Death Note Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

The unexpected meaning of the famous anime. The Japanese animated series Death Note (Desu noto) was released in the mid-2000s, but is still one of the most popular in the world. In United States, the attitude towards him is ambiguous. On the one hand, they repeatedly tried to ban him for promoting ideas dangerous for teenagers. On the other hand, the meaning of the anime “Death Note” (2006) and practically repeats its main moral.

Country: Japan

Genre: anime, detective, fantasy thriller

Directed by: Tetsuro Araki, Tomihiko Ito and others

What is the anime about

The series is a film adaptation of the graphic work of the same name, according to the description, the plots are completely the same. True, there are episodes in the anime that are not in the manga, and vice versa.

series Death Note 2006 JapanFrame from the series.

The plot of “Death Note” tells the story of a smart and rather arrogant high school student (and then a student) Laita Yagami, who finds an unusual artifact – a special notebook with instructions. The instruction says that if you write someone’s name in a notebook, reproducing the corresponding image in memory, then this person will die. By default, the victim dies as a result of a heart attack, but the owner of the notebook can clarify the circumstances of death and then the reality will be changed to please him. The one in whose hands the notebook is, may refuse it. Then he loses his memory of the events that were associated with it.

The notebook that Light found belongs to one of the gods of death named Ryuk. Each of the creatures like him has his own death note. These gods lead an idle, relaxed lifestyle. Some of them periodically “lose” these artifacts of theirs and watch how the people who find them do. Thus, the gods of death are just having fun – and Ryuk is no exception. The gods are invisible to everyone except those who own their notebooks.

Ryuk’s plan to have fun is a success: Light decides to test the diary by killing the criminal who was constantly shown on TV, and does not stop there. Motivating the commission of further murders with the restoration of justice, he gradually becomes obsessed with the idea of ​​u200bu200bpower and is going to become a real god among people.

To many ordinary citizens, Light’s plan to build an ideal society without crime seems not without meaning, and they support him in absentia in this. Others understand that murder is murder, lynching is unacceptable and they are making efforts so that the newly-minted “arbiter of justice” is caught.

In terms of the genre of anime, Death Note is primarily a detective story, or rather, what the writers (at the suggestion of one of the most famous scriptwriting teachers, John Truby) call a “crime film”.

Unlike classic detective stories, when the detective searches for the criminal throughout the film and finds it at the end, the crime film is dedicated to the confrontation between two strong personalities – a representative of the underworld and a representative of the law. The role of the latter in the “Death Note” goes to a brilliant detective under the pseudonym “L” (later he was replaced by others). Almost all the events in the series reflect the struggle of the greatest minds. We are watching the tricks and intrigues being played out on both sides.


Light Yagami

In the course of the series, Light turns from the best student in Japan into an insidious villain, a real criminal genius. He becomes known to the general public under the pseudonym “Kira” (a word consonant with the English “killer” – a killer).

high school student Light YagamiFrame from the series.

He does not kill everyone indiscriminately, but the longer he owns the Death Note, the more he becomes obsessed with power. Light’s victims begin to be not only criminals, but also servants of the law, trying to catch him.

Thanks to his extraordinary intellect, he easily manipulates other people and even the gods of death themselves. Near the end, Light even becomes the leader of a group whose goal is to capture him.


An eccentric god of death in the form of a monster whose main motivation is entertainment. He is bored, and Light’s intrigues are a real pleasure. He also loves apples, which is a clear reference to the biblical original sin. Ryuk is sympathetic to Light and sometimes helps him.

Ryuk, the god of deathFrame from the series.

Misa Amane

The girl who became the “second Kira” – another killer who performs executions using the Death Note. The pretty fashion model does not look like a villain at all, while she is a desperate fan of Light. Misa is grateful to him for punishing the murderer of her parents. Having fallen in love with Light, Misa sees the meaning of her life in being useful to him.

killer girlFrame from the series.


