Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 22nd 2009
Death Note Re-Light
DVD 1 - Visions of a God
The Shinigami Ryuk, when approached by one of his fellows about stories concerning the human world, tells a tale of a young man he once knew who obtained Ryuk's spare Death Note and used it in such an interesting way that Ryuk will never forget him. (A Death Note is a special notebook which kills any human whose name is written in it while the human's face is picture in the writer's mind.) The young man, named Light Yagami, quickly discovered how to exploit the mechanics of the Death Note and started using it to kill off criminals towards an ultimate goal of cleaning up the world, though along the way he gradually became corrupted by its power and began to see himself as the god of the new world he planned to create. Any who opposed his alternate identity Kira died, though one particular individual stood firm in his efforts: L, the world's secretive premiere detective, and a special police task force who gathered around him. Thus ensued an intricate battle of wits as each tried to out-think and outmaneuver the other, a battle complicated further when a second Kira with a second Death Note appeared on the scene. When Light temporarily loses his memory of being Kira as part of another scheme, he combines efforts with L to catch a third party who has become Kira in his stead – though, as it turns out, it was all part of Light's ultimate plan. Against such a formidable power and a fierce (if in some senses immature) intellect, can even L hope to prevail?
Both the packaging for the DVD and the director's comments in the included “Death Note Rewritten” featurette advertise this movie as a retooling of the Death Note TV series skewed more from Ryuk's point of view, and indeed, the entire movie is structured as if it were a long flashback story being told by Ryuk to a fellow Shinigami. Beyond that and a follow-up scene at the end, however, the veracity of this advertising claim is, at best, a stretch. Though the dialogue and original Japanese performances may have been retooled a little bit in places, in no way does the content in between give Ryuk a meaningfully greater role than he had before, nor does it offer any different perspective on the events which unfold.
No, despite any claims to the contrary, Relight is actually just one of those “series summarized into a movie” productions, one which combines carefully-selected scenes from the TV episodes with just enough new animation to make fans care about checking it out. About 95% of the scenes in the movie were lifted so directly from the TV series episodes that changes, if any, are hard to notice; in fact, the only obvious one is replacing the original musical score in the scenes where Higuchi (the third Kira) gets chased down with a full-length version of the second TV closer “Billy in Despair” by Maximum the Hormone.
As is typical with these endeavors, editing 26 episodes of content down into roughly two hours of movie required wholesale trimming and careful scene selection to insure that that movie version told an intact story which can at least generally be understood by those who have not seen the anime. As a result, this version is lighter on character development and delves less into the specifics of what's going on than the series did; the scenes involving Misa trying to identify Light as Kira are reduced merely to a brief flashback, for instance, as are early scenes of Light figuring out that the Death Note actually works. However, the Japanese staff did do a better than normal job at making the story coherent as a stand-alone entity. Relight still certainly leaves the distinct impression that things have been chopped out, but the plot progression here can actually be followed and the events actually have a certain flow to them instead of only feeling like chunks of episodes have been spliced together.
That only 26 episodes are summarized here is also noteworthy, as the movie version of what happened on Earth trails off with Light gloating over a certain person's grave – and yes, that is one of the few entirely new scenes in this version beyond the framing pieces involving Ryuk, although it does mix in elements of the scene at the end of episode 26 where Light makes a certain promise to Ryuk atop a skyscraper. None of the episodes following the five-year time jump involving Near and Mello are included in this 130-minute production, though the revised ending with Ryuk in the Shinigami realm does give the impression that the way the series ultimately ended still eventually happens. Also, a second condensed movie subtitled “L's Successor” is scheduled, so it seems probable that the Near/Mello content will be in that.
Since most of these scenes are just lifted straight from the TV series, the technical merits remain the same, and the few minutes of new scenes just maintain the established standards. Whether or not the aforementioned alterations to the musical score are an improvement is strictly subject to personal preference, as both the TV and movie versions are equally effective. The English dubs for the new scenes also maintain the quality levels seen in the TV series so well that their insertion is technically seamless.
Amongst the Extras included in this release are original Japanese promos, promos for the English dubbed versions of the three live-action movies being released by Viz Media, and an 11 minute segment titled, “Death Note Rewritten” which features interviews with the director, producer, and key voice actors about the franchise in general and the effort on Relight in particular. None of it is especially insightful. The movie ends with the original Japanese credits, with an English translation entirely absent.
Fans put off by the Near/Mello content in the TV series' last third may find this version a bit more to their liking, as the new ending firmly establishes a triumphant Light while still giving the impression that his triumph didn't last. Those who have never bothered to check out the franchise may find this version to be a compact sampler of the series as a whole, a taste sufficient to interest them in seeing the details filled in by the full episode run. Looked at this way, the movie should be a success. Those familiar with the series who are expecting a completely fresh perspective will be disappointed, however.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ A few minutes of new clips, edited together better than most movies of its type.
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