Anime and manga are really hard to adapt. I figured we’d get that out of the way, first and foremost. Comic books took decades to faithfully adapt to the big screen, and Hollywood still manages to get it wrong. You can imagine how much more difficult it is when adapting a piece of work from a different culture. Not only must you adapt mediums, but you need to adapt cultural references, and everything else in between as well.
With Ghost in the Shell flopping, there seems to be an added pressure for the next big manga property, Death Note, to do well. As if there wasn’t enough pressure already. Fans of the manga are likely waiting to see what the film does with L. For those unfamiliar, L is the name of the prodigy detective who sets out to find out who or what is responsible for all the recent deaths (the ones caused by the Death Note). The character in the manga is a pale, socially awkward recluse with scraggly hair and a white long-sleeve shirt.
When the teaser dropped a few weeks back, it was a bit disappointing that all we got to see of L was him in a hoodie and mask, walking down a red corridor. There was hardly enough to work off of here, and even the photo we got of L squatting in a chair in a diner wasn’t really enough to tell what we were working with. You can imagine our excitement when we saw an Instagram post from actor Keith Stanfield -- who plays L in the film -- showing off a "sneak peek" of his performance as L.
His performance here is a bit...shocking to say the least.
Take a listen for yourself, though I should warn you that it contains very NSFW language.
Check the NSFW video below!
Clearly, this is a big joke, right? It absolutely has to be. In the manga, the character is direct, quiet, and deliberate about his word usage, and this clip seems to be the exact opposite of that in every way.
My big concern with this clip is that this is exactly what we’ll be getting from L. The reason? Months ago, the film’s director Adam Wingard had stated:
“We can do whatever we want. So, doing my first live-action anime thing, to me it was important that you have those adult themes. So, it’s got nudity, it’s got swearing, it’s got a ton of violence.”
“The thing about anime is that it’s so adult-oriented. I remember going to Suncoast growing up and you see Akira there with the little 'Not for Kids' sticker on it. That always made an impact on me.”
The problem with that? It shows that he has no understanding of the material. Sure, Death Note has dark themes, but it’s almost completely devoid of sex or swearing. A part of me worries that Wingard is shoving in those surface-level “adult” aspects as a way to pay homage to the idea of anime, more than be faithful to the source materials.
Then again…this could all be a fun joke from Stanfield. If that's the case, well done!
The official synopsis for Death Note is below:
“What if you had the power to decide who lives and who dies? We suggest you obey the rules. Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and drawn by Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone's name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.”
Death Note hits Netflix on August 25, 2017.
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SOURCE: Keith Stanfield (via Instagram)