Netflix sends Death Note

The Iconic Japanese Story Gets A Western Remake


BY: Zak Wojnar

Netflix began as a mailing system for DVD rentals, but quickly expanded into streaming, and then original content. With shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and the fourth season of Arrested Development, the company became one of the hottest networks in the realm of television. More recently, the streaming service has grown to include original movies, such as Beasts of No Nation, The Most Hated Woman in America, and ARQ, among many others.

Coming up next for the streaming giant is Death Note, based on the iconic Japanese franchise. Originally published as a serialized manga from 2003 to 2006, the title became massively popular and spawned numerous adaptations, from an anime series, to live-action television and movies, and even a musical version, courtesy of veteran Broadway songwriter Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel).

The Netflix Original Film version of the story is the first developed for Western audiences, and expectations are high. The setting is shifted from Japan to The United States (Seattle, to be precise), though the core story appears to be the same: a teenager, played by Nat Wolff (Ashby, The Fault in Our Stars) discovers a mysterious book which can kill people whose names are written in its pages, and communes with a mysterious entity (voiced by Willem Dafoe) who warns him of the dangers of possessing the Death Note‘s nigh-limitless power.

The supernatural thriller film is being directed by Adam Wingard, who proved his horror credentials with movies like You’re Next and Blair Witch, and was recently tapped to direct the upcoming monster smash-up, Godzilla vs Kong. Wingard‘s vision for an American take on the classic Japanese story was met with some derision from old-school fans of the property, who didn’t take kindly to moving the setting to the West and making the main character a white American instead of Japanese.

Still, there’s a lot of potential for Death Note to succeed and become an immediate watercooler sensation along the lines of Stranger Things or The X-Files. The “live-action manga/anime adaptation” genre needs a serious shot in the arm after the dismal failure of the ill-conceived Ghost in the Shell movie, and Netflix is hoping Death Note might be a real game changer for Japanese-inspired movies.

Death Note hits Netflix on August 25.