop Light, and to make matters worse for Light, his own father, Inspector Souichiro Yagami, is put in charge. The task force is unable to make any real progress in finding out the true identity of Kira, and receives the help of a master investigator who solely goes by “L”. “L” has assisted the FBI in numerous occasions, helping them catch the most cunning of criminals. “L” has got Kira’s personality pinned down to a “T”(heh), and soon enough expects that Inspector Yagami’s son Light is Kira. Now, an epic battle of wits and what is good and what is evil has begun.
As you can tell by my overly long plot summary, this film’s storyline gives a lot to it’s viewers. The storyline is honestly my favorite aspect of the film. I never once felt that the film dragged or had any needless scenes. Thanks to the ever-developing storyline this film paces extremely well, and never stops at giving us something new to marvel at. The addition of every element thrown into the film was perfectly timed, keeping me glued to the screen. The use of characters is something this flick does expertly well. The conviction Light feels when he is given the opportunity to rid the world of it’s criminal scum feels real, and we see the battle he wages within himself over all the discontent over what he is doing. Ultimately, this begins to lead to his demise as a person, which I enjoyed as well. Because he is in essence committing murder, many big investigative organizations such as the FBI are after him, and in order to keep doing his work he must get rid of those after him. Yes, he must kill innocent people, who protect innocent people. I loved this element of his character, and it shows just how geniusly written this film is. Light believes he has become a god, and all those who oppose god(him) must be ridden of. This element only becomes cooler when he learns of ‘L”, the mastermind who can capture any criminal on the face of the earth. As “L” slowly outsmarts him and gets closer and closer to catching Light in the act, we see the toll it takes on Light and how he must become ever more clever if he wishes to keep doing his “good” for the world.
As much as I love Light, “L” is my love for this film. The mystery behind who he is is intriguing, especially when we get a look into just how smart he really is. By the time the veil over L’s identity to the police staff working for him, I was only sucked more into this awesome character. True shock came over my face when I saw the face of L, and you will understand when you view this film. His mannerisms are amazingly intriguing, and actually quite funny if you pay attention to what he is doing. It is nice to see the writers having fun with such an awesome film. His intelligence is amazing to watch, and is the biggest reason behind my love for this character. Watching him catch on to Kira’s every move is awesome and pretty much made me wish I could live the rest of my life in L’s shoes. Seriously. I could go more into his character, but I do not want to take anymore from the mystery that is “L”.
H.P Lovecraft’s “Necronomicon” co-director Shusuke Kaneko directs this film, and does an amazing job with such a complex film. The performances he gets from his actors are real, his pacing is amazing, the visuals are well done, and the horror and suspense are great. It seems he did not get an incredible amount of recognition for his work on this film and it’s awesome sequel, “Death Note: The Last Name”, but I hope he gets more work in the future. I have big hopes for this guy.
I have heard some unintelligent talk about the look of Ryuk, the Death Note’s grim reaper. Some say he looks “crappy” and “dumb”, which leads me to assume that these dissenters have never seen nor possibly even heard of the Anime series of this film, which is where the film originated from. I honestly did not know of the anime version when I first saw this film, but I never once let the quality of Ryuk hold me back from my severe enjoyment of this flick. Now that I have seen the anime, and loved it, I know the reasoning behind the look of Ryuk. He is made to be a direct shout-out to the ANIME! He looks the way he does because he is basically a cut-out copy of the Ryuk from the anime series, and I love that. Seeing director Shusuke Kaneko give such a direct shout-out to the film’s anime fans is an awesome touch and shoes the guy lacks an immense ego. Way to go Mr. Kaneko.
Overall, this is an amazing film and a must see for all fans of the horror genre, and those who love cat-and-mouse detective-esque films. You will not be disappointed, and if for some reason you are, well…shame on you. We get an amazing storyline, excellent characters, great direction, and a climax that I feel is one of the coolest climaxes of all time. Think “Versus”, but better.