Warning: Contains a Ton of Death Note Spoilers
Sorry, I do a partial rant near the end
About a month ago one of my best friends and I were talking about Death Note, which he had just finished for the first time about a week or two earlier, when I raised the point that I believed that L’s morals were just as bad, if not worse, than Light Yagami’s. If you have read my bio than you saw that I said that I am an avid Light supporter even though I have nothing personal against L, and that still holds true. So you may be thinking that I will debate this from an entirely “Light is my god” viewpoint, but I will try to be as objective as possible to both Light and L.
First a background on the two for clarification’s sake:
- Light Yagami is a very bright high school senior and is at the top of his grade in all of Japan. He finds the Death Note lying on the ground one day and is curious so he decides to test its authenticity on a criminal featured on the news. When he finds that it actually kills people he then makes it a point to wipe out all the criminals so that the world would be a better place. The public loves him because of this and gives him the name “Kira” or “Killer.” Light is also the smartest character in the series (it says so in the official Death Note encyclopedia).
- L is called by the police after a while so that he can apprehend Kira. After a while he gets the hunch (yes it’s a hunch, you don’t say “3% certainty” if it’s more than that) that Light is Kira, and since he has no one else to go on he does all that he can to prove that Light is Kira. A bit after he gets this suspicion he recruits Light to work with him so that he can keep track of Light, but he ultimately fails and dies.
Now that I have given a brief summary of the characters I am going to try to prove that L (arguably) has just as bad, if not worse, morals as Light, or Kira. The main reason I am doing this is because I am tired of all the hate that Light gets for what he does – and I am not condoning it by any means – but L can basically do whatever he wants and everybody who reads or watches Death Note is like “Oh L, you’re so perfect and dashing, how dare Light do what he’s doing, good thing you’re here as a beacon for justice and the right way of doing things!” While this might be an exaggeration on my part, there must be some truth to this as L is the most liked character on Anime-planet by 2,000 votes. 2,000 FREAKING VOTES (more on that later).
Let me start this debate by getting this out of the way: while I personally like Light better than L I will happily admit that Light is not a good guy. Hear that, I admitted it! I will freely say that it was not right of him to murder those FBI agents, Penbar’s fiancé, and anyone else who got in his way. He also has a god-complex and hates to lose. He manipulates people, especially those who love him, for his own gain and is an all-around jerk. But even with all that against him he still has a strong sense of justice (warped as it may be) and acts accordingly.
Now for L. I must say, for being “The World’s Greatest Detective” he sure sucks at his job. The only two things he was able to do correctly is deduce that Kira lived in the Kanto region of Tokyo, or at least was visiting that district when the announcement came on, being able to deduce the whole "name and face" thing, and figuring out that there were two Kiras later (which was pretty obvious). Other than that everything else he did failed. Tried to prove it was Light by bugging his house and having a FBI agent follow him? Failed. Tried to get Light to slip up and admit something? Failed. Tried to imprison Light and Misa to get results? Failed. Tried to catch the new Kira from the Yotsuba Group? Had to have Light’s help. Finally, he got the ultimate failure: death before apprehending Kira. He lost the game.
Because this was all a game to him. When asked why he was so sure why he could catch Kira he says, and I quote: ”Kira is childish and hates to lose; I am also childish and hate to lose.” And in order to that he got his hands dirty. Very dirty. This where the moral issue comes into play. Light’s morals are obviously twisted and self-serving, it’s just how Light is whether you love him or hate him, but L is more devious when it comes to hiding how twisted he can be by saying that what he does is in the name of justice. He works for the police – and remember he is not a policeman, just a private detective who works for the police – and yet he breaks the law. How is that noble and righteous? Don’t believe me, see for yourself:
- He hires a foreign government agency (the FBI) to investigate Japanese citizens without the consent of the Japanese government.
- In so doing he willingly puts them in danger without proper preparation and is ultimately (from a point of view) the cause of their death.
- He bugs the homes of Japanese private homes on a hunch that the culprit has access to police information (and even if he does get their permission he’d still have to get a warrant from a judge and go through the proper channels and give proof to his suspicions, which he doesn’t do).
- He holds two people for a few months in his private jail without probable cause. Oh, he suspects that Light and Misa are Kira and Second Kira, but he has no proof. And don’t forget that he used a policeman who no longer worked for the police in order to “arrest” Misa.
- While not illegal, the only way that the others in the Task Force can convince L to let Light and Misa go is to stage a murder. TO STAGE A MURDER. That is how far L goes to try to prove that Light is who L wants them to be, namely Kira.
Most people look at those facts and think “But L was justified, I mean Light was Kira.” Yes, he sure was. We the audience know that, Light knew that, Misa knew that, but L? L had suspicions, and since he had no one else to go around breaking the law on to try to apprehend he decided to stick to Light and was borderline psychotic in how desperate he was to prove that Light was indeed Kira. Which brings me to the point I made earlier: L is the most-loved character on Anime-planet by 2,000 votes. Why? Why? Why? Look who’s just underneath him: Ed Elric, the powerful alchemist with a vendetta against milk who wants to correct a mistake that he and his brother made in their youth; and Hatake Kakashi, the ninja who kicks butt and reads romance novels. But despite how awesome all these other characters are L still comes out on top. Is it because of his charming personality? Because he does nothing but sit weird, eat sweets, and coming up with plans that don’t work in the end? Because he’s drop-dead gorgeous with his abnormally huge eyes and pale, pasty skin? Because he was able to reach his goal and apprehend Li……oh wait, never mind, he didn’t do that.
No, I honestly believe that there are two reasons why L is so well-loved: (1) the fangirls who blindly love him for his “good looks”, and (2) because he dies. Yes, because he dies, and in so doing is seen as a martyr. How else can you explain that while L and N are basically the same in their attitude of doing whatever it takes to win one of them is the #1 most loved character and the other the #4 most hated. They are almost exactly the same: same fanaticism to have to be right, both have weird habits, both never go outside and are paranoid about the world. Of course there are other reasons N is hated, because he rigs it so that Light dies (which is why I hate him) but if you just look at objectively N and L are almost exactly the same. The only difference? One of them dies, the other doesn’t. Make of that what you will.
So while I am not writing this by any means to condemn L, I just would like people to realize that he isn’t the knight in shining armor that everyone makes him out to be, and that you should realize that Death Note is about the struggle between two equally flawed characters, neither being wrong and neither being right.