Death Note (2006 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Shūsuke Kaneko|
|Produced by||Toyoharu Fukuda|
|Screenplay by||Tetsuya Oishi|
|Based on||Death Note|
by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
|Music by||Kenji Kawai|
|Edited by||Yosuke Yafune|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$30 million|
Death Note (デスノート Desu Nōto) is a 2006 live-action Japanese supernatural thriller film based on the Death Note manga (and later anime) series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. It was followed by a sequel, Death Note 2: The Last Name, released in the same year. The films primarily center on a Tokyo college student who attempts to change the world into a utopian society without crime, by committing a world-wide massacre of criminals and people whom he deems morally unworthy of life, through a supernatural notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in the pages, while being hunted down by an elite task-force of law enforcement officers within Tokyo, led by an enigmatic international detective.
Within the Kanto region of Japan, Light Yagami: an intelligent and distinguished yet disaffected Japanese college student stumbles across a mysterious dark-colored notebook, with the words: "Death Note" marked on the cover, while returning home from his classes. The Death Note's instructions claim that if a person's name is written within while picturing that person's face, he or she will die. Light is initially skeptical of the Death Note's authenticity, but after experimenting with it on a convicted criminal, he realizes it is real. After experimenting with it on his second victim: an accquitted felon named Takuo Shibuimaru and meeting with the previous owner of the Death Note, a demonic Shinigami named Ryuk, Light begins to see the potential of the Death Note's god-like abilities and eventually decides to use the notebook to kill those whom he deems to be morally unworthy of life or impede his plans to change the world. He begins using the Death Note to kill numerous known criminals, terrorists and convicted felons around the world, becoming a near-mythical vigilante known as "Kira", which is the Japanese trans-literation of the word: killer and who is both beloved and feared by the world-wide media and public.
As the Kira killings continue, some within both the international and Japanese society come to see Kira as a righteous figure, with many even calling him a "god". Interpol launches an investigation of the murders, but months pass without any fruitful lead. The case eventually attracts the attention of L, a reclusive, highly-skilled and world-renowned criminal profiler/international private detective, who deduces that "Kira" is in Japan. Allying himself with Interpol and the Japanese police force, L manages to confront Light through a television broadcast and demonstrates his deductive skills, correctly surmising Kira's residence in the Kanto region and that he can "kill without lifting a finger", by manipulating Light to kill a decoy of his named "Lind L. Tailor", thus unwittingly giving out his location to the Japanese police force. Enraged, Light vows to find and kill L, either by hook or crook.
After Light hacks into the police database to find information on acquitted criminals, L deduces that Kira is connected to the Kira task-force in Tokyo, led by Light's father: Soichiro Yagami, the head of the National Police Agency. Around the same time, Light finds out that he is being followed by an FBI agent named Raye Iwamatsu, who was assigned by L to shadow over potential "Kira" suspects and, through a series of events, manipulates Iwamatsu's and his fellow agents' deaths. Raye's fiance, Naomi Misora, a former FBI agent, decides to uncover Kira's identity. Considering Light as the prime suspect, she kidnaps his girlfriend Shiori and demands that he confess or Shiori will die. Light adamantly insists that he is not Kira and pleads with her. When Shiori tries to escape, Naomi shoots her and abruptly commits suicide. Shiori dies in Light's arms.
Ryuk finds that Light had actually engineered Naomi's death using the Death Note, as he had already found out her identity and written a scenario whereby Naomi would commit suicide after shooting Shiori. Ryuk is confused that Light would deliberately put Shiori in danger, but Light reveals that he had written her name in the Death Note as well, much to his reluctance. Using these events to seemingly foster hatred for Kira, Light asks to join his father's task force. While Soichiro is slightly reluctant, L immediately grants his wish and it is hinted that he is still certain that Light is Kira.
As a precursor to the second movie, Misa, an actress, is chased down an alley by a man wielding a knife, intent on killing her. As she screams for help, the man dies of a heart attack just like Kira's victims. A second Death Note lands beside her.
In his production notes, director Shūsuke Kaneko explained his desire to convince audiences that, while the killing of bad humans may seem to be fair, it underestimates the corrupting influence of wielding such power (the manga series follows a very similar viewpoint). Kaneko also commented that the psychological fear of dying could be "more nightmarish than Kaiju (monsters) destroying cities and killing people".
Kaneko also stated that he wanted the film to "focus on psychological pain", explain how the deaths occur, and explain how younger people would begin to like Kira. He also removed many of the interior monologues prominent in the manga and anime to allow audiences to develop their own ideas about the characters' thoughts and beliefs, while allowing "dramatic tension".
Kaneko said that the most difficult portion of the manga to film was the scene when the investigation begins and the authorities conclude that a person is responsible for the killing of criminals. He chose to add a scene in which L explains his logic via his laptop in order to make the film "more believable" and "excite people" for the coming struggle between L and Light.
Kaneko indicated mixed feelings while directing the movie. He said that he felt "a little reservation" at how the movie would perform, since the film "uses 'death' to entertain the audience" and feels "morally unsettling". Kaneko theorized that the film may have performed well because of the Internet culture of Japan, saying that the use of the Death Note had similarities to how users attacked one another on message boards and blogs. In addition, Kaneko noted that death is "carefully" concealed, to the point where "people don't even think about it".
The owner of the Death Note copyright required Kaneko to not change any of the rules of the Death Note, and as the film was developed, new rules of the Death Note were added in the original manga. Kaneko described adhering to this condition as the most difficult aspect of making the film.
Kaneko chartered an underground line to film a particular scene in the first film; this was the first time in Japanese film history that an underground line was used. Kaneko used about 500 extras throughout the first film.
Death Note (死亡筆記) was released in Hong Kong on August 10, 2006, in Taiwan on September 8, 2006, in Singapore on October 19, 2006, and in Malaysia on November 9, 2006, with English and Chinese subtitles. The world premiere was in the UA Langham Place cinema in Hong Kong on October 28, 2006, the first Japanese movie to premiere in Hong Kong. The film was released in the UK on April 25, 2008.
North American release
The first movie briefly played in certain North American theaters on May 20–21, 2008. The theatrical version featured actors from the English dub of the anime voicing over their respective characters with a few notable recasts, including Ted Cole as Lind L. Tailor's voice (dubbed in the anime by John Murphy), Ron Halder as Watari's voice (dubbed in the anime by French Tickner), Nicole Oliver as Naomi Misora's voice (dubbed in the anime by Tabitha St. Germain), and Michael Dobson as Rem's voice (dubbed in the anime by Colleen Wheeler). The film was broadcast in Canadian theaters for one night only on September 15, 2008. The DVD was released on September 16, 2008, one day after the Canadian showing.
Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name, and L: Change the World were all licensed for UK release by 4Digital Asia, a sublabel of 4Digital Media, formerly Ilc Entertainment. The first title was the inaugural release in this new sublabel, launched in 2008 to fill the gap in the UK for "Asia Extreme" titles created by the demise of Tartan. All have received limited theatrical screenings at arthouse venues around the UK, such as the ICA Cinema in central London. All three have received DVD releases in limited editions, featuring two discs in hardback-book-like packaging, mimicking the item of the title. Regular single-disc editions are replacing the limited ones for long-term release. A dedicated website focused on the franchise was also created for public use. Both films were also broadcast on Film4.
At the box office, the film grossed $30 million worldwide as of May 2008, including $23 million in Japan, over $3.7 million in South Korea, and US$1.9 million in Hong Kong. On home video, the DVD releases of Death Note and Death Note 2: The Last Name sold over 1.027 million units in Japan as of March 2007.
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