An innocuous book labeled “Death Note” sat in the grass outside of his classroom. Unnoticed and untouched. Curiosity killed the cat, it empowered Light Yagami. Sparing you all a 15,000 word run-down of the Japanese amine series “Death Note,” I will only detail Yagami’s path to ascension and his inevitable -and slightly, no, seriously incomprehensible and damn near impossible- downfall.
You have probably already said to yourself, “OK this guy is talking about animes now,” (anime being the Japanese abbreviation for animation), “it’s time for me to turn around and slowly walk away from this blog.” STOP. This is more than me confessing my love for oversized, beady cartoon eyes and exaggerated expressions. And this show isn’t Dragon Ball Z or Pokémon. It is a surprisingly deep and sadistic tale of a young man who by chance became the pseudo-God of the world. Even the United States President had no choice but to recognize and adhere to his power.
Warning: it’s about to get a little super-natural in here. The Death Note is a notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it. 40 seconds after a name is written that person will die of a heart attack. The note can also control how a person dies. If you detail the events leading up to the person’s death it will happen exactly as you described. Follow me? There are a few other rules regarding the use of the Death Note but these are the most important.
When Light Yagami found the Death Note he was amazed yet skeptical. Once he tested the power of that simple-looking little notebook (by killing a criminal he saw on the news) his subsequent epiphany entailed how much better he could make the world. Light knew that he could become a God who walked among men (similar to Tom Brady, although not as powerful) and set out to fulfill his dream of a perfect world. He would take on the moniker of “Kira”- the Japanese world for killer.
Whoa. This little narcissistic 17-year-old high schooler had aspirations of a new world in which he would be the despot. Lofty expectations for a prospective law student.
Not all of us are uber-intelligent students (Light was the only freshman at his college to score 100 on all of his exams, papers and assignments… except for another kid named “L” who happened to be the uber-detective investigating the Kira case). But how many of us would have adapted the Supreme Judge of the World mindset? Would you have the testicular fortitude to kill anyone who went against your judgment? Would you even have the gall to knowingly kill a known murderer or serial rapist?
In his own convoluted way Light brought relative peace to the world. There were no more wars and there was a substantial reduction in crime around the world. It is said that fear will often do the work of reason… not really. Fear can bring relative order to society, but at what costs? Is the fear of suddenly dropping dead an adequate way to live life?
Light/ Kira embodied an overt totalitarian power over the world. Nobody dared cross him lest they want a heart attack. What separates Kira from other vigilantes like Batman is not just the fact that he’s willing to kill, but that he had so much power. Nobody would argue if Batman broke necks and tortured criminals, but they’d have a reason to be fearful if there was no check on his power. Or think of the Boondock Saints, Kick-Ass and Dexter Morgan. Each vigilantes in their own way, but I’d like to think that we’d root for these people. They’re ordinary people (maybe not Dexter, he’s a special case) who saw that the world isn’t as it should be and acted on that.
We applaud Kick-Ass for getting his ass kicked (oh, the irony) by a bunch of thugs because many of us would rather be camera-men/women in that situation. We boo Kira because he believes his way is the only way and you will die if you think otherwise. But on principles they are all the same. They believe that bad guys should be punished for the evil that they do.
I found myself rooting for Kira not because I agreed with what he was doing but because he was so methodical in doing it. (Also because I couldn’t believe that L could be that great of a detective. There are times during the show when I couldn’t believe the deductions L would make about Light and Kira. It’s like finding a banana peel on the pavement on your way to the deli and- through the power of evidence- telepathically knowing who ate the banana, when they ate the banana, and how they ate the banana. Even if that banana was from another dimension. Borderline impossible.)
Or maybe I rooted for Kira because of what he was doing; creating a new world devoid of criminality and useless death via war. Maybe I enjoyed watching “Death Note” play out because Light refused to let anything stand in the way of his beliefs, a mindset not often seen today. A brother of mine never forgets to remind me that we shouldn’t “die with music in our hearts.”
Kira’s music was broadcast to the world and maybe that’s why I admired him. He sang and everybody listened. In the Death Note he found his voice. Yeah it gradually turned him into egomaniac who manipulated everyone around him (including his own father) but that’s irrelevant. Light Yagami was a hero to many and a villain to others. But like the Dirty Harrys and the Iron Mans before him, at least his voice was heard.