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Review: 'Death Note' (2015) live-action series

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

This review contains spoilers.

© 2015 NTV

Possibly one of the most popular and groundbreaking manga that has ever been written, Death Note by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi tells the story of Yagami Light, a high-school student who comes into the possession of a notebook that can kill people when their names are written on it. It has been adapted into different types of content, both carefully and carelessly, and this particular live-action series starring Kubota Masataka and Yamazaki Kento falls under the first category.

Kubota Masataka as Yagami Light

Yagami Light's portrayal in Death Note (2015) by actor Kubota Masataka is more relatable in these modern times. He's seen to have a brighter personality, enjoying social activities with friends, and even working part-time unlike the Light in the manga/anime who is reserved and more of a genius than anything else. In the live-action, there is more struggle for Light to fight his murderous tendencies, while in the manga/anime, it only takes a few seconds for him to sink. These visible changes in the live-action series strongly establish the simplicity of his life until he acquires the Death Note, and eventually, his slow descent into madness when he starts using it.

Yamazaki Kento as L

Contrary to the L of anime and manga who is often deadpan while deducing clues, Yamazaki Kento's depiction of L is a fresh take on the usual impression of the character. More than the smirk that could mean condescension, the L of Death Note (2015) seems more expressive and confident. The less stony expressions made him more human and realistic in a live-action setting. In this light, he is viewed to be easy to relate to.

Oshinari Shugo as Mikami Teru, Sano Hinako as Amane Misa, Kubota Masataka as Yagami Light

The plot centers around how Light is able to keep using the Death Note while avoiding the authorities and L pursuing him relentlessly, but it isn't to say the live-action series is very serious. It is a combination of many things in each episode. There is still humor and lighthearted scenes and exciting ones next. The thrill mostly comes from whether Light will finally be exposed as Kira and how far he could still go as he lies through his teeth. In the middle of it all, the polarity of L doubting him and trusting him is shown quite well in the series. He always casts his suspicions and declares them to the whole Kira Task Force while maintaining a sense of reluctance as a front. It adds to the conflict between him and Light and between him and the people who side with Light.

One of the weak points of the series is the portrayal of Near who has Mello as their split personality, as opposed to the original material where Near and Mello are separate individuals. It is perhaps an attempt to keep the series' originality and spin it in a creative way, but it still gives little contribution to the overall impact that the story has. However, although some situations have been changed to show new angles of the manga, the live-action series still captures the whole essence of the story.

Overall rating: 8/10

Death Note 2015 live-action series streams on Netflix on October 15, 2021 (subject to availability per region/country).
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