Death Note: The Last Name


Rating 2¾

Directed by Shūsuke Kaneko

Written by Tetsuya Ôishi, based on the manga comics and anime series by Tsugumi Ôba and Takeshi Obata

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara (Light Yagami), Ken’ichi Matsuyama (L), Takeshi Kaga (Soichiro Yagami), Erika Toda (Misa Amane), Shunji Fujimura (Watari), Shin Shimizu (Kenzo Mogi), Hikari Mitsushima (Sayu Yagami), Michiko Godai (Sachiko Yagami), Masahiko Tsugawa (Police Chief Saeki), Shido Nakamura (Ryuuk, voice) and Shinnosuke Ikehata (Rem, voice)

As the owner of a book known as a “Death Note”, Light Yagami has been using it rid the world of criminals, causing their deaths simply by writing their names in its pages. Light is a first year Law student, whose father is a high-ranking police detective. L, a mysterious and secretive investigator who employs unusual techniques, is working with the Japanese police and the FBI to track down the vigilante killer, whose actions have polarised public opinion. L and Light engage in an intricate game of cat and mouse, as L tries to expose Light’s true identity.


I chanced, somewhat accidently, to watch ‘Death Note’ approximately six months ago, without any prior knowledge of the film, the manga comics on which it is based or the anime series. I was intrigued enough to want to watch the sequel (the two films are actually two parts of one complete story), but have only just got around to doing so. ‘Death Note’ was first premiered in Japan on 17 June 2006 and ‘Death Note: The Last Name’ followed on 3 November 2006. The sequel was the eighth highest grossing film in Japan in 2006 and the fourth highest grossing Japanese film.

The first thing to say is that there is no point watching ‘Death Note: The Last Name’ without having watched the first film. Effectively, it is not two films, but one film split in half. The combined running time of the two films is nearly four and a half hours – and I think the second film, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, is a little too long. However, the psychological game of chess played by L and Light is effectively staged and although I did not find myself engaging with the film on any deep intellectual or emotional level, it maintained my interest and attention. To some small degree it reminded me of the 1972 Joseph L Mankiewicz film ‘Sleuth’ starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, even though the two films are actually light years apart.

I don’t have any great insight to offer into a film like this and I have no idea if it appealed to fans of manga comics or not. I imagine it must have done. I didn’t find it any way irritating, which given its very stylised presentation it could have been, but equally I suspect it probably would not be of much interest outside of its target audience.

Review posted 17 September 2009


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