Death Note 2 – The Last Name
Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
Screenplay by Tetsuya Oishi
Based on the manga by Tsugumi Ôba and Takeshi Obata
Review by Ginger Mayerson
Yes…yessss…yes. I saw “Death Note 2 – The Last Name” at Anime Expo in 2007 and have been totally jonesin’ to see it again ever since. I have waited and the wonderful folks at VIZ Media have granted my wish in a big way. Death Note 2 was and I remembered it and completely worth the wait. It has everything, including lots of cheesecake and bondage.
The story picks up where Death Note 1 left of, which is to say where the unspeakably cute Misa Misa is saved and a Death Note drops out of the sky. We learn, as she does after she picks it up, that this Death Note comes with a dulcet-voiced, silky blue and white God of Death named Rem.
Now, before I’m swept away by digressions on Misa Misa’s clothes, which are awesomely cute, let me say a few words about the actors who voice the Death Gods. As we know from Death Note 1, and the indispensable Internet Movie Data Base, Light Yagami’s Death God is named Ryuuk and he’s voiced by the wonderful Shido Nakamura with much humor and percussion. He’s like a snare drum, filling in the flat parts. The character design, both character designs, are so over the top, it’s a relief to have amusing dialogue. Rem, on the other hand, is smooth, like whipped cream and sexy in the way he hovers over the adorable Misa Misa and her misadventures with Light Yagami in his (Light’s) pursuit to rule the world and her pursuit to get him to date her. Rem does more than hover over Misa, he threatens to kill Light if he harms her. I kind of think Ryuuk would rather be Misa’s Death God because he was so fascinated by her cooking show in Death Note 1. Actually, Rem gets all the girls in this film, not that it does him much good later on. The amazing thing, to me at least, is that Rem is voiced by Peter. I believe I read that Peter is or was a famous transvestite cabaret dancer. I mention this because the last time I saw Peter in anything, (which is when I read this charming fact or factoid) it was in Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran,” where he was utterly brilliant as the Fool. At the time, 20+ years ago, I thought this was a wonderful casting decision, and I still think so. (There are many reasons to see “Ran,” Peter is just another one. I think he was cuter, or as cute in “Ran” as Misa Misa is in the “Death Note” movies. Yes…yessss…) Like Nakamura, Peter’s voice performance makes the Death God a believable and even sympathetic character. Bravo the casting director. Bravo Peter and Nakamura.
Everyone is good in this sequel. (Or is it a continuation? It feels like a mere scene change between Death Note 1 and where this starts.) The biggest weakness in Death Note 1 was Light’s girlfriend, who was onscreen almost all the time, but didn’t really have a role, except as a plot point at the end of the film. The policemen and policewomen have more to do and are more developed characters in Death Note 2. Light’s father is as strong and fatherly as ever. Light’s sister gets to do some screaming and crying, which is more than she got to do in Death Note 1. And I must say, she does a fine job with that screaming and crying. Light’s mother is as much of a sweet nonentity as ever. She does have a good moment when Light brings Misa home and mama is the only one who recognizes her. Watari is still as wonderful as ever.
But the true stars in Death Note 2 are still Light and L, and we get significantly more L, which is all to the good. Their first scene is in L’s space age bachelor pad/command center/confinement complex. Light is ushered in and finds L playing solo chess. Uninvited, but unopposed, Light joins the game and over a game speed-chess (as only super geniuses play it) they spar as to whether Light is really Kira, the name given to the mysterious lethal force ridding the world of criminals by mysteriously killing them with mysterious heart attacks. It’s a pretty sexy conversation, and one of the best scenes in the film. Right up there with L meeting Misa and, seemingly, being completely swept away by her. Heh heh heh. And of course L eats sweets and drinks milk tea with sugar non-stop in this film, too.
The English dub is very very good, but one would expect nothing less than excellent from a VIZ Media product.
Oh! Bondage and cheesecake, sorry, I almost forgot. All the girls in Death Note 2 are cute and some of them are sexy. One character becomes progressively more sexy and wears fewer clothes as she uses the Death Note under Rem’s gentle tutelage. Of course Rem doesn’t notice how hotcha she’s becoming, he’s mainly worried about what a mass murder she’s become. Rem wonders aloud to her if she ever runs out of people to kill, and she says, no. The cheesecake bondage is mainly when Misa is held and questioned in L’s complex. Some of those scenes are amusing, but I’m afraid the charm of a skinny chained up schoolgirl in a raggedly muslin shift is lost on me. Even after she’s released into the relative freedom of living in luxurious apartments with Light (oh, shocking), she’s on an ankle chain. Light isn’t on an ankle chain due to working very closely with L. Oh, and L has cameras everywhere including watching the Light and Misa love nest. Perv. More pervy is that the confinement rooms are next to L’s living room/conference room and panels slide back on one-way glass so the subjects can be watched in real time. Misa is chained up in her skimpy outfit for weeks. Light is chained up in a track suit for not quite as long. Why? you ask, well, I’ll tell you: this bondage/confinement is to prove positively that neither of them are Kira because if they are being monitored/filmed 24/7, the couldn’t possibly mysteriously kill anyone with a mysterious heart attack. High tech voyeurism is big in both Death Note films, for those of you who like that kind of thing. If Light had been chained up in a speedo, I might have found that more interesting. Alas, no point in musing on something that never happened.
Death Note 2 is also a little sad. Characters I liked died, characters I liked were made very sad, sometimes their lives were ruined. We also got to see Light’s genius and warmth when he was not possessed by the Death Note and doing evil things with it. So it was extra sad when the Death Note got its hooks in him again. Sad, very sad. But Death Note 2 is also amazing and delightful, even though, in the end, success comes at a very high price for the surviving main characters. The good must sacrifice so the bad can be punished, that no one can deny.
(Sorry, Tom, I’m keeping this one. I’ll lend it to you if you want to review it, but you have to give it back.)
Previously on J LHLS:
Death Note 1, by Ginger Mayerson
Death Note 1 (Movie), by Tom Good
Death Note manga:
Death Note, vol 10, by Tom Good
Death Note, vol 1 and 2, by Tom Good