Manga adaptation by Nippon Television
A shinigami drops a killer notebook down to Earth and a teenager decides to become judge, jury and executioner. You know the one.
Euri’s verdict: Probably worth it for the psychotic expressions alone
The show opens to three girls singing and dancing on a small stage, each wearing similar outfits but in differing colours. The camera pans over the crowd, a frenzy of glowsticks, bandannas and plaid shirts. Slowly, the camera begins to zoom in on one face in the crowd; an innocent teenager who’s having a blast watching his favourite idol with his wotoge-loving friends. This is Light Yagami, a third year high-school student and soon-to-be mass murderer.
Yes, this show is a little bit different from the Death Note story you’re probably already familiar with.
For the most part, this show will be very familiar to you if you’ve seen the anime, read the manga or even watched one of the live-action films. L is still here, albeit sassier than ever and without a sweet tooth and the comic refusal to sit on his arse. Near is also back and makes an early appearance in small scenes, though Mello is replaced by a creepy wooden puppet. These changes, along with Light’s newfound idol fascination, are particularly baffling, but it’s not all bad.
Teru Mikami, an important character that appears at the end of the original series, sees an expanded role in the TV drama. This might not be the biggest change that was made, but the dynamic he adds by being around for a longer period of time really pushes the story in interesting directions. I also have to give credit for the show reworking some of the death scenes. They’re not going to seem particularly special for people who are new to Death Note, but for people that know the story already, they did a pretty good job of subverting expectations.
At the end of the day, this is still a show about Light and his band of merry Kiras trying to outwit L, Light’s dad and a bunch of investigators that really don’t do a lot (they even removed the scene where Matsuda jumps out of a window). You may have seen in our First Look of The Mysterious Thief Yamaneko that I talked some smack about the Death Note drama. I maintain that I was having a bad time with it early on, but this was also when the drama was most like the source material, just with some of those questionable changes I mentioned earlier. The show hits its stride around the halfway point, particularly when Light and L are at their feistiest, and with the introduction of Teru Mikami.
That said, I don’t think I’d go so far as to call this a good show. What I will say is that, once the show hits its stride, it becomes a thoroughly enjoyable one. I’m still going to recommend the original manga and the TV anime over this and the movies, but if you consider yourself a fan of the story or are just too curious to figure out why they may have made Mello a puppet, you can certainly do worse than this.
colons’ verdict: So did we.
I was about sixteen when I watched the original Death Note anime, and I loved it. I’m… not that young now, but I loved this show a lot too. I have also, for the record, skimmed through an unsubbed filming of the Death Note musical, and I think I’d love that even more, were it subbed or otherwise localised; the costume and stage work alone was incredible. And that tennis scene!
I’m digressing, though. This is an interpretation of a story I’ve already consumed three interpretations of (manga, anime, live action films; I’ve not watched Rewrite), so the fact that it surprised me at all is a blessing. The overarching story is unchanged, but there are fun details that are different, and the acting is a delight. Also, it’s been a while. With the context of some other things that I also might have recommended around that time, it’s easy to assume that everything I liked was garbage, so I feel like it’s reasonable to recommend this over the anime. Perhaps a rewatch of the anime would change that, but I’d honestly rather not find out.
Also, L gets buried in the Windows XP wallpaper, so that’s fun.