Adaptation of hit anime looks to be keeping its dark side.
Following the middling success of Hollywood’s version of Ghost in the Shell, North American media companies are once again stepping into the adapted-from-anime batter’s box as Netflix takes a swing at a live-action Death Note movie. Netflix showed off a short teaser for the project back in the spring, but now it’s released a full trailer that gives us a better look at the cast and tone of its reworking of the anime/manga phenomenon.
Whereas the teaser had only two lines of dialogue that simply laid out the central concept of “teen can kill people using magical notebook,” the expanded preview gives us a better feel of the character’s personalities and motivations. We see protagonist Light and gal pal Mia (a stand-in for the original’s Misa) being assaulted by a pack of muggers before he obtains the Death Note, a convenient means by which he can achieve his goal to eliminate the evils perpetrated by “all the people who make life miserable, make life dangerous.”
The video also gives us a better look at L, the detective who’s the other half of Death Game’s cat-and-mouse game. While he may not have the heavily bagged eyes of his anime inspiration, Netflix’s L still has an eccentric look to him, giving press conferences in a hoodie with the bottom half of his face obscured by a mask.
The live-action L also shares the original’s penchant for unusual seating postures, as seen during a tense conversation with his adversary in which he tells Light “You are the one who flew into the sun. I’m just here to make sure you burn.”
▼ Which is either a misunderstanding of the Icarus myth or a gross underestimation of the sun’s ability to burn things perfectly fine without anyone’s help.
But while Light and L feature prominently, Netflix is being much cagier about death god Ryuk. While the video has plenty of voice actor Willem Dafoe’s gravely hamminess, the character is shown obscured in shadow or with his back to the camera.
The only time we see Ryuk’s face, in any form, is in a book of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print-style artwork, shown as Light comes to the spoken-aloud conclusion “You’re…a death god?”
On the one hand, this seems likely to contribute to the misconception that death gods, or “shinigami,” as they ‘re often called in anime, are a traditional part of Japanese mythology. On the other hand, Ryuk appearing in an illustrated book from Japan is a pretty cool salute to the franchise’s manga origins (another nod to Death Note’s homeland comes in the form of a referenced “Tokyo cartel massacre” L investigates).
With Death Note’s release less than two months away, it seems like Netflix is going to be holding on to what its version of Ryuk looks like in the light until the film begins streaming on August 25.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he thought that “Lisa” was the go-to renaming for Japanese characters named “Misa.”