Death Note debuted on Netflix this past weekend, making it the latest anime property to make its way to American cinema. And according to producer Masi Oka, the film took an approach to the source material not previously seen in blockbuster anime adaptations.
In a recent interview with Buzzfeed News, Oka addressed the failures of previous anime adaptations, and argued that their problems resulted in little consultation with those who created the source material.
“I think in the past they were saying, ‘We got the rights, we're Hollywood, we know what we're doing.’" Oka explained.
As the producer and actor elaborated, a collaboration between the Japanese and Hollywood markets is key.
"In Japan, the domestic market is big enough [that] they can survive internally. Dealing with global stuff is kind of tedious: They're safe in their own environment … and they don’t know how to communicate [with Hollywood], so that's where I want to be. At the end of the day, I just want the world to live in peace and harmony."
And according to Oka, the Death Note film achieved a version of that, wowing the original creators of the series.
"For me, the defining moment from this film [was] when we did a private screening in Japan [for the senseis] ... and it just really brought tears to my eyes when the senseis were really happy with the film. It just made me realize everything I did for the film, it paid off. The senseis’ smiles mean the most to me."
While the Death Note film has been met with scrutiny by some fans, Oka argued that the essence of the original anime and manga is still very present.
"We don’t want to take advantage of Death Note fans." Oka revealed. "We want the fans to know this is going to be a different film, [but] it’s going to have a lot of [the original property’s] core principles."
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 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.