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Sunday January 14, 2007

Last but not least


Here’re a few hints of the second and concluding part of Death Note the movie, The Last Name. 

IN the first instalment, Death Note, we see brilliant university student Light Yagami discovering a supernatural notebook called the “Death Note” that has the power to kill the person whose name is written in it. Light uses his newfound power to forge his ideal of a new world free of criminals. Although his efforts are met with cheers by some who consider him a hero, others – the authorities in particular – are not as cheerful about his vigilante endeavours. They dub him “Kira” (Killer) and set up a task force to hunt him down, much to Light’s amusement.  

His fun is, however, short-lived when a detective called “L” enters the picture. After that, the two begin a battle of wits – L trying to expose Kira’s true identity and Light evading discovery. The first movie ended with Light and L coming face to face for the first time. 

If you think the psychological war between Light and L was intense then, wait till you watch Death Note 2: The Last Name! This time, Light not only deals with L but with a second and third Kira! Ryuk, the shinigami (death god) who shadows Light’s movements, will also have more company: another shinigami will appear.  

Light in the middle of two shinigami in The Last Name? Can’t be good news.
Death Note and its sequel, Death Note 2: The Last Name (released in Japan on Nov 3), have enjoyed box-office success in Asia. Death Note 2 raked in about US$41mil (RM144mil) in Japan, US$1.9mil (about RM7mil) in Hong Kong and US$1.6mil (RM5.6mil) in Taiwan on the sixth week of its run. And Hollywood is paying attention: more than 10 film companies are interested in remake rights for the movies.  

And this may come as a surprise for some (and good news for others): the ending of the movie will be different from the manga’s. 

And, according to a press release, “80% of the audience walked out of the theatre very satisfied”. Just how true this is we’d have to wait until the movie is analysed by Malaysian otaku. (Although the ending of the long-running manga was fitting, it did leave some fans dismayed, especially at the fate of some of the manga’s beloved characters.) 

Although director Shusuke Kaneko is delighted with the success of the first movie, he has mixed feelings directing Death Note

Death Note uses ‘death’ to entertain the audience. It’s morally unsettling. I would call it ‘disturbing entertainment’. Audiences generally like heart-warming stories. Death Note isn’t. I had a little reservation as to how well it would do at the box office,” he says in a press release. 

Shusuke ponders on why the movie has become such a hit. Perhaps it has something to do with the Internet era, he muses. 

“I can see some similarity between Death Note and the way people hurt each other on the web on bulletin boards and blogs. In modern Japan, death is so carefully concealed that people don’t even think about it,” he says. 

In other places such as the Middle East, death is an everyday reality, and perversely, these deaths can be seen on the Internet by Japanese people, he adds. 

“This perverse connection made possible by the Net has a lot to do with what Death Note is about. I hope viewing Death Note helps the audience think about death.” 

Enter Misa 

Misa Amane (Erika Toda) gets her very own Death Note. How is she going to use it?
Death Note 2 will introduce a few new characters that will play a big role in the battle between Light and L. First, there’s the bright and bubbly pop star Misa Amane who appeared towards the end of the first movie. The punk Lolita fashion aficionado has picked up a second Death Note at the end of the first movie. Just how will the girl who seems like a ditz at a glance use it – with caution or abandon? 

Playing Misa is 18-year-old Erika Toda who makes her feature film debut in Death Note 2.  

“Misa is so popular among the fans of the Death Note comic that I was under a lot of pressure,” admits Erika. However, the nervousness was gone once she started filming.  

“(Then) I only cared about acting as well as I could and did not think about the pressure,” she recalls. 

One feels as if she didn’t have the time to think much about how fans would react, especially since she had to endure physically and mentally exhausting shoots and film difficult scenes like the one where she had to be confined to a straitjacket. 

“It was time-consuming to undo the jacket, so I often had to wait around in the straitjacket between takes. Sometimes I had to be blindfolded for one whole hour,” she says. 

And although she finds her character complicated and fascinating, Erika personally doesn’t understand why anyone would use the Death Note to kill deliberately. 

“Being able to control another person’s life is not only scary but it should not be allowed at all,” she states emphatically. 

“Misa is a person who does everything she sets out to do. No compromise. I admire that part of her. But what Misa and Light do is criminal even if it’s to make the world a better place with fewer criminals,” she says.  

Another new character is TV journalist Kiyomi Takada (played by Nana Katase). Her  

investigation of the Kira killings gets her too deeply involved and one gets the impression that the anchorwoman is not going to have a great time in the movie. 

“Her character is important in reminding us the satanic power of the Death Note,” says director Shusuke. 

“My scenes are terrifying even on the video monitor,” hints Nana who has read all the Death Note volumes.  

Nana says that she and Kiyomi has something in common. 

“We both have a strong sense of justice, but we are different in that even though I have my beliefs I would not kill anyone based on them.” 

So, do these tantalising bits gear you up for the final instalment of the Death Note movie? Let us sweeten the experience by offering you something special. Just read below! 

  • ‘Death Note 2: The Last Name’ will start screening in Malaysian cinemas on Jan 26.  

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