Any translation from manga or anime to live-action will have differences and director Adam Wingard (‘Blair Witch’,’The Guest’) is sharing how ‘Death Note‘ has changed from the source material and why. Honestly, his reasons all make perfect sense, and you can tell it was something he struggled with. Not only that, but it seems like these variations from the source material had to have come right at the start of production with the themes that he brings up.
Here is what Wingard had to say about changing the location from Japan to Seattle, Washington and using a white cast:
“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.”
Honestly, he seems to be ensuring that some of the major aspects are included, so I’m happy to hear about that. How the rest of the story will translate for a Western audience is something I’m interested in. The trailers have looked good, but it is quite obvious that changes have been made.
As to what the change in the setting meant for the film:
“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, whenever I say it’s about America, I’m looking at it like, ‘What are the main kind of core issues going on in America?’ What are the things that people chalk up to conspiracy theories? What kind of weird underground programs does the government have? How do I those work into the world of Death Note?”
With death, a person who can control it to an extent, and a demon all around, there are some potential audience members who won’t fully appreciate the original work:
“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.”
We still have to wait for the August release to get an idea if this translation works for audiences and fans of the source material but I feel that the concepts will be there, and hopefully, the quality will be as well.
Are you looking forward to ‘Death Note’? Are you okay with changes to the story based on the change in location? Share your thoughts below!