Top 10 Terrible Choices in Netflix's Death Note
Many fans—myself included—felt Netflix's 2017 film adaptation of beloved psychological-horror anime Death Note largely missed its mark. However, I did enjoy certain aspects of the flick, like Ryuk's imposing animation, Light's more-sympathetic nature, and Misa's (or Mia, as she's known here) newfound cunning. Unfortunately, these positives arrived too few and far-between to overlook the film's numerous shortcomings, chief of which is the idiocy of our once-beloved characters.
Much of the original show's charm lay with its intelligent cast and seeing them enact terrific plans to trap their enemies, yet here we witness mistake after mistake. See what you think after reviewing the top ten moronic character choices in Death Note!
10. Light Tries to Stop Bullies...With Words
In the anime: Light Yagami repeatedly demonstrates his smarts and holds his own in the one fistfight he engages in. He's also shown to be skilled at tennis, further indicating his athletic prowess.
In the film: At his high school, Light Turner tries to stop bully Kenny from picking on another student—by reminding him of potential legal consequences.
Unsurprisingly, Kenny doesn't care, and easily knocks Light out. This reduces the deadly and formidable villain we know from the anime to a socially-miscalculating and frail pushover. Again, I don't mind Light being more sympathetic, but removing that much of his competence detracts from his impressive aura—and thus our interest.
9. Light's Father Assaults L for Accusing Light
In the anime: Mr. Yagami takes offense to L's suspicions of his son, but allows L to investigate Light in order to prove his son's (supposed) innocence. At several points throughout the show, we see that L's relentless accusations jar Mr. Yagami's trust in his son, and the grizzled officer always values L's expert opinions.
In the film: Despite evidence suggesting otherwise, Mr. Turner immediately rejects the idea of his son's guilt, going so far as to attack L for merely suggesting such. Had Mr. Turner been thinking more clearly, he would have realized sooner that his wife's killer's all-too-convenient death matched with L's allegations and potentially prevented several deaths.
Defending your son is great and all, but not when all evidence points towards his guilt, and James Turner's hasty reaction alienates one of the few fellow law enforcers who shares an interest in apprehending Kira.
8. Light Chooses the Name Kira
In the anime: Kira's followers dub their god "Kira", and Light (who has little choice) begrudgingly accepts the moniker.
In the film: Light himself chooses the name Kira, having his victims write it out before their death. Sure, Light intended it to misdirect investigators to the word's Japanese-oriented roots, which it did, but Kira also means Light in Russian and Celtic, pointing an arrow straight at him. Plus, crafty detectives like L discover the misdirection and use the word's alternative meanings to zero in on Light. Why not just pick a different Japanese name and get the misdirection without the risk?
7. Light (Basically) Admits to L He's Kira
In the anime: Light repeatedly denies L's allegations of being Kira. While he never fully convinces L, his declarations often make L question his deduction of Light's guilt.
In the film: When L confronts Light in the diner, after a few preliminary denials Light essentially admits to being Kira with his less-than-subtle suggestions that Kira's work is necessary to prevent greater evils. If L wasn't already sure of Light's guilt at this point, Light's suspicious words would have cemented his foe's belief. And can you imagine if L had been recording the encounter? Light could have been behind bars within the day.
6. Light Misses His Chance to Surrender the Death Note
In the anime: Light never gives up the Death Note (permanently) because he enjoys being Kira. The thought of giving up his work never crosses his mind, so it makes sense that he never forfeits his weapon.
In the film: Light refuses Ryuk's offer of returning the Death Note. Sure, Ryuk may not always be trustworthy, but agreeing may have let the two part on good terms. Plus, Light wanted to get rid of the notebook at that point, given the emotional taxes it placed upon him, and it would have removed evidence of his crimes. Remember, this Light is much more hesitant and unsure than his anime counterpart, and he squanders a perfectly good opportunity to back out.
