WHY Is Netflix Tormenting Us With Another Live-Action ‘Death Note’?
Have we learned nothing as a society?
As reported by our Chelsea Steiner, another live-action Death Note is in the works over at Netflix. You might be wondering who asked for this, and the answer is a resounding NO and ONE—okay, maybe Ryuk, because he gets a kick out of our suffering.
This time, the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things) are taking a crack at the story of Yagami (dear Ryuk, please, NOT TURNER) Light and his discovery of the notebook that can kill just by writing someone’s name. In the anime, Light would go on to use the notebook to exact his idea of justice, killing so many criminals that it caught the attention of the brilliant, candy-eating, “shoes are overrated” detective, L.
Thus began one of anime’s most infamous battles of the minds, which Netflix would take hold of, toss in a garbage disposal, and shred into several unrecognizable pieces that drift into Seattle—the location of the 2017 live-action Netflix movie adaptation that we’ve all been trying to forget.
No one has forgotten Light Turner, Netflix
Now, I’m not saying that the 2017 Netflix Death Note is the sole reason why people unconsciously cringe when they hear the words “live-action anime adaptation.” There’s an ongoing list of Hollywood anime attempts that contribute to the growing unease when a director, no matter how good their resume is, says that they’re gonna adapt a series. That being said, Death Note is HIGH on that “do not want” list, and it’s the adaptation that anime fans immediately point to whenever “Netflix” comes up in adaptation conversations. The 2017 movie is comically bad, to the point of feeling like a parody of the source material. Like, did they write a different movie, then slap Death Note on it to try to garner more interest?
Here’s the original anime trailer:
And here’s Netflix’s attempt at copying the homework assignment:
Here’s the thing: I’m not someone who needs an adaptation to be 100% accurate to the source material. In fact, Death Note is a story that can easily have a different protagonists and even take place in a different location. Hell, the source material has done that before. Death Note has several live-action adaptations already. It’s a series full of spinoffs and retellings. If you want to tell the story here in the U.S. and have some random rain-soaked white boy and his edgy girlfriend go on a murder spree, fine—though I’d argue that’s not nearly as compelling a story compared to, well, anything else Death Note has offered.
However, for some inexplicable reason, the Netflix Death Note decided that this IS Light, albeit, a mayo-washed downgrade of the Light who was so dangerously intelligent with his actions that he sneaked a TV in his bag of potato chips so he could keep killing criminals while his room was being monitored. Light Turner, on the other hand, shows the notebook to the first girl who shows interest in him and picks the name Kira for himself because it kinda means “killer” in Japanese. If I roll my eyes any harder, they’ll pop out of my head.
The Netflix version basically pulled a ’90s anime move where the characters get renamed, the best parts about them are censored, and by trying to make the story less complex, it ends up making less sense. The rules of the Death Note conflict with each other (i.e.: you have to write a person’s full name, yet somehow Light’s able to just write Watari), Light and L’s game of mental chess is like watching my cat lazily bat at a toy mouse before she gives up and takes a nap, and all of the tension of Light working with the police to help them find Kira is nonexistent. His father’s still a detective working on the case, but the interesting dynamic of “hiding in plain sight” has been watered down like everything else. Meanwhile, Misa (sorry, Mia) is a cigarette-smoking cheerleader who gets off on murder, and Ryuk just straight up manipulates Light instead of being the playful bystander who wants to see what happens next.
As an adaptation, it fails, but it also fails to be an interesting movie in general. It doesn’t even have the courtesy of being so bad it’s The Room. Sure, I had to pause the movie a couple of times because I was laughing at how awful it was, but since Death Note is based on a far better story, you can just … go watch the better story. Or read it. There are so many ways to get into the franchise without touching Netflix.
Is there a chance that the folks behind Stranger Things could do a good job? I mean, sure, there’s always that possibility, especially since the bar is so low. They definitely have their work cut out for them, though, not just in telling this story, but in getting fans to trust that the words “Netflix Death Note” aren’t a messily crafted joke to turn into a meme.
(featured image: Netflix/edited by Briana Lawrence)
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]