Death Note // an analysis/rant in three parts

January 10, 2021

Happy Sunday!

Welcome back to another episode of Nicole being let down by a hyped franchise. Today, the franchise in question is Death Note.

Death Note is one of the most well-known and acclaimed anime series, both inside and outside the anime community. Its fast-paced thriller plotline makes it easily memorable, and its dark themes provide great food for thought.

I'm going to put this out there: I LOVED the first twenty-five episodes. I honestly think they were amazing. But . . . *sigh* I didn't like the last . . . oh, twelve episodes or so? And since I'm pretty salty about that, I'm going to vent. XD

Before we begin, here are some things to keep in mind:

- This is my opinion. Clearly, it's a classic show for a reason. But just because it's a classic show doesn't mean I can't critique what I think is bad writing. You're free to disagree. I'm literally just writing this because I'm bitter.

- I'm going to be honest: I have not watched the entire show. I skipped some episodes in season two because I wanted the show to be done. (in case you're wondering, I skipped episodes 29-35.) I don't think these episodes will affect my analysis, however - my points have to do with the episodes I did watch. 

- Every single major spoiler is included in this post. If you have any intention of watching the show, I highly suggest you wait to read this. Then again, I don't think I would recommend this show for reasons I'll discuss in a second.

Now, since some of you don't know what this show is about, I'll give you a brief summary . . .

Seventeen-year-old Light is bored in school when he finds a notebook (the Death Note) that allows him to kill any person whose name he writes inside. Taking on the alias of Kira, he sets out to create a perfect society where there is no crime, no war, no evil. yes, he does that by killing people. Soon, however, opposition appears in the form of L, a super-smart individual whose true name is unknown (and so is safe from Light for now). L takes it upon himself to bring Kira to justice. Light and L enter into a war of wits - the first one to discover the other's identity will die.

Basically, the entire plot is filled with Angst and Drama and heart-pounding tension. 

And oh yeah. There's a lot of death

Death Note has such a dark premise that, again, I can't recommend it. But just because it has a dark premise doesn't necessarily mean it has bad writing. 

Let's start with something positive about the show, shall we? 


As you can probably tell by the summary, our main character, Light, is not the greatest person ever. He's basically a mass-murdering, psychopathic genius. 

I'm sorry, this was too good to not include

In Death Note, we view everything from Light's perspective. Because of this choice, we see what makes Light tick, what morals (if any) he has. And it really puts us, the audience, in a difficult position.

On the one hand, Light is a mass-murdering, psychopathic genius who is killing hundreds of criminals every week. He seems to have no concept of redemption or of saving human life, even if that life has done horrible things. 

But on the other hand . . . the reader can see where he's coming from. He, like the rest of us, has seen the world in all its imperfection. He's seen the evil of sin. He's seen people do terrible things. And we understand his reasoning about why he's doing the things he's doing. It even scares us, because we're forced to ask ourselves: would we do the same thing if we were given the opportunity Light was?

also Light is one of the most dramatic writers of ever

Light is the main character, but he's also an antihero, even the villain character (from a moral standpoint). I don't typically see antiheroes act as the main character, usually because they're doing horrible things. And why would we want to root for the character that's doing the horrible things?

well, I guess there are Light fangirls, but I'll save that rant for another time

But I actually appreciate the fact that we don't have to root for Light, though we're seeing everything through his point of view. There's a certain distance between us and Light; he almost seems unrelatable. He's immediately presented as a super-smart teenager who acts like a playboy and is distant from everyone. And while I suppose his loner qualities could be relatable for some, many of his other traits are not. I know I personally couldn't relate to Light at all. I felt light-years apart from him.

I think that's a good thing as well. We don't want to especially see ourselves in Light's shoes. I mean, morally, he's the bad guy.

But there's another reason why we don't necessarily have to root for Light. There's someone else with whom we can place our allegiance, someone who is slightly more relatable

Enter L, the best character in the entire show. 

At least for a time.


In my opinion, L is one of the more "relatable" characters in the entirety of Death Note, possessing the most accurate moral compass out of the main characters. While his morality isn't exactly perfect (he's very similar in Light in many ways, except that he values human life slightly more), he's someone we can support. And in a show where morality is a key theme, this becomes important.

L is also a powerful antagonist of the show (if you define antagonist as the opposer of the main character). He's smarter than Light and is able to match wits with him at every turn. He is the reason why we sit at the edge of our seats the whole time - we're wondering if he'll finally catch up to Light this episode, if he'll finally bring "Kira" to justice.

also, can we talk about the fact that L literally is a hermit who eats sweets all the time, only wears sweatshirts and jeans, and spends his entire day staring at screens? #relate

this GIF has no significance to anything, I just think it's funny XD

In a show as smart as Death Note, the antagonist needs to be just as intelligent as the main character in order to keep the plot fast-paced and engaging. As a result, the rivalry between Light and L is at the center of most of the storyline. It brings emotion and action, as well as some character development on the part of L. 

