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The problem with Death Note on Netflix, in one scene

Please adjust your volume accordingly

Look: Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note was doomed to fail. According to most critics, it did. I had no idea just how stunning of a failure it was until I watched it this weekend and saw the scene above, which epitomizes the movie’s missteps in just 12 seconds.

Here’s some context, and also a spoiler warning for anyone who has yet to see the film, watch the anime or read the manga. (Recommendation, by the way: Read the manga first, then follow it up with the anime if you want.) Light Turner is your typical misunderstood teen whose life is as miserable as his tips are frosted. The bullies bully him. The popular girls deem him unpopular. Et cetera, et cetera.

But his misfortune is reversed when he meets Ryuk, a demon who gifts him the Death Note. But before that can happen, Light sees Ryuk’s beady eyes and flips out.

That’s not unfair. Look at Ryuk! I’d flip out, too. But Light lets out the most ear-piercing, high-pitched scream that, for original Death Note fans, is completely out of character.

Light Yagami, the protagonist of the Japanese series, is cold and calculating. He’s a multi-hyphenate prodigy, an excellent athlete and student who also happens to be a sociopath. We rarely saw such vulnerability from this version of Light; that’s what made him such a compelling, and frightening, anti-hero.

Light Turner? Total opposite. He’s afraid, he’s hesitant and he needs some coaching to become vested in all the terrible power the Death Note has to offer.

In fairness, it’s clear that director Adam Wingard wanted to do an original take on Death Note. He succeeded in some sense, as the scene above shows. Light Turner and Light Yagami have slightly different origin stories and very different personalities. But Wingard didn’t stray far enough from the source material for scenes like this to come across as anything but hilariously off. Turner and Yagami’s motivations are essentially the same; Death Note on Netflix utilizes much of the intrinsic Japanese references in the source material to jarring effect; the overall story beats are mostly identical.

But it’s clear early on — from the moment Light meets Ryuk — that this Death Note is a Death Note in name only. At least Netflix gave us some timeless comedy out of it.

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