It’s not that I’m a major anime fan. I can honestly say that I prefer dubs over subs. Guess what I mean is, there is no pretension when it comes to my watching cartoons—doesn’t matter what country the animation originated. That doesn’t mean that the Netflix adaptation of the classic anime/manga Death Note didn’t send a shiver down my back the moment it was uttered into existence. I had hoped that the production team would try to keep it faithful to the source material. And if not that, maybe set in the same universe but deviating away from the original characters. Like how I once imagined a FLCL adaptation would work out (college was a strange time, kids).
It’s not just the whitewashing that got to me, though that’s a fatal epidemic running rampant in Hollywood these days. It’s the entire massacre of the source material. Nothing about this movie even echoed the genius behind the manga and anime. And that’s damning for Death Note fans everywhere.
Light Turner isn’t Light Yagami. While Turner is painted as some sort of high school genius—he’s caught helping other cheat for a fee—it’s never touched upon. Where Yagami was clean cut and pristine, Turner comes off more as the kid you’d buy your nickel bag from. And maybe not even that. Yagami’s sense of justice is what drove him to do terrible things; meanwhile, Turner is the epitome of pussy-whipped. Turner treats the Death Note like an twelve-inch cock, whipping it out to impress the girl at the first opportunity he has. Yagami knew better. He kept it secret, hidden. Even when Misa turns up, he’s restrained.
On the subject of Misa—what’s with the Mia character? Her emotional acting range is the love child of Kirsten Stewart and Megan Fox. She’s a beauty—nice to look at, but less than a one-dimensional character. Misa’s motivation behind following Kira is adoration and admiration. Mia has no real motivation. There isn’t a backstory that makes her character meaningful. She serves no purpose other than someone the boys can fawn over.
L. Where do I even begin with L? Lakeith Stanfield isn’t the issue. He’s proven his acting ability in movies like Straight Outta Compton and Get Out. The problem isn’t his ability. L isn’t L. Not even a little bit. His emotions run wild, unlike his anime counterpart who’s collected and in control. Watching Light Yagami and L plan each step is watching a chess match between genius. Watching Light Turner and L doesn’t even get a checkers metaphor. There is no build up. There is no relationship. There is just blame and nothing more. The scene toward the climax, L goes as far as stealing a police cruiser to chase Turner through the streets with every intention of killing him. And it ends with L struggling against knowing what’s right and writing down Turner’s name on the single sheet torn from the Death Note.
Ryuk is—well—the white man’s version of the character. Most of his badassry is washed away. Dafoe’s voice acting doesn’t fail to send shivers of glee down the viewer’s back. But what we’re given isn’t the same apple-loving death god we all came to know and love. He even notices that Turner isn’t suited for the Death Note moments into his introduction.
There are a few inconsistencies throughout the film, but what movie isn’t full of them? It’s the over all destruction of the source material is what hammered the final nail in the coffin. We can’t just be mad at the whitewashing, though we should. We should always be mad at the whitewashing in any film. (I’m looking at you Ghost in the Shell.)
I do make a plea that Adam Wingard, Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, and Jeremy Slater never make another movie, music video, or even a YouTube video again. And that Netflix removes and destroys all copies of this film. So that it never has to waste the time of another viewer again.