As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
※Spoiler Alert! This article contains spoilers for the ending of Death Note
Hello! It’s the manga and anime-loving writer, Mokugyo. Recently, the temperature here in Japan has been gradually rising. It feels like the heat of summer is almost here. There are many fun things waiting for us in the summer. Personally, I am excited for the new installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Transformers series, as well as the Gintama live action movie adaptation, and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, which was directed by a former member of studio Ghibli.
One of the many things to look forward to this summer is the Hollywood version of Death Note. The movie will be available on Netflix from 25 August 2017. The trailer has already been released:
Before watching the Hollywood version of Death Note, let us look back on the previous versions. I will talk about how the protagonist, Light Yagami, has been portrayed thus far, comparing the original manga, the anime adaptation, the live action movie adaptation, and the live action TV series. There will be some spoilers included so please proceed with caution.
Death Note is a manga series that was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, the magazine known for works such as One Piece and Naruto. It is a suspense story with revolves around a notebook which can be used to kill people by writing their name in it, the eponymous Death Note.
One day, the protagonist, a high school student called Light Yagami, picks up a black notebook. It was the Death Note which can be used to kill people just by writing their name. Light begins using this book to kill criminals. He tries to create a world with no bad people. The police soon begins to get involved in the inexplicable deaths of these criminals and a mysterious investigator called L begins to move as well. Believing that he is behind the murders, Light is approached by L. It is a battle of wits between L and Light.
The manga version of Light Yagami can be considered as the starting point for all versions of Death Note. It is not an exaggeration to say that Light’s charm is the charm of the entire work. In any case, the manga version of Light Yagami is aloof and intelligent. He is a genius high school student that uses the Death Note to kill criminals one after the other. ‘I will become the God of the new world’ is his magnificent goal and it is because he is the main character that he can make such a statement.
Takeshi Obata, known for Hikaru no Go and Bakuman, was in charge of the art in the original manga. The characteristics of the people drawn by Takeshi Obata are detailed and beautiful. It can be said that it is because of Obata’s drawings that Light, who could be considered as a bad person, was seen as charming. Light appears in the original manga as a cool, intelligent, good-looking boy. However, as he uses the Death Note, his features become more and more evil. One of the highlights of the manga is this change in his expressions. Light Yagami’s various evil expressions became a topic online. There are many parody manga and videos using Light’s face. Especially popular is the ‘just as planned’ (keikaku doori) expression which appeared in Chapter 53. If you search for ‘just as planned’ online, various parodies show up in the search results. (Hint: search the Japanese phrase, 計画通り, for even more parodies!)
The Death Note TV anime was very loyal to the original manga series. Movement was added and Light’s image became more lively. For example, there is a popular scene where Light eats potato chips while writing names on a page torn from the notebook. The impact of this scene was great even in the original manga, but exaggerating how Light ate the potato chips caused the TV anime scene to have an even bigger impact. If the action of writing in the notebook was expressed normally, it would have been too plain. In the anime, Light properly writes the names in the notebook, and that skillfully expresses Light enforcing the death penalty. There is slightly more action than in the original manga. The final scene in the warehouse is also a masterpiece. Through the voice actors’ skill and the action of the animation, it is easy to grasp Light’s insanity.
What is distinctive about the anime series is that the ending differs from the manga. In the manga, Light Yagami takes his last breath while begging Ryuk for his life, but in the anime, he dies quietly in the warehouse. The scene where Light has a vision of him leaving the warehouse and walking around the town is also unique to the anime. The last scene in the anime expresses his feelings more than the manga does.
Death Note was adapted into a live action movie in 2006. The movie was done in two parts and was a great hit. There was a spinoff featuring L in the main role and there was an original sequel in 2016 called Death Note Light up the NEW world. In the 2006 movie, Light Yagami was played by Tatsuya Fujiwara, a very famous actor in Japan. He had many opportunities to play roles that risk their live in this way, even playing the main character in the live action adaptation of Kaiji.
What is distinctive about the movie is Tatsuya Fujiwara’s acting ability and the amazingness of Light’s psyche. His expression of the feeling of being at wits’ end and the explosion of suppressed feelings is praiseworthy. It can be said that he recreated Light in 3D.
In 2015, the TV drama version of Death Note was aired in Japan. This TV drama varied from the original quite a bit. For this reason, opinions on the series were split, but personally, I found it interesting.
In the TV drama series, Light was played by popular actor Masataka Kubota. He seems to be fated to play in live action adaptations as he will be playing Kaneki in the live action movie adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul in 2017. Masataka Kubota is a very good actor and he is skilled in playing characters with secrets.
In the TV drama, Light is an average university student. A normal student happens to pick up the Death Note and becomes more and more attached to it. Some of the fans asked, ‘Why did you make Light into an average main character?!’ I understand where they are coming from. However, the process of an average man using the notebook and gradually becoming more and more twisted was quite interesting. More than anything, it feels like the TV drama version Light would be caught quickly. So much so that it made you feel like with this kind of main character using the notebook, he would immediately be caught and arrested. It is because of that that the TV drama had a different kind of suspense and that in itself was interesting.
By the way, playing L in the TV drama was the young and popular actor Kento Yamazaki. The drama version of L was more pretentious than in the manga and was not very likable. There were also pros and cons to this change but I think it was interesting as a new image for L. Kento Yamazaki is also fated for live action adaptations and will be playing Kusuo Saiki in the movie adaptation of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.
Light Yagami has gone through many changes from the original to the anime, movie, and drama adaptations. In the Hollywood version, a non-Japanese person will play him. It seems that Light will go through even more changes. This work is like a Picaresque novel where the main character is of questionable caliber. I want to see the new kinds of Light Yagami that will come in future adaptations!