Death Note Movie (Live Action) (of 2) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 02, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Discovery of a notebook which can cause people to die of any kind of causes imaginable throws the world into chaos.

What They Say
Light Yagami is an ace student who finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god named Ryuk. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals mysteriously begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective "L" to investigate.

Soon he's hot on the trail of Light, who must now reevaluate his noble goal. Both Light and L believe themselves to be on the side of justice, and the two match wits as they attempt to prove which one of them is "good" and which one of them is "evil."

This bilingual release features the English voice actors from the anime series!

The Review!
Death Note hits up a few different audio tracks here though they’re not quite as good as they should be. The two languages, English and Japanese, each have two presentations on this release. Each of them features a 5.1 mix done at 384kbps while they also have a pair of stereo mixes at 192kbps. The 5.1 mixes are decent but not full, though I’m not sure it’d really matter. The film isn’t one that really utilizes the surround channels all that much outside of some minor ambience with music and a couple of incidental sounds here and there. By and large, this is a forward soundstage movie and one that doesn’t use too much bass either. Overall it is solid and problem free, but it doesn’t stand out or shine in any way.

Originally in theaters in 2006, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This release of the film is much like the audio in that it’s pretty solid but feels like it’s lacking somewhat. The bitrate average is in the fives and it rarely peaks much higher than that for the most part. During regular playback, colors are good and there isn’t much in the way of heavy noise issues though there is certainly film grain present. A few backgrounds look a little shaky once in awhile with some aliasing during camera pans but overall it’s decent if unexceptional in how it looks.

The packaging design for the release does a really nice job of bringing up the two sides of the film where yo have Light on the left side with shadows about him – as well as an apple floating in midair – while Ryuzaki is along the right with the hazy white background. The visage of Ryuk behind both of them is very faint but adds a nice element to it. The back cover is relatively spartan with a couple of shots from the film, the first one with Ryuk being far too murky, and a decent summary of what the premise is all about. Add in a few choice quotes, a simple breakdown of the discs features and you can flesh the rest of it out with standard production credits and a technical grid. It’s all rather bland and without any real style to it, which is disappointing considering the way the manga volumes were so nicely stylized. The insert included is pretty cute as it’s a “How to Use this DVD” piece that talks about disc setup as well as indicating that the owner of this DVD must also own the sequel. The reverse side of the insert has a nice mini bio for several of the lead actors with what they’ve done before. Also included, which is definitely a plus, is an excerpt booklet of the first volume of the manga with a Shonen Jump subscription form. Unfortunately, I think Viz missed the boat here by not offering a very simple direct to buy link to their site for people to sample the manga. The release of this film is when they should be offering up easy to purchase single volumes and an entire box set of it.

After a brief load-up sequence, the main menu is a good looking piece that has a close-up of the Death Note itself. The murky red background behind it changes once in awhile with a flash of lightning, but the main focus is on the notebook itself which also has the navigation strip through it. Annoyingly, language and subtitle sections are split apart and making language selections is set so that it’s all too easy to go into the film without finishing out the subtitle selections. There’s a brief bit of foreboding music tied to this that’s alternated with the lightning flashes from when the menu loops over again. Getting around is fairly easy and the menu has a nice bit of style overall, except for the extras section which is just a garbled mess. When you move around there, all of the selections are hidden until you move over them. Even worse, they change after awhile, either by how you move around or by some sort of time counter. It’s beyond frustrating.

There seems to be a decent selection of extras here with something like fourteen interview pieces and a profile on the director as well as some trailers. Unfortunately, because of the way that the menu is set up, it’s so incredibly frustrating moving about and getting to the ones that you want that it wasn’t worth it to even try. Frustrating and annoying your audience is not the way to create menus.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the very popular manga series, Death Note’s live action film follows the popular anime as well by taking the characters and settings to a new place. Unlike the anime which was pretty faithful to the original manga, this live action adaptation takes a number of liberties at times and shuffles things around a bit. In addition, this film only covers so much of the material from the manga and climaxes before the introduction of where the Yotsuba Group would be. But that’s what a sequel film is for, right?

Death Note revolves around a notebook, plain and simple. Dropped into this world by a shinigami named Ryuk, the notebook allows the owner of it to be able to kill anyone in the world by writing their name in it. If you write their name and nothing else, they’ll die of a heart attack within forty seconds. If you start to add details, you have more time and you can manipulate how the victim dies rather well. Suicide, jumping in front of a bus, clawing themselves to death and other grisly methods are all possible. As long as the victim is capable of it, then they can do it. That places some limits on what can be done in reality, but for the people that are the victims here it’s really a non-issue.

Who determines the victims is what makes Death Note such a fascinating property. Falling into the hands of a young college student named Light Yagami, the book becomes a tool for his view of justice. With his father being ranked high in the National Police Agency, he’s a gifted young man with a lot of skills. His time in the study of law in college has him coming to some sad realizations about the justice system and how it doesn’t work properly. With so many criminals getting off on technicalities, never charged and other methods, he’s found himself at a crossroads of what he should really be doing with his life. His first reaction to the book is that it’s an amusing gag, but when he sees a criminal on TV and writes his name in the book, he realizes exactly what kind of power it is.

Light doesn’t use the book for personal gain or fame but rather to execute his code of justice to make the world a safer place. He’s initially thrown rather badly when the shinigami reveals himself to him, but he realizes that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Ryuk for his part is simple fascinated by this young man who isn’t doing what most people who get a Death Note do so he sticks along for the ride, especially since nobody can see him unless they touch the notebook. With Light feeding him a regular stream of his favorite food, apples, he’s quite compliant and easily amused by everything that happens.

Light’s attempt to rid the world of criminals, and thereby put the fear into others to avoid committing crimes themselves, doesn’t go unchecked. Through some careful manipulations, it’s discovered that the man behind the deaths is in Japan and they begin to track down clues as to who Light really is. While nobody knows who he is, the general populace has taken to calling him Kira and he’s all the buzz among the online connected, the cell phone generation and those that are instantly aware of things. Kira can’t go free for long and the ICPO decides to send in its own best secret faceless agent, the mysterious L who has solved many unsolvable crimes over the last several years. It’s from here that the real game of cat and mouse begins.

But it doesn’t actually get too far in this film, simply because it is a lengthy game and much of this film is all about the setup. The introduction of L comes in after awhile for this two hour film, giving much of the first half to Light and his machinations. The timing isn’t bad, but it only allows for the chase to be on for so long. What does work, albeit in a somewhat abbreviated form, is the way that Light handles his first serious challenge when he discovers that he’s being followed by the FBI and has to deal with them. It’s a moral crisis as well since they’re not criminals, but they can stop his plans to save the world from itself.

In Summary:
The manga when I first read it was one of the best experiences I had with the medium, though it certainly had its lulls at times and took some awkward twists when none were needed. The anime adaptation, which is unfinished as of this writing for its US release, was even more engaging because of the way it was able to build upon the atmosphere and tension. This live action adaptation is interesting to watch, to see how much they kept and how much they changed. I disliked the introduction of Shiori, and the shift of Light to college age with her as his girlfriend of sorts, but a lot of other aspects were well kept. There’s a lot of setup here for the sequel, which from all accounts diverges even more from the original material, but what we do get is fun and engaging to watch for the most part. Adaptations of original material are things that I always give a fair amount of leeway to and this one is no exception. The core ideas are still here but it lacks some of the real impact that both the manga an anime adaptations provided. In the end, it really just makes me want to see how Hollywood will take it and adapt it for a Western audience with its own touches.

Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interviews, Director Profile, Trailers

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: No Rating
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 24.98
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2