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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #560  (Vol. 11, No. 51)  This edition is for the week of December 13--19, 2010.

"TRON: Legacy"  by Mike Smith
Time Warp Toy Box 2010  by ED Tucker
The Simpsons Christmas Special 1989  by Chris Woods
Death Note  by Jason Fetters
Passing On .... Merry Christmas .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Death Note

All over Japan in 2006 where domestic films fair poorly against U.S. movies, one movie came out that knocked The Da Vinci Code down to second place when Death Note was released. Adapting a hugely popular weekly manga and anime series into a live-action movie was the difficult task for director Shusuke Kaneko, (Gamera 1-3 1995-1999,) who decided to take the main points from the series to make an exciting movie.

So what is Death Note anyway? The Death Note is actually a notebook that falls to Earth from Ryuk, a death god. Whoever owns the notebook has the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it. In the movie, Light Yagami is a college student studying to become a lawyer in order to rid Japan of crime. Light meets a Shinigami, which is a death god that kills off humans in exchange for an extended life. For example, if you were to meet a Shinigami, the creature would try to make a deal with you by saying that you would be granted something on Earth if you agreed to give up half of the years of life you have left. A Shinigami is able to look at a human and calculate when that person will die. The Shinigami does not do the killing because killing humans is forbidden, they mostly guard the notebook.

Frustrated while watching news segments of violent crimes all over Japan, Light adapts the persona Kira to bring quick justice to criminals that seem to get off lightly. Kira writes down the names of the most horrendous offenders and all die of a heart attack shortly after his or her name is written in the Death notebook.

Meanwhile, Light's father, who works for the International Police Organization, is trying to find out why criminals keep dying and the whole force dubs Kira a dangerous serial killer who must be stopped. Working on the case is a mysterious detective called "L," who sits around eating junk food and trying to outwit Kira. Most of the dramatic tension in Death Note is watching L trying to draw out and stop Kira. If Kira should be identified then the case can be solved. However, Kira is ever so elusive with Light living out a dual persona of student and judge of vigilante justice.

It is interesting to see how many characters support Kira who is reducing crime in the area by killing off the crooks vs those who condem Kira as a psychopathic monster. The whole theme is: does anyone have the right to kill someone based on a judgment call? What if that judgment is wrong? What if the Death Notebook should fall into the wrong hands?

The action in Death Note really picks up as 12 FBI agents try to find Kira. There is an interesting scene on a public bus as Light and his girlfriend are passengers with an FBI agent sitting behind them and listening in. A man suddenly jumps up, races down the aisle, and points a gun at the bus driver demanding money from the bus company or hostages will start dying. In an amusing act, Light writes the name Ryuk on a sheet of paper, crumbles it up, and drops the paper to the ground. If a person reads the name of a Shinigami, that person can see it. So the man runs over to Light and demands to know what is going on. He picks up the paper, opens it and reads the name. Ryuk appears and scares the man, who fires all his bullets into the death god with no damage occurring. The man yells to be let off the bus and gets killed by a speeding car.

One of the clever ideas incorporated into the movie by Kaneko is how characters are quickly introduced and then become part of the plot. There are many characters in Death Note and part of the fun in watching the live-action movie is being able to identify who is who and which characters are for Kira and who are against.

The special effects are top notch for a Sci-Fi suspense experience. My personal favorite effects are of Ryuk with large batlike wings flying along beside Light as they walk the streets together. Who doesn't love a boy and his Shinigami?

There are also interesting graphics shots for all the computers that will satisfy most every fickled computer geek out there.

Death Note is an entertaining movie that ends with the viewer already set up for and wanting to see the sequel, Death Note: The Last Name. Warner Brothers bought the rights for the Death Note manga and a U.S. movie is expected to come out in 2011. There are several elements to appeal to fanboys and girls everywhere, no matter what dimension you are originally from.

In Japan, Death Note was a weekly manga that was in Weekly Shonen Jump, and also released as a series of books. Besides the two live-action movies, there is an anime series, and several video games.

If the U.S. Death Note movie is a success on this side of the Pacific, expect a flood of Death Note merchandise to quickly follow.

Until next time, be careful if you should suddenly discover a strange notebook that has the power to kill on your front lawn, it may be too much for you to handle.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.