‘Death Note’: How The U.S. Setting Changes The Story & Characters

'Death Note' director Adam Wingard discusses why he changed the setting and how the decision alters the original story and characters.

Netflix Death Note Movie
Netflix’s upcoming live-action adaptation of Death Note will feature the Shinigami named Ryuk, but the film’s setting and characters will be noticeably different from the Japanese manga series. While a number of fans may be dismayed by the creative changes to the source material, director Adam Wingard explained to IGN why he made the alterations and how they will affect the original story and characters.

Wingard explained why he made the decision to change the setting for Death Note:

“In the early stages of the film I was rereading all of the manga, really just looking at how does any of this translate to the United States. Ultimately, Death Note is such a Japanese thing. You can’t just say let’s port this over and it’s going to all add up. They’re two different worlds completely.”

Wingard elaborated on why directly adapting the source material would not have worked:

“It’s one of those things where the harder I tried to stay 100 percent true to the source material, the more it just kind of fell apart… You’re in a different country, you’re in a different kind of environment, and you’re trying to also summarize a sprawling series into a two-hour-long film. For me, it became about what do these themes mean to modern day America, and how does that affect how we tell the story. Ultimately, the cat and mouse chase between Light and L, the themes of good, evil, and what’s in between the gray area. Those are the core things of Death Note, and that’s really what we went for.”

Wingard also discussed how changing the setting resulted in the characters being different from their manga counterparts:

“At its core, it’s taking the themes of who the characters are but it’s exploring them in a new context. Ultimately the personalities of the characters a quite a bit different… L isn’t the same. There are a lot of similarities — he likes candy, sometimes he romps around with his shoes off. Those kinds of things, but at the end of the day the take on L and the escalation of his character is very different. He’s still a weirdo. It’s the same for almost all the characters across the board. Probably the only character that comes off as the same way as he does in the anime is Ryuk.”

What do you think of the changes to the source material? Has Wingard’s explanation convinced you they were the right decisions? Share your thoughts below!

Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone’s name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

Death Note stars Nat Wolff as Light Turner/Kira, Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton, Keith Stanfield as L, Paul Nakauchi as Watari, Shea Whigham as James Turner and Masi Oka in an undisclosed role.

Death Note will be released on Netflix on August 25th, 2017.

Source: IGN

Sebastian Peris

Sebastian Peris

Canadian film buff, political junkie, comic book geek, and board game enthusiast.