Death Note vs. Death Note vs. Death Note

Death Note V. 05Death Note! A popular manga series. A popular anime series. A popular movie series. Now it’s a live action drama series! I really have no idea how popular the drama is in Japan (and among international fans of the franchise). Strangely enough, when I first tried reading the manga, I hated it (now I own the entire series), but for some reason I jumped on board the live action movie series. You can read my review of the movie version here.

So, why did I title this post Death Note vs. Death Note vs. Death Note? Simply because I’m going to compare them all to an extent. By all, I am referring to the live action movie, the manga, and the newly airing live action drama. And only to the finding of the second Death Note.

So, despite all of the differences between the stories (and there is actually quite a bit), the heart of the series remains the same. Light comes across a strange black notebook one day. It has Death Note written on the front cover and there are instructions inside that tell him that whoever has their name written in that notebook will die (of a heart attack if no death is specified). Of course, you must also know the person’s face so that is clearly pictured in your mind so two people with the same name will not die. Light is accompanied by the Death Note’s former owner, shinigami (death god) Ryuk. Light begins killing evil criminals. All these deaths begin to add up and the police take note. A special task force is then set up to catch this rising serial killer becoming known across the world as Kira “the savior.” Light’s father heads the task force and works with a very special reclusive detective simply known by the letter L. This recluse is a lot like Kira in immaturity and hating to lose. He has no problems sacrificing criminal lives to test his theories and using underhanded and overhanded methods to catch this vigilante. A very deadly and complicated cat and mouse game ensues between Light/Kira and L who both believe themselves to be the epitome of justice.

Okay. I could go into the plot…but actually despite some different ordering of events…there really isn’t too much to go into between the versions at this point because I have not watched enough of the Japanese drama or read enough of the manga to give a good enough comparison on a whole with the movies series (which I have watched all of at this point…several years ago). I will say this, though. Initially, when Death Note starts, Yagami Light was 17 and a high school senior. I guess they frowned on a “child” having such a powerful notebook, so in the live action movie and drama series, they make Light a college student. Okay…so I could go into more detail about differences. Like the drama treats the FBI agent trailing Light differently, and idol Misa Misa has more prominence from the get go in the drama, and the movie version gave Light a girlfriend named Shiori. Sure, there’s more to offer, but I’m only 2 episodes in. Got that? 2 episodes! Plus…I need to finish reading the manga (which I’m actually enjoying now) and rewatching the rest of the movie series.

What I really want to talk about is the main characters. Shall we start with Yagami Light?

Death Note Light

One thing that remains the same across the drama, movie, and manga is Light’s intelligence. He’s super intelligent and quite quick on his feet when it comes to taking on the police and L. One thing that is different in the Japanese drama versus the movie and the manga series is just how human Light is. What do I mean? In the manga and movie Light (played by Fujiwara Tatsuya, btw) is very, very full of himself. He’s cocky, arrogant, and popular. Light refers to himself as essentially the “god” of the new world he is molding by eradicating the worst of the worse. Sure, he has a death god’s notebook…but really? Talk about delusions of grandeur. I won’t say I agree 100% with what Light did with such ease (in the manga and movie). He quickly started using the Death Note to rid the world of heinous criminals without any hesitation or second thought. He does mention some stress over the power of the notebook, but you never really see any internal conflicts rising up and shaking his confidence. One thing that is amazing about the Light in the comics and movies is just how intricate his plans are and how masterfully he plays things. Light does many things using the Death Note that take a great deal of planning and finesse and that really are a huge slap in the face to the police and L.

jd-death-note-lightIn the drama, Light (Kubota Masataka) is not really popular (we see him get bullied by an old classmate and say nothing at first) and his only goal is to have a stable job and thus a stable life by working in something like a ward office. This Light is also at odds with his father as in the drama version Light’s mother was ill and passed away when he and his sister were children. His father was busy apprehending a criminal instead of at his dying wife’s side (in the manga and movies, Mrs. Yagami is alive and well and there is no real tension between father and son to start). I think the biggest difference we see is that we have a Light we can sympathize with as he’s not some person with a god complex (at least not right away…we get to see him more conflicted and human to start). It terrified him to use the Death Note for the first time and he even tried to scribble out his first victim’s name. When he learns of how his former bully died, he’s horrified that he’s killed a person. This is NOT the way Light is originally written, but I have to say I like this version of Light more so than the version you get in the manga and movies. In the movies and in the manga, Light isn’t concerned at all when Ryuk appears before him. In fact, both versions of Light are eagerly expecting it. In the drama, Ryuk’s appearance terrifies Light who is concerned about whether or not he should keep the Death Note or throw it away.

