If you had control over life and death, would you use it? The beloved manga #DeathNote is the tale of a Japanese schoolboy who discovers a notebook that gives him the power to kill anyone, simply by writing their name. It's the latest popular Japanese property to make the leap from stylized animation to the silver screen, but director Adam Wingard is already on the back-foot to defend his #Netflix adaptation of Death Note.
Goodbye Tokyo, Hello Seattle!
A number of criticisms could be heard after the director cast Nat Wolff in the lead-role, and now the director has been forced to defend his decision to move the story from Japan to the U.S. The grizzly manga was originally set in Tokyo, but the movie will be set in rainy Seattle instead. This shift from East to West has been seen by many as the latest in a series of whitewashing controversies, with another world-famous anime Ghost In The Shell receiving similar treatment earlier this year.
After one Twitter user leveled the accusation at Wingard that his movie was erasing Japanese culture and people from the story, the director responded:
Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning The Departed was a remake of the the Hong Kong crime-thriller Infernal Affairs, and the comparison to Wingard's Death Note alludes to the original Japanese live-action adaptation released in 2006. However, this claim seemed to polarize fans into those that loved or hated The Departed.
He continued to defend a hurricane of Tweets, as many began to point out the thematic importance of justice in the source material. Death Note focuses on righteousness and the binary nature of justice and evil. There were those that suggested the very nature of the source material and its relation to race would change dramatically in an American setting. Granting the ultimate power over justice, in a multi-ethnic criminal setting, to a white teenager in America's current racial climate raises a ton of pertinent questions. Responding to these claims directly, Wingard again attempted to allay those fears, claiming:
Some continued to point out the importance of Asian representation and diversity in Hollywood, while Wingard defended the broad range of ethnicities and cultures in the city of Seattle - and ostensibly in his movie:
Adam Wingard is still responding to complaints at this time.
Whitewashing is becoming less and less acceptable to fans, with casting controversies often spelling doom for movies that scrub out the importance of racial representation or rely on ancient racial tropes. Netflix's Iron Fist was panned for the way it handled race, and while Ghost In The Shell was celebrated for its visuals and earnest attempt to tell a gripping Sci Fi story, it still flopped at the global box office.
Death Note is available on Netflix from August 25, 2017.
How do you feel about the movie's shift to American shores? Sound off below!