Monday, October 6, 2008

The Depth of the Note of Death: An Analysis of Death Note

Since a Death Note Day is coming up on Oct 15, I figured hey why not post up an old writing of mine in honor of Death Note. This was written around June 2008 during the time of the Death Note movie premiere. Enjoy and back to homework!


Sitting in the corner seat near the back of the theater, I am just here doing my job as a journalist to write a review. While watching the movie, Death Note, it was quite entertaining like a movie should be, but it gave me more than entertainment. It gave me something to think about in regards to life itself and the human world. A question that one might or might not have the answer to: What is Justice?

WARNING: The human who reads this mini thesis shall be injected with the author’s analytical thinking.


Light Yagami, an intelligent young student in pursuit of a career in law, discovers that criminals are not being prosecuted and he has come to the conclusion that there are loopholes in the legal system. Because of this discovery, he has lost faith in the legal system and rejects his law book.

During a rain storm, after the rejection, Light came upon a notebook with the words “Death Note” embedded on the cover and upon curiosity decided to take it home. While at his desk looking through the book he read, “The human name written in the book shall die.” Yagami laughs at the possibility that such a statement can be true and for fun he writes the name of a criminal he sees on his television in the notebook; closes the notebook; and then chills on his bed.

Next day, Light wakes up; goes downstairs; he sees a newspaper on the dinner table; takes it in his hand; and begins to read it. To his surprise and shock, one of the articles is about the death of a criminal, the criminal whose name he had written in the Death Note. After reading this, Light runs upstairs to his room, looks through the Death Note and sees that the name of the criminal is in the notebook. The criminal died of a heart attack and to test the theory that the Death Note is true to its words, Light tests the Death Note on a criminal that is not prosecuted and to his discovery that criminal dies from a heart attack too.

After discovering that the Death Note speaks the truth of itself, a blue tone winged creature confronts Light, a shinigami, which is a Death God, named Ryuk. He said to Light that he dropped the book in the human world and explains to him about the ownership of the Death Note. Because Light has touched the book, he obtains ownership and is able to see Ryuk. Anyone else who touches it can see the shinigami, but they cannot own the book, unless Light decides to resign from ownership, which will result in Light losing all memories of the Death Note.

With such a powerful book at hand, Light believes that he can start a “revolution” by creating an “ideal world” without criminals. With the killing off of criminals in and out of prisons around the world, many believes that he is the “god” that is punishing those who have done wrong. Even though many believe that he is the “savior,” there are those who believe otherwise and they are the police task force of Japan assigned to capture Kira, which is lead by Chief Solchiro Yagami, and L, the famous mysterious criminal detective.

Because no one is sure or knows whom the killer(s) of the criminals is, L gave the killer(s) the name “Kira.” L believes that Kira is “one individual commit crime…plan to draw Kira out,” and to do that Lind. L. Tailor, known as L, makes a public television appearance and announcement to tell Kira that she/he will be captured and that she/he is an “immature criminal.” Light, disagreeing with such a statement and prosecution by the authorities, decides to write “Lind. L. Tailor” in the Death Note and in 40 seconds, Tailor dies from a heart attack on television. To Light’s shocking discovery, L is not dead, because Lind. L Tailor is not L, but a criminal pretending to be L. The real L is still alive and from this the public announcement has successfully drawn out Kira; discovers Kira’s location; and weakness in Kira’s killings. L, with no physical appearance, tells Kira at the end of the public announcement that “I am Justice” and Light replies by saying “I am Justice.”


So what is Justice?

From my understanding, in Light’s perspective of justice is his ability to rid the world of wrong doers, such as rapist and murderers. Yet, he uses the Death Note to kill those whom are against him, such as the fake Lind. L Tailor, Federal Bureau Investigations and Naomi Misora, the fiancee of dead FBI agent Raye, to protect himself. Not only does he do that, he also causes the death of his girlfriend, Shiori Akino.

