Earlier this week on Wednesday, March 22nd, the popular streaming service Netflix released a teaser trailer featuring an upcoming original film, based off the well-known Japanese manga and anime Death Note, set to be available for viewing on August 25th.
When I initially heard the news of Netflix taking on the project I was overjoyed. Death Note has been and remains today, as one of the few anime’s that rightfully occupy the top of my best anime ever made list. The concept and characters were refreshingly original and well played out from the very first episode and naturally attracted a large fan base in both Asia and overseas. A set of Japanese live action films were released in the UK and U.S. back in 2006, following the immense success and popularity of the anime series — adding significant international exposure to the story.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Death Note series I’ll provide a light overview: (chance of slight spoiling, fair warning!) The story is set in Japan and follows an extremely intelligent high-school boy Light Yagami, who often reflected on the purpose of life and his role in society. He was bored and saw himself above his classmates who wasted their hollow lives on short-lived pleasures without amounting to anything in the world. He comes across a magical black notebook with the power to kill anyone, as long as the notebook user has seen their face and written their full name in it’s pages. Light takes the chance to ‘cleanse’ the world of all criminals with the Death Note and further raise himself above the rest of society as a righteous god-like being that will rid the world of all evil.
The cast of the Japanese live action films were all of Asian descent, however the Netflix adaptation is composed of nearly an all-white cast, that has caused quite the stir on social media since it’s announcement. There was similar backlash to the American film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, set to play in theaters on March 31st. Scarlett Johansson acts as the female lead, who has been previously portrayed as Japanese in all prior media production related to the franchise, which is similarly prominent in both Western and Asian audiences when compared to Death Note.
While some viewers have decided to essentially boycott Netflix’s Death Note after seeing the cast list and teaser trailer — I personally think it looks promising and will reintroduce one of the best anime series to perhaps it’s widest audience yet, and by the best method: home streaming. To reflect today’s consumer, who practically views cassette tapes and CD discs as archaic relics of the past.
To me, there would be a bigger concern towards the actor’s professionalism and accurate depiction of the character’s personality and internal qualities rather than basing everything on appearance. I’d recommend looking past the ethnicity of the cast members and judging their performance in the roles they’ve taken over. Because that’s truly what matters in the end, who they are, not what.
For first-timers to Death Note I highly encourage you to check out the teaser below and Netflix movie adaptation when it releases, but also to watch the anime series (conveniently on Netflix now by the way!) to get a perspective on the story’s origin. if you still aren’t sated after that, you should watch the live action Japanese films starring Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami and Ken’ichi Matsuyama as L.