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Shane Black to direct Death Note

Some of you will read this news and wonder what Death Note is, and why you should care. That is understandable, as the anime series was aired for only a brief time on Adult Swim, and the extremely serialized nature of the show made it difficult to watch because missing one episode would inevitably and mystically unleash Murphy’s Law, and that one missed episode would likely be the turning point for the entire series. So to those of you for whom this may not be big news to you, have a pleasant evening. Check out our CES coverage instead, its boss.

To those still reading, now that the series has been dubbed into English and circulated throughout America, there are plenty of ways to get a hold of the 37 half hour episodes. In fact you can rent them on Netflix right now. The manga is also available in English, although it might cost more, so the anime is probably the easier bet. Sure the nine disc set might take a bit of time to get through, but go for it, we’ll still be here when you get back. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Back now? Wasn’t that show awesome!?! We thought you’d like it, no need to thank us for turning you on to one of the best and most addictive animes ever made (please note the phrase “one of”, not “the best”, so please keep it together anime fan).

For those that missed the boat, Death Note is a series about two brilliant people, two sides of the same warped coin, playing a supernatural game of cat and mouse. Originally produced as a manga, created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the series has gone on to massive success in Japan, spawning a trilogy of live-action movies as well as the 37-episode series (not to mention a licensing bonanza that rivals Star Wars—well, honestly nothing can rival Star Wars in licensing, but it isn’t for lack of trying).

The story begins when Light Yagami, a high school student with a genius level IQ, discovers a mysterious notebook lying on the ground. Call it fate, call it the proof of a random universe, but Light soon discovers that the notebook once belonged to a shinigami (a Japanese demon) named Ryuk, and when a name is entered into the notebook, the person will soon die of a heart attack, unless another cause of death and time frame is listed.

The Shinigami appears and explains to Light that he discovered the Death Note by chance, and it was his to do with as he saw fit. Light decides to use the Death Note in a secret crusade to rid the world of what he sees as corruption, and enters the names of people he deems evil. He reveals himself to the world under the identity “Kira” (a Japanese pronunciation for the English word “killer”), and he becomes a near God-like hero and/or villain to the entire world. Hundreds, possibly thousands die, and the International Police Force calls in the help of the mysterious detective and FBI profiler, known only as L.

L is a genius, but also a bizarre young man (who may have a form of Asperger’s syndrome), and he is convinced that he can find and stop the murderer. As L closes in on Kira/Light, Light attempts to find L’s true name and soon expands his targets to include those that stand in his way. The two then engage in a life or death game of chess that will decide the future of the world.

The series is a complex thriller, and one that has been courted by Hollywood before. Following the success of the live-action movies and the anime in Japan, at least 10 Hollywood studios were said to be actively pursuing the property before Warner Bros landed the rights. At one point a movie seemed inevitable, with rumors flying that Zac Effron was attached to star as Light, while Cillian Murphy would play L, but the project fell apart.

According to Deadline the studio has either sought out, or granted permission to writer-turned-director Shane Black to direct the property. While Warners is no doubt hot to produce the property sooner rather than later, while there is still momentum, Black has also stated that Death Note is a personal favorite of his and so it is possible that he actively pursued the property from the studio.

Black began in the industry as a writer, penning some huge movie hits, including the original Lethal Weapon, Monster Squad and The Long Kiss Goodnight. After taking a few years to travel and generally just be rich, he then returned to write and direct Kiss Kiss Bang Bang—one of the films credited with helping revive Robert Downey Jr’s career.

Black is currently a somewhat hot commodity at the moment, with studios coming to him to write and/or direct several projects, including Doc Savage, a potential franchise film. It isn’t clear which film Black will choose first, but it appears that Death Note has a good chance at hitting the theaters soon.

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