Death Note (1)- Japanese

Plot: 9/5

Ace student Light Yagami finds the Death Note, a notebook intentionally dropped by a rogue “Shinigami” Death God named Ryuk. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies. Upset with the current justice system, Light takes matters into his own hands and vows to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of all evil, and become “the God of the new world.”

A mysterious detective known only as “L” quickly learns that the serial killer, nicknamed “Kira” by the public, is located in Japan. Light realizes that L will be his greatest enemy, and a game of psychological cat and mouse between the two begins.

I think that’s actually a pretty good description, though realistically it could cover both movies. The first movie sets up the Death Note idea, the relationships between characters, and gives you a taste of what is to come as far as the mental battle between the two super-geniuses goes.

One complaint I have with the series is with the character names. When you’re fan-girling over the movie with friends it’s sometimes hard to keep “L” and “Light” straight… But oh well. There is nothing wrong with the names, I just get tongue-tied over them.

Acting: 4/5
The actor playing “Light”, Tatsuya Fujiwara, is just OK in my book. He’s great with the more serious and diabolical expressions, but any scene requiring strong emotion is patchy to say the least. He can look miserable or happy, but he can’t do the shout-in-agony or shout-in-rage thing. He needs to practice that one a bit. Particularly in the death scene at the end (not his, duh) he’s a bit too… IDK, but it’s hard to watch.

I’m giving him his own paragraph! Kenichi Matsuyama plays “L”, and he gets ∞/5 points for that one. He’s absolutely brilliant. In this first movie “L” doesn’t really show any great emotion, it’s just his type, but Kenichi Matsuyama does the small expression changes perfectly, that kind of acting is hard. You see his emotions more in Death Note 2 and 3, so don’t judge the character totally by the first movie. He is also why I say I’ll probably review more Japanese shows, he’s totally my favorite actor ^^

The rest of the cast is pretty good. A few actors stand out, and sometimes not in a good way. I’ve seen all 3 movies already (I don’t know why it took me this long to review them… I love them…), and so I know they get more settled in their characters as time goes on, but a lot of the expressions in this movie are too sudden and they tend to shout what they need to with the proper expression then go straight back to blank-face.

Directing: 4/5

The directing for the most part is smooth and pretty unnoticeable, but there are a couple of really corny areas where I don’t think the effect worked at all. For example, when Light is talking about how he will rid the world of evil and destroy L and blah blah blah diabolical-ness. You get this cool shot of L in slight shadow in his room. Then a shadow of Ryuk slides (literally) over from the side, holding perfectly still so that in the end when the shot is done it looks like Ryuk is whispering in his ear. I get that it’s a metaphor for the God of Death controlling him, but it’s kind of cheesy and dumb looking. Definitely a rough shot. I’m all for creating a metaphor, and the shot could have been cool anywhere else in the movie, but as blatant as it was in that exact spot it was just too obvious of a metaphor.

Other Things

The writing is superb. There are a lot of things in Death Note that are difficult to follow, the “how-did-they-do-that” factor is strong in this movie. In the manga as well as the film (yes, I actually read it, that tells you how much I love this movie!) they do a brilliant job of explaining everything. While they obviously can’t follow the manga page-for-page, they do probably the closest job of it I’ve ever seen in this movie. Fans of the books will like the film, and fans of the anime (cartoon) won’t be lost.

I don’t really have anything to say on this movie. I highly recommend it to any teen or up. I have a warning though: I personally love the mind games the two play, that’s the main draw to this movie for me. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it (beyond what I pointed out), and I don’t think it’s frightening in the least. That being said whenever I talk to my friends who have also seen this I tend to hear “Oh, it was WAY too scary, I had nightmares”. See, personally I don’t get that. It’s not scary. It’s like “Oceans 11” for serial killers. Nothing really jumps out and says “boo”, there is no sudden action, but for some reason it freaks out small kids and certain teens, so keep an eye out for it. But seriously, I don’t get how that happens, so don’t worry too much about it. Just preview it and based on your youngsters personality decide if it would scare them. Really though, can someone explain to me how this is a scary movie???????????????? Whenever I ask I always get back “It just is”.

Oh yeah, since it’s an option on the DVD I’ll speak for a moment about the English dubbed version. While it’s rocky at first, it isn’t horrendous. I’ve seen worse *cough*CrouchingTigerHiddenDragon*cough*. In some cases, honestly, the acting from the Japanese actors is so over the top that the dubbed version is actually an improvement. But watch the Japanese version first, I personally like hearing their normal voices.

One cool thing they did with the dub that I should mention is the voice actors themselves. The voice actors in the dubbed version are the SAME as the ones who did the original English dub for the anime (cartoon) series. I think it’s cool that they got away with using the same actors, it shows how close to the characters themselves Kenichi Matsuyama and Tatsuya Fujiwara are.


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