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Naturally, I'm very interested to know how you're able to commit these murders without being present, but I don't mind waiting a little bit longer. You can answer all of my questions when I catch you. Let's meet again soon... Kira.
~ L talking during his TV broadcast without showing his face.
It's not a sense of justice. Figuring out difficult cases is my hobby. If you measured good and evil deeds by current laws, I would be responsible for many crimes. The same way you all like to solve mysteries and riddles, or clear video games more quickly. For me too, it's simply prolonging something I enjoy doing. That's why I only take on cases that pique my interest. It's not justice at all. And if it means being able to clear a case, I don't play fair, I'm a dishonest, cheating human being who hates losing.
~ L Lawliet
Tell me, Light, from the moment you were born, has there ever been a point when you've actually told the truth?
~ L's most famous quote.

L Lawliet is the overall heroic main antagonist of the anime and manga series, Death Note. He is considered the world's greatest detective, and is an enigmatic person who spends the series trying to catch the vigilante/mass murderer Kira, who is none other than Light Yagami.

He is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in the Japanese version of the anime and Alessandro Juliani in the English version.

Appearance

L is a very slim, tall young man with black hair and dark eyes. One of his most noticeable features is the shadow below each of his eyes, a result of sleep deprivation. L is always shown to be wearing blue jean pants and a long-sleeved, white shirt. He almost never wears shoes or socks, preferring to go barefoot even while in public.

Personality

Risking your life and doing something that could rob you of your life are exact opposites.
~ L's belief on risking your life for justice.
L's most prominent character trait is his secretiveness. He rarely goes out into the outside world when not investigating a case, never shows his face to the world, and communicates almost exclusively via his assistant and only friend, Watari. When meeting face-to-face with others, he never gives out his real name, instead using a variety of aliases, such as "Ryuzaki" (when interacting with the Japanese task force), "Hideki Ryuga" (when meeting Light at his school), "Eraldo Coil" and "Deneuve" (under which he has developed reputations as the world's second and third-greatest detectives). Additionally, due to having minimal interaction with other people, L has very poor social skills, and is prone to performing actions or having habits considered rude and inappropriate, including eating with his mouth open, talking with his mouth full, placing feet on furniture, biting fingernails, etc. L also has several quirks, such as preferring to crouch rather than sit, eating only sweet foods (like desserts, candies, and fruits), and holding items by using only a thumb and a finger.

Despite his disheveled appearance and odd habits, L is highly intelligent, and has a keen mind rivaling that of protagonist Light Yagami. Although he doesn't have any good social skills, L has an analytical understanding and knowledge of human nature, which he uses to his enemies' disadvantage, such as when he tricks Light into killing an impostor of himself on live TV and pinpointing his whereabouts to the Kanto region of Japan (since the broadcast was only airing there at the time), betting on the slim chance that Kira would kill someone who made a stand against him. He also creates false information and leads to try to bait Kira into revealing himself, which nearly succeed. When presented with any information, L tends to meticulously second-guess anything he's given, and analyses it for any inconsistencies or clues.

Although he's ostensibly the "hero" of the story, in that he's trying to catch a murderer, L is not above using questionable or brutal methods to get answers, making him an anti-hero. While he never kills anyone himself, he's not above keeping Light and his accomplice (and lover) Misa Amane in solitary confinement for more than 50 days to test whether they're Kira or not. Earlier in the story, he took a criminal on death row and made him act as a decoy to draw Kira out. Later, when confronting other Kira (Kyosuke Higuchi), L made it clear that we was willing to torture him to get the info he wants. Despite this, L genuinely wants justice to be served, and considers Kira, in killing criminals (as well as other innocent people later, such as FBI agent Raye Penber and his girlfriend Naomi Misora) to be equally wrong and just as evil as them, and that he should be punished for his crimes.

Character

L Symbol

The "L" that L uses to represent himself.

L is quite secretive, and only communicates with the world through his assistant, Watari. He never shows his face to the world in person, instead representing himself with a capital letter L drawn in "Old English MT" or "Cloister Black" typeface. It is more likely to be "Cloister Black" as Watari's "W" is different in "Old English MT".

After meeting the Japanese Task Force, he requests that the task force refer to him as "Ryuzaki" as an additional safety measure. The Task Force never learns his true name. L is very intelligent, though his disheveled and languid appearance masks his great powers of deduction and many question his abilities upon viewing him. L tends to second-guess everything he is presented with, and is extremely meticulous and analytical. He is good at deceiving his opponents, and is willing to take drastic measures to solve a case. Some of his tactics are quite bold, such as having death row inmate Lind L. Tailor pose as himself on live TV in order to draw out Kira, while others seem bizarre to those involved, such as handcuffing himself to suspected-Kira, Light Yagami. He is also shown to have a dry sense of humor, and isn't above making sarcastic remarks to people. Although he tends to be polite, to some (such as Task Force member Shuichi Aizawa), L can seem quite rude and uncaring at times.

