Death Note Movie Collection (2006)
By: David Michael Brown on April 21, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 121/135 minutes
The Movie
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Kenichi Matsuyuma, Takesho Kaga
Screenplay: Tetsuya Oishi
Country: Japan
"Bang a gong, it is on!" "Who's cuisine will reign supreme?" there you go, I've got it out of my system, as a huge fan of the world's finest cooking show Iron Chef it was with enormous delight that I noticed the sticker that Madman had adhered to the sleeve of their excellent two disc set of Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name announcing that the films starred the man who made Iron Chef such a joyous experience, Chairman Kaga himself. Used to seeing him chomping on Capsicum's with his bouffant hairdo, devilish grin and a wardrobe that would make Elton John baulk, it's of great surprise that in Death Note, Takeshi Kaga plays a sombre stately father figure and police chief dedicated to doing good for his family and his fellow man. Not a single florescent cape with a massive collar in sight! Saying that his performance does lend a much needed sense of authority to the film as the two main protagonists are pretty boy pin ups Tatsuya Fujiwara and Kenichi Matsuyuma.

Death Note is based on an anime, also released on DVD by Madman, and tells the story of Light Yagami, son of police chief Souichiro Yagami. A brilliant student with his eyes on becoming a lawyer and defending the law, he is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the way that criminals are treated by the authorities. He stumbles across a note book with sinister powers, Death Note. Luckily this tome comes with a set of instructions, if the owner writes down the name of someone into the book with the image of their face in mind, then that person will die. After testing the books powers on a criminal he realises that he has found an instant method of cleaning the streets of downtown Tokyo. Soon down beats, criminals, murderers and rapists are collapsing from heart attacks all over the city and the press are going wild and they have given this unseen vigilante a nickname, Kira. As the power begins to go to Light's head the police bring in Japan's finest detective 'L', to solve the crime. The confectionary obsessed sleuth and Kira begin a game of cat and mouse as the two great minds fight for survival.

In one nice touch when the new owner of the book begins to use it they begin to see the God of Death, who in reality actually owns the book, and must aid the new owner in their new quest for fatalities. These Gods of Death are a fusion of real performers and CGI that doesn't quite work. The designs are excellent but the God's don't jell with their surroundings and the characters they are interacting with, reminiscent of Madman's other modern day Japanese demon release Devilman. The apple chomping Ryucki looks amazing though, his toothy smile and spiky hair are lift straight from the printed page.

Performance wise the young cast looks good and fill the roles. Fukiwara, a veteran of both Battle Royale films looks at ease with the preposterous nature of the plot and Matsuyama overplays 'L' mugging whenever he can beneath his perfect emo fringe and heavily made up eyes. This is unashamedly a horror film aimed at teens and judging by the crowds screaming at the premiere footage shown in the extras, they love it.
Picture quality is excellent on both films. The image is sharp, colourful and handles contrast well.
The subtle 5.1 sound mix is really effective and the sound is clear and easy to listen to making for an enjoyable if not ear shattering experience.
Extra Features
Madman have put together an excellent set. For a start you get both films in a slip case but they have also added a 26 page full colour booklet with cast and crew details, interviews, facts and a full set of Death Note rules in case you decide to try the book out yourself.

On screen each film is given a making of documentary and footage from the films premieres. It's interesting that despite the hysteria shown when the first film was released nothing could prepare the actors for the chaos that surrounded the sequels first screening. A huge 5,000 capacity cinema housed the screaming hoards and every moment is captured in the extras during press conferences and behind the scenes footage. Trailers, stills and bio's make up the set.
The Verdict
While the Death Note films are aimed squarely at that the youth market there is plenty to enjoy for the more mature horror fan who is happy to look past the poster boy good looks of the leads and search for the bigger picture hidden beneath. The twisting plot will keep you guessing, the askew performances will make you laugh and the Gods of Death add a suitably ghastly mood. Its preposterous, convoluted and pompous as much of the Japanese horror genre can be and none the worse for it.
Movie Score
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