"Death Note" was a much better flick than I was expecting. It was a huge hit in Japan, and because I had never read the original manga, I had avoided it thinking I wouldn't get the entire story. My loss, as it turns out. The cat-and-mouse detective game mixed with the fantasy elements of the gods of death and their magical books makes for an interesting story. The two main characters, "L" and Light, are an intense duo, and like the best of this genre of film it is hard to decide who to root for. Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara, "Battle Royale"), known by the general public as the hero/murderer "Killer", is the holder of the Death Note, and has the power to kill anyone on Earth just by writing their name. A hardcore and brilliant student of criminal justice, he uses his power to erase the vermin of the world, serial killers, child rapists and gangsters. For the most part, his actions are praised, but he is still a murderer in the eyes of the law, and needs to be brought down. On his side is the Ryuuk, a Japanese god of death who gave Light the Death Note in order to keep himself entertained. Hunting him down in "L" (Ken'ichi Matsuyama, "Linda,Linda, Linda"), a young, oddball genius with a penchant for sweets who keeps his name hidden in order to protect himself from the powers of the Death Note. L hunts Light, and Light hunts L, and it is never clear who is the person a step ahead, and who is the fly falling into the web. Director Shusuke Kaneko, who cut his teeth on Godzilla, Gamera and Ultraman flicks, managed to keep the story close enough to the manga to please the fans while making it complete enough that newcomers don't feel that they are only getting a part of the picture.
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