by Old_Anime_Lady, April 3, 2019

Warning! This article contains spoilers. The author is not sure of the severity. BE WARNED!

Since the most recent "Ask MDL" topic was fantasy, which also included shinigami, I had an excuse to no longer put off the Death Note movies and drama. Yes, even the Netflix version and the British-Irish collaboration "Let us Prey" that is not related but came out with the name "Death Note" in the beginning. However, it changed its name for the DVD release.

I loved the Anime. I named my World of Warcraft guild "Epistola Mortem" or Death Letter. I was dreading, sort of, being let down by the live action adaptations because of the mixed reviews, or worse, the terribad reputation they had.

For me, a live-action has to make me believe these are my characters, the ones I fell in love with or loved to hate in the original story. The characters are more important to me than the story. To me, the live-action adaptation is like an OVA or alternate universe. Besides nothing is ever better than the source material. Unless you count removing Tom Bombadil, but that's a different fandom altogether. : )

For the uninitiated, I will give you the basic plot. This story follows the de-evolution of a well-intentioned villain. A Super Smart Cop's son drifting through life and school finds a black notebook on the ground. When he picks it up, he sees Ryuk, a shinigami, and panics a little (wouldn't you at seeing an 8-foot demon grinning at you?). Yagami Light finds that the power of the notebook is that anyone whose name is written in the book dies. The story then follows Yagami Light's descent into madness and sociopathy and his nemesis L.

It's a basic story about the temptation of power over life and death and the frustrations of a free society where people are innocent until proven guilty. The story as told in the manga and anime is very well thought out and logically progresses with the cat and mouse game between a super genius villain and the world's greatest detective.

Now to introduce you to the characters and their actors.

Yagami Light 

(For his full personality profile follow the link above.)

Fujiwara Tatsuya 
Death Note 
Death Note: The Last Name 

He did ok as Light but was outshone by his L (Matsuyama Kenichi).
Kubota Masataka 
Death Note 
He WAS Light. You saw every step from anti-hero to god complex with this Light. You find yourself forgetting how far he has fallen until the flashbacks in the last few episodes. Brilliantly executed.

Voiced the anime version
 Miyano Mamoru
Nat Wolff as Light Turner / Kira
Netflix Death note
This version of Light started corrupt, therefore the backbone of this story was lost.  He was too emo.

Amane Misa/Misa Misa

(For her full personality profile follow the link above.)

Here is my take on this character. She is devoted to Yagami Light, not unlike the ladies that followed Charles Manson. No matter how bad he treats her, uses her as a tool to further his agenda,

Voiced the anime version
Toda Erika
Death Note 
Death Note: The Last Name 
Death Note: Light Up The New World 
Sano Hinako 
Death Note 

Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton / Kira
Netflix Death note
The writers forgot that Light saved her, all you get is that she is into killing.

L(El)/ L. Lawliet

(For his full personality profile follow the link above.)

Voiced the anime version
Kappei Yamaguchi
Matsuyama Kenichi
Death Note 
Death Note: The Last Name 
L: Change the World 

He portrayed a perfect L in my eyes. So much that I worried about the posture of the actor. 
Yamazaki Kento
Death Note 
He wasn't bad, it just wasn't the L I wanted, too healthy in his eating habits, more social and less OCD. Also more ego. For the L I loved, things were just facts, not about pride or who was right because the facts proved he was right.
Lakeith Stanfield as L
Netflix Death note
This is the character that was the most correct in this version. Back to OCD and sugar to fuel his brain cells and his dependence on Watari for more than ironed shirts.


Wait! Why am I including a CGI puppet/motion capture shinigami? Because you can't have Death Note without Ryuk, it's his notebook. : ) And I think all the voice actors did an excellent job.

 Nakamura Shido Voiced the anime version AND Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name 
Fukushima Jun
Death Note 
Willem Dafoe as Ryuk
Netflix Death note

Now that that is done, let's see where you can find these characters. No, I didn't forget Near, Mellow, Watari or Yagami Soichiro, but for the sake of space, I limited the characters I chose to highlight.
For the Manga and Anime description, I am using the English Wikipedia descriptions, so I can move on to the Live Action adaptions.

The Manga

Death Note (Japanese: デスノート Hepburn: Desu Nōto) is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. 

