Light Yagami is an ordinary university student. One day, he receives a death note which changes his life. The death note awakens his warped sense of justice and genius. He becomes murderer Kira and punishes criminals.
L is a well known private detective. L appears in front of Light Yagami. L defines Kira as evil and decides to catch Kira. Then N, who has a beautiful appearance but dangerous existence, appears.
Cast & Credits
Upon first discovering how much had been changed from the original manga and anime, I wasn’t expecting much from this adaptation. However, instead, I was pleasantly surprised overall at how much I ended up really enjoying this drama version, and found it an interesting take on the series.
The Actors, Characters, and some of the changes from the original and first adaptations:
Kubota Masataka as ‘Light’
In the original and other adaptations, the character of Light was a highly intelligent yet cold and cynical character, however in this he started off as a normal university student with average intelligence, and a generally nice character.
Whilst this at first didn’t seem right as they’d completely changed his basic character, I thought it actually worked well, as he was more likeable and relatable a character at first, and his transformation into the cold, crazy, power-hungry killer, was much more interesting.
Kubota Masataka’s acting as Light in this drama version was absolutely superb, where he played the transformation from normal college student into the cold psychotic killer very convincingly.
His expressions and reactions, his swapping and changing between trying to act normal and nice to others but then secretly showing his real thoughts and feelings, the changes between being emotionless and cold at certain times, but being filled with emotion during others, and his descent into madness, all was acted wonderfully.
Yamazaki Kento as ‘L’
L in the anime and movie versions was my favourite character of the story, and one of my favourite characters overall out of various different films and tv series. He was such a unique character with various interestingly weird quirks and habits. However in this version they changed so much that I was wondering what had been left of his character when I first began the drama.
In the original manga, anime and movie versions, his character was a sweets obsessed, eccentric genius detective, who sat and stood crouched over as he believed it increased his intelligence, he held things very delicately with a finger and thumb by the corners, and had a rather dark and mysterious and rather disheveled appearance as he was more interested in solving his cases than his outer appearance.
In this version, whilst yes he was a genius detective, and yes he did have a certain weird and eccentric nature about him, and yes he did stand bent over at times, but otherwise:
- His sweets obsession had been replaced with him mostly drinking some kind of energy drink called 'Lucky Charge', most probably done to avoid showing a main character eating loads of unhealthy foods on mainstream television. I don’t know who made that decision, but it did take away one of the main characteristics and eccentricities that were specific to the character of L.
- In this version he didn’t sit in L’s crouched type of way, the majority of the time, and instead tended to put his feet/shoes up on the table or put his legs over the sides of chairs in a carefree manner instead.
- He also didn't hold things correctly, in fact it was Watari who held things more like the original L did.
- Regarding appearance, whilst he did look like L, however he was uncharacteristically too arrogant than the original L, and was obsessed with having clean and neatly ironed shirts, in fact virtually every episode involved some moment where a bit of dirt got on his shirt or it got creased and he just had to take his shirt off, (cue fan service haha), and replace it with another freshly cleaned and ironed shirt by Watari.
Yamazaki Kento who played L in this version, I thought at first was ok, but the smug mannerisms he kept doing just didn’t seem right for the character of L, and he certainly was no comparison to Matsuyama Kenichi’s amazing portrayal of L in the films.
However, I did like the way he portrayed a certain weirdness of L that seemed appropriate to the character, his other general mannerisms seemed appropriate as well, and I thought he improved a lot throughout the drama, where I ended up liking the actor’s interpretation of this alternative version much more as the series went on.
Sano Hinako as ‘Misa’
I think both the character of Misa, and Sano Hinako who played her, portrayed an appropriate representation of her character in this version, as she was similar to the other ones, where she had a mix of a rather naive and somewhat airheaded type personality about her, yet a darker side to the character during the story as well. She was overall perhaps a bit stronger however in this than the other versions.
Yuki Mio as ‘Near’, and Weird Doll Puppet thing as ‘Mello’
Now here was a confusing version, as the original Near was male, yet apart from a female playing Near in this, (which technically doesn’t have to mean the character’s the same gender anyway), but the basic plot for this drama version referred to the character in female terms, so upon first appearance, Near had had a sex change to a girl instead.
However, within a few episodes, I don’t know whether it was a mistake or a decision the subbers made, or (more likely) that due to the amount of people complaining, whether the writers of this adaptation changed their minds about the gender, as the subs kept referring to the character as “him”, so Near’s gender for this drama version, ended up a great mystery.
