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How different will be Netflix’s Death Note compared to the original?

One thing that is scaring thousand of fans about Netflix’s Death Note is how different will be from the manga and the anime. A fair concern, if you ask me, given how poorly Japanese productions were adapted (Dragon Ball: Evolution). To be fair, Japanese live-action anime/manga adaptations suck most of the time, so I’m not sure where this comes from.

That said, I already wrote a piece about this matter a while back, even though not specifically referred to Adam Wingard’s movie. If you want to read it, here it is.

In case you haven’t notice, a couple of days ago Netflix dropped a full trailer for the movie releasing August 26 worldwide on the streaming service.

Fans, like always do, expressed concern (a nice way to say they talked shit) about the film and how loyal to its source actually is. As I said, there’s no effing way you’re going to do a 1:1 adaptations of the manga (or anime), because you’re going to end up cramming a bunch within two hours, resulting in a horrible movie.

That is actually something learned also from the Japanese adaptations. But even if you go into books, no adaptation loyally follows its source, not even Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings.

Luckily for us, Death Note director Adam Wingard is actually aware of this, as he said to IGN:

It’s one of those things where the harder I tried to stay 100 percent true to the source material, the more it just kind of fell apart… You’re in a different country, you’re in a different kind of environment, and you’re trying to also summarize a sprawling series into a two-hour-long film.

Even though it still a promotional interview, if what he said was true he directly tells me that he knew from the beginning that the original manga/anime could not have worked with a 1:1 transposition. By reading that, people should already be prepared that what we are going to get is an interpretation fo the original material.

Plus, he seems to know what the core of the original is:

Ultimately, the cat and mouse chase between Light and L, the themes of good, evil, and what’s in between the gray area. Those are the core things of Death Note, and that’s really what we went for.

As I said in my old post about Japanese adaptations, the most important thing to understand prior to starting to write is what the core of the source material actually is, and from this point of view, Adam nailed the point.

I generally suggest you read the interview, as it gives some insights on how the movie will play out, so you can get your expectations right.

However, yet not surprising, some fans literally complained why the setting was not kept in Japan if it wasn’t working in Seattle.

Easy answers:

  1. There are already 4 Japanese adaptations of the story: two directly from the manga, and two original stories (including an L spin-off), plus a 3 part mini-series connected to them. People could answer ‘why not using the Tokyo Drift approach narrative wise’, but what’s the point of it?
  2. The Japanese culture is very, very, very different from the western world. Despite Death Note having many fans in western countries, the popularity of the manga/anime can’t be defined as mainstream, and most of those fans probably could not connect the meaning of the manga in Japanese society context. For a company as big as Netflix, that would have been weird.
  3. What’s the point of watching the same thing we already experienced in another form? A newer take will always be more than welcome if well done.
  4. Also, yes, subtitles are not popular in the US, so there you have it.

My suggestion for the fans is just to chill out and wait for it, and just then start talking shit, if there’s any need to.

Netflix’s Death Note is scheduled to release worldwide on the streaming service on August 26th.