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 thought of just watching 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 be on par with a great detective like L? I was initially dismayed by these major changes too as 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.
Unlike the cynical and overconfident genius in the original, this series’ version of Yagami Light is a decent, ordinary guy who cowers in shock and panics at the thought of getting caught. However, the moment his inner genius is challenged, he puts on his “Kira” face and totally transforms into the real Yagami Light character brought to life.
Masataka Kubota received a Best Actor award at the 86th TV Drama Academy Award for this role, proving that he convincingly gave a fresh and powerful portrayal of Light’s transformation while 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. Yamazaki Kento looks Song Joong Ki-ish and totally rockin’ his guyliner. I miss L’s original quirks but this version has his own odd ways, too. He has a certain obsession for all things clean and white. He drinks some energy juice packs instead of eating sweets.
More than just the change in posture and the fact that he’s wearing shoes, I was a bit bothered by the overall difference in L’s personality in the series. He is seemingly arrogant and bold when he directly contacted his suspects without even using a voice scrambler to hide his identity. He’s more socially open, quite manipulative and he enjoys tormenting Light. Eventually, around the second half of the series, L is revealed to be more sympathetic and indeed a genius.
Overshadowed by Kubota, Yamazaki still performed well although his L is not as epic as that of Matsuyama’s. The latter’s performance was just golden and no one else can ever replicate that.
Amane Misa is cute in the manga and anime but tends to get a bit annoying when played in live-action. Her personality is the same with the manga except the dynamics between her relationship with Light. Her feelings were not reciprocated in the original but in this version, Light is a fan who attends her concert so it isn’t that difficult for him to establish a relationship with her. He actually somehow cares for her. 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. That didn’t happen though, since Misa Misa proved to be useful and extremely loyal to Light til the end.
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.
I like the CG works on Ryuk and Rem; and Goki Maeda who plays Touta Matsuda looks like he just stepped right out of the manga.
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 movies, 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 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. More than just Yagami Light and L’s constant one-upping each other’s wits, the story pulls me in emotionally as we get to see just how awesome these two could’ve been together 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.