It’s been a strong time lately for fans of the Death Note franchise. The 2006 hit anime series seems just as popular as ever and shows that it still has a highly passionate fanbase every time a new piece of media in the Death Note universe releases. Just last month we got the American re imagining on Netflix and the home release of the latest film in the Japanese series: Light Up The New World, which is what is being reviewed right here.
Light Up The New World takes place 10 years after the events of the first 2 films Death Note & Death Note: The Last Name. Coincidentally it has also been 10 years since those films released. If you haven’t delved into the world of Death Note before, the plot of the series revolves around a high schooler named Light Yagami that finds a notebook called the Death Note that has the ability to kill anyone who’s name is written in it’s pages. He attempts to rid the world of any criminals in a twisted form of justice, while engaged in a high stakes cat and mouse battle with the police task force trying to capture him. It’s a brilliant series and is well worth a watch as my 2 sentence description really doesn’t do it justice.
The film starts with a small montage recap of the ending of the second film. This is in no way used to bring newcomers up to speed as it doesn’t explain what has happened plot wise, but is used to remind people that have watched the prior film what happened at the end and sets the starting point for this movie. The beginning of the film explains that the Shinigami King has now placed 6 Death Note’s in the human realm (it is explained later in the film why, but you should watch that for yourself).
This sets in motion the 3 way struggle between the main characters to locate and capture the notebooks. With the police task force wanting to locate and safely vault all 6 books and a cyber terrorist group looking to locate the books and further the legacy of Kira. With the battle of Kira and L ending long ago, the main forces in this film are the successors of both sides and the police task force. Main protagonist Tsukuru Mishima is the leader of the Death Note police task force and is working with a world class private investigator and original successor to L, Ryuzaki. Which fans of the original series will know was also the code name of original L during his Kira investigation. The task force are in possession of one Death Note already, and are informed by it’s bound Shinigami that only 6 Death Note’s can be in use in the world at any one time. If a 7th comes to be dropped into the human world, it would not work. This is the catalyst for the task force wanting to retrieve all 6 notes and have them safely locked away. Negating the ability for there to ever be another Kira incident.
Both the task force and Ryuzaki are opposed by a cyber terrorist organisation that use their technical skills to locate and dispatch those across the world that came into the possession of any of the 6 notes. This organisation see themselves as the successors to Kira and want to continue the work he has done. It is lead by Yūki Shien who already possesses a Note and is using it and his skills to locate the rest.
As with all good Death Note stories there are a number of plot twists along the way, and by the end the story is fairly wrapped up and contained in case this does turn out to be the last film. This review won’t go any further into the plot details so we won’t spoil things for you but if you were a fan of the original films or are familiar with the anime i’d say it’s well worth a watch. The film’s plot involved both Kira and L more than I had expected going in, despite them both being dead. Ryuzaki is mentioned to be the DNA successor to L, it is unclear exactly how this came to be but it seems successors to L may have been created back at Wammy house many years ago using young L’s DNA. It truly is battle of the DNA in this film as there is still a Kira presence in play as well, but you’ll need to watch it yourself for that. We also get a return appearance of series regular Misa Amane, love interest of Light Yagami.
This movie will definitely appeal more to existing fans of Death Note. It doesn’t do much to bring newcomers up to speed and is presented more as a continuation of the story told in the prior films. For that reason I don’t recommend this to be anyone’s jumping on point into the Death Note universe. Go and watch the earlier films first, or if you have the time, watch the anime series. It is well worth it.
The CGI in this film has improved over its predecessors as well. There are new Shinigami involved in a number of scenes in the plot and all are CG models. They are clearly CG characters but blend into the environments well with the human actors and don’t just appear ‘pasted’ in on top of the footage, standing out like a bad overly glossy piece of CGI. Seeing as the Shinigami are a massive part of the supernatural plot points, i’m glad the nailed that aspect.
This film comes in at around the 135 minute mark, which is fairly on par with how long the earlier one’s were. It may seem long but the pacing of the film is really good and always moving forward towards the next plot point. There were no points throughout where I wished a scene would hurry up and end to move on. There were some scene’s, especially moments of conversation with the Shinigami that I wished were longer. They are always interesting scenes, and provide some of the best moments and insight into the Death Note universe.
One thing I do wish was better in the film was the cat and mouse intellectual battles between the sides. They are definitely there, and there are some great twists but overall I felt like it didn’t live up to the magic that the scene’s between L and Kira had when they were locked in a similar battle 10 years ago. Those moments will forever be hard to beat though. I felt exactly the same when watching the anime series, it also lost some of its wow when they introduced L’s successors to take over the battle. but overall this film is a must watch for any Death Note fans out there.
Light Up The New World is set after the events of the Hulu produced Death Note: New Generation mini-series. This is a 3 episode series, with each episode providing some further character development for each of the 3 mains, Mishima, Ryuzaki and Shien. While not required watching before seeing the film, it is nice to have them as they fill in pieces of the 10 year gap between the films. If you pick up the Madman Bluray release, all 3 mini series episodes are also included on the disc’s special features, which was an awesome addition to the set as i’d originally thought i’d need to source them elsewhere after watching the movie.
You can pick up Light Up The New World now from Madman Entertainment.
A Bluray review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment for the purpose of this review.
All images ©Tsugumi Ohba Takeshi Obata / Shueisha Inc. © 2016 “DEATH NOTE” FILM PARTNERS