Using subterfuge, misinformation, disinformation and an analytical knowledge of human nature to help lure a suspected murderer into a false sense of security and possibly make him carelessly over-confident, whenever L gives percentages to indicate how much he suspects a person of committing a crime, such as "five percent" he may in fact be over ninety percent convinced of their culpability. Although L tells Light that he is among the least likely suspects with one of the lowest percentages of probability, in reality L is "pretty certain" that Light is Kira. As series writer Tsugumi Ohba said laughing, making light of L's tactics: "The truth is, he's a liar.".

L

L's preferred posture.

He also has several quirks, such as preferring to crouch rather than sit, eating only sweet foods (like desserts, candies and fruits) and holding items by using only a thumb and a finger. He also has an unusual way of sitting, with both of his feet on the chair. He claims that sitting like this improves his detective skills. He is often seen arranging objects and very intently stacking, or in other ways playing with, his staple food items. L is almost always encountered while performing actions that are considered inappropriate or rude in public. These actions/habits include biting fingernails, placing feet on furniture, slouching, chewing with an open mouth, talking with his mouth full, calling out personal observations that may offend others, etc.

L kicks Light

L kicks Light.

Although he is often seen sitting and inactive, L retains a high athletic ability. L stayed in England for five years, and during that time he was the tennis champion in the England Junior Cup. He also has a knack for martial arts, which is demonstrated in his brief fight with Light. In chapter 38 of the manga, L suggests that even though he eats only sweet foods, he remains underweight because the brain uses the most calories of any organ in the body. He also says that if he sits normally, his reasoning ability would drop 40%. Interestingly in the manga, he is seen sitting on the floor in a pose similar to how one would meditate, while thinking deeply about the Kira case.

When asked about L's ethnicity, creator of the series Tsugumi Ohba responded "I think of him as a quarter Japanese, a quarter English, a quarter Russian, a quarter French or Italian, like that". Ohba said that L is the most intelligent character in the entire Death Note series because "the plot requires it". He added that he personally views L as "slightly evil."

Plot

L begins the Kira case by having undocumented death row inmate Lind L. Tailor introduces himself on television as "L" and say that Kira is "evil". This provokes Kira into killing the man on the spot, which in turn proves to L that the Kira killings are not a coincidental succession of heart attacks amongst criminals but the designs of an ingenious serial killer who will murder any and all who try to stop him and also tells him of Kira's location, since it is only broadcast in the Kanto region. Not long after this, because of the time of day during which the criminals die coincide with out-of-school hours, he deduces that Kira may well be a student. He tells those assisting him with the Kira case early on in the investigation that he suspects that Light Yagami is Kira, but can not obtain any concrete evidence. In several situations, Light seems to be proven innocent by the circumstances, but L remains skeptical. If Light were Kira, the case would be solved, and L has trouble letting go of this simple and complete solution. L can easily present his conclusions publicly at any time, and due to his reputation as the best mind in the crime-fighting business, his thoughts and words are always taken very seriously.

After his initial suspicions of Light, and in order to take his investigation to its next stage, L decides to join To-Oh University (東応大学, Tōō Daigaku) - the very same that Light himself attends - using the well-known name of a popular singer, Hideki Ryuuga. L attends To-Oh because he feels confident in his reasoning and interrogational skills and wishes to test his theory concerning Light's hidden identity by somehow confronting him, and perhaps provoking or tricking him to admit that he is indeed Kira. He intends to tell Light that he can "go on the offensive". L is well aware that this is something of a gamble, and knows full well that his act of direct confrontation could prove fatal, but as he's convinced he understands Light's thought process, he feels confident that the adversary will not yet risk revealing his secret identity by killing him.

When L introduces himself as Ryuuga, Light becomes alert and somewhat alarmed, but does not attempt to kill him - the name is conspicuously fake; however, Light has no way of knowing whether the person is the real L or a proxy acting under orders. He also reasons that L would have already introduced himself to Light's father earlier, and thus, were he to somehow kill L, this murder would instantly unmask him, proving that he is indeed Kira. If this person proved to be L's proxy, and his name really was Ryuuga, he might die, true, but L would live and know his identity, without ever having had to reveal himself to Light, so that L will have gained all the advantage. Also, while writing the name "Hideki Ryuuga" into the Death Note, the face of the pop singer bearing that name might enter Light's thoughts involuntarily, and that would cause the death of pop singer Ryuuga, which would also lead L to the obvious conclusion that Light is Kira. As such, L's expectations about the outcome of his daring opening gambit prove true, and Light finds himself in a stalemate situation, unable to act for the time being, as any attempt to rid himself of his hunters would result in confirmed suspicions, his subsequent and unavoidable unmasking, and, ultimately, his undoing. Light has no other choice but bide his time.

