Any anime fan has probably seen Death Note by now. Maybe you’ve seen the live-action films starring Tetsuya Fujiwara and Kenichi Matsuyama? The first one is great. The second one is entertaining but doesn’t really do the series justice.
Then there’s the third one – L: Change the World. If you’re a fan of L from Death Note, then you would think that an entire feature-length film revolving around the peculiar, sugar-loving detective would be a god-send (pun-intended). Well – think again.
Write Your Name
My issue with L: Change the World does not stem from the fact that it is in no way related to the plot of Death Note. No – my issue comes from the fact that they made a movie dedicated to L in this way. Clearly, the studios found a character loved by many and found a way to make a quick cash-grab. Since the only familiar character is L, played once again by the amazing Kenichi Matsuyama, and the only reference to the Death Note series is the fact that L is living out his last twenty-three days after supposedly writing his own name in the Death Note. A plot device used only for the live-action remake of the series.
L: Change The Plot
So, like I said – if you’re looking for another Death Note movie, you will be horribly disappointed. This film follows the last twenty-three days of L’s life after writing his name in the Death Note himself, hoping to out-wit Light (Tetsuya Fujiwara) at the end of the last live-action film. Ending his days in a typically L-fashion, he decides he can best bide his time by solving one final case.
This final case is nothing like the supernatural and thrilling story lines we have grown familiar with in the world of Death Note, and you will not find anything as exciting as the race between Kira and L in L: Change the World. Instead, this final case sees L pitted against a bio-terrorist group who, through the use of a deadly virus, intends to wipe out the entire planet…for some reason.
L then takes in Near (Narushi Fukuda) (although unrecognisable as the Near we’ve seen in the manga and anime, I’m pretty sure it’s implied they’re one and the same), a sole survivor of an attack in Thailand, and Maiko Nikaido (Mayuko Fukuda), again for some unclear reason.
After this, the plot follows L, along with young Near and Maiko to find an antidote and basically save all of humanity from the virus. With various run-ins with the terrorist group and becoming infected with the virus, the plot tries to rattle out one shock-twist after another which falls hard.
Change The World? Not So Much…
L: Change the World is an all-round disappointment. Like most, L is my favourite character of Death Note and anyone would hope to see a standalone film do your favourite character justice, but this really could not do it for me. The story is inconsistent and I remember sitting through the majority of this film just generally unimpressed and annoyed.
It isn’t even the idea of a new plot that bugs me, it’s just the fact that it is a bad detective story. Any exciting elements falls flat. We are supposed to be following L – the great detective who helps take down Kira and now he is reduced to babysitting two children who we are hardly given the chance to care about and save a plane of infected people. But maybe I’m biased because of my love of the character and the original series – perhaps if someone who has never seen Death Note looked at this with a fresh pair of eyes, they might get a completely different opinion to me. Then again, maybe that’s too optimistic.
And don’t get me started on the ending. Without giving too much away, yes – L succeeds in saving the world, as expected of him. That’s not what irks me. Once everything is done, we see L sitting at a bar, eating chocolate. His last chocolate bar. Then he gets up, and he walks off, into the sunset. Into. The. Sunset. I’m no expert, but as far as cliché-endings go, that is at the top of the list and L certainly deserves a better send-off. Sure, I’m not a fan of his send off in the Death Note manga either, but it was certainly better and more exciting than what we were given in this film.
This film doesn’t really have much to redeem it. Kenichi Matsuyama‘s performance is fantastic: he has pretty much nailed the idiosyncrasies you would expect of L, with much inspiration from the anime and manga. With great scenes of his typing, running, as well as his stand-offish personality, being consistently clever and yes, of course – endless amount of sugar and chocolate is consumed.
But really, I can give very little encouragement to watch the film. If you want more Death Note, remember aside from the manga and anime, there is a live-action TV series, a fourth live-action film released last year, as well as an American adaption on the way. Death Note is not dead yet!
Doing a little of this, a little of that. If you see me holding a camera, run!