It’s happening whether you like it or not. When August rolls around, Netflix will release its live-action take on Death Note, and anime fans still are not sure how to feel about the ordeal. Adam Wingard’s project has come under intense scrutiny ever since it was announced, but the film has one champion speaking out on its behalf. After all, Masi Oka is trying to reassure fans that Death Note stands with otakus everywhere.
Recently, the producer sat down with Buzzfeed News to discuss his role with the live-action anime adaptation. Oka, who is best-known for his work on Heroes, is a Japanese-born actor who considers himself to be an avid anime fan. When the opportunity to work on Death Note arose, Oka said he jumped at the chance, and he did so to ensure the film stayed true to its roots.
“We don’t want to take advantage of Death Note fans," Oka explained. “We want the fans to know this is going to be a different film, [but] it’s going to have a lot of [original] core principles.”
Continuing, Oka stressed he is acting as a liaison between Netflix and the creators of Death Note, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
“I wanted to make sure the senseis were happy … They know what’s core to the property. They know what the core fans like and gravitate towards,” Oka said.
“This is still a genre film with a very passionate fanbase — and I’m one of them. I am a geek. I am an otaku. I grew up on this, so I got into producing so I could protect that.”
Since Netflix announced plans to adapt Death Note into a movie, the anime fandom has eyed the project warily. It is not secret that Hollywood’s past attempts to bring anime to life has gone poorly, and recent casting snafus with films like Ghost in the Shell only heightened concerns. When news broke that none of Death Note’s leads would be played by Asian or Asian-American talent, complaints about the film’s whitewashing skyrocketed, but Oka said lots of Asian actors were approached about a lead role.
Ultimately, none of the talent approached snagged a spot in Death Note, and Oka conceded the film should have casted more Asian leads. However, the producer also said being “Asian-American doesn’t mean you should get the role.”
“You have to be good, you have to be talented, and you have to fit the vision of the director,” Oka explained.
Netflix’s vision for Death Note is not a direct adaptation of the original series, and it is that uncertainty which makes fans lash out. For now, audiences can only wait and see what reviews for Death Note look like as it is set to debut a special screening at San Diego Comic Con this week. And, for the industry’s sake, fans are hoping Netflix is able to correct the anime curse Hollywood set upon itself so many years ago.
You can read up on Death Note below thanks to Viz Media’s Synopsis:
“Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects—and he’s bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But will Light succeed in his noble goal, or will the Death Note turn him into the very thing he fights against?”
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.
Death Note will be available to stream on Netflix beginning August 25, 2017.