We’ve heard some news about Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of Death Note recently, and figured it’s time we took a look at the American version of this fan-favorite manga series.
For those of you unfamiliar with Death Note, it was written by Tsugumi Ohba with art by Takeshi Obata and first released in 2003 by Weekly Shōnen Jump, totaling 108 chapters. The first English version was released by Viz Media in 2005 and added to the series’ rising popularity. Since then, the series has produced a successful anime that you can currently see on Netflix, light novels, video games, and a series of live-action films that released in Japan.
Death Note tells the story of teen Light Yagami, who happens to find a strange book called the Death Note, lost by a Shinigami named Ryuk. A Shinigami is a Japanese Death God, a race of beings who extend their own lives by killing humans – acting as Grim Reapers in a sense. This Death Note enables the owner to kill somebody simply by writing their name inside the book (the owner can even control the time and way the person dies, within reason), a power that soon corrupts young Light – known publically as Kira – as he tries to serve as the world’s judge, jury, and executioner by killing off those he perceives as criminals. This brings a number of interesting people into his life, including a young super detective known as L, who embarks on a mission to find Kira and stop the killings.
The US adaptation has been in the works for a while, originally from Warner Bros. – whose Japan studio released the first three live-action films – though after Warner Bros. released it off their schedule, Netflix picked up the adaptation. From pretty early on Adam Wingard had been set to direct, but news came fleetingly over the last year or so. Wingard, who has some recent acclaim due to his work on horrors like You’re Next and The Guest, recently announced that the Netflix adaptation is entering the final stages in the editing process, which means we should be seeing the film debut sometime in 2018.
“Coming up is Death Note, which I’m just now finishing the editing on,” he said, in a recent interview with PopCultureNow.
“For me, I need a little breather time because the last few films I’ve done have been all stacked up on top of each other. I went from The Guest to that TV pilot for Outcast and then went right into the Blair Witch with complete overlap. I did a writers room on this other project and then went straight into Death Note.”
He also spoke with Collider about the move to Netflix and the kind of doors it opened, which is good news for fans of Death Note‘s violence and mature themes. He elaborates on some of the talent he brought in behind the camera to help tell the tale:
“We can do whatever we want. That was the cool thing about it, because it’s an anime film. So, technically, it’s a cartoon that you’re bring to life. To me, the thing about anime is that it’s so adult-oriented. I remember going to Suncoast growing up and you see Akira there with the little “Not for Kids” sticker on it. That always made an impact on me. So, doing my first live-action anime thing, to me it was important that you have those adult themes. So, it’s got nudity, it’s got swearing, it’s got a ton of violence. Jason Eisener, who did Hobo with a Shotgun. I brought him on – I’m good friends with him – as second-unit director. There’s basically like three good Jason Eisner short films in there and they’re all very gory. I was able to just turn him loose sometimes, and just do some crazy stuff.”
In the US adaptation, the characters names are changed slightly, as is a lot of the original content to fit in with a non-Japan based story, but hopefully, the changes won’t detract from the overall film. Warner Bros. had begun to assemble a pretty stellar cast for the adaptation before Netflix filled the rest out, including Masi Oka, who is best known as Hiro from NBC’s Heroes. Oka will be playing an unknown role in the film, as well as serving as producer.
Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) was one of the first names announced for the project behind Adam Wingard, and will portray Light Turner, the student who finds the Death Note and eventually becomes the killer known as Kira. He runs by his own code of ethics and uses the notebook’s various abilities to mete out his justice while also evading the police who are searching for the man behind the Kira identity.
He will be joined by Willem Dafoe (John Wick, Justice League) who will provide the voice of Ryuk, owner of Light’s Death Note. Ryuk is one of the best characters in the original manga, whose enjoyment at Light’s use of the book and manipulation of the authorities adds some brevity to the otherwise heavy examination of moralistic gray areas. The character also allows us to slowly learn about the Shinigami’s realm and serves as an introduction to more Shinigami and their Death Note’s interacting with other humans like Kira, which brings us to the next character in our story.
Margaret Qually (The Nice Guys, The Leftovers) will star as Mia Sutton, formerly Misa Amane, a supermodel and celebrity who has her own Death Note, courtesy of the Shinigami known as Rem. Mia idolizes Kira and soon starts following in his footsteps, eventually meeting Light and falling in love with him, something Light uses to his advantage to deter authorities from his true identity.
Those authorities are led by the mysterious L, who will be played by Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton, Short Term 12). L serves as the ultimate foil to Light and challenges him at every turn in an intricate game of cat and mouse like no other. His own identity is kept secret due to Kira’s ability to kill with his Death Note, with a few exceptions.
Alongside L is his assistant Watari, who will be played by Paul Nakauchi, best known for his numerous voice-acting appearances in video games and on TV. Watari is one of the few who knows L’s true identity and acts as a direct line of communication between L and the team of Interpol agents and police working together to find out Kira’s true identity.
One of those police officers is Light’s father James Turner, originally known as Soichiro Yagami in the original manga. Shea Whigham (Kong: Skull Island, Boardwalk Empire) will portray Turner, but it remains to be seen how much his character’s role will follow the original source, as even in the Japanese live-action movies it differed greatly.
That rounds out most of the main cast for that adaptation, and with Wingard currently wrapping up the editing process we can hope to see some first images from what we’re hoping is going to be Netflix’s next big hit. Keep it locked to GEEK for more news and first looks from the US adaptation of Death Note, which is slated to hit the streaming service in 2018.
Images: Viz Media, HBO, 20th Century Fox,
Summit Entertainment, Cinedigm, Warner Bros. Pictures