Set ten years after the end of the live-action Death Note duology, Death Note: Light up the NEW world follows the next generation of heroes and villains as they try to out scheme each other and gain control of the six death notes that have been dropped onto the unsuspecting human world.
The Death Note franchise as a whole centers around the existence of supernatural notebooks originally belonging to “Shinigami” (angels of death) that are now in the hands of humans. When a person’s name is written in said notebook, they die. Of course, their are more than a few additional rules–like having to know a person’s face in addition to his or her name–and additional tricks–like deciding how the person you have chosen will die.
The first two films (as well as the manga and anime on which they are based) are an elaborate cat and mouse game between the police–lead by eccentric private detective “L”–and Kira, an intelligent young man who uses the notebook as a way to kill those who have committed irredeemable crimes and gotten away with it.
Each of the three main characters in Light up the NEW world acts as the successor to one of the main forces of the original story: Officer Tsukuru Mishima follows in the footsteps of Police Detective Yagami while Private Detective Ryuzaki is publically known as the new L. On the other side of the conflict is cyber-terrorist Yuki Shien, the successor to Kira.
As we see in the Hulu miniseries Death Note: NEW GENERATION (a prequel that follows the three before the events of film proper), Mishima is a detective on the Death Note Special Task Force–a body that busied itself investigating and debunking possible Death Note killings in the time between films. However, now with several Death Notes in the wild, the Task Force is back up to full strength. Since first learning about the Death Notes, Mishima has becomes obsessed with the Kira killings and has studied in depth every detail about how Light avoided capture for so long.
His knowledge makes him the police’s secret weapon against the new Death Note holders–though when it comes down to it, he is facing at least one opponent unlike the original Kira in many ways.
Shien is the sole surviving victim of a serial killer. While the killer of Shien’s family escaped punishment, he was later killed by the original Kira, Light Yagami, via Death Note. Now, a decade later, he receives Kira’s own Death Note and along with Ryuk, the Shinigami attached to that Death Note, uses his technical skills to locate the other Death Notes spread across the world and gather them.
While Shien is no doubt the Kira proxy in the film, he is far different from the original in modus operandi. Light battled by outsmarting his foes–planning ahead and using the various rules of the Death Note to achieve victory. Shien doesn’t have a modicum of Light’s cleverness. Instead he relies on being a genius hacker to get all the information he needs to achieve victory. He doesn’t need to hide from cameras or worry about being traced digitally–there is no computer system he can’t infiltrate.
In fact, this causes him to be the least interesting of the three leads. His technical prowess is almost a superpower. It almost seems painfully stupid for the police to rely on any technology as the film nears its climax; it’s like they forget that he’s already hacked the police several times over the course of the film.
The one person who does seem to understand this, however, is Ryuzaki. Like his predecessor, he is an eccentric genius, though one with a hands-on approach. Rather than sending out proxies or the police to do the dirty work, he continually puts himself directly in the line of fire.
But what makes him truly stand out is that he has his own cause above and beyond what the police are asking of him. This is most clearly seen through his relationship with Arma, the Shinigami who haunts him.
— 『デスノート LNW』公式 (@Deathnote_2016) August 5, 2016
Their relationship is one unlike those that have been seen before in Death Note. The two seem more like a married couple than anything else. He spends his days hunting down the six Death Notes, only to return home to Arma–who seems to do nothing more than lounge around the house eating while he is away. But despite their apparent closeness, he rarely asks anything of her directly. Instead the two simply seem to enjoy each other’s banter.
While it only gets a few scenes in the film, their relationship is one of the most intriguing parts of the film.
Aside from the three new leads, there are several characters returning from past films–the most prominent of these being Misa, the second original Kira. With the loss of ownership of her Death Note in the previous film, she lost her memories of being a Death Note user and has spent the following decade living life as a happy, successful model.
In the film, after coming into contact with a Death Note (and thus regaining her memories of that time), she is faced with an intense personal conflict. Who is she? The woman who’s lived a happy successful life or the girl who was deeply in love with a serial killer? At the same time she is forced to choose where her new allegiance lies–if she believes Shien can really live up to the name “Kira.”
There is a lot of content to unpack in Light up the NEW world. There are the three new leads, returning characters, and the new Death Note users to explore–not to mention the mystery thriller plot that ties them all together. This is a film that could easily have been expanded into two (and would have likely been even better for it).
But all in all, Light up the NEW world feels like a true Death Note mystery–i.e., you can expect a twisting cat and mouse story where no one is safe. While some plot points and tricks are reused over the course of the film, the final act contains more than a few unexpected twists and the final reveal ties the film together in an immensely satisfying way.
Death Note: Light up the NEW world was released in Japanese theaters on October 29, 2016. There is currently no word on a Western release.