At least for the first twenty-five episodes.


And then Light manages to kill L.

Let me repeat that.

Light manages to kill L.

This is a game-changer, and not entirely for the best. Because by choosing to kill off the main antagonist, the writers unleashed a whole host of problems. And let's see how they did with that.

also I lowkey sobbed over his death and was dead for a solid 14 hours after. so. there's that.

the fORESHADOWING *cries*

First, there's the issue of what this death causes in the plot. By killing off L, Light removes his only opposition to getting what he wants: to make a new world where his word is law. So in episode 26, he essentially gets what he wants. His goal is, in a sense, completed. To be sure, creating this world will take some time. But as we see just an episode later, he's well on the way, and he views himself as accomplished.

In order to TELL us that he's in the midst of completing his goal, the story time-jumps and info-dumps. The time-jump is fine. The info-dump . . . is quite clunky. It's very unlike the fast-paced plot of the first 25 episodes, and such a difference is jarring at best, not to mention confusing at times.

Then, there's the issue of the antagonist in question. As stated earlier, Light has gotten rid of his only opposition. No one else is left to oppose him.

Or so we're led to believe.

In the middle of the aforementioned info-dump, the writers add two completely new side characters with whom we have no history or attachment. One of them, Mello, is just about the blandest villain one can think of. He just wants the Death Note (the killing notebook) for personal gain, and his only personality trait is that he loves chocolate. I mean, I relate, but it's still annoying. He never truly feels like a threat, even though he kidnaps Light's sister - because in terms of intelligence, he can't rival Light. It's even stated that only L could do that. And L's gone.

The other new major character is Near, and in essence he's a slightly less smart version of L. He even looks and acts like him. While L is supposed to have been his "mentor" of sorts, we have no past history or knowledge of him. We don't have any rivalries between Light and Near to care about.

At this point, I just didn't care. I couldn't root for Light because his morals were way off-kilter. I couldn't root for Near because I didn't know him, and I didn't care about him. And even if I hated both characters, there was no emotional undercurrent to get sucked into.

So the following sequences were just intellectual battles between two people that I had no interest in seeing win. And when I don't care what happens, I tend to skip episodes or stop watching.

So I did.

If you kill off your antagonist, you HAVE to replace him with another one that's even more threatening, or else the stakes just collapse underneath your story. And that's exactly what happens after L dies. I went from being able to watch 8 episodes completely engrossed, to watching 1 and feeling bored, checking how close I was to the end of the episode.


In a show that's literally built on intellectual battles, that's not a good thing. Intellectual battles are hard enough to make interesting. The logic has to be advanced enough so the audience can't follow it on surface level, yet simple enough that when it's explained, it makes sense. And Death Note did a fantastic job of this. But I didn't care enough to follow the logic, so I also found myself lost on several occasions.

Look, it would have been better writing for Light to win for good after he killed L. If the show had ended there, I wouldn't have been happy, but I would have been satisfied. 

But the ending even ruins the chances of that. Because Light ultimately loses.

And ironically, I didn't like that. . . .


I realize that I skipped episodes 29-35 and went straight to 36-37 (the climactic episodes). Surprisingly, I was able to follow almost everything that happened in terms of new characters and plot twists.

But my general feeling after the final episodes was that of complete and utter dissatisfaction. Let me explain, before you all start yelling at me that "Light was defeated, and since you weren't rooting for him, shouldn't you be happy about that?"

I was. And I wasn't.

Yes, throughout the show, I consistently rooted for L. I wanted Light to go down and get what he deserved for murdering all those people. 

But the way the climax does this is so unsatisfying. Light is defeated not by L, but by Near, the "L rip-off" of sorts. And as I said before, the intellectual battles against the two were never as interesting or intense as the ones between Light and L. L was the true antagonist, the true opposition to Light.


If L had discovered Light which he kind of does? it's complicated it would have been SO SATISFYING. Not only would Light have been toppled by his biggest rival, but L's suspicions would have been confirmed in such a dramatic way. It would have been rife with emotion, since L had begun to consider Light a "friend."

But since nothing that emotional happened, I just . . . I just didn't care when Light was killed. I didn't. I should have been happy that he finally got justice. But there was nothing truly special about the way he was discovered. He was just discovered because he messed up. There was no underlying emotional history with Near to make this scene truly impactful.

Maybe I would have cared more if I'd watched those episodes I skipped. But I honestly don't think so. I don't think Near could have been a better antagonist than L. It's even stated that he's not as smart as L. 

Near found him. Good triumphed over evil at last. Yay. 

If only I cared.

And apathy is just about the worst thing to walk away with after a TV show, especially one with so much excitement.

It felt like the true fight had ended twelve episodes prior, when Light killed L.

So how can I summarize this behemoth of a blog post?

