Fans of the Death Note manga and anime weren't surprised to learn that the live-action movie based on one of Japan's best games of cat-and-mouse needed to be split into two parts. The series is known to be one of the most in-depth and intensive in the history of manga and anime. In fact, it's easy to get lost in Death Note's thick plot. Readers waist-deep in the swamp of attacks, counter-attacks and accusations know that something awesome is churning in the enormous brains of serial killer Light and L the detective, but sometimes it can be hard to follow their barreling trains of thought.
The Death Note live-action movie successfully streamlines the series without sacrificing intrigue or character development—or at least, not much. Fans of Death Note will want to check out The Last Name either way, especially if they started the ball rolling with the first installment of the movie.
Start From the Middle
Death Note II: The Last Name holds together even better than its predecessor. The first half of the Death Note movie focused primarily on the introduction of the deadly notebook and shifted the characters into their positions. The movie suffered some drag as a result, even as characters like Light were handed significantly better motivations for wanting to take down the human race versus what the manga initially offered.
Death Note II: The Last Name offers only a brief recap before it throws the viewer back into the story of Light and L. People who try to dive right in are going to have problems, even if they're familiar with the manga and/or anime—but the solution is pretty obvious. The Last Name is merely the latter half of a whole. Part II is not meant to be enjoyed by anyone who hasn't seen the beginning.
Ultimately, that works out well. The first part ended with L and Light joining forces to take down Kira, so The Last Name begins on a high note, to so speak. It runs for two hours and forty minutes (bonus “Making Of” content included), covering the events of the manga from the team-up to the end—which is quite different from what established fans might be expecting.
Death Note Abridged
In fact, several necessary alterations are made in order to fit The Last Name into its two hour time slot. Thankfully, most of these changes were handled well enough to make the movie enjoyable to watch without triggering the “Hey, that's not how it goes!” fan reflex. Most notably, neither the Yotsuba Group or criminal prosecutor Mikami show up to fondle the Death Note. The role of Light's part-time help falls to Kiyomi Takada, a spiteful news anchor who's jealous of other people's successes and has no trouble finding plenty of uses for the Death Note.
The Last Name is paced so well that viewers might find themselves not giving the missing characters much more than a second thought. However, certain dramatic scenes are absent from the movie, primarily because the new format doesn't call for them. Among the sorely missed events is Light and Misa's dramatic car ride with Chief Yagami and Matsuda's sudden “growth spurt,” brought on by the manga's final confrontation.
The Voices of Death
The Ocean Group cast returns to lend the anime's voices to The Last Name's dub. While their presence was jarring through the first movie, it's welcome by the second movie (as tends to happen with dub casts in general). Rem the Shinigami has a new, distinctly male voice. It's a bit of a surprise to anyone familiar with her feminine monotone, especially since Rem's new voice actor makes the death god sound more dramatic than in the anime.
The actors suit their roles well and even seem more comfortable with them than they did in the first movie. Takeshi Kaga deserves the most credit for his excellent work with poor old Chief Yagami, who's as mournful and hangdog as ever about the accusations hanging over his son, but no less driven to find and take down Kira.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, rumoured to be Death Note fans themselves, lend “Snow (Hey Oh)” to the closing credits.
The Last Name
The Death Note series has formed a unique trinity with its manga, anime and live-action movie(s). Normally, at least one point on this kind of triangle tends to stink, but that's not the case here. Death Note is a series worth experiencing to its fullest extent.