Posts Tagged ‘Death Note’

Recently, someone familiar with my writing compared some aspects of my story with anime. This, for me, was a huge compliment, because I am a hee-yuge fan of anime and manga. I’ve read and watched more series than I can count, and I consider some of the stories I’ve read over the years as having a very beneficial influence on my writing style, allowing for better storytelling and characterization. And I believe wholeheartedly that anime and manga can up the game of other fiction writers out there, even experienced ones with plenty of novels or short stories under their belts.

“But wait,” I hear my readers saying, “how can silly Japanese cartoons up my writing game?” Well, my dear Followers of Fear, just like Harry Potter is more than just children’s fantasy stories, and just like I’m more than a dude who enjoys scaring people silly (I actually have a growing doll/figurine collection and enjoy the ballet and the theater), don’t let first impressions about the media get in the way of looking a bit deeper. Anime and manga have so much more to them than meets the eye:

1. It’s an art form. We see literature as important creative works that are a reflection of and an influence on society. So is painting and illustration. But for some reason, the combination of the two mediums are never treated as highly, even when they lead to huge box office and critical success with movie adaptations. And in my opinion, that’s just wrong. Creating decent literature or decent art is extremely difficult, no matter the genre or what is being portrayed. Imagine what must go into doing both well at the same time! If one is good but the other is bad, the series, comic book or animation, will suffer, so these artists are basically combining the two art forms in order to create something appealing to audiences. That is worthy of respect (especially when you consider that manga and anime don’t always get to rely on characters that have lasted 80+ years and have established fanbases).

That being said…

2. There are a multitude of stories to choose from. Despite often going into very deep subject matter, comic books and animation have this reputation for being more family or child-oriented than adult-oriented. And although comic books have been recognized for their serious and mature themes and content, for the most part it’s hard to find animation that, even when aimed at adults, isn’t comedy or relies a lot on comedy. I can only think of one or two off the top of my head.

Anime and manga, on the other hand, span a wide multitude of genres and age ranges. Yes, some are comedic or have lots of comedy elements, but there are plenty of stories that are extremely serious or even plain portrayals of normal lives. Death Note (not the crappy American version) goes deeply into questions of whether the ends justify the means, especially in terms of curing societal ills, all while presented as a psychological cat-and-mouse thriller. Great Detective Conan (or Case Closed, as it’s known in the US), has nearly a thousand chapters/episodes focusing on a kid solving murders a la Sherlock Holmes observation and deduction. With the Light tells the story of a family raising a child with autism. Tell me if any of that sounds like silly cartoons for children.

And that’s just the tip of a very big iceberg. There are all sorts of stories out there, romantic to comedic to scary to inspirational to musical to educational to even some where you wonder who was mad or indecent enough to make them (I’m looking at Makura no Danshi for the former and Kodomo no Jikan for the latter. Google at your own risk). If you can think of it, there’s a chance there’s an anime or manga based around it.

So if you’re looking for inspiration for a new story, try the Japanese. Chances are, there’s a story that could inspire your next work.

3. Characterization. In Western stories, characters are often pretty much defined from the moment you meet them as good or bad guys. Within a few minutes, you not only have a pretty good idea of where they align, but how you feel about them: love, hate, support, fear, root for them to get the girl. This doesn’t usually change, except perhaps if they’re a twist villain revealed in the third act. Rarely do you see a character whom you aren’t sure whether to love or hate, whether they’re good or bad. A character who straddles the fence, in other words, and you’re never sure where they stand until near the end.

If a medium can make me wear this sweatshirt 25 years after a show’s premiere, shouldn’t you at least consider checking it out?

Anime and manga, however, do this very well. They’re very good at telling stories about characters whom you’re not sure how to feel about them, because they’re able to take the time with these characters and show various sides of them over the course of the episodes or chapters. Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto is a prime example: at various points he’s a hero, a villain, a tragic antihero, etc. And you’re never sure whether to hate him or cry for him or what (generally I don’t like him, but that’s just me). And even when a character isn’t given this treatment, they’re often given great character development. Often characters are all good with a few flaws, or all evil with a few good qualities, but anime tends to branch out. You’ve got protagonists who are defined by their anxieties, or heroes who do horrible things but are doing it for good reasons you even sympathize with.  It ranges quite a bit, and it’s done quite well.

