After hacking into the police database, a young law student is horrified to see that the legal system is failing, and its criminals are being released without charge. Angered, he sets out to confront the criminals himself, but instead, he finds a mysterious notebook lying in the street: the Death Note. Amongst other rules, the book claims that any person whose name is written within its pages will be struck dead in seconds. Light is amused with the idea, and writes down the name of a murderer he saw on the television before going to sleep. The next day, Light awakens to the news that the same man was discovered dead from a heart attack. Realizing that he has the power of the gods in his hands, Light sets out to cleanse the world of evil using the book, but his ego quickly consumes him, and he begins killing anyone that threatens to oppose him. Now, a resourceful computer hacker that goes by the name of "L" has teamed with the police in order to expose the wayward vigilante and bring him to justice.
Based on the popular Japanese manga of the same name, DEATH NOTE is a high-powered parable that demonstrates how absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is told through an exciting murder mystery where there is no clear hero or villain. Light Yagami is noble at heart, but by superseding the court system and acting as judge, jury, and executioner, he has become that which he hates. L, on the other hand, seems to have the same fundamental beliefs in justice, but his true motives and intentions are never revealed in this first act. The deep philosophical questions that are raised by the Death Note reflect on society's views of good and evil, justice and immorality.
Tatsuya Fujiwara, who is best known for his lead in BATTLE ROYALE, captures the duality of Light's character perfectly. He is sincere in his nobility, but his ego prevents him from giving up his new found powers since he has become consumed with winning the battle of wits against L. This causes him to compromise his own ethics by killing the innocent police detectives that have gotten too close to the truth. Kenichi Matsuyama plays opposite of Fujiwara as L, whose odd appearance and awkward mannerisms make him a strange but interesting choice as the supposed hero. Each of their intricately-laid traps and foiled attempts to draw one another out into the open drives the mystery and suspense as they enter into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Shusuke Kaneko has done an excellent job adapting the popular series on to the big screen, allowing DEATH NOTE to take #1 in the box offices in Japan upon its release and making it one of the strongest Japanese exports in years.
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