Let’s Talk About It: Death Note and Live Action Anime Adaptations

This will be fun and by fun I mean that this’ll probably be a doozy, because we’re going to talk about the topic of whitewashing, because of course we are—this is an anime adaptation. So on March 22nd, Netflix released its trailer of Death Note, their movie adaptation of an anime by the same name.

And uh… let’s say that people aren’t reacting the best way. There are the people who don’t like it because they say they don’t like the whitewashing. There are people complaining about the quality of the trailer. There are people that don’t like that L is a black character because the character L means so much to them. And there are people who just hope that their beloved anime won’t get tarnished via movie adaptation. Now before I get into my opinions on this trailer, let me first say that I’m not really a big fan of Death Note. I used to watch it in high school, but after a while I just didn’t care for it. And I guess I might as well talk about my opinions on the casting.

At first when I watched this trailer, I went, “Ah. This isn’t whitewashing.” Cause it was an adaptation based in insert US state (I believe WA, like Seattle, WA). Light Yagami’s name was turned to Light Turner. Most of the characters we saw were white, but that was fine because, you know, it’s set in America. But then I thought for a moment longer while I was having lunch with a friend, and I asked why, even if the movie was set in America, did Light have to be white? Why did Misa have to be white (also why couldn’t she have the dyed blonde hair she had in the anime)? The movie being set in America allowed me to believe that it was just fine to cast these characters as white, but I feel as though that’s not fair for me to think. And as I look at the rest of the cast, Hey Fucking Zeus, is this movie fairly white cast. And I get it, the director (or whoever is in charge of casting) can choose whoever they want, but I think people are getting tired of the under representation of other demographics in media.

An argument against that would be that anime characters look white, and with the exception of this series I would usually disagree with that sentiment. I mean, for a while when people dreamed of a Western adaptation of Death Note, fans would have probably casted a young Zac Efron.

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They even dyed Zac’s eyes so you could really tell, cause we’re blind and couldn’t already get the resemblance.

Though my problem with this statement, “Anime characters look like white people”, a train of thought I once had when I was younger, is that while they seemingly look like white people, it is clear that they aren’t. Though they might appear, in certain aesthetics, to be Caucasian, the fact remains that usually our anime characters are Japanese, with Japanese names, that live in Japan (and for people who will bring up AoT, this is a good time to learn the word usually and see how it differs from all. And while you’re at it, learn the word anecdotal and understand that it can’t be used against stats).

There’s also an argument that if you’re okay with L being black, you should be okay with all of these white casting choices or else you’re a hypocrite. And while I would understand that statement if we were in a vacuum and everything was a fair playing ground, it’s not. And I wish we could make these statements and I could agree with people who look at the world as if there’s just racial equality every where, but unfortunately I’m no longer fifteen through nineteen and I had to wake up (this isn’t a diss to fifteen through nineteen year olds, just me when I was fifteen through nineteen).

Due to a history of under representation, people are getting tired of white actors getting all of the casting choices regardless of what the movie is about. And before someone starts to talk about superior acting skills and gets really condescending about other demographics, the point remains that minorities are given less chances for acting roles. Now do I personally believe that this movie is whitewashing? Not fully. I am both okay and not okay with these casting choices and hope that at some point the actress for Misa (or in this movie, Mia Sutton) goes blonde.

Also I was weirded out by L being black at first, but then after watching so many things that had Lakeith Stanfield in it, I believe he’d make a pretty solid L. He can have glaring eyes, look tired and lanky and suspicious, and he can be charismatic. He has all the acting chops to be L. If you don’t believe me watch episode three of Atlanta, watch Get Out, and watch a few clips of The Purge: Anarchy. You’ll understand.

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They just look so tired and weird.

And to the L fans out in the world clacking on keyboards like Johnny Storm fans in 2015, don’t worry. I know. It’s hard to believe that your treasured character is black. I get it. Someone so smart and cunning and detective like is black. And you wanted him to be white because he was European of some sort. I get it. And I won’t get much further into the subject because if you’re reading this paragraph and you know what I’d say next, and that makes you feel somewhat ashamed of yourself, then you already know the problem.

Oh and good choice for Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. Dafoe is creepy. This will be fun.

Anyways I hope that regardless of a lot of people’s feelings about this anime adaptation that this movie will be good. Or at least that it’ll be solid. Or, you know, that it won’t be Dragon Ball Evolution.

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I mean jeez. This movie didn’t even whitewash. It was just garbage. I mean the only good thing we got out of this was probably casting choices for Shameless.

So while I wish this movie well, I’m probably still going to be cautious about it. Though isn’t it too early to feel one way or another with just one trailer out? It’s as if this blog post was for nothing. Anyways, I leave you with the second opening to Death Note (Maximum the Hormone’s “What’s Up People”), it’s a real head banger. Later days.

 

 

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