Apart from that, Near’s outer appearance and childlike nature kept in line with the original manga and the anime, along with the high intelligence as well. However, I thought that the writers of this added a much more interesting storyline to the character, as they introduced a rather dark and crazy side to the character for this tv version. I was also highly impressed with Yuki Mio’s acting as Near in this, and particularly at quite a young age as well. Her changes between the sweet and innocent childlike character, yet sudden outbursts of a dark crazy side to her character, I thought she acted those so well.
In regards to Mello, in the anime, he was my next favourite character after L, and with his emotional and fiery personality, he was a great alternative to the cold character of Near, as they went up against one another to solve the case, in the manga and anime. However in this drama version, his character had been reduced to Near’s creepy doll puppet thing, which Near spoke through when she (or he) got angry. So from towards the beginning, Mello represented a dark side to Near, an alter-ego, which gave a certain extra depth of character and a certain extra quirkiness as well. I won’t say what, but later in the series I was impressed with how they expanded on that storyline, however it was also somewhat disappointing, as it never got chance to develop properly, since it all seemed a bit rushed when they brought that story out.
However, I also thought the Mello doll’s outer appearance was appropriate for the drama, as it’s creepiness and gothic appearance was appropriate to the dark horror-type themes of the series.
The Other Actors and Supporting Characters
The rest of the characters all seemed appropriate to their original selves, and I particularly thought Ryuk was great in this version, as he made for many entertaining and comical moments.
Regarding the actors, whilst some of the extras overreacted a bit, in general the supporting actors all portrayed their roles well and convincingly, and I really liked Hankai Kazuaki's portrayal of Watari, as he added an extra charm and more personality to the character, in fact I thought he was definitely the best version of the character out of the different adaptations.
The cinematography was great in this with a good mix of camera shots to reflect the action that was happening, all whilst completely refraining from any shaky camerawork that many dramas seem to like these days. In this drama, they used what I would refer to as the professional approach to their cinematography, as their utilisation of camerawork was done discreetly as to not distract from the viewing, and instead drew into the events onscreen, e.g. appropriate close-ups when focused on certain characters to bring the audience in, nicely framed/positioned long shots to show the settings and groups of people, and controlled movements of the camera at appropriate times.
The graphics and special effects were done really well, with Ryuk and Rem having a good balanced mix of realistic, like they were really there, yet of something not of this world, and with a slight cartoony anime appearance, which was appropriate. Ryuk and Rem also had a familiarity about them, as they appeared very similar to the films, and were overall an appropriate live action representation of the manga and anime images of these characters.
The opening sequence was wonderfully done as a reflection of the story and genre themes.
With the main piece of the drama soundtrack playing in the background, a voice-over of Light read out the basic rules of the Death Note. Onscreen the camera gently panned across pages of what appeared to be old manuscript paper, where drops of blood formed and turned into words and imagery from the pages. There were other displays of blood-like red text that flashed up onscreen displaying the rules as well in full, and it finished the sequence as though Light had closed the book on completion of reading the rules, as the screen changed to a black textured background where upon the title “Death Note” in red text was displayed.
I thought this opening sequence was all done beautifully and was a great representation of the bloody murderous nature of the Death Note, and the general crime, horror-type and supernatural themes of the series.
As for the settings, all seemed appropriate to the characters and situations, such as Light’s student lad’s bedroom, and Misa’s girly apartment, however one that really stood out was L’s place, where he spent most of his time and where the police joined him to help hunt down Kira.
For this version of L, with his obsession with neatness and cleanliness, the clinical, mostly white decor and furniture at L’s main side of the room, was an appropriate reflection of L in this. There was a line-up of his neatly cleaned and ironed shirts displayed at the side of the room, a cupboard in a corner neatly displaying many duplicates of his favourite drink, the walls were mostly bare brick that had been painted white over, and as representations of his vast knowledge and intelligence, many books were displayed in a corner and an upstairs section, and a large world map mural adorned one of the walls. There were also quite a lot of computer screens at the side of the room, which was similar to the anime and film versions, where L and the police could use the screens for info and for spying.
With mostly black, white and grey decor and furniture where the police sat, at L’s place, it was appropriate to the conventional and by-the-book nature of the police, and non-distracting from their one goal to concentrate on, catching Kira.
