Netflix Is On A Whitewashing Bender, And This Time It's With 'Death Note'

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(Image courtesy of Netflix)

Following the backlash against the whitewashing of Marvel's Iron Fist, Netflix is at the center of controversy once more after releasing the first teaser trailer of its anime-to-film adaptation of Death Note.

The anime series (based off the eponymous magna) premiered in 2006 and follows Light, a hyper-intelligent and angst-ridden teenager who stumbles upon the Death Note, a notebook that promises the power to kill whoever’s name is written on its pages. With this power in hand, Light decides that it's his duty to rid the world of wrongdoers. As he takes off on his path of vigilante murders, he begins getting tracked down by an equally brilliant mind—a dedicated detective known only by the first letter of his name: L. While the cat-and-mouse chase gains traction, Light is constantly accompanied by the owner of the Death Note, the bored Shinigami Ryuk — think Japanese Angel of Death — who dropped the notebook down to Earth as an experiment on human morality.

Fans of the magna and anime versions of Death Note are livid at the streaming powerhouse for its casting, but the whitewashing, unfortunately, isn’t just confined to the cast; the original setting of Tokyo has been swapped in favor of Seattle, and the main character’s name also gets an unnecessary makeover, from “Light Yagami” to “Light Turner.” The Death Note film follows in the highly-criticized footsteps of whitewashed anime adaptations like Ghost in the Shell, which cast Scarlett Johansson as its lead, as well as the horrific and deeply unwatchable M. Night Shyamalan adaptation of the Nickelodeon opus Avatar: The Last Airbender.


Netflix reportedly dropped approximately $40 million on the adaptation, which features Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, and Keith Stanfield as Light, Ryuk, and L, respectively. Attached to the project is horror director Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest and segments in V/H/S 1 and 2) so in the best case scenario, the eerie mood of the magna and anime will be properly transported to the American edition.

Death Note drops August 25 on Netflix.