4. And finally, it’s entertaining. We all write stories for a variety of reasons, but at the core of it, we want to engage and show people a character worth following, a story worth getting into. And anime and manga do that a majority of the time. Sure, some stories do fail in that regard (looking at you, Clannad), but the vast majority have been tales that have endured the test of time and continue to pull in new audiences. Pokemon is twenty years old and Sailor Moon is twenty-five, but they still continue to entertain and even produce new content. Clearly, there’s something about these mediums that pull people from around the world in far past childhood.

And any medium that can have that sort of influence is worth checking out, if you ask me. Even if it’s not normally up your alley.


And that’s just a few of the reasons writers should check out anime (there may be a Part 2 someday). But tell me, were there any reasons I missed? What series do you find entertaining or influential? Or do you need a recommendation on where to enter the medium? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares.


Last week I read an article where Adam Winguard, the director of the disaster that is Netflix’s adaptation of the Death Note franchise, had to quit Twitter because he was receiving so much hate mail and even death threats over his adaptation. And yesterday, the admins of a YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing and discussing anime and manga received death threats for posting a positive review of the movie.

Let that sink in for a moment. A whole bunch of people are sending people hate mail and threatening to kill them over the Internet for either making or liking what many consider a bad movie. And I’d bet one of my anime figurines the majority of these angry people are fans of the Death Note anime and manga who are incensed that the director cast white actors in the movie and the numerous changes from the source material, as well as just making a really bad film, or that anyone would like the film.

Now, all three complaints are legitimate: the casting of white actors as what were originally non-white characters is a serious problem that Hollywood and the public are continuing to grapple with even now. The many changes from the source material were not only unnecessary, but actually made the film more of a mess than a wonder. And it was a really bad film (check my review here for my own thoughts on the subject).

But there is absolutely no excuse or reason–ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE OR REASON–to send hate mail or threaten someone’s life. Especially not for their creative work, no matter what decisions they make or the quality of it. And those who think nothing of doing it have some serious issues that need addressing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time fans of a franchise or a character or something along those lines have gone a little bonkers. I was ranting about this issue of fans going crazy back in 2013, when people were leaving intentionally bad reviews of Charlaine Harris’s last Sookie Stackhouse book because it was the last book, and threatening harm to themselves and others if their favorite couples didn’t end up together (and possibly followed through after a copy leaked in Germany). Later that year, people were sending tons of mail to Warner Bros. and trying to get the White House to intervene in the casting of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie (not sure what they expected to happen with that one).

Seriously, was this worth the hate campaign? I actually enjoyed the movie.

Since then we’ve seen negative reactions to the idea of the Ghostbusters reboot, and then the female-led cast, which was so hateful everyone involved in the movie felt the need to comment and even make a joke about it in the movie. We’ve also seen people react negatively to Captain America becoming an agent of Hydra in the comics, with some people threatening the writers behind this move. One man claiming to be a Marine even said that he would abandon his moral code and become a stone-cold killer because of the change (seriously, did any of these nincompoops think that maybe this was a mind-controlled Cap, or one from another dimension, which apparently is the case?). We’ve probably all seen articles about angry males attacking women online for attempting to be part of the video gaming community and industry. And there are more of these than I’m probably aware of, with this Death Note thing just being the latest.

What’s causing people to become so angry and violent over fictional characters and worlds? Well, it might actually be nothing new. As long as there have been creative works and their creators, there have been people who have gotten passionate about them, sometimes a little too passionate (*cough* John Hinckley Jr. and Ricardo Lopez *cough*). And sometimes people even feel that their love of a property gives them some sort of ownership over said property, and therefore they have a legitimate voice in any decisions over said work. And with the Internet as both means to reach like-minded individuals and platform to voice their vitriol without worry of censure, some of these overly-passionate fans can gather en masse and make their anger heard, warranted or not. Sometimes, a few of them even feel emboldened to make threats of violence.

