Minor spoilers ahead...
This is the first in a (very) occasional series in which I compare the same story as told by different media. This one compares the anime and the film versions of Death Note.
First, the good news. Both are excellent. Or, at least, the original story is excellent. The son of a police officer finds a note book in which he can write people’s names and they will die. He anonymously begins to kill criminals, becoming a folk hero and causing problems for the police. And sometimes killing them, too. Cue genius detective L who unwittingly asks the killer to help him, and the battle of wits begins.
The anime, being by far the longer, has more time to tell the story and fill in the details of the characters. This, it turns out, is to its disadvantage. The film version, even though it is split into two, has less time on its hands and therefore cuts out a lot of unnecessary filler.
The film's bravest move, and this is what puts it ahead of the anime, was the removal of the orphanage bit towards the end, with the arrival of another detective genius kid. While it kind of works as a plot line in the anime, the fact that the film keeps the two main protagonists against each other until the end with fewer distractions makes it more interesting.
The film faithfully represents the gods according to the original manga designs, and the actors too fill their roles well. Matsuyama Kenichi is a convincing L, but Fujiwara Tatsuya seems a little too nice to be a killer.
In the end, I think the live action version wins over the anime, simply thanks to leaving out that entire second detective genius from the orphanage. Actually now I think about it, in the anime there's a third too. The film is more focused and coherent than the anime and while I recommend both, when put side by side, the film tells a better story.