Death Note Comes To Netflix – Five Things to Know About The Terrifying Manga Classic

With Warner Brothers having a fire sale in the wake of a certain tentpole feature film’s poor reception, Netflix is set to scoop up one of the studio’s languishing titles: a live-action adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s classic supernatural suspense manga Death Note. Already a long-running franchise in Japan, Death Note has already been adapted into a sleek anime series as well as a series of Japanese feature films. What makes this American remake buzzworthy is the presence of horror maestro Adam Wingard at the helm, and rising star Nat Wolff in the lead role. Wingard, who made a name for himself with his involvement in the controversial found-footage anthology series V/H/S and with the home invasion thriller You’re Next, seems like a natural to realize this deeply psychological tale of supernatural murder. Combined with Netflix’s proven track record of quality original content, it seems like anything is possible.

What sets Death Note apart from your average manga is the chilling moral dilemma with which it confronts the audience: what would you do if you had the power to kill anyone you wanted and knew that you couldn’t be caught? This power is given to Light Yagami, a young student seething at the violence and corruption in the world that no one seems to have the power to stop. When the monstrous Ryuk – a literal “god of death” – hands him a book that gives him just such a power, Light swiftly falls from idealistic crusader to tyrannical, authoritarian killer. The only limit to his ability to slay is he must first know the victim’s real name. When a criminal profiler whose name is not known to anyone sets himself up in opposition to the mysterious killer, that’s when the real plot begins.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on in Death Note. The numerous betrayals, double-crosses, secret identities, time skips, and amnesia gambits that make up the story are impossible to explain in detail here – and raise eager questions about how Wingard can possibly adapt a work of such scope into a single two-hour movie. As speculation about this tantalizing production mounts, count yourself in the know with some of the more interesting facts from the dark corners of the Death Note universe.



1) Literally Any Character Can Die At Any Time.

Let’s reiterate what is at stake in this story: the villain/protagonist only needs to know your name and your face. He writes your name in a book, and then you die. And “Kira,” as Light’s sadistic alter ego comes to be known, does not make idle threats. If you are accustomed to Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones-sized body counts among your stories’ heroes, then Death Note just might be the franchise for you. It’s a story teaming with exciting and mysterious characters, absolutely none of whom you should get emotionally attached to.



2) Even Omnipotent Murderers Have a Lot of Rules To Follow.

Unlike the investigators hunting Kira, the audience knows exactly who he is from square one. The mystery of the story comes not from discovering who the enemy is as much as from discovering what he can do. Kira is an ordinary human endowed with a toy belonging to an irresponsible and indifferent god, and he is just as in the dark about the extent of its powers as anyone. Fortunately, the Death Note comes with a handy set of instructions about how it can be used to construct and shape a person’s final moments. Much of the series’ horror comes from watching Kira discover, test, and ultimately push the limits of these deadly conditions, effectively turning his victims into elaborate suicide weapons to be used against his pursuers.



3) For The Shinigami – The Amoral Gods of Death Note – A Western Remake Will Be A Sort Of Homecoming.

Death Note deals with Shinigami: invisible godlike spirits who know when each human being is fated to die. Shinigami are actual beings from Japanese folklore and the characters of Death Note seem to either take their existence for granted or come to terms with it very quickly. For a newcomer to Japanese mythology, the easiest way to think of Shinigami might be as a more approachable version of the Grim Reaper. But in a shocking twist, that might be exactly what they are! It is believed that the appearance and role of Shinigami was liberally influenced by the image and idea of the Grim Reaper that Christian Westerners brought with them to Japan. When viewed through this lens, the monsters of Death Note become truly disturbing: an ideal of the end of life that has subtly spread across the entire world before anyone knew it.



4) Death Note Is Fiction.

Seems painfully obvious, right? Unfortunately, the idea of being able to obliterate one’s enemies with the stroke of a pen appeals to a minuscule number of troubled people, and there have been several cases of individuals using mock “Death Notes” to vent their frustrations in writing. These have mostly been the writings of troubled and bullied children and teenagers, and were taken seriously when discovered. One tragic case, however, involved a Belgian man’s death, with his murderers leaving the words “I am Kira” scrawled on a note at the crime scene. This appears to have been a spontaneous flourish left by the killers after the fact, however, and their interest in the series did not inspire the actual crime itself.



5) Death Note Has Already Spawned A Series Of Memes… And They’re Actually Pretty Funny.

Death Note can be very tense at times, but it also features some moments so at odds with the series’s regular tone that they are just downright weird. For instance, there’s this whole weird thing involving a potato chip. And Light smugly informs us that things are going according to his plan so often that the subtitles themselves become confused and forget that the Japanese word for “plan” translates into English as “plan.” And if you don’t mind some major spoilers, there’s a climactic moment from the anime’s final episode which can also be used as a swimming lesson.

Keep in mind that these are just things pertaining to and surrounding the original Japanese iterations of Death Note. The ultimate faithfulness of the the adaptation that airs on Netflix remains to be seen. But given the impact that Death Note has already made in all its forms worldwide, it is safe to say that its fans will be eagerly watching this latest incarnation… and taking notes.Deathnote


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