And I get it. I hated the Death Note movie too. I can think of several ways the Star Wars prequels or some episodes of Doctor Who could’ve been better (I actually nearly threw a shoe at the TV once because I really disliked an episode). And God, was I upset when shows I really liked, such as Dracula or Sleepy Hollow, got canceled. I would have loved to find the people responsible for all these mistakes and given them a piece of my mind.

But therein lies the problem: none of these fans have any actual ownership or say in the decisions revolving around these stories, and at the end of the day, it’s the creators themselves who get to make those decisions. And we should let them. After all, they are spending valuable time and energy to bring us these stories we love so much. It’s essentially a gift from them to us, the readers and viewers. And while not all these creative variations are welcome (*cough* first three DCEU movies *cough*), some of these creative risks have led to some the greatest pieces of storytelling ever made. Remember there was a time when the Winter Soldier wasn’t a thing, let alone a former friend of Captain America gone evil. When Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, people swore it was the worst casting decision that could be made, and yet Ledger’s Joker is arguably one of the best Jokers ever brought to life. And let’s be real, William Shakespeare ripped off and made changes to most of the stories he’s famous for! And look at him!

A decision that turned out to be right after all.

And this is not just for variations in already established characters and stories. Creators should be able to experiment with stories and characters. Otherwise, would we have Doctor Who? Harry Potter? Death Note the manga? Stephen King’s IT?

So what should you do if a story you like or an adaptation of a story goes in a direction you dislike? Well, there are two possible decisions that you could go that won’t make you look like a tool (trust me, as both fanboy and creator, they work). One is to do what I did with Death Note: calmly point out what was wrong with it or what you disliked. You don’t have to be angry to get your point across. I’ve found calmly discussing what you disliked about something does more than shouting. And besides, being rude or angry or telling someone to die never convinced anyone to your point of view or made them change their ways.

The other is to just not take part at all. After Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, many fans reacted by simply deciding not to watch the show anymore. I even have a friend who decided to do that, and while I disagree with their view, I respect how adult their reactions were. (Thought to be fair, after all those years of Moffat tropes, it might’ve been easier to leave than to work up anger over a casting decision). So if you don’t like what the creators are doing, just leave. Don’t ruin the experience for everyone else who may want to try out the new direction.

And if you’re a parent with kids who may get overly passionate about fictional works, maybe have a conversation with them about how to respond to this sort of thing. It might save someone a lot of headaches later on.

While I doubt this problem will go away anytime soon–if anything, it might get worse over time–we can at least approach it in a healthy manner, rather than with further fear and anger, as well as to find healthy alternatives to anger and/or death threats. Either that, or we never get any sort of new stories ever. And I really don’t want to see that.


That’s all the ranting for now. The next week and a half will be crazy for me, so I have no idea how much, if at all, I’ll be able to post until October 1st. I’ll try and get something out next week, though if I don’t, please don’t hold it against me or send death threats.

Until next time, Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

Death Note is a franchise I’ve been aware of since high school, and despite some issues I have with the source material (*cough* the second half of the manga *cough*), I’ve always looked at it fondly. It’s clever, has some really memorable characters and scenes, and the themes present in the story are always relevant. When I first heard of plans of an American version of the story, I thought it had some potential, which is why I was disappointed when it fell into development hell. But when director Adam Winguard and Netflix finally started to put the film into production, and despite the troubling news I heard leading up to the film’s release,* I still had hope.

Imagine how I feel now when I find the final result is not what I’d hoped for.

So for those of you who don’t know, Death Note is originally a manga about a Japanese high schooler named Light Yagami who discovers a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in it. With the help of a death god named Ryuk, Light starts a killing spree of the world’s criminals to end all crime and to become a new god named Kira. He is opposed by L, a mysterious detective who has solved several high-profile crimes in the past, creating a cat-and-mouse game that could determine the fate of the world. The story has been adopted into anime, TV shows, novels, and even a couple of Japanese movies. Winguard’s version is the latest addition to the franchise, and unfortunately, it’s like that one relative whom you invite to family gatherings because he’s family, but you’re not happy about it because he’s an embarrassment to the whole family.

