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Mace & Crown | December 14, 2017

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Live action 'Death Note' writes itself in a book

Fatima Rivera | Contributing Writer

The highly acclaimed manga turned anime series, “Death Note” was picked up by Netflix and premiered August 25, where longtime fans tuned in to see how the company has done.

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) stumbles upon a supernatural notebook titled “Death Note,” where whoever writes the name of the person, the person immediately dies in ways stated by the owner. Light is then visited by the death god, Ryuk (Willem Dafoe), who explains to him how the notebook works and the rules surrounding it.  Light begins to write down the names of criminals with the help of his classmate, Mia Sutton (Margaret Qualley).

As these events unfold, “L” (Lakeith Stanfield) a distinguished detective and his assistant Watari (Paul Nakauchi) arrive to work with James Turner, Light’s father, and lead officer, to find out who “Kira” is. Light finds this information after a televised broadcast and starts to kill off FBI agents that are on his trial while trying to kill and identify “L’s” true identity.

When the first trailer premiered on June 29, fans immediate expressed their concerns about Wolff’s portation of Light Yagami, who is the original character’s name and is also Japanese in the manga and past adaptations. Netflix’s attempt to “Americanize” the origin story has only resulted in whitewashing the entire project. Whitewashing has become a pressing issue due to dismissing the cultural context in every movie and “Death Note” is no exception to the matter.

The difference between the movie and the past adaptations are drastic. In Netflix’s adaptation, Light’s is completed disregarded and broken, Light’s mother has passed before the movie’s events and his sister is non-existent as well. Those sudden changes are normal in Hollywood adaptations but a loving family adds on to Light’s personality. His father being a police officer is choppy, making it seem like a last-minute effort to establish some family and doesn’t expand the storyline unlike the original where his father plays an ethical role and there are more interactions between the two proving an authentic father-son relationship.

Another difference is the portrayal of Light and Ryuk. Light Yagami is a charismatic and popular teenager who is loved and admired by the people he knows despite his psychopathic side with the Death Note. Light Turner is an outsider who is unsure of his decisions and tries to come off as damaged but not in a good way. Both characters are complete opposites and contribute to the respective themes of the movies.

Ryuk is not shown much unlike the anime and other live adaptations where he is next to Light’s side in every step of his plan. Ryuk in Netflix’s version comes off as demonic while the anime is somewhat lighthearted but shows that he is a powerful Shinigami. Willem Dafoe as Ryuk captures that essence in his short screen time, making viewers wish he was given more onscreen time.

The movie falls extremely short to what it was originally anticipated. The storyline has major holes and tries to grasp onto the original but fails immensely. Fans who have seen and read the series will have trouble getting to the end and leave many confused for those who do.

“Death Note” is now streaming on Netflix. “Death Note” anime is streaming on Netflix, Hulu, and other services.