Naomi Misora believes that Light is Kira and will prove to L that her theory is true. She lures Light to the art gallery by forcing Shiori, at gunpoint, to call Light and tell him to meet her at the painting titled Mask Gods of Death (doesn’t that sound a lot like Light Yagami…hmm…). During the confrontation, Naomi shot Shiori, who dies in the scene, and Naomi commits suicide. Later, Light reveals that Shiori’s death was not accidental. Light wrote the sequences of events leading to the death of both Naomi and Shiori, but they are written separately and independent from each other. The only names written in the sequence of events leading to their deaths are the individual girls in their individual deaths. It is not stated in the Death Note that Naomi is to shoot Shiori, but Shiori is to be shot by a gun bullet and Naomi is to kill suspect’s girlfriend. The deaths of both females are interlinked by coincidence. According to Light, “Death Note is powerful…change destiny.”

Even though Ryuk states to Light that he is “not on either L or your side,” the shinigami states a few interesting points in the movie. When Light was planning out how to get rid of the FBI agents, Ryuk said “FBI agents are not criminals…you’re gonna kill them anyway?” When Light told Ryuk that Shiori’s death is “not a mistake,” Ryuk to Light, “You are the Devil…For more ruthless…More evil than a shinigami.” Ryuk asked, “You had her heart didn’t you love her at all?” Is Light really Justice or is he poisoned by the power of the Death Note? Is Light still Light Yagami or is Light Yagami now Kira or both?

From my understanding, in L’s perspective justice is his success to capturing Kira. Yet, he used a criminal to lure Kira and got the criminal killed. As L stated, Kira and him are alike “immature…hate to lose…just like me.” Later, he suspects Kira is Light Yagami, because he fits the profile. Even though Light deceived him, L continues to suspect Light to be Kira until the end of the movie.

Even though Soichiro Yagami is on the same side as L, he does not always agree with the choice of tactics L takes. When L revealed in the public television announcement that Lind. L. Tailor is really a criminal pretending to be him, Soichiro disagreed with the usage of a criminal to catch a criminal. He believed that it is wrong to kill a criminal to lure Kira out. Is L really Justice or does his determination to capture Kira blind him? Is L wrong in using a criminal to get to Kira or is it the perfect means to an end or both?

Light and L can be viewed as opposite ends of a pole or two halves of a circle (I mean look at there names!! “L” in Light…when “Light” is the opposite of dark and evil…the irony). They are crime fighters, who both believe that they are doing right by society and are trying to create an ideal world. One is using a Death Note to get rid of criminals or suspected criminals to create an ideal world where such individuals do not exist. Another is using modern technology and his own intelligence to capture Kira to stop the killing spree. Similar to Light, L is using a criminal as a means to an end, but, unlike Light, through out the rest of the movie, he does not use any other criminals to get to Kira. He gets to Kira through the help of the Task Force, Chief Soichiro Yagami, and his right hand man, Watari. Unlike L, Light has his understanding and knowledge of the Death Note and uses the notebook to protect himself by getting rid of those whom are against his actions or trying to capture him. So who is in the right and who is in the wrong? Or are they neither?

L is doing what any crime fighter would do: lock up and punish those who commit a crime. So, is what Light doing really a crime? He is helping L and those who believe in punishing the wrong doers by possibly decreasing criminal activities. If what Light is doing is bring peace to the world, is killing the criminals right then?

What Light does is understandable. He wants to better the world by getting rid of the existence of wrong doers, but are all criminals and suspects guilty? Maybe some are falsely accused and are sent to jail, but should Light get rid of them too? So is the idea of an eye for an eye, right? Light has to protect himself in order to fulfill his ideal vision, but should he be killing off those who are just doing their job and those who believe that those who commit a crime should be punished (doesn’t that remind you of Light…)? Although Shiori does not believe that Kira is a savior, she does not take any action against Kira, but did he have to kill her? So should he be getting rid of those who are innocent and close to him, like Shiori, just to create a mask for others to see and make them think that he is not Kira?

My conclusion is that the concept of Justice belongs to the individual who is confronted by the question. So Who is Justice? L or Light? Who is doing right by society? Whose idea of justice is Justice? What is Justice?

© 2008 Linda Thai


Skeld said...

Wow, I'm very impressed: This text is written in a quite magnificent way, and after thinking about the content I really like it - just like the Death Note story! Go on like this, I like your post!

Lyntha Tye said...

Thank You Very Much skeld for the wonderful comments! Thanks for the support too! I have been planning to write more analysis on anime or manga (just have to figure out what else to analyze). I think too much anyway :P , so there will be more. Just you wait (^_^)