L, the spin-off of the successful Death Note series, is slated to open simultaneously in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Feb 9, 2008.

The pan-Asian release strategy is the widest of its kind for a Japanese film, with more countries possibly signing on. Previous sequel Death Note 2: The Last Name, received its world premiere in Hong Kong, later opening on the same day as the Japanese release.

While the previous Death Note films were directed by Shusuke Kaneko, L is being directed by Hideo Nakata, who rose to international fame with the original Ring and its sequel.

The two-month production started shooting at the beginning of the month in Tokyo's neighbouring Saitama Prefecture.

Details of the story, which is not strictly based on the original manga, have remained veiled in secrecy, though the spin-off focuses on the titular, brilliant young detective with a sweet tooth, played for the third time by Ken'ichi Matsuyama. Nakata recently said: 'The film will have some big action sequences.'

Additionally, 13-year-old actress Mayuko Fukuda (Sinking Of Japan) has been cast in a lead role from a pool of more than 300 hopefuls. Fukuda plays a young girl who is protected by L because she holds a key to solving the mystery.

Released in June and November of last year, the first two Death Note films earned a combined $67.76m (Y8b). The DVD box set also sold in record numbers.

The Death Note franchise is co-produced by Nippon Television (NTV) and distributor Warner Entertainment Japan.