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Film / Death Note (2006)

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Light: The law has its limits.
Shiori: There are limits to everything.

Death Note is a film adaptation based on the manga of the same name, which was written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. It was released on the 17th of June, 2006, and it is the first in Death Note Series. This film is part one of a duology, with its sequel, Death Note: The Last Name being released five months later.

Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) used to be a normal university student, resenting criminals who constantly defied the flawed Japanese justice system. This all changes when a Shinigami, Ryuk (Shidou Nakamura), drops a notebook that Light finds. With the notebook's newfound power of killing anyone whose name and fate are written, he decides to rid the world of all criminals, eventually assuming the identity of 'Kira'. But one single man stands in his way: L (Kenichi Matsuyama), one of the greatest detectives in the world, igniting a showdown between the two greatest minds where no one is safe...

In 2009, Vertigo Entertainment, the production company behind the 2000s era American remake of Asian horror movies such as The Ring and The Grudge, acquired the American remake right of this film, and released it on Netflix in 2017.

Death Note contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Light is given a more sympathetic motive here. In the manga and anime, Light was The Perfectionist who could only deal with the fact that he accidentally killed someone by reasoning that it was okay, since the dude was an asshole, and that it's okay to kill criminal. Here, his Protagonist Journey to Villain involves the law being held on a Broken Pedestal. That being said, he still ends up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope more quickly than his manga/anime counterpart.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: It doesn't save her, but Naomi is smart enough to suspect Light from the start. That's why she never gives her real name to him. Light still manages to kill her.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original manga, Takuo Shibumaru (Light's second victim when he was testing the notebook out) was a lecherous asshole who sexually harassed a woman but never went further than teasing. In the anime, he was trying to rape her, likely so we wouldn't feel bad when he dies. Taken to an even more extreme level here, where he's a sadistic, remorseless serial killer (All Victims being children, mind you), who openly brags about getting away with his crimes without prosecution and definitely deserved to die.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Light is slightly less intelligent in this version than in the original manga, making several notable mistakes. Such as throwing Ryuk an apple in public without checking to see that he was being followed.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: Misa has black hair, while Naomi Misora goes from having black hair to brown hair. Though you can't really blame them for Misa. Almost never will you find a Japanese person with hair lighter than dark brown.
  • Age Lift: In most adaptations, Light first finds the Death Note during his last year of High School. In this version, he is already in college and recently passed the bar exam.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: As Light calmly explains how he got Naomi to kill Shiori, Ryuk throws one at him that actually gets Light to ponder his dark actions This almost causes Light to cry when he responded.
    Ryuk: Light, do you know what? You're far worse than a god of death. Shiori truly loved you. Didn't you love her at all?
    Light: (With watery eyes) I don't know.
  • Batman Gambit: The climax of the film is revealed to be one giant one for Light. After finding out Naomi's true name through a church register, he writes both her name and Shiori's down on the Death Note, setting up the hostage situation at the art gallery that is being observed by the Kira Task Force. While the 'Death Note' can't make someone else directly kill another person, it does try to kill someone in the most natural way possible. Therefore, by writing down that Shiori would die from a warning shot and Naomi would kill herself in a fit of grief and madness, the 'Death Note' ensures that Shiori would die at Naomi's hands (Since in Japan, normal people aren't allowed to carry firearms) and Naomi kills herself over the death of an innocent woman. Since the Task Force was watching the entire showdown, Light can then appeal to their sympathies by asking to help them catch Kira and avenge Shiori, allowing him to get one step closer to killing L.
  • Broken Pedestal: Light views the Japanese justice system itself as such; he begins acting as Kira out of disgust and frustration that the law is constantly abused by those with connections.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Two of them. Firstly, Light saw a Christian cross on Naomi's papers, as he witnessed her cradling her fiance's corpse at the train station. Later, Naomi tells Light that Raye was her fiance, after Light failed to kill her by using a fake name she intentionally provided. This is how Light killed her: he went to a wedding chapel where Naomi and Raye were about to marry, and got her real name there.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The hijacked bus that Light, Shiori and Raye are on, has Misa Amane advertising all over it. Misa also shows up during various parts of the movie, most prominently during an interview after her cooking show, when she mentions that she admires Kira for saving her life. Later on, she ends up receiving another 'Death Note' at the film's end, setting up her involvement in the next film.
  • Comforting Comforter: Soichiro tucks a blanket around L's shoulders when he encounters him sleeping upright on a sofa, despite the fact that L has been bending all his efforts to try to implicate his son for murder. The paternal gesture doubly speaks to Soichiro's character seeing as L had dozed off in front of panel of television monitors he was using to spy on Soichiro's family.