Whilst most of the furniture/decor overall was very conventional sleek and modern, there was a very elaborate pillar in the middle of L’s room, plus a random tent at the side, which both reflected that certain eccentricity about the character as well.
Watari’s section, in contrast to the rest of the room, showed quite an opposite display, as his furniture was of an old classic/antique style, such as his chair and desk, which reflected the charming old-fashioned nature of Watari.
Other than L’s place, the dark old-fashioned hallway and staircase where Near was first introduced was a great reflection on both the character of Near in this, as well as the series’ themes, with it’s rather gothic decor and appearance. The lighting in the hall had a cold appearance and a mistiness about it as well, which reflected the mysterious nature of the character upon the first half of the series where very little was shown about them.
I liked the music a lot in this drama adaptation, there were quite a varied mix of tracks in different styles that all were enjoyable and all went perfectly with the events of the drama they were played during.
There was one specific track that reminded me of some of the music from the anime, so this I thought went particularly well as it was recognisable to the Death Note series. I also really liked the 80s style track that played at times, it had a wonderful nostalgia about it, like something that was played in 1980s movies or in 90s computer games. There were also some beautiful, quite otherworldly tracks that reflected the supernatural nature of the drama well, and there were some very moving classical pieces, and one that went perfectly during more thrilling moments.
Rewatch value and Overall:
Definitely will rewatch this again. Despite its many changes, it was a decent adaptation of the story, and was interesting as an alternative version.
There were, however, some disappointments, not just in changes to certain characters, but later in the series, the story ended up all over the place with a series of events happening that were all very rushed and in general didn’t flow as well as the rest of the drama had done.
Regardless of those few things though, overall I thought it was a very enjoyable drama, the characters, even though somewhat changed, were generally likeable, much of the acting was great, I thought Light’s character in particular was a definite improvement and more interesting than the original, and Kubota Masataka’s acting was particularly good, there were some great thrilling moments, the series had a really good soundtrack, and the drama for the most part told the story adaptation well throughout.
The story was basically followed the original storyline judging from what I saw in the comments, and so I guess they did a really good job of condensing a 30+ anime into 11 eps. Solid effort. Basically it followed the storyline of a normal uni student who was living life like it would have been for him, but when he accidentally picked up the 'Death' Notebook, his life took a drastic turn from there. Of course life doesn't always go smoothly, thus someone will appear to try and stop all his acts of 'justice' which is where the 2nd main lead comes in, and they begin their battle of wit to see who ultimately wins and becomes the last one standing. The story was very compact, exciting and nerve wrecking as I was always extremely tensed to know what might happen next. I watched the whole drama in the span of 3 days, even when I wasn't watching it, my mind would unconsciously think about it as well. That could explain how into it I was.
Like everyone has said I think Kubota definitely did a splendid job acting as Yagami Light. Especially as the story progressed and as the character of Light became more and more 'crazy', I could see the change expressed perfectly through the character. During the second half, during his monologues when he was 'Kira' it totally made me believe that he was 'possessed' with that voice and his facial expressions. Thoroughly impressed.
To be honest I started this drama because of L's actor Kento, so during the process of watching this drama I was very emotionally attached to L. I know that they 'changed' this character drastically from the original however I guess I really liked the change of being a 'clean freak' etc. Obviously I loved his acting as L, and even though I knew he was going to die, when it actually happened it still brought tears to my eyes.
Other than the mains I already really enjoyed the side characters such as Watari, Light's dad and the police crew. They all brought extra enjoyment and feelings to the story.
Maybe I was too into the story to notice any good music or soundtracks in general as I don't remember any music. However just judging from the background music during the drama, it fitted the atmosphere and was generally well put. Maybe I need to go back and watch again to find out more.
Overall this was definitely an intense ride of emotions. For someone who usually doesn't watch the thriller, psychological genre I thoroughly enjoyed Death Note and now that I've seen the drama I will definitely go check out the anime and maybe the movie. I reckon the story was well thought out, while it also makes people really notice about what 'power' would do someone on the deep side of things.
This is something that I would definitely rewatch many times, since it's honestly really awesome. I definitely recommend this to those who's watched the anime or movie. Even if they did change things if you watch it with an open mind, it's definitely an awesome drama, plus it's quite short being 11 eps.
Of course I also recommend it to people who like thriller, mystery and the psychological genre in general. This will definitely blow your mind.