Monday, June 27, 2011

From manga to live-action: Death Note live-action movie impressions

Just a few days back, I was talking on Twitter about the Death Note live-action adaptation that came out in Japan.  A few people were telling me that I should check it out, and I had full intentions of doing so prior to those conversations.  It was those tweets that pushed me out to the store this weekend to pick up the first and second movie.  I've actually just finished up the first movie right now, and I have to say that I found it...interesting.  I'm going to keep this as spoiler-free as I can.

Being a fan of the North American dub, I was very happy to hear that almost all the voices from the anime release have made it over for the live action dub.  That really helped me to get right back into the characters for this live-action adaptation.  Just as in the anime, the voice actors for main characters do a fantastic job.  There are some supporting players that aren't too hot, but they play very minor roles.  The worst thing I can say about the voice acting is that it might be the best part of this movie!

I wouldn't go so far to say that the live-action adaptation is bad, because I don't think it is.  As with any book/anime adaptation, there are going to have to be some major cuts to fit everything into a live-action movie.  With that said, at least the team working on the movie knew to split the action into two features.  Still, with two films to encapsulate the entire first arc in Death Note, there's just not enough time to really get even half of the content in there.

For me, I felt some truly important aspects of the anime were left out from this movie.  Without fail, some of my favorite parts for the anime adaptation don't even exist in this movie.  I consider my favorite parts to be very integral to the plot and the entire vibe of Death Note, and without those happenings you get a different story.  You also come off feeling different about the atmosphere and situation itself, with is extremely important to Death Note.  The anime does an outstanding job of making you care about characters, be that by building an intense love or hate.  With the first movie, I just haven't felt that.

Even worse, there are some MAJOR liberties taken with the movie.  Again, I know this is the norm when adapting a different source material to the big screen, but we're talking about completely different scenarios here.  Not only do we have different methods to reach a similar outcome to the anime, we also get situations that end completely differently from what the anime/manga set up.  I don't know if the second movie is going to rectify these issues, but thus far I'm left scratching my head as to why some anime ideas were scrapped for completely re-written content.

If I were to see the Death Note film prior to the anime or reading the manga, I'm not sure how I would feel.  I don't think I'd be as in love with the franchise as I am right now.  I cannot stress enough just how much I love Death Note.  I think it's an anime that really bridges the gap that some Americans see when trying to get into anime.  It's a fantastic story with very well realized characters.  This movie adaptation, when changing and cutting content, simply can't be as good as the original.

Again, I'm not saying it's a bad film.  It's certainly not as memorable as the manga or anime, but it does some things well.  It's just not what I was hoping for from a live-action adaptation...not that I could do any better!  At the very least, the Shinigami in this film is very faithful to what anime/manga fans are used to.  That's worth something, right?!

I'll give my impressions of the second movie once I get to watch it!  For now, I'm going to try and figure out if the North America in-the-works movie adaptation is going to have any shot at being decent.


  1. I recently purchased and watched both the live action movies - having not seen the anime yet - and i have to say i really enjoyed them.

    Im now saving up to buy all the original anime on DVD and really looking forward to it. I guess i cant say much about the adaption without having seen the anime, but if your thoughts are that the anime is better than the live action movies then i have alot to look forward to :)

  2. Imo, this is a problem with most movie adaptations of an anime. I think it's better to tell a side-story of some sort. I haven't seen Death Note, so I can't say if it would work for that series. But for stuff like Fist of the North Star: The Movie, they tried shoving like two whole seasons into a single movie. It didn't go over so well lol.

  3. I dunno, i thought the movies were pretty good. Although I will say the second movie is much better than the first one, so keep watching, RMC! I actually had the chance to see all 3 movies in the theater during a special screening, which was pretty cool. Oh, but can i just say, I always ALWAYS laugh at the part in the first movie where they introduce Watari! Why was he just facing the wall like that?? Simply because they wanted him to do that dramatic turn when introduced. Hilarious!

    I will warn you though, do NOT see that third movie, L Change the World. Good God. They tried to make an original story for L after Death Note, and man, they really had nothing to work with. It was awful and boring.

  4. I remeber seeing this on the wiki when I was first checking out Death Note, and I was like eh I think I'll pass :P