Monday, February 22, 2016

Death Note II: The Last Name

In November of 2006, six months after the release of the first film, Warner Bros released the second film in the live-action Death Note trilogy. Considering these movies were released in the same year, the fact that this film picks up immediately after the first one ended, and the last movie had a promo for this film at the end, I feel like it's a safe bet to say these movies were shot back-to-back.
Spoiler warning for the movie, the comics, the last movie, the animated movies, and the animated series. Gonna be covering a lot here.
Light leverages the death of his girlfriend, Shiori, in order to join the Kira task-force.
Rather than having some kind of gap between Misa being saved by Gelus and her getting the Death Note, they just show Gelus saving her life and then Rem dropping the Death Note in front of her.
Logically speaking, there should have been some kind of delay, since the Death Note was in Gelus's hands when he died. If it'd fallen through the portal to the human-realm it would have made a bit more sense, but then why would Rem be hanging around?
Like Visions of a God, all of the emotion has been taken out of Gelus's death. For some strange reason, Rem doesn't even converse with Gelus in this film, and she's doesn't even show up in his death-scene, even though she was there in the comics.
At least I presume Rem is a she, I know she's female in the comics and animated series, but here she's voiced by Ikehata Shinnosuke, AKA "Peter", who's rather obviously male. His Wikipedia page says he has an androgynous appearance, but his voice is plenty masculine. He could have played Ryuk, easily.
From here on out, there's not much that's different from the comics or the animated series. The Second Kira arc begins with Sakura TV getting two, not four tapes. Rather than being a trash TV tabloid, Sakura TV is a serious network with serious news for some reason.
Take a look at the guy in the screenshot on the left. That's Demegawa. Yes, he's incredibly skinny in this movie.
Staff researcher, Kiyomi Takada wants to take the lead on the Kira story, but Demegawa gives it to his mistress, the current anchor.
They begin the broadcast, and Misa kills an anti-Kira news-anchor from another channel to prove she's got the power to kill. In order to cut down the runtime and some of the more long-winded gambits, all of the succeeding Kira tapes have been compressed into one. Unfortunately, that takes away from the mystery of the situation, since Misa basically just dumps a bunch of relevant information into the lap of the public without much in the way of build-up. She straight-up says she's the second Kira rather than sorta pretending to be the original Kira before the task-force sends her a message from the real Kira.
For some reason, Mogi goes out (And I only know he was Mogi because they said his name.) and attempts to stop the broadcast. Rather than driving his car up to the doors of the building and trying to get in that way, he shows up at the festival several yards away from the door, and in front of the cameras filming the impromptu pro-Kira demonstration outside. Naturally, this gets him killed, along with a bunch of other police-officers. This leads the task-force to the conclusion that it probably is a second Kira and not just the first Kira throwing up a smokescreen, since the killings don't match the original Kira's method of operation. Plus, the original Kira wouldn't have been nearly so sloppy.
Since nobody can approach the scene without getting killed (And because Sayu was at the Sakura TV festival for some reason and decides to dis Kira on live TV) Kamen Rider Dad shows up, busts the TV wall outside of Sakura TV for no reason, destroys their cameras and shoots the feed cables. Then, Soichiro takes off his helmet for some reason, apparently not realizing that Misa could be watching from binoculars (You know, like she was in the comics and animated series) and could then kill him without his helmet on. Fortunately for him, Misa was watching from the television in her dressing-room, and is unable to continue active killings when the feed goes down.
Unlike the comics and the animated series, the police aren't using opaque riot-shields or darkened riot-helmets. Considering nothing happened to Soichiro, that's not as stupid as it seems on the surface, but it's still pretty stupid.
While this whole sequence is pretty bad-ass, it's not nearly as bad-ass as it was in the comics and the animated series, since Soichiro's heart-attack has been written out of this version of the story as well. Overall, I'd say this could have been improved by not having Mogi run into the crowd for no reason, not having Soichiro remove his helmet, and by having the police wearing darkened gear. And if this was all taking place at night, but that's a bit of a minor quibble.
Light goes to the television station to get Sayu home, and Misa notices that she can see his name, but not his life-span. This tips her off to him being Kira, so she decides to look him up.
Here's where the film gets much stupider than it should be. Rather than having Light impersonate Kira to tell Misa to stop what she's doing, they have Light addressing Misa directly, as himself, with his name and face fully on display for some stupid reason. Telling her what she's doing is wrong. After the real Kira killed Lind L. Taylor for doing the exact same thing! At this point, Light doesn't even know about the thing where Death Note users with the Shinigami eyes can recognize other Death Note users by the fact that they can't see their lifespan, so why would he agree to put his life in danger like this? Just sending out a message as Kira would be so much smarter!