When L is finally able to corner him, Light puts his master plan in practice. He temporarily gives up his Death Note to his Shinigami, Ryuk, erasing his memories about his time as Kira from his mind. Rem, Misa Amane's Shinigami, under instruction by Light to give it to someone who would use it selfishly, gives it to Kyosuke Higuchi of the Yotsuba Corporation. Now unaware of the fact that he was the original Kira, Light accepts L's offer to join the Task Force to hunt down Higuchi, known as the third Kira, although he is handcuffed to L throughout the entire case. Light proves very useful in helping to track down Higuchi, realizing the new Kira is connected to Yotsuba. When Higuchi is finally captured, Light touches his Death Note, thereby regaining his memory of when he was the original Kira. He then proceeds to killing Higuchi by using the Death Note paper he put in his watch before he lost his memories.

After killing Higuchi, Light then tricks Rem into killing L for his own personal gain, making her believe that she must kill him for the sake of Misa's life. L's last sight before death is Light triumphantly smiling over his defeated rival, and in his last moment L confirms to himself that Light is the first Kira. In the anime, prior to L's death Light and L talk to each other for one last time on the roof of the investigation building; some viewers believed that L, somehow, knew that his death was drawing near.

Unbeknownst to him, however, L had arranged things so that if he should die, others could take over, and consequently when his true successors Near and Mello start their own respective investigations of the Kira case, Light is haunted by the memory of L whenever he communicates with them. The cooperation of Near and Mello in the Kira case eventually leads to Light's unmasking as Kira. Thus, L was able to indirectly defeat Light through his successors. Light once stated that if L were to suspect Teru Mikami's Death Note a fake, he would have tested it and the two have never met.

Quotes

Kira is childish and he hates losing… I'm also childish and hate losing.
~ Why L thinks Kira is a student.
Well, to put it simply… I had prepared a little trick to test whether you were Kira… But I didn't even feel the need to use it on any of you.
~ L's reason for thinking that Kira is not among the task force.
He who moves first always wins.
~ L's belief on victory.
I just can't sit any other way than this. If I sit the way other people do, my reasoning ability drops by 40%.
~ L on why he sits the way he does.
The only thing I see is the abnormal strength of Amane's love for Light Yagami.
~ L when he is unable to answers out of Misa Amane.
Light-kun, please shut Misa-san up.
~ L asking Light to tell Misa to shut up even though he is right in front of her.
Misa-san, take this seriously or I'll kick you.
~ L getting mad at Misa when she goofs around.
There are…many types of monsters in this world: Monsters who will not show themselves and who cause trouble; monsters who abduct children; monsters who devour dreams; monsters who suck blood, and… monsters who always tell lies. Lying monsters are a real nuisance. They are much more cunning than other monsters. They pose as humans even though they have no understanding of the human heart. They eat even though they've never experienced hunger. They study even though they have no interest in academics. They seek friendship even though they do not know how to love. If I were to encounter such a monster, I would likely be eaten by it. Because in truth, I am that monster.
~ L's description of himself.

2017 Film

Main article: L (Death Note 2017)

On the later on Netflix Death Note 2017 Adaptation Film, L is written to contrast a lot from the original L. Being written as a Fallen Seeker of Vengence who is a million times more resentfully against Kira (who is Light Turner) being written more as a less sympathetic and overly emotionally dramatic adaptation of L who was more well-calculated and sympathetic and pleasing to enjoy for the original adaptations of L for the Anime and the Live-Action before the 2017. In the end, it is implied by Ryuk that L presumably kills Light Turner with a very well hinting dialouge saying: "You humans are so interesting.", which could be a supposed likelihood of L taking matters of his own hands avenging the death of Watari by allegedly killing Light Turner at the end with the page of the Death Note preserved by Light Turner.

Gallery

Images

Trivia

  • L and Gintoki like eating sweets.
  • L is the similar of Shinichi Kudo from Detective Conan.
    • Both are Detectives.
    • Both are Genius.
    • Both are voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi.
    • Both are hunting down criminals (L to Light and Shinichi to Kid)
  • The differences between L and Shinichi.
  • L is 24 years old and Shinichi is 17 years old.
  • There is a rumor that L and Near have Asperger Syndrome, which causes their strange behavior, seeming disregard for social contact and norms, and extreme intelligence. They also present other secondary signs, such as dislike of constricting clothing/shoes, always wearing the same clothes, and intense staring.
  • There is another rumor that he has Marfan Syndrome, whose symptoms are 'spidery hands', which are shown throughout the anime, and scoliosis, a curvature in the spine, and a slender figure.
  • It is implied that the Kira case is the first case where L has had to use incarceration. This is implied by Watari  replied with hesitance when asked to display Misa Amane's video and L displaying slight shock when Light first asks him for incarceration in episode 10 before  telling him it is a violation of human rights.
  • In Blanc et Noir, an arbook created by Tekashi Obata (the artist for the Death Note manga) L is the only character mainly depicted with white roses.
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