Death Note : a terrific battle of wits between two teenagers

One of the most awaited Japanese movies of the summer, Death Note was adapted from the popular manga of the same name by director Shusuke Kaneko (Azumi 2). This is only the first installment of a 2-part movie franchise.

Law student Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara of Battle Royale) finds a mysterious notebook one night after witnessing a criminal outwit the legal system. The notebook apparently contains supernatural powers – once a name is written onto the notebook, the person will die in real life. Governed by rules contained in the cover of the notebook, Light begins to get rid of all criminals in the country, from people on the most-wanted list to criminals who manage to slip through the cracks of the legal system. When the police set up a task force to find the mysterious criminal killer, Light and super-detective L (Kenichi Matsuyama of Nana) engage in a battle of wits to see who is more wily.

This synopsis does not really do justice to the movie. Kaneko seems more concerned with how Light changes from a law student disillusioned with an ineffective legal system to a person with the “power” to change the situation. Unfortunately, this “power” also corrupts Light.

Visually, Shusuke Kaneko does not really give us blockbuster movie visual, except for the excellent Ryuuk, the demon of death. A CG creation, Ryuuk provides the appropriate visual flourishes and even gives us some comic relief.

I read that the movie is quite faithful to the comic in spirit. I have not read the manga so I can’t really comment on that. The film, viewed by itself, is entirely engrossing and terrific entertainment. One of the best films I’ve seen this year.

The conclusion of the film is slated for release in Japan this November.