2009 Movie. Director: Tetsuro Araki. 90 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $24.92. Distributor: Viz Media.
It’s no surprise that recent anime pop culture has been Death Note’s bitch. Dan Brown wishes he could write a detective yarn as intelligently intricate and pleasurably discombobulating. The story of the impromptu murderer Light Yagami, a.k.a Kira, his supporting Shinigami Ryuk, the death note empowering him to kill by simply writing a name, and his ultimate battle of wits with the genius detective L has consumed the world like Kate and Leo’s Titanic. And even if we didn’t have the edible Misa to accompany this ensemble, Light’s devotee and a Lolita that would have made Nabokov sweat, this story is rather perfect. Who doesn’t love the hunt for a killer, one teeming with anxiety and nearly insolvable riddles?
Straight from the mouth of babes, so to speak, the kids got this one right.
So, should one mess with perfection? It’s a thorny question. And Death Note Relight: L’s Successors attempts to provide an answer.
Now, I’ve only watched part two, but I dare say part one can be included in this brief comment. Simply put, the Relight sequence at first summarizes the entire story. We cursorily see Ryuk drop his death note, and then Light madly establishing a new world order by killing criminals at will. Part two particularly excerpts and retells the end of the Death Note saga by revealing the unseen dynamic between Near and Mello (L's successors) and their collision with the renegade Kira. Was this necessary? Does it really give us something new, something to alter and compliment our Death Note experience? Sadly, no.
Don’t get me wrong. I get and often respect a director’s cut. And anime series’, let alone popular TV shows, often produce an episode that revisits its entire plotline while tossing in a few deleted scenes. Indeed, this is how Relight is being marketed; new dialogue, new soundtrack, never-before-seen segments. But, frankly, everything presented as new doesn’t reveal a new “reading” of the Death Note story. I mean, let’s face it, there is a reason why scenes land on the editing room floor. Here, the extra footage surrounding Near and Mello is just that; extra and not essential. It’s basically like re-playing the final episodes while someone periodically changes the camera angle. The story is still the same. And that’s the rub! It’s also why I don’t feel compelled to recount any details of the plot structure. You already know it.
I love Death Note. Can’t harshly criticize it for complacency or lack of ingenuity. But this replay seems designed to squeeze an extra few dollars out of a now finished series.
So, sorry fan boys and fan girls, Relight is more likely to disappoint. And for you latecomers, you need to start from the beginning, and then you can be unmoved.