I officially have Death Note mania. I've just watched Death Note and Death Note Movie II: The Last Name live action movies. These are two of the best Japanese made movies I have ever seen. I am so in love with these films that I am recommending them to non-anime/manga fans as well, because they can stand on their own as great cinema. For those of you who haven't given in to Death Note mania yet, let me fill you in on a little background information.
The story of Death Note is an intoxicating one. What if you had the power to kill criminals who somehow went free after committing horrible crimes? You could kill murderers who laughed at surviving family members as they cried that their loved ones had not been avenged. You could kill any criminal, even if the police couldn't find them, as long as you had a picture and their name. But where would you draw the line? What would the constant killing do to you and your soul? Death Note centers around Light Yagami, a brilliant student who stumbles across a notebook lost by a spirit of death. This notebook enables the owner to cause death to any human as long as he can picture their face and write down their correct name. What starts as a vigilante experiment for Light, becomes an obsession which gains him acclaim as the hero Kira. Japan goes crazy. Some people think Kira is a god, while some see him as the devil. Soon, the famous detective known simply as "L" is called in to investigate. You goth-lolita fans will love the character Misa Misa. She comes into the story in manga book 4 as a blonde, punk-style lolita. In the live action movies, she is Japanese, but still embodies the cute lolita style, just toned down a bit.
Death Note was created by writer Tsugumi Oba and illustrator Takeshi Obata. It first appeared in 2003 in the form of a serialized manga comic in Weekly Sho-nen Jump magazine. The series was then adapted into live action films released in Japan starting June 2006. An anime version, a novel by Nisio Isin, and a video game followed. Death Note has been optioned for a film produced by Hollywood, but I can't seen them making this flick better.
Since it's release, Death Note fans have grown in the millions. It's become so popular that there have been many cop-cat crimes overseas and in the US. Students in US schools have been suspended for possessing self-made death notebooks with names of their teachers and classmates inside. In early 2005, Death Note was banned in the capital of China to, according to Beijing media, "protect the physical and mental health of it's youngsters".
The live action films are so right on the manga, any fan is instantly floored at the detail. From the attitude of Light, to the eccentricities of "L", the director of this film nailed it at every turn. The shinigami, or spirit of the dead, is excellent animation and spooks me to the core. I've always found the shinigmi, whether in the mangas or in the live action version, to be the type of creature that can make you laugh or scream. His simple nature and love of apples make me view him as a huge skeleton-shaped stuffed animal. But when he begins to laugh and fly up with those horrifying wings, I want to hide under the covers!
These movies do have some differences in them from the comics, but they are explained well. Although the second movie is not as good as the first, they make a nice pair. Unlike the Harry Potter movies, these films seem to flow right into each other as if no time has passed. You can buy these two excellent movies at a really good price right now on Amazon.com. A plus is that they are English dubbed, so you don't have to read subtitles unless you want to. The subtitles do not match the dubbing, so if you are hard of hearing, I suggest turning it up louder rather than using the assistance of the close captions. I will be looking for an English dubbed version of the third movie, L: Change The World, but to warn you, the reviews are less than favorable.
The real concept of this tale leaves questions we can all ask ourselves. When you get so obsessed with righting wrongs, where do you draw the line? How do you know when to quit before innocents are hurt? And if a mortal man was given the power to kill, even in the name of justice, how long would he stay good?