Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller
review in one breath
This is the second and concluding film of the two-part Death Note live action saga. Here Kira continues his strategic maneuvering under the watchful pursuits of his nemesis, the boy-genius "L". Whose name will be "the Last name" written in the Death Note?
Death Note the Last Name is the sequel and conclusion in the two-film live-action version by director Kaneko Shusuke. Both films were released within mere months of each other in 2006 and are intended to be taken as a whole. Kaneko's live-action version predominantly mirrors the original manga and anime versions of the story, but offers several time-saving and brain-conserving twists regarding how this thriller plays out and crescendos.
The two films comprising this duo are:
- Death Note (director: Kaneko Shusuke 2006)
Death Note 2: The Last Name (director: Kaneko Shusuke 2006)
For a relatively full description of the background and origin of the Death Note story and the relevance and filmographies of the director and cast, please check out my review of the first film.
For those of you who have already seen the 37-episode anime version of Death Note, this sequel, with a running time of 140 minutes, covers everything from approximately episode 10 of season one to the 19th/last episode of season two. The first film (with a slightly lesser running time of 120 minutes) served predominantly as an intro to the basic principles, elements and characters of the story, and thus ended up covering only one-quarter of the basic (anime) storyline. Death Note 2: The Last Name steps in at precisely the moment the first film leaves off and then proceeds to do the heavy lifting regarding completing the narrative in a meaningful way.
Yagami Light, top of the class in his university Law exams and son of a high-ranking Tokyo Police force detective stumbles across a strange notebook which claims to hold the power of eradicating anyone whose name is written therein. Laughingly skeptical, Yagami jokingly writes the name of a prominent violent criminal in it and promptly forgets about the Notebook, until his memory is jarred by the morning newspaper's declaration that the very same person was found dead in his cell.
This provides rather clear proof that the Notebook may be authentic. And once Yagami is visited by the massive Shinigami (Death God) associated with the notebook, all doubts are laid to rest. Yagami then speedily sets out to rid the world of its most notorious criminals including both the incarcerated and those still at large.
Of course the news media is quick to report the sudden explained deaths of the world's prominent low-life, creating a nightmare for the police force who have NO explanation as to what is happening and a near rapturous religious response from portions of the public, who nickname this invisible hand of justice "Kira" (which in Japanese pronunciation can (coincidentally!) mean both "Light" and "Killer").
In his visions of grandeur, Yagami Light sees himself as the "God" of a new world, free from crime and social sin, and metes out his fatal justice to anyone transgressing his notion of Law. In the meantime, a collaborative international effort is made to track down the "world's most heinous serial killer", enlisting the help of the globally renowned "L" whose crime-solving genius has proved repeatedly in international crises.
From this (rather early) narrative point onwards, a clashing of minds and strategies, buttressed by the unimaginable existence of a supernatural Death Notebook stoke this tale of social vengeance, idealistic revenge and Ultimate Justice to high heaven (or Hell, in this instance).
I've seen both the anime and live-action versions of Death Note and have thoroughly enjoyed this uniqueness and complexity of this tale. In terms of this film, I found the narrative short-cuts (which were very necessary due to time constraints) not only helpful but felt they rounded out the jist of this tale much more effectively and concisely. The original manga ran 108 chapters over a period of several years. The 37-episode anime series whittled this down to a running time of about 12.5 hours by cutting out several plot off-shoots. For his live-action cinematic release, Kaneko needed to accomplish a *major* trimming and accomplished this very well (in my opinion) with his two-film saga and a total running time of approximately 4.5 hours.
This is a fun and engaging one to see, and there's currently a lot of Western buzz surrounding the film. Death Note (part one) recently had a VERY limited two-day release in the U.S. on May 20-21, 2008, appearing in only 300 theaters nationwide. That movie is set for release in Region 1 DVD release on September 16, 2008.
I don't yet know what the proposed release date is for this sequel. Let's pray like hell it doesn't turn out to be another Karas scenario.
Definitely check this out when it comes your way.
Version reviewed: Region 0 Subtitled DVD (with English subtitles)
|Engaging, strategic film based on a popular long-running manga.||No graphic gore or violence, but "Murder by Script" is a predominant theme. Current rumors suggest the upcoming U.S. release will receive and "R" rating for its death theme,.||No brooding bOObies here..||This is indeed a unique storyline involving Shinto Death Gods and social ideals of a crime less society. Well worth seeing!!|