  • Downer Ending: If one views Light as the villain. The ending has Light pulling off a successful plan that kills off Naomi and Shiori due to him writing both their names in the 'Death Note'. And since Light now has an alibi, and a fake motive to stop Kira via Shiori's death, he easily joins the Investigation Team. The worst part is that he doesn't even care about his girlfriend dying, only seeing it a means to an end, showing us that he has embraced being 'Kira'. Misa also ends up receiving another 'Death Note' that falls from the sky, which will complicate things for the authorities. The only consolation is L hinting to Light in their first meeting that he still suspects Light is Kira, but that isn't definitive proof.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Ryuk, who is established as having given the Death Note to Light out of boredom to see what a random human would do, is disturbed when Light reveals that he manipulated Naomi into killing his girlfriend using the Death Note. He asks if Light even loved Shiori.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During Light's and Shiori's visit to the art gallery, the two spot a couple kissing. When Light asks Shiori if she wants to do the same, she refuses, claiming she'd only do it in private, unless if it was their last one. Before passing away from a fatal gunshot in the third act, the last thing Shiori does is kiss Light in that same location, as armed policemen enter the building.
    • When Naomi kidnaps Shiori in the art gallery, they are standing aside a painting: Ekusuhso Kenak's Mask and Death. It depicts the Grim Reaper being stabbed by his own scythe, with the weapon being guided by many masks. This is symbolic of Light eventually losing to L and the Investigation Team in Death Note: The Last Name. As a bonus, look where the scythe is embedded. It's in the chest, alluding to Light's fatal heart attack in that future installment.
  • Freak Out: Ryuk, when Light tells him that he can't give him apples, as there are cameras in his house.
  • I Know You Know I Know: L reveals himself at the end to Light with the same bag of potato chips, revealing that he's not off the hook. Light is secretly shocked at this revelation.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Light watches Lind L. Tailor's TV speech:
    Lind L. Tailor: Kira, you yourself are a hypocritical, vile, and immature criminal.
    Light: Immature?
  • Loophole Abuse: The rules of the Death Not do not allow other people to be directly involved in a person's death, but as long as you're killing both people and not directly naming each other in their deaths, you can create a scenario in which you've directly made one person be killed by someone else.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: To demonstrate Kira's power to Raye in a train, Light kills a criminal sitting next to Raye with a heart attack. He then orders Raye to position the criminal in a way that looks like he's sleeping.
  • Oh, Crap!: During the bus hijacking, Light is checking that the man behind him isn't an accomplice to the hostage-taker. So the latter shows Light his badge, identifying him as an FBI agent. Light reads this in a horrified manner, as his actions as Kira have invited international police to follow him.
  • Once More, with Clarity: After killing Raye and 11 other FBI agents in a train station, the camera cuts to Light's face as he witnesses Naomi crying over her fiance's corpse. One may assume that he's feeling guilty over destroying a romantic relationship. But when that scene is revisited after Naomi's and Shiori's deaths, it's revealed that he was actually looking at a Christian cross on one of Naomi's papers, giving a hint towards the two's planned marriage, and to an extension, the key to finding her real name.
  • Red Herring: Light mentions that one day, Shiori will understand his decision to become Kira. So, when Naomi kidnaps Shiori hostage to expose Light, you would expect some sort of Internal Reveal to Shiori, which could double as a Mythology Gag of how Naomi went out in the source material. Nope, Light planned this whole scenario beforehand, and the two die under his control and never finding out his secret identity.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After being threatened by a criminal in the opening scene, Light throws away a book, "The Compendium of Laws", into a bin, before he notices the 'Death Note'. In other words, he discards his faith in the outside law for a new one that can allow him to take the justice system in his hands.
  • Sequel Hook: Already expected, as it was advertised at the time that there would be a sequel, Death Note: The Last Name, released in the same year. A celebrity, Misa Amane, receives another 'Death Note', while Light meets L for the first time.
  • Silence Is Golden: Sochiro's scream of horror towards watching Shiori being shot by Naomi on surveillance footage is done this way.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Naomi gives it away to Light that she gave him a fake name and that she was Raye’d fiancée. Light uses the last bit of information to look up her name on hers and Raye’s wedding registry.
  • Übermensch: Light is seen reading Nietzsche's 'Beyond Good and Evil' shortly before being approached by Naomi Misora for the first time. In German even!
  • Wham Line: After Light reveals that Shiori's seemingly accidental death, followed by Naomi's suicide was planned by him, Ryuk reminds Light that it's against the rules to kill someone through writing the name of the perpetrator down. Light corrects Ryuk on that.
    "I know. That's why I wrote [Shiori's] name... on the page next to Naomi's."
  • Wham Shot:
    • For most of the first act, Light's father isn't seen or identified. So when he comes home from work, and Light and Sayu greet him at the entrance, he's revealed to be the main police chief that has been tasked with finding Kira.
    • After the art centre standoff that saw Shiori die from Naomi shooting her, and the latter ending up being driven to suicide, Light is seen in a fetal position due to losing Shiori. Ryuk appears right next to him, reminding Light of his loss, but when Light turns to Ryuk, the audience doesn't see a tear-streaked face. Instead, they see a satisfied smile.