Death Note Episode #01 Drama Review

Death Note Episode #01 Drama Review Some changes work perfectly well. Others, not so much.

What They Say:
Yagami Light (Masataka Kubota) is an ordinary college student living with his father Soichiro (Yutaka Matsushige) and little sister Sayu (Reiko Fujiwara). Sometimes he goes to concerts given by Amane Misa (Hinako Sano) and her idol group Ichigo Berry, but otherwise, he spends uneventful days traveling between school and his part-time job.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the Death Note manga ended a mere nine years ago, it has covered plenty of ground in terms of adaptations, having taken on an anime, several live action movies, and even a musical. Such a wide range of adaptations for the series already exists that one must question if a live action drama is even necessary at this point.

From the get-go, the new Death Note live action drama offers plenty of new twists and changes to the plot. The real question at hand is whether or not these changes are of any benefit to the series’ characters as well as us viewers.

Following a dramatic opening of Light narrating the basic rules of the Death Note (you die of a heart-attack if your name is written in the notebook after 40 seconds), we are immediately brought into the middle of a colorful pop idol concert starring Misa Amane, as seen by main character and apparent fan Light Yagami, thus establishing the first and probably biggest change the series has to offer.

All previous iterations of Light have established him as a highly intelligent and popular high school student with a strong sense of justice. So to introduce the character amongst a crowd of equally enthralled idol fans is jarring to say the least. This iteration of Light is an average college student, working part-time at a restaurant with his future goal being a peaceful life with a job in the public sector. While the idea of establishing Light at such a different starting point knowing well enough that he’ll be falling down the rabbit hole of anti-hero well enough is interesting, it fails to establish the character as someone strong enough to helm the series. So much so that by the time Light does receive and start using the magical killing notebook from shinigami Ryuk, it feels forced—with Ryuk practically bullying him into using it in the first place.

On the other side of the law is the Japanese Task Force, investigating this string of mysterious criminal deaths all caused by heart attacks. First Division Chief Inspector (and father to Light) Soichiro Yagami is at a loss as to what to make of the deaths, and fellow officers are equally flailing. In a complete 180 from Light, nearly every Task Force member has been tweaked from the source material all for the betterment of their characters. Soichiro is a workaholic that put capturing a criminal top priority before visiting his wife at the hospital (to the chagrin of his then very tiny children); Mogi is a seasoned veteran that looks like he’s about to say “I’m getting too old for this sh*t” at any moment; and Aizawa and Matsuda ease the tension with their constant bickering.

Each member is well-established just in time to throw in the monkey wrench that is Detective L to the plot.

True to past iterations, L remains the eccentric (and inexplicably young and handsome) detective that has taken it upon himself to capture the mysterious killer publicly referred to as “Kira” with the help of Soichiro, whose sense of justice caught his eye.

Add to this a brief scene of prosecutor Mikami Teru telling pop idol Misa Amane that the criminal that killed her parents has been released on parole, and all major character introductions have been covered over the course of the first half of this already long-running episode (70 minutes total!).

What follows is all very standard “Death Note” fare that people already familiar with the series will recognize. Of particular note is the faceless showdown between Light and L, the latter fooling the former by using a stand-in conveniently named “Lind L. Tailor.” While the source material played it off so that even the reader was convinced that Tailor was truly L, the live action drama revealed enough of L’s face for viewers to know that Tailor was a stand-in from the beginning. It’s a rather curious change that lessens the impact of the scene as a whole, which is a shame since the manga clearly used it as a means to set the stage for the series’ unique game of cat and mouse.

The episode closes out with Light attending another of Misa’s pop concerts only to be warned by Ryuk that someone has been tailing him. Or at the least that would have been how the episode ended, but the camera immediately jumps to a white-haired boy named Near conversing with his marionette, anxiously awaiting how Light and L’s confrontation will play out in the end.

In Summary:
The live action Death Note drama is off to a very strange start, with the majority of characters receiving small and interesting enough tweaks to their backstories all at the expense of the main character who comes off as far too wishy-washy to truly be the main focus of the series.

Though even with that aside, the series itself comes off as fairly middle ground, introducing aforementioned tweaks without much in terms of payoff, but at the same time not doing enough to nail scenes they’re directly lifting from the source material. If anything, the fact that they’re willing to deviate from the material is the sole factor pushing me to continue with the series.

Grade: C

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Lenovo Laptop IdeaPad Y570, 15.6” at 1080p, JBL Brand Speakers with Chamber