Death Note: A Lesson in Morality

As of right now let’s forget that the Netflix version of Death Note was different than the anime. A lot of fans have wanted to put their two cents in when it comes to this matter and many have done that and more when it comes to pointing out every last little difference that exists between the two, but the main point of the story tends to get lost in the mix when this happens. Thankfully it’s easy to dust off and find once the smoke clears but the reality of Death Note is that it brings up a huge moral conundrum that explains the difference between Light and Mia and how L and Ryuk are a large part of their decision-making process.

The glaring differences between the anime and the movie aren’t going to reviewed, though many upon many fans have no doubt enjoyed pointing out just where the movie deviated and why it was so important. This however is to discern the morality of the story, and why power over anyone is a dangerous thing.

The Death Note isn’t perfect.

Look at how many rules there are. Anything with this many rules usually means that the originator is doing their best to eliminate any loopholes in the logic and understanding of the thing or idea that’s been created, therefore making it much more difficult to bend or even circumvent the rules. The only problem with this is that the more loopholes you try to eliminate the more you’ll open up behind you as people attempt to use your words against you or find ways to navigate through hidden meanings that may or may not be intentional. Light and Mia come to see the Death Note through very different perspectives after a while, and perspective is a huge decider of what they choose to believe. Ryuk on the other hand is very contemplative when it comes to the words in the book, as he’s had far longer to think over the many possible outcomes that might emerge when many different individuals use the Death Note.

What’s more, Ryuk knows that the Death Note is fallible.

This seems to be implied when Light ponders the idea of putting Ryuk’s name into the Death Note out loud. It doesn’t seem wise to antagonize a creature that looks as though he could kill you without much effort. But given that Ryuk is more of a game-player that CAN and WILL kill when it suits his purpose, it’s also fair to say that he will defend his purpose against anyone, even the holder of the Note. While he seems to hold humans as a curiosity and something fun to play with he also recognizes that they carry a power within them that is not to be toyed around with when it comes to his continued existence. While they might not be able to kill him so easily, the mere fact that he feels the need to mention to Light how many letters are in his name, and how many the last person that tried this go to, seems to imply that he knows very well that his power is not as infinite as humans might think. In terms of the morality of the Note this seems as though it’s more of a footnote, but in fact it is a little more important than people might think.

L is not the good guy, but he’s not the bad guy either.

In the anime L is the antagonist, and in the movie it’s easy to see since he goes after Light with a serious agenda in mind. But despite being the slightly crazed and determined detective L is still a very frightened and unsure individual that can barely function without Wakari, who is eventually shot and killed, at his side. His assistant/aide/caretaker is L’s moral compass and guide through a world that otherwise doesn’t make much sense to him aside from the facts and evidence he can compile to make his case against Light. He is in many ways responsible for how Light and Mia continue to use the Death Note after they’ve found out about his involvement, and comes to be one of the forces that causes their split and fallout in the movie.

The act of dealing death is an experience that Light and Mia are not ready for.

From a distance and even up close Light and Mia seem capable of determining who dies using the Death Note. But as the crusade of Kira goes on you can see how it begins to affect them. Light begins to have doubts, while Mia slips further and further into addiction, justifying it in much the same way that Light did when they first started. As the movie progresses one can’t help but think that Mia is the preferred holder of the note as Ryuk could possibly think that she would be far less boring than Light and would be able to satisfy his need for action.

While the anime and the movie differ quite a bit in the main point it’s still obvious that Death Note is a moral-laden story that depicts the very real and very fine line between good intentions and unmistakable evil.


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