Later on, Misa shows up at Light's house to profess her love for him, since he killed the guy who murdered her family in one of his many epic-writing rampages. Using the knowledge that she has the shinigami eyes, Light sets up a meeting between her and L. Considering Light is already enrolled in To-Oh at this point, L can't enroll with him to keep tabs, so L just shows up in the middle of one of the lectures Light's attending wearing a stupid mask for some reason. Then, for some stupider reason, L lets Misa take off his mask when they meet. I know he's supposedly a huge fan of hers, but I don't know if that was a lie or the truth, considering L's character.
Immediately afterwards, L has Misa abducted under suspicion of being the second Kira and held in custody.
For some stupid reason, Misa doesn't have a blindfold on during most of her confinement, despite the fact that they don't know how Kira kills except that he needs a name and a face, but since they suspect the second Kira of only needing a face to kill, they should logically have a blindfold on her at all times, so she can't see anything.
Because Misa isn't exactly as mentally sturdy as Light is, Rem is afraid Misa will crack, so she tasks Light with freeing her. Thus Light puts into place one of his most famous gambits, getting himself locked up and creating a new Kira to cover his tracks. Except in this case, the third Kira is Kiyomi Takada, and not Higuchi. Yes, you heard me right.
Something I want to go back to before moving ahead is that Rem explains to Light directly how Misa got her Death Note as opposed to telling it to Misa and Misa telling Light how to kill a Shinigami in an attempt to give him enough information to make her valuable to him.
Light instructs Rem to drop off Misa's Death Note with someone who will use it, and buries his in the forest. As Takada is burning her rival's ID badge (Seriously, who lights one candle instead of just using a metal or ceramic container if they wanna burn something?) Rem drops off Misa's Death Note. This seems a little strange, since Light's whole gambit towards the end of this arc was to be able to keep his Death Note close to him after the plot came to fruition so he could have Rem bonded to him for his final plot against L. Plus, his Death Note was the one with all the rules written in it, so it was easy to add in the two fake rules he needed to clear himself and Misa of suspicion, as well as keep the Kira task-force from destroying the Death Note.
After a while, Light submits himself to being locked up under the guise of thinking he might have some sort of black-suited Spider-Man relationship with Kira, with Kira killing people while Light was asleep. Thus, Light is locked up with Misa for less time than they were in the comics, under a month for both of them. One week into Light's confinement, Takada kills Demegawa's mistress and begins killing criminals. Eventually, Light gives up his memories of being Kira so he can more convincingly work with L to capture whoever the third Kira is.
Eventually, Light are Misa get released (Minus the fight between L and Light, minus them being handcuffed together, and minus Soichiro putting on that show of trying to kill them to prove neither of them are Kira, which actually made L trusting Light make more sense) and Light rejoins the task-force. (With a scene of them getting IV's for mostly unknown reasons. At least this time around it makes more sense than it did in the first movie)
Thankfully, since Higuchi and Yotsuba have been written out of the movie, they no longer need a world-class burglar or con-artist, so Aiber and Wedy just never show up for one scene and then are never mentioned again, unlike in Visions of a God. If you've absolutely got to cut things to make the movie work, that's how you do it. You don't just slap the first half of the plot together into a two and a half hour film.
The Kira task-force starts cross-referencing victims from the current wave of heart-attacks, and find that while they're similar to the original Kira's victims, they focus more so on crimes against women, especially those reported on Sakura TV. Looking for women who have recently had their careers advance due to the death of a co-worker, they narrow their suspects down to Kiyomi Takada.
The Kira task-force plants a bunch of surveillance equipment in Takada's house in an attempt to figure out how she kills, and they're naturally perplexed when they see her writing names down in a black notebook. So they plant some equipment that's easier to find, and set a trap for her, with Matsuda approaching her as Taro Mastui, and demanding payment to keep quiet about her being Kira.
They set the trap for Takada, with Matsuda being interviewed at Sakura TV. They have Demegawa phone Takada to tell her about it, and she tries to write down "Taro Matsui" in her Death Note, but when it doesn't stick, she makes a deal with Rem for the Shinigami eyes and makes her way to the studio, speeding and getting pulled-over by a cop on the way there. She writes his name down in the Death Note and speeds off, leaving him to die of a heart-attack in the middle of the road. They almost did the thing of him crashing into the back of the semi-truck, but they just have him fall off his motorcycle.
She gets to the studio, and finds they've evacuated the entire studio and replaced Matsuda and the host with dummies.
The Kira task-force ambush her, handcuff her, and blindfold her. Soichiro picks up the Death Note she dropped and sees Rem hovering above. Naturally, this freaks him out. Some other members of the task-force pick it up and freak out about the Shinigami. L grabs it, and then Light takes it, his memories flooding back to him.
