Judge Adam Arseneau likes to drop black notebooks from rooftops, just to freak people out.
"I'll tell you the story of a human I once knew…one who tried to change the world and become a god."
Death Note, the popular Japanese manga has sprung novelizations, three live-action movies, and an anime series popular both at home and abroad. So what do you do once the show finishes its run and there are no more episodes? You recycle your content, of course!
Call Death Note: Re-Light, Volume 1 a condensation. Call it a clip show. Call it a Japanese special brought to DVD for American fans. Call it a dramatic new retelling of the events from the beloved Death Note anime series from the perspective of a Death God.
I call it a waste of money.
Facts of the Case
When rogue Death God Ryuk deliberately drops his notebook in the human world, it gets inherited by Light Yagami, teenage student. Realizing the power of the book, which can kill any person whose name is written in its pages, Light vows to purge the world of evildoers and rule the planet as its new god. But Light has a nemesis in the form of L, an enigmatic detective called in to solve the case, and who grows ever closer to determining Light's true identity.
Light and L battle to the end—but what does this all look like to Ryuk's point of view? Now back in the land of the dead, a Death God asks Ryuk to tell him about his time spent on Earth. Almost fondly, Ryuk recounts the tale about a time when he wasn't bored…
It would be easy to single out Death Note: Re-Light as a shameless cash grab on the part of Viz Media, but one should remember that this is not a particularly uncommon occurrence in Japanese anime. Every anime eventually airs a "special" (translated: clip show) episode recounting the events that led up to current canon. Most even try to spice the proceedings up by adding original animation and new fan service of some kind, and Death Note: Re-Light is no exception. We get a retelling of established events from the perspective of Ryuk, the Death God who comes to Earth and starts the whole troublesome ball rolling by dropping his notebook off at the feet of Light, narrating his tale to another curious Death God back in the land of the dead. Death Note: Re-Light, Volume 1 compresses entire chapters of the story into a lean two hours, cutting and massacring the plot in unimaginable ways, under the guise of Ryuk "retelling" the story to another Death God.
Where I take particular umbrage with Death Note: Re-Light is in two specific areas: it breaks its own rules almost immediately, and it sucks. We shall discuss both in due order.
Breaks Its Own Rules
Death Note: Re-Light makes me sad as an anime fan. The tiny morsels of new footage added into this feature are not even close to being worth the price of admission. When ten-year-old kids know how to go onto the Internet and pull all manner of manga and anime direct into their video-enabled portable devices, Viz trying to justify charging twenty-five dollars for a clip show DVD makes me fear for the future of the import industry in America.
In terms of technical presentation, this title is essentially a port from previous Viz versions, with a clean but excessively soft transfer that blurs the image, with muted earth tone palates and wishy-washy black levels. Audio is stereo English dub and Japanese language, with moderate bass response and clear dialogue. A surprisingly competent English dub offers a nice choice for those who dislike the multitasking of reading and listening to things at the same time.
In terms of supplements, we get some garbage Shonen Jump adverts, a small (10 minute) featurette discussing the show with the Japanese cast and crew, and three Japanese television promos—probably the most interesting feature by default.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Did I mention that the new animated footage is very well done? It is, really. All 3 minutes of it. Hope you enjoyed it. It's all you're going to get on this DVD that doesn't suck.
Honestly, I can't even recommend this for diehard fans of the series. There's nothing here worth your time. Death Note is a fantastic anime series, but Death Note: Re-Light, Volume 1 does it no justice. It only steals your money.
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