Condensing the first two arcs into a two hour movie with a little bit of new animation, Death Note is written again.
What They Say
See through the eyes of a shinigami...
Light and L have battled to the bitter end over the Death Note - but what does the story look like from Ryuk's point of view?
When rogue shinigami Ryuk deliberately drops his Death Note in the human world out of boredom, he has no idea how far the human who picks it up will take his newfound power. With the Death Note in hand, brilliant high school student Light Yagami vows to rid the world of evil, and when criminals begin dropping dead one by one, genius detective L steps in to track down the elusive killer known as Kira. An epic battle of wits pitting one brilliant mind against another unfolds - with the very future of humanity at stake! Ryuk's not bored anymore...
Death Note is a solid presentation from Viz Media that contains a surprisingly good pair of stereo mixes encoded at 256 kbps. Some shows tend to be a bit flat in their presentation or center channel specific but this stereo mix on both sides does quite a good job with its material. A lot of it is dialogue based alongside some music used to heighten the moment and it's all very well placed with an excellent sense of depth when required. The original mix really handles all of this well by providing some excellent atmosphere and presenting the show in a way that gives it more impact. We skimmed the English language version and listened to the entire Japanese language track throughout which we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2006 and 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Death Note is largely made up of the same animation as the TV series so this release looks generally the same. Death Note is done with a rather distinct visual style that will keep it from looking all shiny and new, something that works to its advantage in terms of story. The series is shot somewhat soft and with a filtered look that gives it some additional grain. Many of the scenes really feel like film and that gives it some wonderful depth and realism. Colors are generally quite good looking and without oversaturation but the softness keeps it from looking pristine, which is part of the intent. The main issues that crop up with it are partially source based as there are several scenes in which banding is visible in the backgrounds. This causes some additional noise there which in some cases turns into minor but visible blocking.
This release doesn’t use the same design as the TV series which I think is a mistake since it’s easy recognizable marketing that’s being missed. The front cover is very good though with a visual of Ryuk in the center and other primary characters surrounding him in the background. With rays of light shooting out from behind him, it has a very oppressive and dark tone to it which is really great with the rays of light providing contrast to it. The back cover is a bit more familiar with its font usage and the overall layout as it has a collage of shots in the background with the shots from the show in the foreground. All the main characters are here in their familiar form which is really nice. The summary does run through the basics of the story well enough and provides enough to get you intrigued. I continue to dislike the scattershot method Viz uses for their technical information, such as trying to find the runtime for example or the languages provided within. It’s simply not usable for a quick look. I like the look of the release overall, but Viz still has the same problems with their designs years into the format.
The menu design for this release reminds me of why I usually really dislike the menus that Viz Media creates. With a lengthy intro piece before it gets to the main menu, it comes across as overly long and somewhat clunky because of it. The intent is to set a mood but it just irritates me instead. The main menu is fairly decent itself as it has the image of several monitors hanging from the ceiling with different snowy pieces of animation playing in them as character shots fade in and out of view in front of them. The menu navigation itself is identical to the TV series release so it’s familiar and easy to use. Submenus load quickly but the discs don’t read our players’ language presets and default to English with no subtitles.
This release has a couple of extras to it but I came away a bit disappointed. The promos are nice to see how they marketed this version but the real extra is the interview with the Japanese cast about the show. They do open up briefly about how they went into making this particular cut of the series, but the bulk of the eleven minute interview to me was focused more on the show in general and now the approach of this cut. I already saw plenty of interview pieces about the series itself and I wanted something a bit more narrowly focused on this release itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Death Note is a property that I’ve enjoyed since the first few pages of the manga when it first came out in the US. Very few manga or comic books really play things up in the way where we get to see what’s essentially a villain’s side of the story for the entire series. Death Note does just that and gives us a wonderful cat and mouse approach for the first couple of arcs as it plays in some very gray moral areas for a lot of people. After the release of the manga and subsequently the anime series both in Japan and the US, it sparked enough controversy about the approach of the main character and what he does. Agree with him or not, his view and utilization of the materials given to him is something that you almost never see in such straightforward and honest ways in either of these mediums.
Going into Death Note: Relight, I really wasn’t sure of how I would feel about what’s largely a recap of the series in a certain way. This condensed version of the show encapsulates the first twenty-six episodes or so as it works through the introduction of the concept, bringing in the opponent for Light to test his skills and intelligence against and then shifting into one of the more convoluted stories with the Yotsuba arc and how Light tried to get several steps ahead of Ryuzaki. Taking that much material and compressing it down to this two hour runtime means that there’s a ton of things being left out of it. But the creative way that they did it manages to make it work for the most part. The trick given to it is that through some bookend animation, the two arcs are told through the viewpoint of Ryuk, the shinigami who lost his Notebook to Light at the start.
Telling the tale to another Shinigami, the story of his Death Note and how it changed the human world has a slightly different view to things. Having just seen the series, it’s fairly fresh in my mind but it’s also very, very familiar. They don’t hold hard and fast to telling things that only Ryuk would know, but they use it to frame the movie fairly well and it gives you enough of a hook to make it work as a lengthy recap. Part of me wishes that they would have made a standalone animated movie of it, adapting the premise into something different rather than this, but this kind of release is a simple way to extend the life of a property and potentially hook in some who may not have seen it otherwise. It’s very commercial and a ton of great material is lost, but the gist of the series is still retained here.
This release is really hard to recommend since if you’ve seen the TV series you’ve already seen it. There’s a small bit of new animation here but nothing that’s really compelling in my opinion. I’ve written so much about the series in the individual volume reviews that my feelings about the property overall are still valid. This release excises a lot of what made it truly fantastic to watch, though I am amused that they kept the ultra intense potato chip eating sequence. Relight covers a sizeable chunk of the series, the better parts of in fact, and serves as a way of showing off the best parts of it for a low price. But it’s hard to really promote it either because you can see the bulk if not the entire series for free streaming online. It’s an interesting release and I’m glad Viz has taken the time to put it out, but I really see it just grabbing the unsuspecting fan that comes across it on the store shelves.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitle, Promos, Interview with Japanese Staff
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.