L and the rest of the task-force begin questioning Kiyomi Takada, and Rem about the Death Note, and how it works.
I'd like you to take a hard look at this screenshot. This is before the camera pans over to the remaining members of the Kira task-force touching the Death Note Light is holding so they can see the Shinigami Rem. Notice how the light is affected by her body being in front of it. Notice how it would obviously be casting a shadow if you were to pan around to look at the members of the task-force. Remember that, because that's important. There's a general issue with the Shinigami in these films, that they seem to affect light sometimes and not others.
Okay, now that I've driven my point home, look at this screenshot. There's no shadow being cast on Sanami, Light and the other two members of the Kira task-force from Rem. The only shadow  being cast on them in this scene is coming from Light. Logically speaking, the light in this scene should be casting a silhouette of Rem on them. The closest thing they got to that might be Rem's shadow is that thing at the very back of the shot which might be her arms and legs. The problem with that is that the shadows cut off prematurely, almost digitally towards the bottom of the wall. Based on the fact that Rem appears to be blocking light in the first screenshot, she should be casting a shadow in the second one. But she's not. See, this is why you don't use CGI for an entire character if you don't have the ability to matte in every single thing you'd need to make it look good. While they messed up big-time on the shadows in this scene, the CGI on Rem is at its best in this scene. It actually looks otherworldly, and not like it was just ripped from a PS2 FMV. They apparently had motion-capture for all three of the Shinigami in this film (Except for one bit with Gelus at the beginning of the film that's clearly a badly animated puppet.) and I'm glad they did, because manually animating this CGI would have likely turned out terribly. The shading and collision are bad enough on these models, all they've got going for them is the somewhat smooth animation. I think I actually saw part of Ryuk's body clip through itself in the first film.
Back to the plot. When the task-force finds out that the notebook is the tool of murder, the team is naturally suspicious. Rem tells them to test the Death Note out on Takada, but Light has already popped-open his watch (That's a kick-ass watch by the way) and surreptitiously written her name down on the piece of the Death Note he'd hidden there months ago. She dies, and the task-force regroups to headquarters to analyze the Death Note. There, they find the rules Light has added. For some reason they only included the first of the two rules, the thirteen-day rule, with the destruction rule being left out for some reason, just like it was in the animated movies. Even though that rule was critical to them not outright destroying the Death Note after the NPA got their hands on it. Yeah, Light might have been counting on L's scientific curiosity to keep them from outright burning it, but Light Yagami doesn't take those kinds of chances. He doesn't take any chances. If he hadn't been forced to rely on Misa Amane, Kyosuke Higuchi, Kiyomi Takeda, and Teru Mikami, he never would have been caught. That's the problem with these compressed adaptations, they don't include all of the nuance of Light's actions, and sometimes outright eliminate some of the things that made his actions so genius.
Light has Misa go to where he buried his Death Note in the woods so she can get her memories back and continue the Kira work while he works with the task-force full-time. In reality, this is a gambit to put Misa in L's crosshairs so he can get Rem to kill L, lengthening Misa's lifespan with her own and getting out of his hair.
L decides it's time to test out the Death Note on a pair of death-row criminals set to be executed to see if the thirteen-day rule is true. Have one write down the others name, and then in thirteen days, if the writer is still alive, he gets a stay of execution. In direct opposition to the other versions of the story (Not counting the musical or the live-actions series since I haven't seen them), they actually put this plan into motion, with Soichiro and the rest of the task-force take the Death Note to the airport in an armored convoy. L also wants to do a different test on the same day, to see if Misa Amane is actually the second Kira. He's got a heart-monitor hooked up which will send a signal to the task-force if he dies. The plan is to catch Misa in the act and prevent her from killing him. He appears to trust Light enough to have him help with this test as well. Light, under orders from L invites Misa to headquarters.
As Watari is bringing Misa in to see Light, Rem kills him and L. Light taunts L as he dies, since the rest of the task-force is gone. L survives long enough to grab Light's ankle and say a few things, and then nothing.
Light goes to meet Misa at the elevator, and borrow her Death Note to kill the rest of the task-force, including his father, much to Misa's horror. He writes specifically that Soichiro will turn the Death Note over before dying, and goes to meet him in the lobby.
Light, assured of his victory, tells his father to hand over the notebook, as his time is coming to an end.
I almost thought this was going to end with Light winning. Think about it, what's a great twist you could add to an adaptation like this? Light lost in the comics, so naturally him winning would be utterly unexpected.
His father opens the case and...
It's empty. Nothing but foam padding inside. Soichiro, distraught, tells Light about what he's heard, about how he never really left, and the rest of the task-force surrounds them. Light figures he's still got it all in the bag, however, since he wrote their names in the Death Note.