Death Note was first serialized in Shueisha's manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump from December 2003 to May 2006. The 108 chapters were collected and published into 12 tankōbon volumes between April 2004 and July 2006. In 2015, the collected volumes of the Death Note manga had over 30 million copies in circulation.  (Source: En Wikipedia)


Tetsurō Araki, the director, said that he wished to convey aspects that "made the series interesting" instead of simply "focusing on morals or the concept of justice". Toshiki Inoue, the series organizer, agreed with Araki and added that, in anime adaptations, there is a lot of importance in highlighting the aspects that are "interesting in the original". He concluded that Light's presence was "the most compelling" aspect; therefore the adaptation chronicles Light's "thoughts and actions as much as possible". Inoue noted that to best incorporate the manga's plot into the anime, he "tweak[ed] the chronology a bit" and incorporated flashbacks that appear after the openings of the episodes; he said this revealed the desired tensions. Araki said that, because in an anime the viewer cannot "turn back pages" in the manner that a manga reader can, the anime staff ensured that the show clarified details. Inoue added that the staff did not want to get involved with every single detail, so the staff selected elements to emphasize. Due to the complexity of the original manga, he described the process as "definitely delicate and a great challenge". Inoue admitted that he placed more instructions and notes in the script than usual. Araki added that because of the importance of otherwise trivial details, this commentary became crucial to the development of the series.

Araki said that when he discovered the Death Note anime project, he "literally begged" to join the production team; when he joined, he insisted that Inoue should write the scripts. Inoue added that, because he enjoyed reading the manga, he wished to use his efforts for the Anime. (Source: En Wikipedia)

Japanese Movies

Death Note 
My Rating:
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 7,638 users
# of Watchers: 11,711
Reviews: 12 users

Death Note: The Last Name 
My Rating:
Ratings: 7.8/10 from 5,935 users
# of Watchers: 9,055
Reviews: 6 users

L: Change the World 

My Rating:  7/10
Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,141 users
# of Watchers: 6,823
Reviews: 4 users


My Rating:  6/10
Ratings: 7.7/10 from 494 users
# of Watchers: 1,551
Reviews: 0 users

Death Note: Light Up The New World 

My Rating:  7/10
Ratings: 7.7/10 from 852 users
# of Watchers: 2,498
Reviews: 4 users

All of these take place in the same universe making references to the original 2 films and even a reprise of Toda Erika's Miss Amane. As you can see from the ratings, the quality goes down with each successive film. And if you don't watch it in this order, you will be confused when you get to New Generation and Light up the World. The reason to watch the first 3 is L. The reason to watch the last 2 is... give me a sec... oh yeah, Suda Masaki.


Death Note (2015)
My Rating:
Ratings: 8.0/10 from 3,101 users
# of Watchers: 7,490
Reviews: 10 users

This is a remake totally separate from the previously mentioned movies. Yagami Light's story is told so well in this I gave it a really high score. You get Near/Mellow in this version and Yamazaki Kento as L. The father and son Dynamic really showed in this one as well. I really enjoyed it.

Netflix Movie

Yep, I gotta talk about it cause... well, it happened. 

Good points:
- it showed the book had over 100 rules. Most adaptions show 3.
- Willem Defoe as Ryuk
- L is L-like (lol)

Bad points:
- too many to list but in trying too hard to appeal to a broad American audience it lost fans of the franchise and felt like it disrespected what we love.

What could have made it better?
In the New generation Live action, they spoke of 6 active death notes around the world.  Don't make your Americans Japanese rip-offs... Make them get one of the 6. Duh, case closed, move on. This is just my opinion.

Oh! And BTW they are making a sequel.

The Musical

Yep, you read that right: Death Note the Musical. In 2015, it ran both in Japan and South Korea. Composed in English originally by Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics by Jack Murphy and a book by Ivan Menchell.  No English Language version announced yet as of March 2019 though. The Japanese version was produced by the Horipro Talent Agency and had Urai Kenji and Hayato Kakizawa cast as Light and Koike Teppei as L.

The S. Korean version starred Hong Kwang Ho and Xiah Junsu.

It ran in Tokyo and Seoul in 2015 and 2017 adding Taichung, Taiwan that year as well. In 2020, it will have a third performance in Tokyo.

The musical was one of the most highly anticipated musicals of the year in Japan and Korea. The Korean production received positive reviews from critics. Hong Kwang Ho and Kim Junsu were universally praised for their "powerhouse voices" and "brilliant, subtle acting;" while Park Hye Na and Kang Hong Suk, as the Shinigami Ryuk and Rem, were praised for "practically stealing the show". Wildhorn's score was also praised, while the story was criticized for trying to cram 12 volumes of the manga into a two-and-a-half hour musical. The staging was also criticized for being very simplistic and lacking in visual spectacle. (English Wiki)

I hope this article has piqued your interest in the franchise, the live action, or the musical : )  What are your thoughts?

Who is your favourite character?

death note