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Death Note: Light Yagami vs Our Morality

by Surya Shivanandan.
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Death Note questioning our morality

2020 has changed the way we view life and death while questioning our choices. Death note is a bewildering show that did the same. The anime follows a teen genius, Light Yagami, who stumbles upon Ryuk’s death note. The death note grants the user the ability to kill anyone. To do so you have to picture the person you want to kill and write their name down in the death note. The story starts with Light Yagami being an ideal student and ends with him turning into a homicidal maniac.

 The show is extremely well written and the audience roots for Light throughout the show. He finds a creative solution to different problems using his death note and outwits the police and the audience at every turn. But what makes the show a masterpiece and one of the best crime thriller anime is the battle of wits between L and Light. The popularity of the show knows no bounds that it has multiple movie adaptations.

Light is an end justify the means guy. We gather this by his rampant criminal murder spree to create a utopia. He proclaims himself as justice and carries out his plan to make a utopian society. L on the other hand sees justice as the removal of injustice. Both of these are popular takes on the philosophy of justice. The injustice, as viewed by L, is killing other people. There are moments where Light pushes the moral boundaries and makes the audience question their morality in the process. The moments like these are mentioned below-

Light ascending to Kira

The first moment where the morals of the audience got called into question was when he decided to use this newly acquired power to ascend to the status of a god. He names his god persona Kira and justified killing criminals to create a utopian society. Many of us were morally conflicted at this point. On one side of the coin, creating a utopian society benefits itself. But on the other side, taking the law into your own hands is morally incorrect on several fronts. Ryuk pointed it out in the start by telling Light if you kill all the bad guys the only bad guy left would be you. Throughout the entire show, you can see different characters poke holes in both Light’s philosophy of justice and L’s philosophy of justice, making death note akin to a modern Socratic dialogue.

Light versus L resulting in casualties

Soon after L’s introduction, he comes on the news under a pseudonym of a criminal. He calls Light out for his one-dimensional view of justice and proves that killing criminals makes him a murderer, not a god. You catch a glimpse of Light’s mania when he chooses to prosecute the criminal. The difference this time is that he did not kill to create a utopian society he did it to kill L. This causes the audience to realize that Kira is just a man and no god. A god is devoid of all human insecurities and is just in his decisions. In the subsequent episodes, he kills an entire police task force. These actions make him look like a tyrannical dictator suppressing anyone against him.

The murder of Raye Penber and his wife

Raye Penber is a detective working on the Kira case. Light spectacularly outwits Raye and kills him in the process. His death questions the true intent of Light. Right before Raye passes away, Light reveals that he is Kira. Many cannot stomach the sight of death in front of their eyes while Kira not only welcomes his death but shows off his genius.  He reveals himself to Raye Penber’s wife before he makes her commit suicide. This is not the act of the genius kid; this is an act of a power-hungry psychopath.

via Gfycat

Light manipulating his girlfriend

One of the most immoral actions Light does is towards his girlfriends. He uses the death note to burn Takada, who was nothing but loyal to him, manipulates Misa Amane by faking love for her. He wants to use her to kill. She has unlocked the Shinigami’s eyes and helps Kira kill. She is his loyal servant and would do anything for him. He lets her get caught and manipulates her until the very end. This is a common theme in death note. Light’s self-preservation and selfishness cause the potential death of his sister, and it leads to his father’s death. However, interestingly enough, he didn’t use one asset that could have helped him

The entire show is incredibly well written, even when Light pushes the boundaries of what is correct the audience is still on his side. The show asks the question of what is justice and brilliantly leaves it open for the audience to decide.


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