The movie begins with a sky view of rain over Tokyo City at night. There are many quick shots from different view tops of the buildings, before the camera settles on a final location. It pans in to an alley where a black notebook falls lightly to the street. There is this still shot of the notebook in a perfect circle of dry asphalt whilst the surrounding road is drenched in rain. This image shows the unnatural presence the notebook has in the human world. The next few minutes show compilations of a hand writing in the notebook before jumping to the death of a person. As a movie adaptation of a book series, I find this as an interesting angle to show first on the society’s views on the plot device, before introducing any characters. It seems this might have been the easiest way to shorten a book series, which has been adapted almost word for word earlier as a 37-episode animation, to fit into a 126-minute film.
At the 9-minute mark, the writer in the notebook is finally revealed. The music brings tense feelings and a sense of anxiety of who the person who is causing these deaths is. There are a couple of scenes introducing this character as Light and shows through his interactions with people at school and around his girlfriend on what kind of person he is on the surface. Through some clues from the female lead, Shiori, and the background characters, it is easy to determine the both of them are in law school. The next minutes have a few flashbacks show how Light had lost some faith in the justice system before discovering a notebook in an alley. This is where the plot device is explained. Light learns that the notebook belongs to a Shinigami, or God of Death in Japanese. With it he is able to kill anyone whose name he has written down while thinking of his or her face. With his strong sense of justice, Light commits to using this item to rid the world of crime.
After these explanations, the scene changes to a police station where detectives are trying to figure out why so many criminals around the world are suddenly turning up dead from heart attacks. It introduces the main antagonist, in part, known as L who is a mysterious private investigator. This slowly leads to one of my favorite scenes in which L broadcasts a worldwide live news broadcast where he challenges the mystery killer dubbed Kira. Light feels insulted and tries to kill L only to shortly realize he had fallen into a trap and killed an impersonator instead. This scene is adapted in sync with the book and show word for word and is most likely done so because of how well it show L’s genius at gaining clues as well as his cunning ways on how to obtain them. With the scenes the movie goes from a singular story of the morality involved in choosing whether or not it is right to kill the most vicious of criminals to a game of cat and mouse between two intelligent individuals trying to find one another. The rest of the movie includes thrilling scenes on how closer both are to finding the other and the many obstacles in the way.
When adapting from an already existing source, many directors try to focus on story arches differently. In this case, a character from the series called Naomi is given a larger role in the movie from being a minor obstacle to a major threat against Light. In the movie, Shiori is also given a large role considering she was only in one chapter of the book as a girl who had a crush on Light in high school to his love interest. This gives a more soft side to Light when they are shown together. With the inclusion and expansion of these two characters, the ending of the movie was a shock to both crowds that have and haven’t seen the series. If there were anything I would change in this movie, I would give more emphasis on the lengths Light goes through in the beginning on rationalizing about the rights and wrongs of having such a power as well as the fear he first experienced with that knowledge and how he tries to hide the Death Note before L’s investigation.