The biggest problem I have with this film is the many changes from the source material. Now, I’m open to some changes, like what the Japanese films did. Those were changes that strengthened the story instead of taking away from it. However, the majority of the changes here were unhelpful. Light Yagami, a handsome, charismatic and intelligent young man motivated by a sense of justice and boredom becomes Light Turner, an outsider who’s only a few degrees away from shooting up a high school, whose intelligence is only hinted at, and who screams like he has no confidence. Misa Amane, a blonde and bubbly airhead whom you actually feel sympathy for, becomes Mia Sutton, a cheerleader with no personality or backstory and too much enthusiasm for killing criminals. Lakeith Stanfield is actually pretty good as L for a while, but then in the last third goes completely off the rails.

Something went very wrong with this transition.

There are a whole bunch of other changes that I didn’t care for. The purpose of the Death Note and the reason why Ryuk drops the Death Note is changed, the default method of death for the Death Note isn’t in this adaptation, Mia isn’t given a good reason to want to use the Death Note like Misa Amane has, so her enthusiasm for using it feels strange, and the way L and his assistant Watari interact feels a little creepy rather than the working relationship they had before, and the list goes on and on. In fact, some of these changes open up plot holes in the story. For example, the change in the way L identifies the first victim of Kira, rather than making some sense like it does in the manga, leaves open some questions in this adaptation. Also, why does L have a false name but Watari is actually his real name, with no last name?

I also did not care for Margaret Qualley’s acting in this film, which felt emotionless and uninvested. It seems like she was trying to channel Kristen Stewart’s Twilight performance, which given all I’ve heard of that performance, explains a lot, but it’s obvious it’s not what we’re looking for in this movie. Also, who’s idea was it to make her look like an Emma Roberts impersonator in every shot?

Ryuk, played by William Dafoe, is definitely one of the better parts of the movie.

There were a couple of things I did like about the film, however. Ryuk looks absolutely terrifying, as he should, and is kept sinister throughout the film, thanks in part to William Dafoe’s phenomenal performance as the voice of the character (that man can do villains like no other). Mia is treated more as a partner in this film rather than as a pawn, which I’m sure many Misa fans, including myself, have always wanted to see (what can I say? You feel for her, despite her flaws and the blood on her hands). And if it weren’t for how bad the rest of the film is, the climax and its twist would actually be pretty impressive.

However, the rest of the film outweighs everything else, forcing me to give Adam Winguard’s Death Note a 1.1 out of 5, possibly the lowest score I’ve ever given anything on this blog. This is just the latest example of how NOT to adapt a beloved manga and anime, with way too many changes from the source material and bad choices on the part the people behind it, and a horrible introduction for newcomers to the world of Death Note.

Trust me, this is a much better movie than what we got.

If this left a bad taste in your mouth and you’re still willing to give this franchise a change, I highly suggest you check out the original manga or anime (the latter also on Netflix), or check out the Japanese films based on those. Unlike the Netflix film, any of these will show you how exciting and clever the original source material, as well as how memorable and even likeable, the characters really are. Believe me, there’s a reason why this story is the phenomenon it is. It’s just the Netflix movie isn’t part of it.

Hopefully in the future, if we have any other American adaptations of anime or manga, they won’t be anything like this.

*To be clear, I will not be getting into the whole issue of the races of the cast. Yes, whitewashing is a problem, and the casting decisions made in regards to this film are extremely problematic, but it’s not one I want to explore here. Why? Because it’s an extremely complicated issue and not something I usually get into in a movie review. I’m judging this movie as a movie, and I’m judging the actors for their performances, not for their racial or ethnic heritage. If you don’t like that, I’m sorry, but that’s just how I do things here. And if you want to voice your anger about this, don’t voice it at me. Voice it at Hollywood, because that’s how you can possibly make some positive change, instead of sending it my way while some corporate VP thinks Zac Efron would make a great Kaneda in a live-action American Akira remake or something (that’s an example, not an actual thing as far as I know).