I’ve been reluctant to watch this version thinking that with all these live action adaptations being produced left and right, this is just a profit generator out of Death Note’s success and popularity. When I finally decided to check out just one episode, guess what, I couldn’t stop.
Good thing I avoided prejudging the cast based on their promotional pictures and teasers. I tried not to comment about the changes without having seen the series completely. Many people have been quick to complain about Light not being a genius, L not eating sweets and Near merged with a Chucky-looking Mello and is being played by an actress. But who am I to blame them? How can a non-genius Yagami Light go head-to-head against a great detective like L? I was initially dismayed by these major changes too since they might affect the already distinct personalities of the characters as well as the flow of the story but somehow, Death Note 2015 was able to pull it off. I personally enjoyed the series more than I expected.
Masataka Kubota received the Best Actor award at the 86th Television Drama Academy for giving us a fresh and powerful portrayal of Yagami Light’s transformation. I got goosebumps several times since his glares and smug expressions will make you feel like the anime/manga Yagami Light has totally come to life.
Unlike the cynical and overconfident genius in the original, this series’ version is an ordinary guy who cowers in shock and panics at the thought of getting caught. He is a highly empathic and idealistic student. However, the moment he meets L and his inner genius gets challenged, he puts on his “Kira” face and becomes a cunning serial killer with God complex who’s upholding his twisted sense of justice.
Yamazaki Kento tries to hold his own amidst the pressure of taking the role of the coolest, most loved manga/anime character, who has been previously played so perfectly by versatile actor Matsuyama Kenichi. He looks a bit like a young Song Joong Ki while rockin’ his guyliner. Total heartthrob de rigueur .
His L has different quirks compared to the original. He wears shoes and he doesn’t crouch. He’s obsessed with all things white and prefers energy juice packs over sweets. The series emphasized more of L’s “antagonistic” characteristics. He has a dry sense of humor, he’s a bit condescending, and he even enjoys tormenting Light. But just like Kira, L is also bold, manipulative, and has a strong sense of pride.
Yamazaki Kento is the cutest detective I’ve ever seen but his acting is less stellar than Kenichi Matsuyama of the 2006 Death Note live-action film.
Model and gravure idol Hinako Sano plays Amane Misa. She has a cheerful personality that masks the trauma of witnessing her parents’ deaths. After Kira punished the murderer, she develops her gratefulness and total admiration for Light. She often declares her love but in the original, Light never reciprocates the feeling. In this adaptation, there’s a change in dynamics since Light is a regular concertgoer and is shown to have genuine concern for Misa. Even so, Light still thinks that she could be a liability and he threatens her that he would write her name on the Death Note when the situation calls for it.
Near, as L foretold, would be the one to put the final piece of the puzzle. Teen actress, Mio Yuki, plays a 2-in-1 character. It is a bit strange that an actress is playing a male character and it’s even weirder to watch her going full-Mello. In this series, the violent Mello is not just a puppet but an actual personality who lives inside Near.
There’s impressive CG works on Shinigamis Ryuk and Ren while the cast also includes some really strong supporting actors. The ones who made an impression are Yutaka Matsushige as Soichiro Yagami, Shugo Oshinari as Teru Mukami, and Goki Maeda as Touta Matsuda.
There may have been some excessively dramatic moments in the show but I like that Yagami Light was made into a more relatable character. His transformation from average to megalomaniac deeply shows just how the possession of this kind of power can affect a person. The Lord of the Rings kind of thing.
In Death Note’s 2006 live-action movie, there was a clear distinction between who’s good and who’s evil. I was rooting for L the entire time but this drama version totally fleshed out Light’s character and Kubota’s performance made me sympathize with his inner struggle at times. His scenes with his earnest father were simply heart-tugging.
The writers’ gamble to make these major changes paid off. This is the kind of drama that will make both long term fans want to check it out and the uninitiated to be curious about the original. This piques interest and stirs debate. People can’t rely on online reviews since it all comes down to one’s preference. I’d recommend binge-watching (with an open mind) since Death Note 2015 is not one without flaws. I just love it for its entirety. It shows its unconventional antagonistic protagonist and the all-grey conflict that makes Death Note such a timeless classic. More than just Yagami Light and L’s constant one-upping each other’s wits, the story pulls us in emotionally as we get to see just how these two could’ve been the best of friends had they met under different circumstances.
Light calls L, Ryuga, even though it was obviously a fake name. He admits that he prefers to call him as Ryuga his friend rather than L the detective. Meanwhile, L tries to hold on to a slim chance that Light is not Kira. I can’t help but tear up when Watari played L’s final video message for Light.