We wanted to follow the story of Light Yagami in Tsugumi Ohba’s original manga because, detestable though he was, he reflected the hunger for power in all of us. His rise was the fulfilment of our darkest desires, and his fall the masochistic comeuppance for the part of us that covets. It is the combined frustrations of the many which lead to such culminations of arrogance and violence as the one we are now experiencing. Re:Anime’s short adaptation of Light’s ascendancy as Kira takes the real rise of tyrannical leaders—Kim Jong Un, Trump, Putin—and puts forward this moment in history as the right time for a new Death Note.
Casting Tokyo-born actor Kento Matsunami as Light, new in Los Angeles, plays accurately to a world that’s ever more strange to us all. He does the kid out of place a more believable service than Nat Wolff in Adam Wingard’s Netflix adaptation, keeping those outcast feelings to the interior and evenings staring at the bedroom ceiling. To public eyes he’s acclimatising well, tennis talents intact and cute to boot. But he goes for his morning run alone, batting against an invisible opponent.
It’s in one of these moments alone, his thoughts inscrutable, that he finds the Note in a haze of light and heat. The gently blowing score and Light’s focused flicking of a light switch gives a feeling of building pressure, just another young man on the brink of boiling over with suppressed rage. A lamp with a golden gun switch shows violence already present in him, before he kills.
Despite a fledgling film company’s budget restrictions showing through when Ryuk comes into play, this short is a cool and professional social commentary. Matsunami’s Light shows the seeds of tyranny sown through the smallest of choices and actions, ready to read a screen and write the names of unworthy strangers who could easily have been us.