Death Note: Light Up the NEW World

Death Note: Light Up The NEW World premiered in our local theaters a few weeks ago. One boring Friday, I decided to use my extended lunch break to catch the noon time screening of this live-action adaptation at a nearby cinema. Everyone else was lining up for Beauty and The Beast so there were literally just four of us watching Death Note. I’m accustomed to watching films alone but it’s my first time in a theater with less than five viewers.

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A direct sequel to the two-part 2006 Death Note live-action movie, Death Note: Light Up the NEW World is set 10 years after the existence of the original Kira. The film stars Masahiro Higashide, Sosuke Ikematsu, and Masaki Suda; and directed by GANTZ’ Shinsuke Sato.

Based on the best-selling manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note is about the genius but taciturn student, Yagami Light, who eventually turns into Kira when he gains power to anonymously purge the sinners of society. However, his twisted sense of justice results to violent madness beyond the control of ordinary police force. To solve the mysterious mass killings, the government seeks help from an internationally known and eccentric detective named L. That’s how the exciting battle of wits and the mysterious cat-and-mouse story begins.

A decade after their confrontation and demise, the world once again falls into chaos as Shinigamis drop the maximum level of usable Death Notes in the human world. Other than having six Death Notes and more Shinigamis, Light Up the NEW World is basically just a repeat of the original. The lead in the shoujo live-action adaptation of Ao Haru Ride, Masahiro Higashide, plays the high-strung investigator whose passion for all Death Note-related cases earns him the nickname, “Death Note otaku”. As Tsukuru Mishima, he follows in the footsteps of Yagami Light’s father, Souichiro, as the leader of the Death Note task force.

Once again, the authorities request the assistance of a renowned private detective. This time, it’s Ryuzaki. Known for debuting as Tom Cruise’s nephew in the Hollywood movie, The Last Samurai, Sosuke Ikematsu plays L’s rightful successor.

While the other Death Notes are used in trivial matters when they fall into the hands of a careless person, an ardent Kira follower uses it to write the names of unpunished criminals. The lead in the adaptation of shoujo manga Oboreru Knife, Masaki Suda, plays the cyber terrorist named Yuki Shien. He makes it his life’s mission to revive Kira’s idea of justice. In order to do that, he must gather all the six Death Notes scattered in the world.

The three protagonists were introduced in the 2016 prequel, Death Note NEW Generation. It is a must to see this three-part HULU original miniseries to understand the motivation of the new leads as it bridges the 10-year gap between the previous films and this new adaptation.

However, I think it would have been better if Light up the NEW World was released as a two-part sequel instead of a full length movie with a miniseries prequel. It ends up suffering from lack of character development since all the leads’ back stories are presented separately. Not everyone has the chance to see the miniseries. I bet some people aren’t even aware that this prequel exists.

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Death Note Light Up the NEW World is certainly not on par with the 2006 movies but at least a tad better than the L spin-offs. In terms of style and special effects, this movie is superior among the Japanese adaptations but it totally lacks the gripping intellectual one-upping of the original. Without the otherworldly shinigamis, the story is just something out of a typical police procedural.

The movie banks on nostalgia since it takes a certain level of attachment to the original characters to feel the excitement in seeing Light and L appear for a cameo; and to feel the poignancy in the supporting characters’ story arcs, such as Touta Matsuda’s and Amane Misa’s. It also takes a bit of affection for the lead actors. It’s rare to have Japanese films released in our local cinemas, so regardless of its plot holes, just the fact that I get to see Masaki Suda on the big screen is enough to make me happy.

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