It took me a while to actually get there (life keeps happening), but I'm so glad that I did. It's not the Death Note that we've all come to life, breathe and quote excessively at each other. It's fascinating for all that.
I started watching it in the early hours of the morning. I was already yawning, ready for bed. My vow to myself was simple - I'd watch until the moment I said, 'WTF?!' or got bored, whichever happened first. I was there until the end, staring stunned at the screen. Then lay awake for a while later, pondering certain scenes that I'd seen.
Particularly the ending, when our missing Mello turned up.
My advice? Go in with an open mind, forgetting all that you know of the manga, anime or live action movie versions. Treat it as a brand, new story. You won't be disappointed.
A Very Different Kind of Death Note
Light is an Everyman kind of person. He's the bloke you meet on the street. He's not the top student in all of Japan, but a young man with hang-ups and a life not without its problems. He's us from the get-go and that changes everything. He's not there to be the God of this New World Order, but to change the world.
He's a nice person. Sympathetic. Without the hubris and arrogance of the original character upon which he's based.
That alters irreparably the dynamic between himself and L - the latter displaying all the arrogance that his manga source did too, only much more noticeably here without Light's megalomania to over-shadow it.
At first, I thought L's characterisation had shifted too. It took a second watching to discern that wasn't true. He's wearing shoes and devoid of endless strawberries and cup-cakes, but everything else pings off lesser played aspects of the canon character.
It's only Light who's shifted so much. As any Physicist may tell you, when the source of illumination alters, shadows and hues cast upon others changes utterly too. Hence Soichiro seems grave without gravitas, and Sayu appears whiny without reason.
Then you get to Near. Oh wow! Do we get to Near! He was never so interesting to me in the original. Only a brief scene shows him/her at the end and it raises far more questions than it answers. Wammy's House was always sinister (which is why I focus so much of my fan-fiction upon it), but this telling makes that abundantly clear.
And there, right alongside Near, is Mello. We didn't think he'd been so much as acknowledged. But he's there.
Let me put the rest beneath a Read More break, so those not wishing to be spoiled don't have to see.
Puppet Mello in the Death Note TV Adaptation
"You shouldn't call them jerks." She admonishes. Then the camera spans to Mello. He IS the doll. He's the creepiest puppet ever, his eyes moving like some animated Annabelle.
"I wonder who will fall first?" He asks, or words to that effect. His eyes clicking to the side, as the camera takes us away from the puppet Mihael to a painting of Archangel Michael during the Fall, taking down the Lucifer Morning-Star - the Bringer of Light.
Is Near hearing voices? Are we witnessing a schizophrenic future L? Or is (s)he merely dissociating him/herself from the dodgier thoughts passing through consideration?
So much dissociation here. We've just had L telling Yagami Sr, 'You shouldn't think of Kira as human. He's the Devil.' While Light himself is edited in thinking that he can't change the world, but Kira can.
Fascinating stuff. Nor do we know yet whether Mello's puppet is based upon a real Wammy kid, as Near's puppet was in the manga. I, for one, can't wait to find out!
Cultural References in Death Note (2015)
For a start, there are hints of Lord of the Rings, insofar as using the Death Note brings 'agony and terror'. That sounds to me a little like the One Ring prompting the same in the hobbits slipping it onto their fingers.
I clocked the nods towards Macbeth from the outset, particularly in how the aforementioned 'agony and terror' causes Light to grip his hand. Generations of actors have done the same whenever they've intoned, 'Will these hands ne'er be clean?'
Instead of Lady Macbeth urging her husband into ever greater killing sprees, we get Sayu screaming, 'Kill him!' Despair taking the place of ambition with much the same results. My guess is that, when Misa is firmly on-side, we'll be seeing a much clearer Lady Macbeth present and correct.
But the biggest Shakespearian ping came with a soliloquy. Instead of Macbeth stating,
'I can't go back now, can I? And I don't intend to.'
Death Note (2015) Episode 1
'I am in blood steep'd so far, that should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as to go o'er.'
Macbeth Act 3:Scene 4
Light's even wearing a Sandman t-shirt about halfway through the episode (and there's a dream-catcher by his bedroom door) just to reinforce the link between Light and Morpheus. Beside him, at the time, is a book with an English title - The Keeper of the Book - which could reference Dream's brother Destiny as much as Light with the Death Note himself.
The only Sandman Endless not thus assembled in those scenes is Death, but Ryuk is her representative large as life; and so now too is Light himself.
There is much more going on than all that. A glance around Light's bedroom displays icons and hints aplenty in polar bears, emperor penguins, deer and unicorn skulls, several globes, a poster of the solar system, toy soldiers etc.
I reckon whole essays could be written concerning his bookshelves alone! What did you see?
I'm personally excited to see how this will all pan out. A different Death Note, but not a bad one by any stretch.
See also Striped Tabby's take on the matter.