5. Light Ignores the Warning About Ryuk
In the anime: Light doesn't need to particularly worry about Ryuk; he's safe as long as he doesn't get caught and continues to provide entertainment for the shinigami. Plus, Ryuk doesn't purposefully hide information from Light, and even helps him on occasion (like informing him when he's tailed by an FBI agent).
In the film: Here, Ryuk is more malicious, hiding some information and seeming less invested in Light. Almost as soon as he obtains the Death Note, Light encounters a warning from a previous owner about Ryuk—and ignores it (making his later decision not to back out all the more baffling).
4. L Reveals His Face to Light
In the anime: Despite knowing Kira needs a face (and name) to kill, L eventually confronts Light as part of a plan to get closer to him, hoping to obtain proof of his lethal activities. It's a calculated risk that makes sense in the context of the show.
In the film: Despite knowing Kira needs a face (and name) to kill, L randomly removes his face-obscuring garment during the pair's encounter in the diner. At this point, L already suspects Light; why show your face to the one person you (correctly) think needs it to kill you? His gambit doesn't have the excuse of anime-L; film-L is shooting for a quick capture, not a long-term siege.
Perhaps he's banking on Light not knowing his name as protection, but as the movie shows, Light very nearly obtains it, making the move an unneeded and almost-fatal risk.
3. Light Tells Mia About the Death Note
In the anime: For most of the series, Light wisely keeps his supernatural notebook to himself, knowing that involving more people increases the chances of being caught. Misa eventually discovers his identity, and he reluctantly includes her out of necessity.
In the show: Light chooses to tell a cheerleader he barely knows (Mia) about the Death Note because she's pretty. This is a stupid decision for a (supposedly) borderline genius, and unlike some of today's mistakes, it most definitely comes back to haunt Light when he realizes his morals greatly differ from Mia's.
2. Light Reads His Death Note in Public
In the anime: If Light needs to access the Death Note outside of its concealed location in his home, he wisely carries some torn pages from it to use instead, which by themselves wouldn't incriminate him.
In the film: Light openly reads the Death Note at school in a crowded gym room. This is an insanely dumb move, and of course, Mia notices. When she questions Light about his (very noticeable) odd black notebook, he shows it to her rather than hiding his blunder. Another incredibly dumb series of actions by Light.
Light also openly reads about gods of death in the diner where L confronts him, another eyebrow-raising move that could have easily ensnared him.
1. Mia Gives Light Access to the Death Note (After Threatening Him)
In the anime: Misa makes some dumb moves, sure, but this Misa is hopelessly in love with Light, more than willing to sacrifice her life to make him happy. Thus, in a twisted way, the risks she takes make sense from her perspective.
In the film: In the climax, after Mia threatens Light (revealing she has written his name in the Death Note), she gives him access to the notebook, promising to burn the page with his name (saving him) if he grants her ownership. However, Light could simply kill Misa and recapture and burn his page (he hasn't yet used his one-and-only page destruction).
Perhaps Misa is banking on Light's reluctance to kill her, but that's incredibly dumb considering her multiple deceptions and looming death threat. And sure enough, he writes her name in as leverage. Remember, this isn't the ditz the show presents; Mia here is normally quite cunning, making this a stupid mistake that proves her downfall. Literally.
What did you think of Death Note's 2017 film?
The Future of Death Note
The Netflix series attempts to make Light more relatable by dumbing him down from genius to only fairly intelligent—but much of the brilliant back-and-forth mental chess from the original series match is lost in the process. I'm open to (and even happy with) some of the deviations from the anime, but watching once-brainy characters blunder time and time again infuriates classic fans.
The film ends on several cliffhangers: how will Mr. Turner react to learning his son's guilt (which never happened in the anime)? Will L write Light's name in his recovered Death Note page as revenge for Watari? Will Ryuk kill Light? While I'm curious for the answers, the film's largely-negative backlash may prevent us from ever learning them.
Am I glad I watched Death Note's latest film? Yes. But do I understand why it alienated several fans? Most definitely. If a sequel ever emerges, hopefully it's taking notes.
© 2018 Jeremy Gill