Light Yagami is deeply missed as L’s counterpoint. In this new movie, L battles eco-terrorists whose mission is to unleash a virus that will kill all humans (except themselves of course) in a crackpot mission to save the environment and place themselves as nature’s caretakers. Yes, there is a similar moral ambiguity about extremists with a deadly cause compared to the vigilante justice of the earlier Death Note narrative, but L deserves a challenger of higher stature. The terrorists seem like second-rate villains and do not equal the drama and depth of Light and the “Kira” killings of the first two films.
Just because it might not fully measure up in the context of the rest of Death Note (the monstrous Ryuuk, for example, is barely a part of this story), as a one-shot feature with L as the star, it has fun moments and some enjoyable scenes. Ken’ichi Matsuyama as L carries this movie on his slumping shoulders. He’s a terrific leading man, and it’s no wonder that fans have embraced him. Like the anime character come to life, he conveys a lot through just his eyes and a little turn of his head. This movie reveals the character’s emotions and soul, and audiences will connect with him even more. Like the mask he sometimes wears, his own face hides a multitude of feelings that slowly become uncovered during the course of his final adventure.
The writers of the script, Kiyomi Fujii and Hirotoshi Kobayashi, achieve this feat through a tried and true Hollywood cliché – match the hero with some endearing children in order to bring out his kinder, gentler side. Surprisingly, rather than coming across as corny or sentimental, the subplot about L having to protect the 12-year-old girl, Maki, and the little nameless Boy, is the strongest part of the movie.
Mayuko Fukuda plays Maki with a broad range of perkiness, sadness, rage, and tenderness as she loses her father to the virus and bonds with L. In some scenes, it reminded me of Natalie Portman’s performance as Mathilda in Leon: The Professional. The Boy, played by Narushi Fukuda, is emotionally distant, but shows signs of savant brilliance. He draws out the most feeling from L who sees a bit of himself in the child who is connected to his dead mentor Watari (played nicely by Shunji Fujimura, channeling Batman’s Alfred) and whom he names Near, a character who has a pivotal role in the manga plotline.