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Special Screening: Death Note the Movie, I needs more L

May 26, 2008

So, all around the country, for two special nights, Death Note the live-action movie was playing in theaters. I was not about to miss this as I quite enjoyed this movie and its sequel. I love the chance to see movies on the big screen, I always wish I could do it more often. But in NYC you pay 10-11 dollars to see a movie…I swear. So I only bust out that hard earned cash for special moments, this was one of them.

I too like to see anime movies in the theaters as well. I would really like to see a good comedy, as good comedies are only enhanced by an audience. Though I don’t know of any comedy anime that would be popular enough for their movies to be playing in American theaters. I suppose that I will take what I can get. I know they are going to be showing the Bleach movie soon as well. The dub alone will keep Narutaki away but I might just go out of random curiosity, since I’m one of the few people who has not seen it. No amount of loyalty to anime fandom will make me pay money to watch a Naruto movie though. I would not so secretly like to see the Kara no Kyoukai movies in theaters but there are going to seven of them and that it’s not popular in the U.S. so that makes it almost impossible. I am also sure that the Evangelion movies would be simply amazing on the big screen but someone has to shell out some serious cash before that will ever happen.

We saw the film, along with other friends, at the Regal Cinema at Union Square. We pre-ordered our tickets but I didn’t see any big line for the event. Also, I noted before we went up (maybe 15 minutes before show time) that the event had yet to sell out. The theater was pretty crowded though and our seats were forced to near the front. I have some friends in Indianapolis and they said their theater was pretty crowded, too. So I’ll assume it was pretty much the same all over.

It was crowded enough that they will hopefully do something like this again. It was not enough to have it to play for several weeks but I think it’s enough to get two showing for those who want them.

Unlike the manga and anime Death Note the movie starts slightly in medias res. The movie begins with criminals all over the word suddenly dying of heart attacks. Law enforcement agents around the world are baffled as to who is doing the killing and how exactly they are doing it. It turns out that they are being performed by Light Yagami a young college student you uses a Shinigami’s magical note book to kill people. When Light writes anyones’ name in the book, while think about their face, the person who’s name he writes dies. As the Japanese police force start their investigations, they are approached by L the world’s greatest detective who has some theories about these murders. The Japanese form a task force with L at the helm to try and solve the mystery of the deaths.

I quite liked the pacing of the movie. It kept the wonderful cat and mouse that drew me into the original manga. We got a lot of the defining moments from the beginning of the story, like: the L TV broadcast, the bus scene, all the Raye scenes really, and the chips. There were new additions as well, especially the twist at the end which is completely new and you really see the director moving things to his own needs at that point. But I liked that, I am happy with the way he is telling this lengthy story in a just a few short hours. Also the Death Note manga is extremely word heavy and I was glad to see they didn’t bring that to the movie, not tons of internal monologues or any such thing. You were really able to read the characters emotions form the actors.

I think you just like the fact that Misa Misa was kept to a minimum in this movie. When you only have two movies to adapt a 12 book series, I suppose it helps that several arcs in the manga are weaker than others and can mostly be axed out with no problem. The director certainly knew how to show and not tell which helped cut down on the need for lengthy mental dialogues, while still showing the back and forth between people trying to outwit each other. I also like that Naomi Misora was given a little more time in the movie. I had always wished she stuck around longer in the manga.

Fujiwara Tatsuya comes out of the gate being the charming and intelligent, young man with a god complex, Light Yagami. It is always engrossing to know what Light is up to unbeknownst to the rest of the characters (except possibly L) and realize how cunning his interactions with them are. After Light falls into L’s first trap, he wises up and starts to push the envelope of how far one can think ahead. Fujiwara takes acting with his CG partner, Ryuk, in stride and never over acts to compensate. However, Ryuk comes off as much more comic like than I felt in the original story. Which added some downright laugh out loud audience moments.

I think everyone noticed that really odd scene where they used a cardboard cutout instead of CG to make Ryuk’s shadow. It was an interesting bit on unintentional comedy. I don’t think they played up Ryuk’s comedic aspects as much as minimized the creepy/scary moments. Oh and I think you have forgotten a most important fact: Light’s father is played by none of than Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef. I admit it’s not easy to see, especially when at no point in the movie does he dramatically bite into a pepper or wear a flashy suit.

I was quite amused and couldn’t help getting caught up with the crowd when L appeared on the screen; the theater went into applause. Kenichi Matsuyama really looks the part of L and once he opens his mouth he solidifies his rendition of the eccentric, but brilliant, detective. L’s character is very much in tune with his manga counter-part, he thinks like no one else and is able to get results, albeit not always by ethical means. And as he sat on the couch making pastry-kebabs I knew the character was spot on.

From what I can tell, L seems to be the most popular character in Death Note so they better have picked a good actor for him. I was happy with L as well. I think Kenichi put in the right combination of playful, creepy, eccentric, and amazingly brilliant to his portrayal of the world famous detective.

I was really surprised it was dubbed, really wasn’t expecting that. Because as most people can attest, possibly from watching some swanky kung-fu movies, dubbing real people is a whole different ball game than dubbing animation. It is just plain more difficult. This was probably done due to its popularity on Adult Swim. However, the most important ones were decently done. Though I’d be lying by saying it was great and preferable. Light and L’s voicing was close to their characters’ original sound at least and most of the time they didn’t speak like William Shatner. I can’t say the same for the rest of the cast. I can also blame the major amount of chuckling to the dub, too. I am glad to have seen it fan-subbed first. And what I couldn’t understand was the lack of subtitles for cell phone messages, newspapers, etc it was just plain lazy.

Odd that you mention swanky kung-fu movies because the dub really does come off as an old Shaw Brothers movie dub at times. I half expected Light to comment on the weakness of L’s crane style investigation-fu at the end of the movie. All the live action Japanese movies and TV dramas we have watched together have been subbed so I wonder if it’s just the way most live action movies come off or is this movie weaker than others? I have noticed for some reason when they play Japanese movies, be it live action or anime, they tend to play them without the option for subtitled signs in theaters. Most of the time you can get away with it but there are far too many scenes where plot was being conveyed by text for it to be anything less than very silly.

The bonus, a making-of featurette after the movie, was mundane at best. There were no real insights, a very brief interview with the director, and mostly us seeing scenes from the movie but with all the equipment in the shots. The only nice thing was the preview for Death Note: The Last Name. I would guess that Viz plans to release that theatrically in a similar manner. When is yet to be determined.

Other than getting a laugh out of a few of the directors odd comments I don’t think we got any grand insight into the movies though the featurette. It was nice to have a little extra that you did not get with the fan-sub but I’m sure Narutaki just wanted more Kenichi Matsuyama running around as L. I suppose that explains why L: Change the WorLd and Death Note: Another Note got made in the first place. The world just needs more L.

One comment

  1. [...] these characters in the first film and continue at the same pace here. You read an in-depth view in our review of the first movie. But we have a few new additions to discuss, namely Misa Amane, Rem, and Kiyomi Takada. Misa starts [...]



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