Death Note


Rating 3

Directed by Shusuke Kaneko

Written by Tetsuya Oishi, based on the comic series by Tsugumi Ôhba (writer) and Takeshi Obata (illustrator)

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Takeshi Kaga, Shigeki Hosokawa, Asaka Seto, Yu Kashii, Shunji Fujimura, Erika Toda, Sota Aoyama, Hikari Mitsushima, Michiko Godai and Shido Nakamura

Law student Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) comes across a book called “Death Note” and discovers that when he writes a name in it that person dies. He uses it to rid the world of criminals and is soon joined by a supernatural creature known as Ryuk, a shinigami or death god, who says he dropped the book and wants to observe how Light uses it. Light’s father Souichirou Yagami (Takeshi Kaga), an experienced police detective, is assigned to the case of the unexplained deaths and soon finds himself working with “L” (Ken’ichi Matsuyama), a mysterious and eccentric operative who works with the International Police Organisation.


‘Death Note’ (or ‘Desu nōto’) is the first of two Japanese films released in 2006 (the second film is ‘Death Note: The Last Name’, which as yet I have not seen) and based on the Japanese manga comics of the same name. These ran for twelve volumes between 2003 and 2006. Both films topped the box office in Japan and the second film was one of the highest grossing Japanese films of the year.

Not being an aficionado of comics, manga or otherwise, I cannot make a judgement about the film’s faithfulness or its quality in general as a live-action adaptation of this particular genre of comics. Having limited knowledge of Japanese cinema, I don’t feel particularly qualified to critique the film, but I certainly found it interesting. Luckily, I happened to watch a version with subtitles rather than the version dubbed into English – I can only imagine how dreadful that must be. From my wholly inexpert position, it put me in mind of ‘V for Vendetta’ to a small degree, a film I actually dislike with some intensity. I found it a peculiar film. I don’t even know if I really liked it or not, but it caught enough of my interest and I found it unusual and alluring enough to have a hankering to watch the second instalment.

There is also an anime (animated) series based on the comic and a spin-off novel, as well as a video game. No doubt it has a huge cult following, but until I chanced upon the film on the Film 4 television channel and decided to watch it on whim, I had never before heard of it.

There are apparently plans for a Hollywood remake.

Review posted 22 March 2009


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