L’s death left a devastating impact on Death Note fans when they watched the show. It may have been over a decade, but fans never forgot the pain they felt at that moment. The show did a terrific job in building up L and Light’s battle of wits and intelligence, hence ending it with L’s death is heartbreaking. This is to the extent of fans later hating L’s replacement in the show, Near.
But there is an explanation of why L’s death happened so early in Death Note. In this article, we will tackle how events transpired, and what L’s death signified in Death Note‘s storytelling.
When and How L Died
L died in the Episode 25 of the anime. It is titled, “Silence”.
Light asked for Rem’s help in killing both L and his handler, Watari. Seeing Rem’s affections for Misa, Light manipulated her that to kill L is to save Misa. Misa was actively using the Death Note at this time as instructed by Light. L, on the other hand, was pursuing Kira. Rem was tricked into thinking that Misa will be caught by L, hence she agreed to Light’s plan.
Rem killed both L and Watari by writing down their actual names on her Death Note. Watari deleted the investigation files made by L along the way. They both suffered a heart attack.
In the manga, he died in Chapter 58: Feelings Within.
L Does Not Have Otherworldly Powers to Back Him
We all know that when a human picks up a Death Note, a shinigami or a god of death is tied to it. Therefore, this shinigami will accompany them. The shinigami, however, should not involve themselves in human affairs.
Ryuk did the opposite. He dropped the Death Note among humans because he was simply bored. He had no intention of being really involved with Light’s plan. He was just there to be entertained, and Light purging the world of criminals is nothing but a show for him. When Light was no longer entertaining, Ryuk did not hesitate to kill him off.
We can say that Ryuk can be an accomplice of Light’s, but Ryuk could care less about Light’s vision of a perfect world where Kira is the god. He was only doing what Light instructed to keep the show going.
Aside from this, it can cost a shinigami their life if they actively involve themself in human affairs – specifically, saving a human from their destined deaths.
Ryuk was not the only shinigami defying their rules though. Rem was Misa Amane‘s shinigami, as she had a Death Note too. The difference was that Rem and Misa were close. It was clear Rem had grown to care genuinely for Misa. Rem’s goal is to only help Misa, and could care less about Light and the others. She even threatened to kill Light if ever intended to harm Misa.
Light took advantage of Rem’s love for Misa and manipulated her that killing L will save Misa. Rem wrote down L’s name on her Death Note, but at the cost of her own life.
L can be considered powerless against the forces of the shinigami. L did not have a Death Note in his possession, so he did not have a shinigami tied to him. L also did not seem to desire to have a Death Note for self-gain. He only used it for investigation purposes.
How exactly can he stop a shinigami who has the ability to read his actual name and lifespan above his head? A shinigami who can write his name down on a Death Note with just a glance at him? Even L seemed aware of his impending death. In the rain scene, he claimed that the bells were ringing loud on that day. The church bells L has been hearing foreshadowed his death. This explains why Light could not hear it himself. The bells are announcing his funeral.
Catalyst in the Story
L’s death served as the catalyst for the story to progress in a much darker tone.
L’s death gave Light the freedom to kill anyone he pleases – as it is not limited to criminals anymore. He killed anyone who went in his way. Light fully embodied Kira as an insane mass murderer and an inflated God complex. He thought he was unstoppable, and anyone who thought otherwise will be dead. Although he did have noble intentions of safeguarding the world from crime, but he has too much of an ego.
After L’s death, various changes have been applied to the series. More people have become wary of Kira, even to the concern of the United States government. It has become a worldwide phenomenon. It brought upon a sense of expansion… like the cat and mouse game between L and Light widened to include more people. In a sense, it is telling us that the Kira thing is becoming more serious and dangerous.
From a Storyteller Perspective
From a storytelling perspective, changing the dynamic between L and Light after it has been nurtured through 25 episodes can be argued as necessary. A story should not be static when it comes to characters. They should undergo certain changes that will progress the story – to achieve the endgame. Although L made a progress in discovering the Death Note, if he succeeded, the cat and mouse game will still continue. The same dynamic between him and Light will remain.
However, the fans do make a point that L and Light together are intriguing enough and that there is no need for change. This is tied to the argument that L’s successors Near and Mello seemed to have entered the story out of nowhere. Near and Mello were introduced in a hasty manner with no mere mention of them in the first half. However, this can be subjective as people can have different opinions about it. On the other hand, this would explain why Near and Mello were received negatively at first.
As such, with L’s death, the story had a change of pace. The audience would not have to see the same dynamic stretch itself to more episodes. It became a more action-packed thriller, which included Mello’s mafia and Near’s group of competent FBI and CIA agents. There was also the inclusion of Kira’s fanatics as well, like Teru Mikami and Kiyomi Takada.
In other words, the world has expanded beyond L and Light. More people are getting involved, hence the story getting more complex. The pacing and execution of the second half are subjected to what the audience thinks. Some people thought that the first half was better.
But the bottom line remains: the story was explored in more length to bring something new.
Symbol of L’s Death
L’s death further symbolized Light’s ruthlessness as Kira. Light and L’s relationship are quite complicated, and there is something more to them than just enemies. Light and L viewed each other as equal both in intelligence and willingness to achieve their goals. It is probably the first time Light met someone similar to him – someone who could possibly be his friend. But this did not deter him at all. Even when L showed hints of vulnerability towards him, Light is still intent to kill him off.
The evil and maniacal smile he gives to L when the latter died is very telling. He could not even restrain his faux shocked expression. His goal of being a god and making a perfect world is stronger than anything else. No relationship can ever make Light hold back. He will absolutely stop at nothing.
He was too far gone in his delusions of a perfect and idealistic world. He no longer valued lives that were against him, or who were a hassle towards him. It meant that it will only be a matter of time that someone will stand up to Kira, and they ought to use a different method from L.
It did, because at the end of the second half, Light/Kira was caught by the combined efforts of Near and Mello. In a sense, both Near and Mello represented L. Near is his calculating side, while Mello was his ruthless side. Other than that, they also have a friend named Matt who assisted them. Each of them has their own group of people who helped them.
In other words, L’s death is a cautionary tale that a single individual, despite their great intelligence and vast resources, cannot win against Kira alone. Kira was a force that should not be underestimated. More people should fight against him with careful plans. Although death is inevitable as it costed Mello’s life, Kira was still caught at the end of the day. Near and Mello’s efforts with their team have paid off.