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Home > L And Light: Death Note’s Star-Crossed Rivals

L And Light: Death Note’s Star-Crossed Rivals

L and Light Death Note

Divine Intervention and Human Folly in Tokyo

With nothing but time, a bored god sends a book of death to Japan. It falls into the hands of golden boy Light Yagami, the just-as-jaded son of Tokyo’s chief of police. Write someone’s name in it with their face in mind and they die of a heart attack in 40 seconds. Add a cause of death and that person has seven minutes to live. The fine print? Anyone who uses it gets a one-way ticket to limbo. Light finds the identities of dozens of Japan’s most heinous criminals in a database on his father’s computer and records their names in the Death Note.

His actions soon garner the attention of the FBI, the press, and Ryuk, the deity who dropped it. Light starts the golden boy to live a double life as an honor roll student and omnipotent vigilante, earning the nickname “Kira” from the public.

I Am Justice

Enter a gifted detective using the alias “L,” who spearheads the case in an international task force under Light’s father. L first confronts Light during a press conference as part of a ploy to pin down where he is and how he kills. This boyish brawl between L and Light evolves into a cunning battle of intellect between the two in their respective pursuits to uncover each other’s name.

There’s not much of a difference between someone who’s been deprived of everything they’ve dreamt of and someone who’s gotten everything they ever wanted. Orphan L and model son Light grew into equally isolated young adults with very different means of operating in the world. 

L becomes convinced that Light is responsible for the Kira murders; Light makes every effort to dispel his accusations; L decides to make an offer Light can’t resist, and suggests they work together on the investigation. Hoping he can learn L’s real name, Light accepts, granting L close intel on his prime suspect.

Best Friends Make For Great Enemies

What makes Death Note such an enjoyable watch is what L and Light don’t say to each other. The peerless rivals bond only on the grounds of their clashing strategies. Their personalities are oddly synergistic, at least when they appear to be working toward the same goal. Light weighs in on both sides of every argument in what seems like a very level-headed approach. If the series wasn’t narrated by his unhinged conscience, it’d be easy to brush off his rambling monologues as naive idealism. Light’s conception of justice is heavily influenced by his father, feeling a need to compensate for what he knows is wrong but believes he’s entitled to.

L is pragmatic and skeptical—he is the best and brightest mind that money can buy; he isn’t fooled by Light’s act. L has lived a life that has made him well aware of the wretched inclinations of those who try the hardest to hide them. The strength of his deductions are set against death itself in a perplexing puzzle only navigable by intuition. In other words, unbeknownst to L, the game is fixed.

L and Light Death Note

Light can easily mask his ulterior motives behind his fair hair and cheery eyes, the polar opposite of L’s whole sullen look. There is a tangible chemistry behind their exchanges that keeps the anime engaging through the fillers. 

The unspoken tension between them peaks when a second Kira reveals themselves on the news. It seems that the copycat doesn’t need a name to kill. None other than Japan’s sweetheart Misa Amane is behind the crimes, who has a shinigami and Death Note of her own.

If I See You With Another Girl, I’ll Kill Her

Boundary-averse Misa finds Light’s address and shows up uninvited. Light’s complete lack of interest in Misa seems to only fuel her hopeless devotion to him. She vows to do his bidding no matter the cost. Misa is the ultimate yandere maniac, consecrated by her shinigami Rem, who promises to kill Light if he puts her in harm’s way. 

Misa can see the name and life span of anyone she lays eyes on, making her a valuable ally. Light warily agrees to team up with Misa, making it clear that he only sees her as a pawn in his ascent to power. She sees serving Light as fulfilling a higher purpose. Adorned in black thigh-highs and platform boots, Misa is the total embodiment of 21st century chastity.

Misa is arrested and Light’s involvement in the Kira murders comes into question. To elude further examination, Light willfully surrenders to the police to prove his innocence. Before he is detained, he gives his Death Note away, taking his memories with it. With no recollection of his crimes, Light is absolved. L still isn’t sold, so he chains himself to Light with handcuffs. Light remembers who he is and what he’s done when L’s team finds his Death Note at a crime scene, which had since changed hands to a greedy tech executive.

It’s The Least I Can Do To Atone For My Sins

Misa is eventually released, regains her Death Note, and continues to kill under Light’s instruction. L is bitterly certain at this point that Light and Misa are Kira, but without any real proof, he can’t condemn either of them. The bewildering circumstances the three seem to be entangled in exist outside reason. After a broody conversation in a rainstorm, L massages Light’s feet in a sentiment somewhere between submission and retaliation. There’s undeniable religious symbolism in the tender gesture. L is unceremoniously murdered by Rem once his inquiries get too close to Misa.

The odds that pitted L and Light against each other were stacked from the beginning; in another life, their fleeting connection could have been something else entirely. Death Note is a wrenching production of cosmic absolution through companionship, betrayal, and unrequited love. No matter what you believe in, the drama that unfolds in Death Note is a true testament to undying balance between the funny tricks of time.

L and Light Death Note

Death Note Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Avery Pearson has written long-form print pieces, thought leadership articles, and web copy for startups and nonprofits. Her work has been featured in Ocean News & Technology.