Deathnote: the manga, anime and now live action movie. The cultural phenomenon, asking people everywhere; what is justice? If you had the power would you take life with your own hands? Fans of the manga and/or anime have taken the philosophies behind the story and questioned them. For the record, I have only watched the anime series, which I have just finished hence this post. The story in and of itself is great, although the first half of the series was by far the best that the series had to offer.  

Concept: A Deathnote

Those unfamiliar with the concept of the deathnote should stop reading now.

The Deathnote, a mystical book used by Shinigami (Gods of Death) to end human lives and increase their own. For every human life cut short the remainder of that person’s life is added onto the Shinigami’s life.

How do they end human lives? Well, the Shinigami just has to right down the humans name and picture their face in their mind. They can also write down how the human will die, thus opening up a near infinite number of ways to kill someone. They will only die in a particular way if it is possible, if it isn’t they will have a heart attack. Shinigami have the ability to see a humans name and life span above their heads thus they are able to kill anyone with impunity. To add to this they are invisible to humans unless a human has in their possession a Shinigami’s deathnote, which allows them to see the owner of the deathnote.

Just imagine a notebook, which has the power to kill people, in any way you want. This power is unknown to nearly all of the population, except for those humans unlucky enough to pick up a fallen notebook. Those humans pick up a power which many would kill for and do.


Light Yagami is the stories only protagonist; he is a high school student who picks up a fallen deathnote. How does he learn to use it? Good question, well, each notebook has instructions written on the inside covers, detailing how to use the notebook. This is how Light learns to harness the deathnote’s power. At first he doesn’t believe that it is possible, until he tests it and kills. He couldn’t truly harness all the deathnote has to offer without the assistance from the deathnotes true owner, a Shinigami, by the name Ryuk.

Now, Light starts off the series quite innocently, but slowly the power of the deathnote combined with a god complex corrupts his nature, placing his ideals above the law, making them the law in all but name.

Under the guise of ‘Kira’ Light starts to kill criminals, those who have committed heinous acts such as murder. Some see ‘Kira’ as a saviour, a hero who is righting many injustices of the world. Others see his as a murderer, just as bad if not worse than those he despises. Despite his questionable ideals, Light is by far, one of the most intelligent people on earth. Thus the story focuses on his attempts to circumvent capture and place himself out of the firing line. Along with his attempt to create a new world: a world with him as the new god. A world without crime: a ‘perfect’ world.

Light’s idea of Justice is flawed and immature, with no account for the law. Justice is death, with him as Judge, Jury and Executioner. Many people in the world where he lives praise his actions, whether from the law being unable to keep killers behind bars or through similar ideals.


‘L’ is the series antagonist, a genius who has solved some of the world’s toughest and most unsolvable cases. World governments seek him out to solve their problems. He has never showed his face to anyone, until the case of ‘Kira’. He puts his life on the line to discover who ‘Kira’ really is.

Also a genius, he is a joint contender with Light as being the most intelligent person on the planet. His deductive reasoning is astounding, even whilst being at a disadvantage due to the unbelievability that gods of death actually exist.

‘L’ views ‘Kira’ as a murderer, he doesn’t obey the law and wants to create his own warped perception of the law. Dictating who lives and dies is not justice; to ‘L’ the law is justice. Just because we live in an unjust world doesn’t give anyone to right to search out and give out their version of justice.

When presented with the deathnote, ‘L’ is astounded that such a thing exists, but still believes that it must be so, especially after coming face to face with a real Shinigami. ‘L’ suspects Light from nearly the very start, and it is this friendship and rivalry which produces the best moment s of the series, watching Light and ‘L’ compete, play the game as it were to see who wins, either Light is uncovered as ‘Kira’ or ‘L’ dies and everyone involved with him and his investigation.

Justice? Who is right? Light? L? Neither? Both?

What would you do?