Saturday Night Comic Book Movie Double Feature: Manga Edition

It’s back by popular demand. Or by the demand of one loyal friend who sent me DVD who made this possible.

Death Note DVD
Buy at Amazon

Prior to watching this, I knew exactly one thing about Death Note: The kids like it.

The live-action version of the manga and anime series is sharp and saturated. The movie feels very stylized. As main character Light Yagami, actor Tatsuya Fujiwara looks a lot like a pop star — he’s too attractive for his own good. He doesn’t look like any college law student I know of.

Light finds a notebook in which he can write the names of anyone and lead to their deaths. The plot is overall a little misanthropic but at the same time, I can understand why the idea resonates with teenagers. It’s not nearly as disturbing as I thought it would be — the deaths are pretty bloodless, overall. Light is pretty unlikeable as the movie progresses, which is part of the point. Obviously, there’s some idea of what “justice” means — is it the law, or is it vigilantism?

I think the death god, Ryuk, could’ve been better. He’s rendered in CGI and looks like a World of Warcraft avatar that’s a cross between David Bowie and the Crow. I would’ve rather seen someone dressed up in a costume and makeup, personally.

Death Note was a little long as a movie. I think the bits with “L” (who looked, intentionally, a lot like Ryuk) were too drawn out and some plot points were obvious (of course Light’s dad was on the police force and involved with the investigation). Still, it was stylish and entertaining. I can see why teenagers like this story, and I certainly don’t mean that as a bad thing.

20th Century Boys
Region 3 DVD
Buy at YesAsia

Based on Naoki Urasawa’s manga series, 20th Century Boys centers on former rock musician Kenji and a story he and his friends came up with in his childhood. In 1997, where a bulk of the story takes place, a cult led by a mysterious man known only as Friend is tied to “prophecies” Kenji made up nearly 20 years ago. Charged with taking care of his sister’s little girl, Kenji becomes a reluctant hero as he unravels the mystery from his past and how it will affect his future — if he, or anyone else — has one. Kenji ends up gathering his childhood friends to fight Friend and his plans as the clock begins to tick toward the new century.

It’s something of a cop-out to say “Oh, I don’t want to give too much away” but part of the joy of this movie is how it unfolds and how the stakes are constantly being raised. It’s maybe a bit too long (it’s about two hours and 20 minutes) and could probably be tightened up, but it covers a lot of ground during that time, jumping from the past to the future to the present. It’s a great piece of science fiction, and while there are a lot of questions left unanswered at the end (as well as a “to be continued” and there are two more planned), there is something beautifully satisfying about this movie. I really hope this gets a release on DVD in the U.S. If you have a region-free DVD player, it’s worth seeking out.

Here is the T.Rex song, “20th Century Boy,” that the manga series sort of centers around.

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