Netflix's 'Death Note' Adaptation Is Criticized For Whitewashing
It's really starting to feel like Hollywood is incapable of casting Asian leads in any movie adaptation of works that originally feature Asian characters.
I mean, there was Tilda Swinton playing the Tibetan character of the Ancient One in "Doctor Strange," and of course, Scarlett Johansson is portraying the Japanese protagonist in the "Ghost in the Shell" adaptation this year.
The latest project to draw whitewashing accusations from the internet is Netflix's "Death Note," which just dropped its first trailer on Wednesday.
The story that the upcoming movie is adapted from — about a boy who finds a notebook allowing him to kill anyone at will — has been huge among manga and anime fans since it was first published in 2003.
The issue is, the story was created in Japan by Japanese authors and artists, and all of the main characters are also Japanese.
However, the new film anglicizes the story. The trailer shows the new movie is set in Seattle, rather than Japan, and the character names have been changed as well — Light Yagami is now Light Turner, and Misa Amane becomes Mia Sutton.
But it's the casting that's drawing the most ire. Fans of the original manga are upset the originally Japanese characters of Light, Misa and L will now be portrayed by Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley and LaKeith Stanfield, respectively.
Check out the new teaser below, and then we can get into the responses.
Nothing Japanese at all about that, right? On a positive note, it's clear the film isn't claiming these white and African-American characters are Japanese in this iteration, but fans are still upset the main characters of this originally Japanese story will not be Japanese.
After the trailer dropped, Twitter went wild with criticism:
And my personal favorite:
In light of this controversy, I thought it might be helpful to compare the portrayals that we're introduced to in the Netflix teaser to the characters in the 2006 anime series.
First, there's Light Yagami, the series protagonist. Light is a genius high school student who finds a supernatural notebook allowing him to kill anyone whose name he writes in it (although he must also have their face in his mind as he writes).
He attempts to use the notebook to create order in the world and punish criminals.
In the Netflix film, Light Turner will be portrayed by Nat Wolff, a former Nickelodeon star who's grown up to become an indie film darling.
Then there's L, the mysterious investigator trying to catch Light. In the anime series, he is known for the bizarre mannerisms and contortions that he performs while uncovering Light's secrets.
The live-action series will see LaKeith Stanfield as L, and we get a quick, cloaked first look at his portrayal of the fan-favorite character in the new teaser.
And finally there's Misa Amane, the hyperactive model and actress who falls cartoonishly head over heels for Light in the original series and helps him in his plans to best utilize the notebook.
The live-action movie changes Misa's name to Mia Sutton, and if the brief glimpse of her that we see in the teaser is any indication, it looks like her role will be much less humorous than it was in the anime.
Mia will be played by Margaret Qualley, who is best known for her leading role on "The Leftovers" and her part in last year's "The Nice Guys."
Qualley has actually worked with Nat Wolff before in the 2013 indie drama "Palo Alto."
Not fully seen in the trailer — though he does deliver a chilling line at the end — is Ryuk, the god of death who advises Light in his usage of the death note.
Ryuk's creepy figure has become emblematic of the "Death Note" series as a whole, so it makes sense the new movie is making fans wait before they finally reveal what Willem Dafoe looks like in his full Shinigami get-up.