Review: ‘Death Note: Light Up the New World’ has the excitement but not the character development of the original

Secret ending? YES

Running time: 135 minutes (2.25 hours)

“Death Note: Light Up the New World” is a fantasy action film that’s based on the manga and anime series, “Death Note”. It’s the fourth in the “Death Note” film franchise and takes place 10 years after the events of “Death Note 2: The Last Name”.

In a world where cyber terrorism runs rampant, six Death Notes have fallen to Earth and created a rash of mysterious murders. The heirs to L and Kira search for all six Death Notes, continuing the rivalry of their predecessors. It stars Masahiro Higashide (Tsukuru Mishima), Sosuke Ikematsu (Ryuzaki), Masaki Suda (Yuki Shien), Erika Toda (Misa Amane), Nakamura Shido II (voice of Ryuk), Miyuki Sawashiro (voice of Arma), with cameos by Kenichi Matsuyama (L) and Tatsuya Fujiwara (Light Yagami/Kira).

“Death Note: Light Up the New World” is probably one of the most anticipated live-action manga adaptations this year, especially since it’s the continuation of an insanely popular series 10 years ago. It leverages on the nostalgia of the original “Death Note” but adds a few new twists and updates, mainly to the level of technology, to account for how it interacts with the titular Death Notes. It’s more of the same, but lacks the spark that made the original so fascinating.


Fast-paced and exciting

The plot, as usual, is filled with dramatic twists and turns as the three main characters try to outwit each other, even if some of them are on the same side. The plot twists also follow the rules of the original Death Notes instead of coming up with arbitrary new ones, which is an impressive feat given how convoluted the plot can get and the number of conditions to consider for Death Note users and victims. The only quibble is with the final revelation, but besides that, the rest of the plot is fit for the “Death Note” franchise.

A strange bromance between Mishima and Ryuzaki

Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu) feels like an exaggerated, pretentious version of L, but there’s no denying the weird chemistry he has with Mishima (Masahiro Higashide). The pair don’t hit it off and, in fact, rarely get along for most of the film. Yet there’s this glimmer of friendship between the pair which, in hindsight, feels very much like a mentor-mentee relationship. It’s an element not seen in previous “Death Note” films, and gives “Death Note: Light Up the New World” it’s own unique flavour.


Nobody is as intelligent as L and Light

If you’re looking for a thrilling battle of wits… it’s not here. The characters are, plainly put, not of the same magnificent intellect as their forebears. There are no complicated gambits, no stunning revelations and none of that duelling of the minds that L and Light had. Their “descendants” might be carrying on the battle between good and evil, but it’s not of the same quality as before.

The final reveal is a tremendous disappointment

The character who is revealed to have been pulling everyone’s strings all along is the result of a convenient plot device that unnecessarily complicates the story.

The problem is that the film wasn’t the result of a well-conceived plot for the betterment of the world. Instead, it hinges on the fact that one character didn’t tell another character a vital piece of information.

Tie up that loose end, you’ll have no film. It’s a groan-worthy letdown when you finally find out how circumstances came to be the way they were.

Lack of exposition of the rules of “Death Note”

Quick, what are the rules of the Shinigami Eyes? If you don’t remember those rules offhand then “Death Note: Light Up the New World” will be incomprehensible.

You’ll frequently find yourself consulting your mobile phone or asking your friend what are the properties of the Death Notes, since the film doesn’t explain when certain rules are in play. It’s been 10 years since the last “Death Note” though — couldn’t we at least have had some exposition for the rules of the franchise?

“Death Note: Light Up the New World” has the excitement, but not the character development, of the original.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you’re a fan of the “Death Note” series.

Score: 3.5/5

“Death Note: Light Up the New World” opens in cinemas:
- 10 November, 2016 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at The views expressed are his own.