by Theron Martin,

Death Note II:

The Last Name

Death Note II: The Last Name
Shortly after L accepts Light onto his Kira investigation squad, an apparent second Kira appears on the scene. She is secretly Misa Amane, aka Misa Misa, an up-and-coming model and singer who loves Kira because of the justice he inflicted on the killer of her entire family and who has recently come into possession of a second Death Note belonging to the shinigami Rem. Possessing the “shinigami eyes” that Light had turned down, she seeks out and hooks up with Light as his girlfriend, only to soon be captured by L under suspicion of being the second Kira. To save both of them from discovery, Light resorts to a desperate trick: temporarily give up both Death Notes so that both will lose their memories. During that time the Death Note passes into the hand of a third Kira, a TV studio assistant who has admired Kira and whom L and Light work together to nab. All is part of Light's grand plan, however, and it is a plan that some will definitely not survive.

The two-day limited theatrical release of the first Death Note movie drew more than 65,000 fans back in June, so Viz has gone ahead with a plan to do a similar, but somewhat broader, theatrical release for the second movie in mid-October. The second movie, which originally premiered in Japan in November of 2006, spends 139 minutes resolving the deadly duel of wits between Light/Kira and L, and while it probably would have been better if trimmed by 5-10 minutes, it nonetheless does a quite satisfying job of bringing the story to resolution without ever dragging Near into the picture. To accomplish this it has to condense or cut out quite a lot of the anime's content, but a lot of what was cut out (such as the Yotsuba Group business and nearly all of the “five years later” plotline) is not content that is going to be much missed by most fans. If you liked the anime or manga versions, you will probably be quite satisfied with how this one goes.

Most of the content involving Misa remains essentially the same as in the anime, except that Misa is played by a dark-haired Japanese actress rather than a blond. She still retains her full cutesy, lovesick “Goth-loli” persona and absolute devotion to Kira, though she comes across a bit less annoying here. Kiyomi Takada also figures prominently into the story as the third Kira, although she is used quite differently here; instead of being Kira's spokesperson, she is an ambitious TV station aid who uses the Kira situation to catapult herself into the anchor's chair. She also assumes some of the plot functions covered by Kyosuke Higuchi in the anime. While the overly-long climatic scene bears significant circumstantial similarities to the anime's climax, it has major differences, too, as not everyone who dies in the anime dies in the movie, or at least not at the same point in the story. Ultimately many fans may find the movie ending to be sadder yet more satisfying, and with a greater sense of closure, than its anime counterpart.

Evaluated as a stand-alone, the movie occasionally suffers from shoddy acting and certainly does not have the production values of a Hollywood title, which is especially apparent in the lame and lifeless computerized look of Rem. However, as Japanese live-action movies go, it fares better than most anime/manga-related efforts. The movie plays up L's penchant for sweets by constantly showing him snacking on a wide variety of popular Japanese treats (as opposed to the Western sweets he predominately dines on in the first movie), to the point that what he's eating in a given scene becomes a running joke. His use of a mask in some scenes also earns a few laughs, and his discomfort in public gets played up a bit more. The sense that Light and L are two boys playing a very dangerous and callous chess match remains from the first movie, and this one tends to emphasize the parent/child relationship a bit more. The pacing could use some work, and a few scenes are just plain cheesy, but in general the movie does an acceptable job at portraying what it wants to portray.

18-year-old Erika Toda was a great find as Misa, fitting the role perfectly in every sense but hair color. Sexy Nana Katase, who might be known to anime fans for theme song work on Hikaru no Go and Human Crossing gets to strut her stuff as Kiyomi, including scenes which allow her to show off a gorgeous set of legs. Otherwise the principal cast is composed of hold-overs from the first movie, of which Tatsuya Fujiwara turns in a thoroughly unimpressive effort as Light while Ken'ichi Matsuyama shines once again as L; like in the first movie, he not only nails the role and look of L but even plays up L's peculiar mannerisms, including the way he sits, eats, and stares. Viz Media relied again on Ocean Group to do the English dub, which carries over all of the voice actors from the anime with one big exception: Rem has a decidedly male voice this time rather than a deep feminine one.

Much of the movie does not use a musical score, although it is both fronted and ended by songs courtesy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Dani California and Snow (Hey Oh), respectively). Those that stuck around after the credits rolled were treated to the 25-minute second part of the “Making of” documentary shown after the first movie, which, presumably, will be included on the future DVD release. It does not offer much for special content but will doubtless be of interest to dedicated Death Note fans.

If liked either the anime or manga version, or saw and liked the first movie, then you're going to want to see this one when it becomes available on DVD.

Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B
Story : B
Art : B
Music : B

+ More satisfying ending, portrayals of L and Misa.
Rem's appearance, occasional shoddy acting.

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