Why I'm Excited for the Death Note American Live Action Adaptation

Updated on November 26, 2016

When I first heard that Netflix was making an American Death Note, I was damn excited. Since the day I watched the first episode of Death Note, it became one of my favorite stories ever. It's a cat and mouse psychological thriller that has you struggling to follow the complex head games between Light and L. So, when you hear that the franchise is getting a new adaptation that will give it a whole new twist, you get excited right? Right?! Unfortunately, the internet exploded with hate, and I don't think I could find a single person who shared my enthusiasm. So many fans of Death Note are getting emotional, angry, or simply uninterested by the news. Some of there arguments are slightly valid, while most get me a little angry myself.


1. The Setting Isn't Japan, the Characters Aren't Japanese, it Doesn't Stay True to the Source Material.

This is probably the biggest complaint people have about the adaptation, especially since race is such a heated topic. Most people say that it's a problem that the cast has a white guy playing Light and a black guy playing L; but they say it has nothing to do with race. It's about staying true to the source material. To the anime community, America staying faithful to anime's Japanese origins is the absolute highest priority. Yet, when Japan adapts their own anime into live action and uses all Japanese actors, regardless of the source material, they're given a "free pass." After all, Japan isn't as racially diverse as America, so it's harder for them to get a good actor that fits both race and character. Either that, or having Japanese actors is simply more appealing to the Japanese people, the main target audience. No matter what, it's understandable.

America, being known for its diverse society and audience, has a much larger cast list. They could easily get an all Japanese cast and have them fit each of the roles. On top of that, it wouldn't be hard for America to create the setting in Japan. As a much larger producer of live action films, Hollywood has the highest capability of staying true to the source material. So, why is the Japanese Light Yagami white, and the British L black? It's because of the second reason I mentioned as to why Japan uses all Japanese actors; having a cast that matches the target audience is simply a better move. This should be common sense and equally understandable, but the anime community's love for Japan seems to have taken priority.

Staying true to the source's aesthetic material is far less important than it staying true to the source material's "feel" or "vibe." As long as Death Note gives people that "Death Note feel", it doesn't matter what the aesthetics are, regardless of the source material. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking "Some aesthetics do matter: L's pale skin and droopy wide eyes, Light's neat and handsome look" and I completely agree. There's a big difference between aesthetics that affect the "Death Note feel" and aesthetics that just don't matter. You aren't drawn into Death Note because of how Japanese Light Yagami looks and acts and how British L looks and acts. Geez, now i'm imagining L saying "Bloody hell, more criminals have died!"

Also, If an adaptation deviates from the source material in such a way that betters a flaw in the original story, that's a good thing. Rather than people worrying about what this adaptation might change that'll worsen the story, they should be thinking about some aspects they'd like to see changed because Death Note was definitely not a perfect story. That's what I'm looking forward to, and everyone else should too. Adaptations are a chance to create a whole new spin on a loved, but not perfect, franchise.

At the end of the day, people should only get angry about a story straying from the source material when it affects the essence of that story. The fact that Light was Japanese and L was British wasn't even going through my head when watching Death Note. Through the intense tennis matches and chip snacking, who cared where it happened and what race they were?


2. Only Japan Can Treat It's Stories With Proper Respect.

Some people think that the idea of America adapting a Japanese creation shouldn't be done in first place. This argument is definitely more rational than the one about source material, but it's a much more conservative and close minded way of thinking. Every society and nation throughout the world has very different culture with different customs, humor, and style of story telling. The style of anime and manga is very different real life in japan or anywhere in the world, and anyone who thinks otherwise is nothing more than a weeaboo. Obviously, when an anime is adapted into live action, it's style has to be adjusted so it isn't just awkward and weird.

Unfortunately, not all live action anime adaptations realize that, whether they're made by Japan or America. This is the main problem when adapting any anime or manga. You have to augment the soul of its "anime feel" in order to adapt it at all. Therefore, it doesn't matter nearly as much which society is adapting it. It's essentially impossible to create a perfect adaptation of an anime in live action form; It has to be changed to fit with societies standards and what appeals to them. When Japan adapts an anime with a Japanese cultural style, it will appeal more to the Japanese. when America adapts an anime with an American cultural style, it will appeal more to Americans.

It's not about respecting the Death Note's original cultural background. It's about creating a new spin on a popular story so it can appeal to a larger audience. The fact that this Death Note adaptation will have a more "American feel" isn't good or bad, it's just a matter of personal preference and an opening of new possibilities.