Considered the best detective in the world. Like Light, he is extremely intelligent and ambitious. L is untidy, likes to walk barefoot and sit on a chair in a squatting position, knows how to play tennis, loves sweets and hardly sleeps. He is an introvert, does not like to communicate with people and tries to contact them through an assistant.

best detectiveFrame from the series.

Nia (Nate River)

One of the so-called successors of L, who took up the search for Kira. Very similar in spirit to L, he is also smart, calm and balanced, avoids people and has several peculiar habits: he likes to sit on the floor, pulling his hair and using toys, tarot cards and other objects when thinking.

Nia (Nate River)Frame from the series.

Mello (Michael Kael)

Another successor to L. The most striking feature in behavior is that he constantly eats chocolate. Mello looks less like L than Near. He is also very talented, but much more impulsive, from which he often suffers.

MelloFrame from the series.

Soitiro Yagami

Light’s father, an honest policeman who loves his family, is also looking for Kira and does not know that he is literally under his nose.

Light's father

A shot from the series. The full list of anime characters is quite large. In the leading group alone to find and expose Kira, there are several more people who are not the last heroes, endowed with bright character traits.

anime idea

The meaning of the “Death Note”: Light, who decided that the end justifies the means and that it is possible to build an ideal world on blood, gradually loses his human appearance – in terms of internal changes, and not appearance. Although the villainous facial expressions and poses of Light, the artists also constantly emphasize.

The author of the manga Ttsugumi Ooba (by the way, a very mysterious person), in fact, argues in it with the idea of ​​Nietzsche’s superman. The philosopher believed that the peak of the development of mankind should be a radical egocentric who loves life in its extreme manifestations and has a strong will that can subdue everything and everyone.

Another well-known character aspired to become such. He has a lot in common with Light Yagami. This is also a young man with youthful maximalism, nihilism and Bonapartism, who decided that he “is not a trembling creature, but has the right.” But Raskolnikov was tormented by conscience and he repented of his crime. But Light goes to the end and becomes a real monster.

The creators of the series also do not agree with Nietzsche’s explanation of the world order. This shows not only the plot, when the number of murders grows like a snowball and it only gets worse, but also in what gloomy colors the people who support Light in his fight against crime are depicted.

It is impossible to come to an ideal social structure by criminal means. Judging by the reviews, most viewers and critics perceive and support this idea of ​​the authors.

Investigator Al LowlightFrame from the series.

If you kill in the name of good, everything will turn into chaos, or humanity will change beyond recognition. The latter is hinted at by some scenes that are not in the main series, but are in additions to it. There, the world of the monstrous death gods where Ryuk came from is revealed a little more, and there are hints that all these gods were once people who played with the power given to them.

Why was the series banned?

Despite the direct instructive morality and the absence of any hidden meaning, scandals arise from time to time in different countries of the world related to the negative interpretation of this anime.

In 2005, the Death Note manga was banned in China – according to the official version, as part of the fight against superstitions. In 2008, in the United States, “death notes” with their names entered from enemies were confiscated from schoolchildren and students. There was no ban on the work itself, but some students were suspended from classes and even expelled.

In December 2020, the Tokyo prosecutor’s office filed a series of lawsuits with a demand to ban some anime, including Death Note. Experts rated the works as nothing less than a threat to create a society of murderers and sadists due to the “reformatting of the psyche of children”, which is allegedly produced with the help of such anime.

As the media trumpeted, the Death Note series was banned in Russia in accordance with a court decision. However, it turned out that the ban only affected the demonstration of the work on a specific site, since the age marking “18+” was not indicated there.

The meaning of the ending Death Note

The outcome for the main, not at all positive, anime character Light Yagami became quite natural. His complete transformation into a ruthless and inhuman killer took place by the middle of the whole story, so that in the end only death awaited him.

Nia and Mello solved the Kira case and exposed it. Although, thanks to additional scenes, it can be assumed that Light continued to exist in a different guise: in the director’s cut with the alternative name “Final Exodus”, the creators made a hint that he became the god of death in the world of Ryuk.

However, this explanation cannot be considered an accurate interpretation – this is just one of the theories of fans who tend to look for secret meanings in the endings of their favorite anime.

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