death-note-light-tests-the-notebookLight from the manga and movies rides high on what the internet calls him. In the drama, it’s more understated to start. Light has not viewed himself as godlike and creating a perfect world to rule over. No, instead, Light sees the cries of the people and their condoning of his actions as being what needs to be done to save the world and its peoples and believes that he is doing the right thing by ridding the world of these unwanted and evil people. When L enters the scene in the drama, Light does not want to have to do anything bad, but he has decided this is what he must do and as horrible as it seems, he must keep the way clear so he can continue what it is he’s supposed to do. In the manga and movies… Light never really hesitated at all to get rid of obstacles, but that had more to do with his own egotistical power trip than anything else. In the movies and manga, Light only used his powers to get people out of his way and to cleanse the world. In the drama version, Light has decided to not only cleanse the world of the worst evil, but to use his powers to help those he loves. Thus his second name in the Death Note (after the bully’s) was a criminal who was holding his father hostage. Also, Light strives his very best to keep Misa Misa safe (the idol he has a crush on I guess).

My final words on Light. The movies and manga portray Light as being for more knowledgeable in many things than the drama version. Everything that Light does is heavily thought out and planned to a T. Some things with drama Light really aren’t that smoothly planned. Luck is more on his side (even though he does have above average intelligence). In the first two episodes, what was more or less intentional with the manga and movie version’s actions don’t seem to be as intentional here and it really seems that L has a leg up on Light.

So now that I have kept mentioning L all this time, let’s move on to him.

Death Note L

L is a very interesting character and one that doesn’t get as much play in the first Death Note movie (the main focus really was on Light/Kira more than anything), but definitely way more in the second. Of course, L even gets his very own movie so we can see his final days. L is portrayed by Matsuyama Kenichi in the movie series and by Yamazaki Kento in the drama series. Before diving into the character of L, I will just say that Matsuyama Kenichi’s portrayal is my favorite. I guess if I picked a favorite Light, it would be the drama version which is a far cry from how Light really was written.

Matsuyama KenichiL usually is only seen in loose jeans and a white, long sleeved shirt. His hair is always disheveled and he’s got circles under his eyes since he doesn’t sleep that much. L never stands up straight and is constantly slouching. He ditches his shoes when he can and he always sits hunched over with his knees to his chest. He says that allows him to think better than if he sat normally. In the movie more so than the manga (so far) we see L eat tons of sugary foods. He doesn’t express emotions too much and talks in a very abrupt and matter of fact way. He holds a cell by the flip top with only two fingers. I really think that Matsuyama really embodied the L from the manga with his quirks and mannerisms, but the manga L and the movie L aren’t 100% in sync either. I think we see more of L scrambling in the manga at times more so than in the movie and L seems a bit more…along the lines with Light’s personality at times in the manga but you don’t get quite as much of that in the movie. I guess that the L in the movie felt young and vulnerable at times especially with the way Matsuyama played the character. Of course…L really isn’t all that old. I’m not sure of his age, but I think he’s probably only a few years older than Light at the start of it all.

The L in the drama is a far cry from both the manga and movie. I mean…this L is impeccably dressed (all in white and seems to be obsessive compulsive about germs and messes. Every time he drinks whatever pouch drink/food thingy that he does and it gets on his sleeve, he has to change his clothes. I guess in the realm of attitude he might be a bit more on par with the manga…but he definitely gives off a far more arrogant vibe than what you really get from the manga and the movie. Look at his fashionable accessories and artfully disheveled hair. He’s a high end L. I miss the frumpy and slouchy movie L. He always has that head set on and he has none of the quirky and strange mannerisms. which made L…well L. Thus, while Yamazaki Kento is not a bad actor (loved him in Clone Baby and L♥DK), I am not enamored with the way this L is written for the drama. In other terms of appearance, I guess both the movie version of L and the drama version of L are very pale (since they pretty much are inside all day analyzing data and the like). And instead of makeup for dark circles, these guys rock the eyeliner or rather guyliner. It does suit them, though, lol.

Ryuk…hasn’t really changed. I think even the CGI versions from the movies to the dramas are fairly similar. What is interesting is that when you read the manga or watch the drama version, you get to see whole new sides of Ryuk that you didn’t get to see in the movie version…like his somewhat more perverted side. He always refers to Misa as the girl with the big boobs. All Ryuks assert that they are not on Light’s side, nor are they on (or against) L’s. I think more so in the manga, Ryuk asserts several times that he will ultimately be the one to write Light’s name down in the Death Note meaning he’ll eventually kill him. Possibly when he gets bored of playing around in the human world just like how he got bored playing around in the shinigami world. I’m not certain Ryuk asserts that too much in the movie and after two episodes of the drama that I’ve watched, I don’t think Ryuk has really asserted that to Light either yet.