Light is taken aback, however, when he sees L, alive on the balcony above.
See, the only twist better than Light winning would be L himself defeating Light, and that's what happened. L suspected that he was going to be killed soon, so he wrote his name in the Death Note, utilizing the twenty-three-day rule (that you can schedule a death up to twenty-three days in advance) to keep himself alive long enough to catch Light in the act. Soichiro was reluctant to cooperate, but when shown that L had already written his own name in the Death Note, he complied. Thus the plan was set in motion to fake his death and catch Light in a confession. Secretly, after her release, the task-force monitored Misa Amane, finding out that she was in fact the second Kira, so they switched her Death Note with a copy they made, and had the media report deaths when there were none.
Cornered, Light begins talking about how he wanted to bring justice to the world while popping open his watch to write down the names of the task-force on the scrap of paper inside. Matsuda blasts the watch off his wrist with a shot from his gun. As Light attempts to reach for it, Matsuda shoots him once again in the leg. We all know how the rest of this goes down. Light begs Ryuk to use his Death Note to kill the task-force, but Ryuk instead writes just one name down. Light Yagami.
Light tries to tackle Ryuk, but since Ryuk can make himself incorporeal, Light doesn't have any luck. Bleeding out, heart failing, Light dies in his fathers arms, pleading with him to understand that he acted as Kira to defend the concept of justice.
Twenty days later, L has gotten his affairs in order, destroyed the Death Notes, and meets with Soichiro one last time, saying that although he never knew his parents, he still knew Soichiro was a good father. After that, the worlds greatest detective dies peacefully, eating a bar of chocolate and playing chess.
The Death Note has been omitted from all official records, and the identity of Kira withheld, with the official story being that Kira killed Light, and was then killed himself. I believe that rings true to a certain extent. You see, the moment Light gave up his memories of being Kira, he basically became a completely different person. Then, the moment Light picked up the Death Note again, Kira took over, and whatever was left of Light Yagami was erased. It's not so much "true from a certain point of view" as it might be literally true, considering the nature of the memory-gambit.
A year later, what's left of the Yagami family is mourning Light's death on his birthday. Sayu, who hated Kira for killing innocent police-officers has seen her hatred of Kira intensify with the death of her beloved brother.
Misa has once again lost her memories with the loss of her Death Note. She laments the loss of Light, with an obvious gap as to how he died in her memories.
I'll admit, this movie actually made me cry. All of the deaths in the comics and the animated series, L's death, Soichiro's death, Sayu's abduction and subsequent catatonic state, they were all incredibly sad, but somehow this was even worse. Soichiro having to watch his son die in his arms, having to live with the fact that his son was the worlds most prolific serial-killer, L deliberately sacrificing his life to catch Kira, Sayu and Sachiko mourning Light while loathing Kira, that just broke my heart. In the end, crime might have been reduced, but that's not worth the lives of two of the worlds greatest detectives. The way this movie ends is very reminiscent of how the comics ended, with the futility of the entire struggle laid bare for all to see. In the end, nothing was gained, and much was lost.
All in all, while The Last Name had its issues, it had enough of the Death Note spirit to it to make it worthwhile, and enough moments of deep emotion and bad-ass to live up to what came before.
The few issues I have are mostly minor ones, and the one major issue I have was already brought up in the previous review, namely a criminally sparse soundtrack despite having a talented composer on-board. They re-used Dani California, the ED from the last movie as the OP of this one, with Snow, Hey Oh (Another Chili Peppers song) used as part of the end-credits music.
One thing that really irked me, however, that I forgot to bring up in my last review is this. They have this really weird 3D interface for their mugshots and criminal records. As a computer person, I can tell you that this would be a waste of GPU and processing power when an image-gallery or a PDF would have sufficed. I'm almost certain that nothing like this exists, and I'm sick and tired of seeing these stupidly impractical science-fiction interfaces used instead of, you know, standard windows applications. Even mockups would be more logical than this!
In the end, I think this was a really good movie despite the flaws, and for that reason I give it an 8.9* rating. In two movies, Kaneko Shusuke covered the same ground Visions of a God did in one, but he did it in such a way that it basically worked. Plus, he ended it on a twist instead of just remaking the ending from the comics verbatim. Even though these two movies don't cover the entire series by any means, they still capture more of the Death Note spirit than the animated movies did.
And finally, just for laughs, I leave you with this screenshot I couldn't find a place for in the review.
There's only one more live-action Death Note film left, and I'll be getting to that one next week!
(By the way, if anyone can tell me where to find the Death Note musical with English subtitles, that'd be great)

Cover image from, screenshots taken by me.