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Original Title:
Desu noto: The last name

Japan 2006

Thriller, Fantasy

Shusuke Kaneko

Tatsuya Fujiwara
Kenichi Matsuyama
Erika Toda
Shigeki Hosokawa
Nana Katase
Shin Shimizu
Sota Aoyama
Itsuji Itao
Shinnosuke 'Peter' Ikehata
Miyuki Komatsu
Michiko Godai
Hikari Mitsushima
Sakura Uehara

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Death Note - The Last Name

Story: Thanks to his clever scheming Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) finally managed to be excluded from the list of suspects concerning the "Kira"-case. Now he even starts to work with his father (Takeshi Kaga), and his father's police team, as well as with brilliant detective "L" aka Ryuzaki (Kenichi Matsuyama), in order to go after Kira. However, Ryuzaki doesn't hide the fact that he still believes that Light is actually "Kira". Between the two a fight breaks loose, that has to be fought out with their alert and clever minds.
Meanwhile, TV- and Popstar Misa Amane (Erika Toda) also gets a hold of a "Death Note". She gains the same power over life and death as Light/Kira, meaning that she is able to kill whoever she wants to, simply by writing the person's name on the pages of the death note. Furthermore, as she is also a great Kira-fan she tries to contact Kira via tkkkhe media. It doesn't take long and she has found out who Kira really is, but the "second Kira" isn't as witted as the number 1. Ryuzaki soon has found out that Light's new girlfriend Misa is the new Kira, which also confirms his theory that Light is actually the one they are looking for all the time.
Nevertheless, Ryuzaki again has to find out that he has a splendidly clever enemy in Light/Kira, as it seems almost impossible to prove that he is connected with the recent killings. Light has a plan which also involves his girlfriend Misa. Contrary to him, she has signed a deal with the god of death and is able to see the names of any individual she wants. This is the chance for Light to finally eliminate L/Ryuzaki, whose real name he wasn't able to get behind, yet. Still, he shouldn't take Ryuzaki's intelligence lightly, as L seems to foresee any step Light takes.

Review: "Death Note - The Last Name" continues exactly where the first part left us in a limbo. In contrast to so many other sequels "Death Note" has been planned as a two-parter from the beginning, and so we really don't get disappointed by this one. The quality is on the same level, the main idea behind the plot hasn't lost anything of its fascination potential, and even though the film still has the same flaws as the first part, it's also as thrilling and entertaining at the least.
As the cat-and-mouse game between Light and L is finally standing in the movie's focus, which was only adumbrated in the prequel, the film becomes even more enthralling, especially since Light is working within the ranks of his enemies, whereas L is by far no opponent you should underestimate. The battle between the two, which winner will be the one with the higher IQ, is marked by some lengthy dialogues, yet the clever twists and the good script make this film a pic that surely lives up to the manga it is based on.

The fascinating thing about this movie is the moral conflict, that stands in the center of events. If you had the power to extinguish any evil on the planet, would you do it? Without any compromise? Light has this power in his hands and he knows how to use it. He sees himself as one of the good guys, who merely wants to bring justice upon the world. But his ego is at least as big as his intellect is. He sees himself as a god, eventually, who is prepared to make any personal sacrifice he has to, in order to meet the ends and achieve the greater good. This is why Light not only kills criminals, but also detectives or even his former girlfriend. How are we supposed to sympathize with a guy, who has been corrupted by power as bad as Light? You can't, but the filmmakers came up with a nice ploy. First of all, our sympathies are more and more shifted to L throughout the movie. But even the more interesting Light loses any knowledge about the "Death Note" in the middle of the film as a part of his plan, so that Light returns as the likeable and righteous young man, he was before getting his hands on the deadly book.

Kira even gets reinforcement in form of Misa Amane, a cute pop idol, who also gets into possession of a Death Note. Misa isn't only attracted by Kira's spirit of justice, but also has fallen in love with him. She wants to contact Kira as soon as possible, and therefore gets rid of anyone opposing Kira during a live TV-broadcast along the way - even policemen and innocent people. Just to get in touch with Kira and impress him... In her naivity Misa is almost more cruel than Light, but we never really get aware of that, as Erika Toda plays her character like everything but your standard villian, providing her with a very girly and joyful nature. Moreover, she soon becomes nothing more than a tool for Light, which she willingly chooses to become, by the way. As long as Light answers her feelings at least a bit. This is why we somehow have to feel pity for Misa, especially because of her tragic past, which also leads us to develop even more hatred for Light, as he is actually the one who manipulates her and everyone else around him.

Strangely, Tatsuya Fujiwara isn't as magical in his role as he were in the first part. Far too often he is outplayed by Kenichi Matsuyama, who portrays the sweet-addicted teenager L with supreme intelligence and a special employment by the police. The scenes between him and Light are especially great, as we understand that they actually know of each others true identity, yet they take pleasure in continuing the game. However, being one of the "good" guys L needs some proof in order to get Light behind bars, of course.
Apart from Erika Toda, who is giving a very charismatic if not really demanding performance, the achievement of the rest of the cast is best described as bad or average. Their acting is just too wooden most of the time, or as it is also the case with Tatsuya Fujiwara towards the end, they come up with sudden bursts of over-acting.

Anyway, this isn't spoiling the overall picture, which luckily also isn't the case with the somewhat uninventive directing of Shusuke Kaneko ("Cross Fire", "Azumi 2"), that sometimes merely resembles better TV-film quality. Luckily, it is pretty difficult to do completely wrong with the script provided. However, it is unfortunate if you think of what might have possibly become of the film in the hands of a more creative director.
Since the movie is very story-orientated, which leads to Light and L having to explain their plans retrospectively, and the fact that Light and L have to talk about a lot of things with each other in general, "Death Note - The Last Name" proves to be very heavy on dialogue. This may be a bit tedious here and there, but as there is always happening something on a story or character level, it never gets boring, and even the running time of 140 minutes effectively feels a lot shorter. Nonetheless, it wouldn't have hurt the movie if it would have been cut down a little bit, as especially the ending seems to drag on a little bit to long.

However, I really don't want to draw a bad picture. In fact, more than anything else it is the ending that can score, serving us with some nice revelations. The filmmakers play with the rules of the "Death Note" whenever they can, so that the intellectual and thrilling battle between Light and L never loses its tension-filled undertone and manages to be engrossing until the very end. The ending also proves to be surprisingly dark, yes, almost nihilistic. This is one of the biggest strengths of the film, anyway: As the "hero" we have a man standing in the focus, who believes to do good and that the end justifies the means. Although we can never really identify with "Light", he is such an interesting person, because we can understand and comprehend his view to a certain degree. The moral dilemma which forms the story's core, is taken to a radical extreme by Light, which makes us wonder how we would have acted in his place...

"Death Note - The Last Name", is a great and well-made movie, which just misses a better rating by a few inches. Kaneko's directing is just too dull, and concerning already mentioned other aspects the movie has to struggle with some problems, too. Still, what's left at the end is a nerve-racking, enthralling thriller, which knows how to make use of its manga-based plot and delivers a great fantasy story. The movie proves to be exceptionally entertaining, which is also the reason why I reserved him a special place in my collection after having to endure a long lean period concerning good movies.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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