Another thing to note about Ryuk is that he is sly. He is doing all of this out of sheer boredom. In the manga we get a look at the shinigami world, but not so far in the first two episodes of the drama and never in the movie series. I think it actually could have been a bit more interesting to see really how our second death god came into the picture thanks to Ryuk’s actions, but we don’t in the live actions. He’ll only keep following Light until Light has ceased to amuse him. In the manga and movie series, Ryuk mentions a very important detail to Light that he can see everyone’s names and when they are supposed to die. He offers this gift to Light for half of Light’s remaining life. Cocky and arrogant Light does not want to give up his life at all. In the drama, Ryuk confesses he sees Misa’s days are numbered just because he’s bothered and this completely skips over the facts and him wanting Light to take his eyes. This might come later in the drama, but it was odd how that important fact is just glossed over from the get go.RyukI just reached the point in the manga where Misa is introduced. Toda Erika had some screen time, but not a whole lot in the first movie. It’s really the second movie where she took on a more pivotal role. I do think its safe to say that in certain ways the Misas are different, but I don’t know enough yet to go on any details to how different or similar they can be. I do know that while Misa technically plays an important role in Death Note, she is given far more prominence at the very beginning of the drama which she was never given in the manga story nor the movie story. Sano Hinako’s Misa is more of what you’d expect from an idol whereas Toda Erika’s was a bit more goth loli at times and much more immature at times (from what I can at least see so far).

I like how each version of Death Note has its own little stories and are all similar, yet different in very good ways. We have our manga with a seventeen-year-old boy with a god complex, we have our movie with a jaded college student (who basically develops a god complex), and we have our very normal drama college student who really does seem tormented by his use of the the Death Note. I really do enjoy the differences and how they explore different aspects and facets of what is justice and what is humanity. I’m looking forward to watching some more episodes of the drama, finishing the manga, and watching the other 2 movies again (I had to rewatch the first already, lol).


  • Totally agree! While the character of Misa in the drama is definitely going to be a little more crazier as she continues to pursue that ‘perfect world’ for her Kira! She is definieert more obsessed with HIM than hè is with her.

  • I agree with what you said about Light (from the movie), but isn’t Light (from the drama series) begins having the same god complex? He had some remorse in the beginning, but then he starts killing everyone that is in his way (like when L showed up and provoked him)… To me it seems that Light ( from the drama) lost himself in the power that the Death Note gave him and now he is using the original thought ( that of creating an utopian world without criminals) as an excuse to continue killing criminals…of course in the process he is saving the once he loves, because selfish or not his friend, his father and Misa Misa are people he loves.
    PS: I like the movie L better also! 🙂

    • Having watched only the first two episodes of the drama I don’t get 100% the God Complex that we see from the manga and movies, but I’m sure our more innocent Light will probably be going in that direction as the adage of Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely will never really change and we know that with the vindication from the net and the people crying out in thanks and support, he probably will think that what he’s doing is best.

      • Yes, he is thinking he is doing the best that is why he is trying to kill L, because…i think…deep down Light knows that L can stop him. Somehow Light must know that he isn’t doing the right thing, but encouraged by all those people form the net he will continue thinking that he is doing the best, he is protecting the world.

  • I agree with you about Light and L. Light in the drama is more intresting and Kubota is doing a GREAT job. I would prefer L as he is in the movies, but it doesn’t bother me that much, Kento is decent. I’ve heard not the most flattering coments about Hinako’s Misa, but fir me she is ok.

  • If you got bored reading the manga, please try watching the anime. It has a super-dramatic take on Light’s character, and personally I had a deep sympathy towards anime!L just like I did with movie!L.
    And you need to add the list of death note adaptations; namely a-not-too-popular-games and japanese and korean stage musicals.
    This is the first time I read a positive review on Sano Hinako in terms of other than her body, though.

    • It’s not boring, it just kind of wasn’t my cup of tea at first, but I am finding that I enjoy it more so now. I did know about the stage adaptations, but since I haven’t seen them, I didn’t really know what to comment on about them. It’s not that I’m being super positive about her. I’m not really sure how I feel at all since I have only watched two episodes (I’m so sporadic and all over the place when it comes to sitting down and watching dramas) even though she figures prominently in the story. She isn’t annoying me yet, but I hear she gets worse as the drama goes on.

  • I only read the first three chapters of the manga and I’ve never seen the movie, so I was coming into this fairly fresh. I liked reading your comparison, it’s interesting to see the different takes screenwriters and directors have on the source material. From the three chapters I read, I definitely noticed the difference between manga-Light and drama-Light. He wasn’t as crazed. I’m up to date with the drama now (ep 6) and am really enjoying it, so I’m glad I picked it up.

  • My main take away was casting of Mio Yuki as N/Near, which purely because or providing some sort of fan-service for the male audience. #YaoiDream

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