Reviewby Jacob Hope Chapman, Jan 30th 2010
Death Note Relight
DVD 2 - L's Successor
Four years have passed since the Kira case was turned on its head, putting the serial killer in charge of his own investigation and in control of the entire world. In this dark age, while Kira has been accepted as a righteous god by much of the world, L's successors bide their time and prepare to take the murderous mastermind down, fiercely competing to see who can outdo their mentor first. Faced with L's craftiness once again, the “god of the new world” decides to go on the offensive and make sure both of the detective's agents regret having defied him. Divided as they are, will Mello and Near be conquered and pay the ultimate price for crossing Light Yagami, or has his reign of terror finally come to a bitter end?
Do anime fans ever really skip recap episodes? No, like the diehards we are, we watch the stupid things, hoping against hope that there is some invaluable extra scene hiding in the 20 minute dearth of enthusiasm and piles of recycled footage. Sometimes there is and we are rewarded, but we're always angry that we had to watch it to find that extra nugget of entertainment. That's kinda what watching Death Note Relight is like, although it does have a bit more to offer than that. The movie opens with despondent-looking detective L introducing the characters and retracing everything that took place. (Yep, a recap of a recap movie in another recap movie. We're through the looking glass here, people.) Thankfully, the sharp editing and L's mellifluous, droll narration make it quite painless. Far better, what follows is a treat: nearly 20 solid minutes of new footage.
To be strictly accurate, the story has not been changed, and the new scenes are not monumental in that regard, but neither are they superfluous. The special begins with the extra graveyard scene from the first ReLight movie (making that film even more pointless as that was its only new scene,) which transitions into Light's rise to power. The introduction of prodigies Near and Mello follows and it's old news but the scene immediately after is a juicy one: a flashback to L tutoring at Wammy's House. One of the children asks him if there's anything he can't do or that frightens him and, surprisingly enough, he has an eye-opening answer that reveals a great deal about his character and his real relationship with Light. Besides that, it's a very poetic little soliloquy all on its own, certainly the most sensitive that Death Note ever gets.
It also serves another purpose. The iffy jump in logic that Near reached to learn so much about Kira in so little time is mostly buttered over with melodrama in the TV series. Following L's speech in this version however, Near lays out the facts alongside a better understanding of his mentor's nature to arrive more naturally at his suspicion of Light. Their first conversation is also altered significantly to make “L #2” even more suspect and at last, Near's thought process actually makes sense...at great detriment to Light's intelligence, however.
Actually, the few changes made in this new introduction dumb Light down quite a bit and also make his character more psychotic, as he revels in a gore-tastic new scene more reminiscent of Final Destination than Death Note when Mikami publically “deletes” anti-Kira debaters live on NHN in…creative ways. The TV series made it clear that Light would not normally condone such wild behavior, but hey, at least it's entertaining, as is Mikami's equally bloody assault on the SPK, also completely reanimated to be better than it was visually and narratively. (Why not write in the notebook: “…and shoot anyone else left alive before killing themselves” if not all the SPK members are known? The movie addresses this.)
Mikami and Takada are both introduced in quicker new scenes right at the beginning because Mello's arc with the mafia has been completely removed, and the death of a key member of the Kira Task Force that took place during that arc is only mentioned in passing once during the film. Unfortunate that this character was utterly discarded, but this choice only makes it obvious how unnecessary those episodes were, along with 75% of Near's arc that has also been cut. Where such abridging would normally be confusing, this particularly bloated arc of Death Note is actually much more enjoyable in condensed form, and the new scenes add clarity to the end result, although those that know the series well will quickly point out the plotholes left by eliminating Mello's involvement until Takada's kidnapping. After the initial slough of new scenes, the movie concludes with a replay of the last two episodes, only marginally cut for time, and we realize we've been watching a recap movie once again. At the very least the ending is spectacular, even in slightly abridged form.
The artistry of the film is equivalent to that of the TV series and it's just as exquisite as it always was. The very premise of the series doesn't really call for spectacular flashy animation, but the gorier scenes in this film give the animators more to do, to say nothing of the powerhouse finale. The only drawback to the gothic vogue style is that it's hard to keep consistent. It certainly looks better close up than it does at a distance where the dark lines can mesh and result in odd, stiff expressions. (Save for their flapping mouths, Aizawa and Mogi's faces nearly disappear in one long shot that could have used a redux.) These are minor complaints for a movie that, like the manga, sports a look that grabs the viewer and shakes them with only a still frame and a dramatic voice.
And what dramatic voices! The final showdown is a tour de force (not to mention an insane exercise in breath control) for both Mamoru Miyano and Brad Swaile as the protagonist/villain. With the exception of one changed line of dialogue, it's no different from the TV series, but it's rewarding to get lost in the narrative without all the episode breaks. The rest of the cast is equally exceptional in both languages, and Alessandro Juliani in particular excels with L's jarring little soliloquy. The character is never seen even once during his speech, but the richness and depth still inherent in his portrayal makes it one of the best little monologues in dubbed anime.
The music remains consistent with the series as well. There are no new pieces, but some scenes have been rescored to gel better with the restructured flow of the movie. That being said, these changes were not improvements so much as compensations, and the television series employs the score much better than this recap movie.
Really, the lackluster quality of the Near/Mello arc notwithstanding, the television series employs the story much better than any recap special ever could, so the point still stands that movies of this type are kind of a bad idea at best and an embarrassing cashgrab at worst. If this idea must be done to death for lucrative franchises however, this, strangely enough, might be the best result. There is merit to this release in its greater wealth of new footage and improvements on Mello and Near's overwrought episodes. Still, it's only "better" for the fans, and the uninitiated should always just turn to the original series and grit their teeth through the labor pains of its worst arc preceding the birth of its incredibly satisfying ending.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : B+
+ 20 minutes of great new material, Near/Mello arc is much better condensed
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