After the runaway success of Death Note: The Last Name, and in particular, the impression Keniichi Matsuyama made on the world as L, the young, quirky uber-sleuth who plays God to Light’s devil, it was perhaps not such a surprise that an offshoot movie was almost instantly on the cards. Not only is it an offshoot however, but L: Change the World cleverly fills in the blanks from the twist ending of The Last Name, and nicely fleshes out a character who pretty much stole most viewers’ hearts with his inability to stand straight, sit right, wear shoes, comb his hair or eat anything that wasn’t at least 95% sugar.
One hundred and twenty days after L decides that Kira is in Japan – a conclusion we weren’t actually privy to in the first movies – a small village in Bangnum, Thailand is decimated by an ebola-like virus. Bio-hazarded men turn up, speaking American, and shortly thereafter the village is no more, except for one truck, a guy named F and a young boy who is given instructions and a phone number and dropped off in the middle of the jungle to escape the callous military cover-up.
Things are a little jumpy after this – you need to have seen Last Name to really put what happens into context, but basically the conspiracy starts to take form while L and Light are still battling it out, albeit intellectually, at the end of the second part of Last Name. Key scenes from the climax there are interspersed throughout the first ten or twenty minutes here as the plot develops, and in that way, this film nicely compliments its counterpart. This chopping and changing might be a little confusing for those people who don’t know what happens to L in the other movie, but once the timeframe and countdown for events are established, the story really starts to come into its own.
So, ironically, L has some time to kill, the bad guys want to change the world, and innocents are in danger. On a larger scale, this idea of deciding for others what is right and wrong, what is acceptable and what must be punished, is a little repetitive of the themes of the first films, but it’s the characterisation that saves Change the World from merely cashing in on the popularity of Last Name. L, unlikely and possibly alarming babysitter for the survivor of the Bangnum incident and a young teen on the run, becomes involved not out of a sense of heroism so much as a dogged loyalty to one of the few friends he had and it’s his interaction with these ‘children’ that accounts for a lot of this film’s emotional appeal. L himself seems almost childlike, but by contrast with his two wards (one of whom, Maki, is played particularly well by Mayuko Fukuda) it is obvious that while he might never have learnt not to put his feet on the seats, he clearly knows who and what he is, and also what he believes.
There is of course the prerequisite super-sleuth moments, and the humorous bonding scenes, but they’re actually pretty low key for a film where two thirds of the cast are children and the other might as well be. Hideo Nakata, better known for films like the Ring and Dark Water handles his material with a great deal of confidence, as if he actually does make films that don’t involve the vengeful dead. While L: Change the World isn’t life changing, it’s no slouch when it comes to entertainment, and is the kind of sequel to its successful predecessor that has every right to hold its head high and walk tall.