Death Note Review

Samantha Parker ’23 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer 

Spoilers ahead.

Death Note (2006) is a psychological thriller series and one of the most popular animes of all time based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. The manga series has 12 volumes and the anime adaptation ran for 37 episodes. There are a multitude of reasons as to why this anime series gained so much popularity and is beloved by fans. Many of those reasons are due to the clever storyline, symbolism, motifs, complex characters, and the philosophical underlinings. 

Death Note follows a genius highschool student Light Yagami who happens to come across a notebook named “Death Note,” purposely placed in that world by a shinigami called Ryuk who is bored with the world and intentionally wants to cause chaos. Yamgami soon realizes that the notebook has the power to kill anyone whose name is written within the pages. With this new found god-like ability, Yagami decides to rid those he deems unworthy of life in order to create a perfect world by cleansing evil. The mysterious mass deaths of criminals soon garner global attention which prompts the police force to hire a renowned detective known only by the alias L to catch the unknown murderer nicknamed “Kira” and Light takes on the title.  L and Kira/Light begin a lethal game of wits and deception, a cat and mouse to see who can discover the other first. 

What makes Death Note a good anime?


The symbolism in Death Note is overwhelming in both subtle and obvious indications. It has overtones of Christianity as well as Japanese religion and culture, with many references to biblical insinuations. Apples are one of the most prominent symbolism seen throughout the show as it represents the biblical “forbidden fruit,” the first original sin and greatest temptation  The shinigami Ryuk’s (a god of death in japanese lure) favorite food is an apple and compares it to a drug. Based on the shinigami’s nature to invoke sin, apples would be addictive. In addition, Light Yagami takes a bite of an apple in the opening credits, which portrays his willingness to invoke sinful acts. To add, crows are always shown in the opening and ending credits surrounding Yagami. Crows are interpreted as a dark omen, but they also symbolize intelligence, reflecting Yagami’s character. The end credit scene shows Light surrounded by doves, which represent purity or innocence, but his reflection shows that crows surround him. The audience can interpret that this symbolic message foreshadows Light’s descent into the lure of what the death note offers. Another important attribute is the color scheme. L is sometimes shown with blue hair or is surrounded by blue, while Light has red hair and is surrounded by red. This is a paramount indication of their relationship with one another as well as how they operate. Blue symbolizes wisdom, intelligence, sincerity, loyalty, confidence, and tranquility. Red represents determination, courage, anger, and violence. Blue roses are another piece of the symbolism found at the end credits on top of the death note displayed. These particular roses originate from Chinese mythology and symbolize attaining the impossible or unattainableness. It can be inferred and therefore foreshadowing that Light will never reach what he truly desires. 


Other than the use of symbolism and clever plot, the way the anime is structured is engaging. What makes watching Death Note so good and appealing? Two key words: the pacing and the length. As previously stated, Death Note ran for 37 episodes and still managed to fulfill the obligations of providing depth and character development. Compared to other animes like Naruto, which has 500 episodes, Death Note condenses the story in a clever way while still keeping the storyline rich. There are no filler episodes. Most fans of this series adore how the show makes you really think and is not easily predictable. 

Complex Characters

Light Yagami and L are some of the most well-written character dynamics in anime. Both of them seem to parallel the Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty dynamic. L taking on the Sherlock Holmes identity while Light reflects the antagonist Moriarty. L is centered in logic while Light manipulates. One of the reasons why their dynamic is entertaining to watch is because they’re equal in mind, which is the ultimate challenge or enemy.    

Implementing MBTI, Light Yagami is an ENTJ, while L is an INTP. Psychologically, these two Myers-Briggs personality types parallel each other through shadow functions as well as through compatibility. Shadow functions defend your ego functions. When defensive, they come out of the unconscious and possess you. ENTJ’s have Te as their dominant function while INTPs have Ti, which is extraverted thinking and introverted thinking. Extroverted thinking has to do with labelling, categorizing, weighting, comparing, sorting, planning, objective ideas while introverted thinking is the subjective inner framework of interpersonal truth values which is clarifying, naming, defining, specifying, and deducing. Te is external logic while Ti processes through internal logic. They share thinking, intuition, sensing, and feeling in the same stacks but through completely different introversion and extroversion patterns. ENTJ is the shadow personality of INTP, and around; therefore, they reflect each other through different lenses.


Death Note is primarily focused on ethics and morality. What is right or wrong? Is there a definitive answer?  It makes the viewer question their own morals. 

Justice is a central theme to Death Note. 

In Kira/Light’s perspective, he follows utilitarianism, which is a theory where the ends justify the means. Light wants to improve the world by killing all criminals. It doesn’t matter what he does in order to achieve his end goal. By eliminating the bad, he believes that his actions are justified. 

While L doesn’t follow a specific moral code, he is more driven by the gratification of solving the puzzle that Light encompasses. L is selfishly driven by his own need to be challenged intellectually rather than aiding the greater good. The theory of utilitarianism can be seen within L’s character when he imprisoned Light and Misa Amane, Light’s love interest, in order to extract information from them to serve his agenda. 

The police align with deontological ethics, which is an ethical theory that uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. It states that an act that is not good morally can lead to something good, like defending yourself from an intruder that poses a danger. The police are against Kira because of the unethical ways in which he doles out his punishments by mass killings, which is onsidered murder without definable cause.

Death Note is a masterfully crafted anime series that is morally ambiguous and will always keep the audience on the tip of their toes wondering, what will happen next?

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