The video streaming giant took the rights to a live-action Death Note movie…and made it!
Next week, the long-anticipated, much-discussed Hollywood live-action version of Ghost in the Shell finally makes its debut at theaters in the U.S. But that’s not the only feature-length reimagining of an internationally beloved anime/manga franchise coming this year.
In late summer, video streaming service Netflix will at long last be releasing its originally produced live-action Death Note movie, the latest branch of the multimedia juggernaut that began as a manga in 2003 before becoming an anime, then both live-action film and TV drama series in Japan. While Netflix has dabbled with comic adaptations before (its Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist series all originated as Marvel comics), and also purchased the streaming rights to 2014 anime Knights of Sidonia, its Death Note is the company’s most ambitious Japanese pop culture-based endeavor so far, and it’s just released the movie’s first teaser trailer.
It’s worth noting that the preview announces, in an extremely edgy font, that this is “A Netflix original film, based on the international phenomenon.” There’s no specific mention made anywhere of Death Note’s anime or manga roots, nor of the franchise’s country of origin. The setting has been shifted to Seattle (or at least a city that’s at least copied the Washington State city’s Space Needle), with Light now played by non-Japanese actor Nat Wolff.
Still, the production designers seem to be trying to carry over at least some of the anime’s aesthetics, what with darkly circled eyes and a lingering shot of an apple with black feathers fluttering about a shadowy environment.
▼ Not seen in the teaser: potato chips
The basic premise seems to have stayed the same, too, with Light opening the mysterious Death Note and reading aloud that “The human whose name is written in this note shall die.” If nothing else, Netflix’s decision to present the phrase exactly as it appeared in the anime, clumsy English syntax and all, shows a certain respect for the source material and its pre-existing fans.
The video also gives us our first sample of veteran Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe’s vocal performance as death spirit Ryuk, who asks “Shall we begin?” in a scratchy voice that’s somehow at once both darkly menacing and oddly sociable.
Since it’s only about a minute long, the teaser doesn’t give enough information to say how closely the events of the Netflix film are going to mirror those of the original manga (if they do divert widely, it wouldn’t be the first time for a live-action adaptation of the series). Death Note is set to start streaming on Netflix on August 25, and should it be a hit, maybe one day we’ll get to hear Dafoe singing “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.”
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’d be happy to watch an entire spin-off series starring Knights of Sidonia’s lunch-lady bear.