Netflix's Death Note finally arrived on the streaming service, though many people wish it wasn't. When it comes to Netflix's Death Note vs the anime, it stands to reason many viewers feel nothing will live up to the original's glory. After all, many of the series's original aspects never appear in the Netflix Death Note. However, some horrible Death Note reviews also suggest that Netflix's adaptation may be awful not only because it's not the original, but because it's garbage. Without thinking too hard, one easily finds plenty of reasons why the new Death Note is awful.
In fact one issue arose the moment they revealed the cast - Death Note is yet another anime adaptation that whitewashes its characters, depriving Asian American actors of opportunities that already come few and far between. Because the Netflix version is a movie rather than episodic anime or manga, major plot holes exist, character development feels inconsistent, and it fails to capture the tension that made the original so engaging. The anime tackles age-old questions about the hubris of man and the meaning of justice, while the film is about a kid murdering people between make-out sessions with his cheerleader girlfriend. That might have flown on its own, but when made in the image of such classic anime, it was only ever going to crash and burn.
One of the most compelling aspects of the original Death Note was the relationship between L and Light Yagami. A high-tension battle between two intellectual powerhouses constantly outwitting each other, their interactions included life-or-death encounters, trying to extract information via tennis matches, being handcuffed to each other for strategic reasons, and even the occasional heartfelt or funny moment.
With Netflix's version of L and Light, none of this occurs. The two of them barely interact, and when they do, it never happens on an even field. Turner is a confused child who suffers diarrhea of the mouth in front of a world-famous detective. The only potentially interesting statement Turner makes, a request for L's help getting rid of the Death Note, never gets followed up. As a result, viewers miss out on one of the greatest battle of wits the fiction world has ever known.
One of the primary conflicts in the original Death Note is Light Yagami's increasingly frantic struggle to avoid being caught. In early episodes, Yagami hides the Death Note in a false bottom into his desk drawer, which he rigs to explode if tampered with. Later, he lets himself be handcuffed to L for months on end to allay his suspicions. Eventually, not being caught becomes his primary goal, while actually pursuing his interpretation of justice becomes secondary.
This is a far cry from Light Turner. While both characters need not be entirely identical, it's hard to care about what happens to Turner when he obviously doesn't. One of the first things Turner does is show Mia Sutton the Death Note, with no foreknowledge whatsoever about how she might react. He hides the damn thing in his calculus textbook, never denies being a Kira supporter, and outright tells L where it's hidden during one of their only confrontations.
You might assume Turner wants to get caught, but if he does, then none of his other actions make any sense. Instead, it just comes off as a clumsy plot and a scatterbrained, careless main character.
The original Death Note never cared about romance. Though Misa Amane is desperately in love with Light Yagami, Yagami only uses her feelings to manipulate her into obedience. Misa's love doesn't come out of nowhere - Yagami is the savior who avenged her parents after they are killed in front of her eyes. Yagami's failure to truly connect with Misa, or anyone else for that matter, functions an important lens for watching his emotional life fall apart as power corrupts him.
In the Netflix iteration of Death Note, viewers never get anything nuanced like that. Instead, they see two teenagers who fall instantly in lust with each other. It makes for a bizarre montage where make out scenes are interspersed with graphic death scenes. This fusion of death and sex feels cheap and predictable, and makes it hard to their feelings for each other seriously. Their conflict about how to use the notebook managed to actually get pretty interesting, but the unconvincing romance takes up so much space that you barely get to explore that.
On the surface, Mia Sutton actually seems sort of cool. While Sutton's predecessor Misa Amane occupies a complex and complicated role, many Death Note fans tired of watching Light Yagami manipulate traumatized women into risking their lives for his benefit. Sutton sports more agency than Amane, and she has goals independent of her love interest's.
The problem is that Sutton's goals are shallow and poorly defined. She wants power and thinks criminals are better off dead, but you never learn why she feels that way. The closest viewers get to a motivation comes from her telling Light Turner that before she met him, she was "just a cheerleader." That's an absurd motivation for mass murder, and it never deepens whatsoever. Instead of being a complicated character with a lot of problems like Amane, Sutton is a sadistic edgelord, who, according to mojo.com is a "rehashed Lady MacBeth," which is to say, not nearly as interesting as Lady MacBeth.