3. All American Anime Adaptations so far are Trash, Hollywood Won't Learn its Lesson.

This is probably the most ridiculous argument I've heard, and It upsets me the most. Everyone just points at that one horrible movie based off of one of the best anime ever made. If you are even a minor member of the anime community, you know what I'm talking about: Dragon Ball Evolution. If Dragon Ball Evolution couldn't get it right, obviously no other anime adaptation will ever be able to get it right? (IMMENSE SARCASM) Seriously though, people act like american live action anime adaptations are this common thing that happen all the time and keep being bad. In reality, there aren't that many, so it's just ignorant and close minded to say that it's impossible for Hollywood to make a good one.

Anime isn't a large mainstream thing in America like the Marvel Films are becoming. It's harder to get the budget for an anime adaptation here in America because there isn't absolute confidence that it'll reach a wide audience. That's why only the most daring movie producers take the risk to make one, and when there are risks, there are epic failures. This is how every medium in economics works. Once it catches on, it snowballs, but if it hasn't dug itself out of the ditch yet, that doesn't mean it deserves to stay in the ditch.

My favorite analogy for this is how american superhero stories developed. They started out as comics, they caught on with the "comic book nerd community," and that gave them the bridge they needed to make animated cartoons and live action adaptations. There are plenty of epic failures among live action comic book adaptations, and for a while they were only popular among a specific community/audience. That's the stage american live action anime adaptations are starting to enter. The anime community is looking at the first couple trips and mistakes that have been made, only seeing the bad, and completely closing their minds to new possibilities. Superhero movies aren't just for kids and nerds anymore, and there are plenty of awful ones.

On top of all that, Japan specializes in animation, not live action. Hollywood's resource are so much more vast and have so much more potential to create high quality films. I mean no offense to Japan, but it's simply a fact that in general their live action films aren't the same quality as Hollywood. And I'm not saying their aren't good Japanese movies, there are. This Death Note adaptation has the potential to be amazing too. Please stop pointing at the past when we are only just starting to bridge into a whole new medium of films.


4. The Actors, the Writers, the Director.

For all of the rational people who understand that the idea of an "American live action anime adaptation" isn't a problem, but a new possibility, there are some reasonable arguments foreshadowing that this may be a train wreck. The most important things to look at are the actors, writers and directors. I'm not an expert on film, but the past works and reputations of these people are a pretty good way of guessing. The director, Adam Wingard, is known for horror films. While it's not the perfect fit for the psychological thriller that Death Note is, someone who understands horror probably knows how to keep the audience on edge of their feet. There's a bit of complaint on Nat Wolff since his roles in the past have never been anything like this. Him and the rest of the cast, with one exception, aren't extremely well known, which isn't a good sign, but not necessarily a bad one either. By the way, Willem Dafoe as Ryuk is arguably the best possible casting choice that could have been made.

When it comes to looking at the writers, there's obviously no sure way of being able to tell whether the movie will be good. However, Jeremy Slater plays a major role in this Death Note film. Jeremy Slater also played a role in the unanimously garbage Fantastic Four adaptation in 2015. It's impossible to be sure how much of his impact affected how bad the movie became, but it's not a reassuring sign to most of us.

In Conclusion...

There's no way of being able to tell if this movie will be good or not until it comes out, but people on the internet love to spout out opinions right when they get the smallest amount information on their favorite franchise.

I Hope I got my point across in this article that this Death Note adaptation has the potential to open up a door to infinite new possibilities. While others hate on the "white-washing" and deviation from source material, I'm hoping for an enjoyable thrilling story. If it ends up being bad, that'll suck, but it won't lessen my excitement next time.

I like to think that I'm a very open minded person, so I'd really like to know in the comments what you guys think about there being an American Death Note adaptation and my arguments against the hate it's getting. I appreciate constructive criticism, and would like to know any good counterarguments others might have.

Who's your favorite Death Note character?

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    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 13 months ago from Illinois

      "having a cast that matches the target audience is simply a better move" Agreed, that's why I also don't get super bent out of shape over that kind of thing. It makes sense if Japanese culture is tantamount to the plot's themes, but I don't think that's the case with Death Note so much as it would be for a historical anime like Rurouni Kenshin, which would pretty much always have to be set in Japan. If an anime is very popular in the US and other countries, it's usually because it has international appeal and the story carries even if the "Japan" in it is taken out. It all has to do with whether the setting is critical to the story or just a backdrop setting.