Caught up in One Piece hysteria, the world can’t seem to get enough of Netflix’s live-action anime series. Putting similar productions in the spotlight, the streamer has plenty of other titles to binge once subscribers finish the story of the Straw Hat Pirates. If you’re into live-action anime and want to immerse yourself in another colorful and action-packed world, look no further, as the 2017 film Death Note is now streaming on the platform.
Pulled from the pages of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Japanese manga of the same name, Death Note picks and chooses what pieces of the original story it stays loyal to during its hour-and-a-half run.
The director stood by all of the creative liberties taken in Death Note, explaining that he had simply been tasked with adapting the story for an American audience, something that warranted a lot of changes from the original manga.
Directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch), the film stars a killer cast that includes the likes of Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man: Far From Home), LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You), Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars), Paul Nakauchi (Overwatch), Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), and Jason Liles.
In Death Note, Nat Wolff stars as Light Turner, your run-of-the-mill American high school student who stumbles upon a notebook called the Death Note, which harbors dark and life-ending secrets. With a terrifying amount of responsibility, the keeper of the Death Note can snatch the life of anyone they want – all they need to do is scribble down the target’s name inside the journal.
Using his powers for his idea of good, Light Turner takes this opportunity to wipe out a slew of criminals but with a top investigator known as L (Stanfield) hot on his trail, Light will need to keep his deadly secret under wraps.
The film faced criticism when it was discovered that a scene involving a train accident used real footage from a tragic occurrence that took place in Buizingen, Belgium, which killed a handful of people.
While Netflix was banking on an overnight hit, Death Note’s inability to keep up with its original manga storyline drove audiences away. Although it’s to be expected for any film or television production to make some changes to its source material when coming from the pages of a book, comic, manga, or otherwise, the shifts in Death Note ran deep.
Still, the director stood by all of the creative liberties taken in Death Note, explaining that he had simply been tasked with adapting the story for an American audience, something that warranted a lot of changes from the original manga.
While fans were mostly on the side of disdain, critics were more split on their reception of Death Note. Celebrating its premiere at London’s FrightFest, attendees of that year’s San Diego Comic-Con had the opportunity to see the film before it landed exclusively on Netflix. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 37 percent approval rating.
Keeping on top of the original storyline wasn’t the only negative feedback received by the creators of Death Note, either. Although the manga’s original scribes, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata stood with the director, many were unhappy that the cast was essentially whitewashed, with Obata, Ohba, and Wingard sticking with the idea that it was an American adaptation.
The film also faced criticism when it was discovered that a scene involving a train accident used real footage from a tragic occurrence that took place in Buizingen, Belgium, which killed a handful of people.
Death Note Live-Action Sequel
Despite its mixed reviews from critics and being a total miss with its dedicated and vocal fandom, Death Note was still on Netflix’s list of productions to receive a sequel.
After Wingard teased the possibility of a follow-up, should audiences enjoy the first film, The Hollywood Reporter announced back in 2018 that the next film was going into development with Greg Russo penning the script. While no updates have happened recently, Russo did promise fans that the next installment would better parallel the original source material.
If there’s one thing that can be said for the way that Death Note hung on to its manga roots is through the violence depicted throughout the film. Certainly not a children’s movie, the title received a TV-MA rating for its brutal death scenes and morally questionable acts carried out by the main character.
While One Piece may be a light-hearted and vibrant adaptation of a fan-favorite manga, Death Note goes in a completely different direction, taking audiences on a dark and twisted journey, blurring the lines between good and evil.
Although many who took in the original manga were unhappy with the final product, it would absolutely be worth giving a shot for viewers not familiar with the story. Streaming on Netflix, check out Death Note for your next live-action anime obsession.