Though Death Note director Adam Wingard has taken most criticism of his film in stride, even he draws a line somewhere. The director is frustrated by comparisons between Death Note and a universally reviled manga adaptation.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published on Tuesday, Wingard revealed what comparison gets under his skin. “It’s kind of annoying when they say, ‘This is the next Dragonball: Evolution,” Wingard said. “It’s just such a completely different thing.”
Netflix’s Death Note, an adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s work of the same name, premiered on Netflix on August 25, garnering criticism before and after the film’s release. It currently has a 41/100 score on Metacritic, putting it under the 45/100 score for Dragonball: Evolution, the famously awful, loose adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s manga which came out in 2009.
Aside from them both being manga adaptations which make some big, poorly received changes to their source material, one of the main reasons people are likely comparing the two films is because of their casting choices. Without changing any of the names from the series, Dragonball: Evolution cast white actors as some of the manga’s main characters, and mostly cast non-Japanese actors in other principal roles. Death Note did the same thing, but at least changed many of their names to Caucasian ones and staged the film in Seattle (not Tokyo), even if that still contributes to issues of Asian erasure.
Regardless, based on reception to the film so far, comparisons to Dragonball: Evolution don’t seem too far off.
Death Note is now available to stream on Netflix.