Western Death Note a Waste of Time

They define insanity as repeating a task and expecting a different result. Case in point, another live-action Death Note looms on the horizon, like a vulture over a dead horse.

For those of you living under a rock, Death Note was a 2006 series about a young high school genius, Light Yagami, who finds a notebook that allows him to kill with a stroke of a pen. Light decides to use this power to eliminate the people he deems bad and create the perfect society, catching the eye of a notorious but reclusive private detective, only known as L. L decides to hunt down Light if it’s the last thing he does and Light likewise goes on the hunt for the detective who dares defy him.

Death Note was a huge success, both in anime and manga format. So popular in fact that they garnered three live action movies and even a stage musical. There’s a fourth movie scheduled for release next year, but what everyone is buzzing about is a live-action tv series that’s coming out on Netflix, which retells the story from a western perspective. Now let’s not mince words; this is whitewashing, but is it something that at least has a chance of survival?

No. Not at all.


This is the pretty boy face of failure
  • Just How Lost In Translation Are We?

First of all, this otaku is beyond dubious about taking a Japanese story and changing it around to take place in the western world. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese culture, but I know enough to understand that it’s very different from the states. Awful translations usually attempt to compensate for this by changing things around in story (a la rice balls to jelly donuts) and the results are a trainwreck waiting to happen.

Case in point: One Piece, the common example of western dub gone horribly offensive. Besides just trying to dumb down a shonen show for small children, the show also removed any references to Saki, most of Zoro’s Japanese sword moves, any Japanese sounding nicknames, and vice-versa. What was left was a shell of a show that used to be fun, that looked amazing, but felt like a half together parody.


Because balls of rice are just too hard for kids to understand

Now, to be fair, Death Note’s cultural references to Japan are pretty low, mostly limited to Ryuk, the Shinigami (Death God in Japanese Shinto). One could also easily point out how Death Note is steeped in Christian and biblical symbolism. But this story still takes place in modern day Japan, or what was modern in 2006, and I shudder to think how they’re going to change all of that for the sake of a western audience.

  • I Don’t Trust the Captain of This Ship.

So we need some talent to get this off the ground, right? After all, I’ve always said you can accomplish just about anything with some good writing and clever characters. We start off on a great foot with Netflix, a media giant that’s given consumers high-quality original shows, including Stranger Things and Hemlock Grove. But that comfort stops when you start looking at who else is at the helm.

Our leading technical man is the big problem. Director Adam Wingard seems like he’d be a good pick, having made the successful horror/thriller movie The Guest, but he’s also responsible for V/H/S, The ABC’s of Death and You’re Next.  It seems that Mr. Wingard has some experience in what makes good thrillers, but good horror seems to slip through his fingers.


Your attempts at fear amuse the Shinigami. But not by much.
  • But You Know What’s Really Pointless?

There’s a fourth Japanese movie coming out the same year.

Death Note: Light Up The New World is scheduled for release next year as well, around the same time as the show. It’s an all Japanese cast, live action, and set years ahead of the original story. It’s got a fresh story, new characters, and even some returning faces from the original movies.West Note, as I will call it, has to compete with an alternative when it comes out, an alternative that I see crushing it if the web is to be believed.

So, besides being controversial, what does West Note have to offer? It gives us decent actors, a concept people are pissed as hell about, and a director who’s been stuck in b-horror hell. It’s a reckless, stupid idea that reeks of desperation and I’m not gonna stick around and watch this dead horse get beaten within an inch of its life.


What are your thoughts on the new series? Make sure to (civilly) leave a comment and discuss below. If you want more content, don’t forget to like and follow.

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