- Making an antihero/villain character your main character can provide for some really interesting interactions between the character and the audience and, when done right, will force your audience into being EXTREMELY conflicted.

- You can kill off your antagonist! Just make sure the stakes don't drop, and create a new antagonist even more powerful than the first one. (Even better - foreshadow that this person exists before the first antagonist dies, so that this second one doesn't appear out of nowhere.)

- Your climax should be both physically and emotionally intense. Your audience needs to feel like they have some stake in the showdown for them to care about what happens. Even if your ending is more of a tragic, real one, it should still, to an extent, be satisfying.

*deep breath*

Yep. That's the post about Death Note. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go crouch on my chair and stare at my laptop screen while eating some junk food.

-Nicole <3

Have you seen Death Note? Who's your favorite antihero main character? What are your thoughts on killing antagonists? Let's talk! (also, if you've seen Death Note, please don't take this post as me saying you can't like it. that's not the case! I'm just bitter that my favorite character died XD)

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  1. "I'm literally just writing this because I'm bitter." xD

    This sounds like a... weird show? L's death and being replaced by a less threatening antagonist sounds awful... kind of like when they made new Star Wars movies and the antagonist was just a watered-down Darth Vader that nobody really has any reason to care about. xD

    Anyway, this show does sound pretty interesting. Just... maybe a little infuriating? o.o

    1. XD XD yep, that was literally the basis for this post XD

      It was definitely a weird show, but it didn't get bad until after his death. And yeah, there's a comparison to be made there! Kylo Ten was NOT as intimidating as Darth Vader in any respect except angstiness XD

      Haha, that's a good way of describing it! ;)

  2. Okay, I've never seen this show, but I completely agree with you here. Walking away from a show (or book or movie or musical or anything) feeling apathetic is the worst. Maybe I'll cry, maybe I'll feel angry, maybe I'll feel like bouncing around the room, but I want to FEEL something. That means I cared. I cared about the characters and story and I want that to happen.
    Okay, sorry for my rant there. Xd.
    Anyway, great post. I loved reading it.

    1. Yes, exactly! I'd rather feel negative emotions about the show than just . . . nothing.
      *applauds your rant* It needed to be said!
      Haha, thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed it XD

  3. Okay, wow, I'd heard of this show but didn't know what it was about, now I'm even more on the fence of whether or not I want to watch it, lol. I think if I did, I'd feel the same way you do about L, he seems like the character I'd like. ^_^

    My favourite Antihero is Loki from the MCU. <3 I don't excuse the bad things he did, but come on, with sass like that how can you not like him? XDDD

    1. Yeah, I was definitely on the fence about watching it for a while, too, and I'm . . . very conflicted about that decision. L was THE highlight of the show - he was pretty great XD

      LOKI YESSSSSS <3 I feel the same way - he's done some horrible things, but his snarky comments are always on-point ;)

  4. I've never finished this one. I only watched the first 26 episodes as soon as my friend told me L died I couldn't bring myself to finish it, I might attempt it one day. But after reading this it seems like I made the right decision.

    1. Oof, that sounds like a great way to go about it. You didn't miss much, honestly XD. You've seen all the best moments of the show.
      (and quite honestly moving forward without L hurt my soul XD)

  5. I have never watched this show, have heard of it before ages ago, but I am already mad that they killed L.
    Though I still want to watch it strangely.

    1. Honestly, the first 25 episodes were completely worth it - but if you do watch it, be prepared for a DRASTIC change in tension. XD
      (and I'm still mad at that writing choice)

  6. Your story analyses/rants are the Actual Best. I haven't seen Death Note, but I enjoyed reading this SO MUCH. It sounds like Death Note committed two storytelling sins at once? Like, don't kill off the BEST CHARACTER without a very good reason (I...actually still haven't finished the Mistborn trilogy, not because I guess there wasn't a good reason for a certain character to die, but said character was still the BEST CHARACTER and I can't face a book without said character in it *sobs*), and also, don't pick the wrong antagonist!! I'm actually quite surprised at how often there will be a wonderful, interesting antagonist who gets relegated to a side role for the boring, cliche antagonist and is completely absent at the climax, making what ought to be the most interesting part of the story the LEAST interesting?? Like, why would you do that?? *directs all storytellers posthaste to this analysis* If they all read it, the world will end up a better place. *nods* :)

    1. Ack, thank you!!! (and your comments are the Actual Best Things Ever :D)
      EXACTLY!! I'm not going to lie, Mistborn . . . still hurts for me because of that character death. (and it only got more painful from there *sobs*) And ugh, yes, I completely agree with you on the antagonists. The climax should be intense, not boring! -_-
      *is honored* thank you so much, seriously! I'm really glad you enjoyed this <3


Welcome to the comment section! I love hearing what you guys think and seeing you guys talk. Just remember to keep it clean, and as always, check back for my replies! <3