Light Yagami, or Kira, as he appears in the manga.
|First appearance||Chapter One: Boredom (manga)
Episode One: Rebirth (anime)
|Created by||Tsugumi Ohba
|Voiced by||Mamoru Miyano (Japanese)
Brad Swaile (English)
|Portrayed by||Tatsuya Fujiwara|
L (from chapter 60 onward)
|Relatives||Soichiro Yagami (father)
Sachiko Yagami (mother)
Sayu Yagami (sister)
Light Yagami (夜神 月 Yagami Raito?), also known as Kira (キラ?), is a fictional character in the manga and anime series Death Note. He is a bored young genius who finds the Death Note dropped by the Shinigami Ryuk by pure chance.
Light was born on February 28, 1986. He is an acknowledged genius, placing first in national exam tables and university entrance exams. He is also athletic and attractive, but seems haunted, with a face that can easily become twisted. At the beginning of the story, Light is a student in his last year of high school; he later attends To-Oh University (東応大学 Tōō Daigaku?), a fictional placeholder for the prestigious Tokyo University.
When Light discovers the Death Note, he begins a crusade against evil, planning to kill criminals and other ne'er-do-wells until only those he approves of are left. While his task originates with good intentions, he is corrupted by power within a week, plotting to rule his utopia as "the god of the new world". His ethics are utilitarian, justifying the most extreme acts in service of his cause. He is also driven by a need for victory, which motivates most of his cruelest acts. Combined with the power of the Death Note, his hubris and genius-level intellect convince him that only he can save the world.
By the end of the series, Light is able to garner most of the world's support, reaching the point where his followers have begun to worship him as a literal deity. A fatal mistake in one of his plans, however, results in his capture by the Japanese police and subsequent death. 
Ohba described Light as a victim of the Death Note, with Light's life being "ruined" once he obtained the Death Note. According to Ohba, Light was "a young man who could understand the pain of others" when he first encountered the Death Note. Ohba said that if Ryuk never developed an interest in the human world, Light would have become "one of the greatest police leaders in the world" who, with L, worked against criminals. He added that he believed that debating whether Light's actions were good or evil is not "very important." Ohba said that he personally sees Light as a "diabolical" character. Obata said that Light was his second favorite human character and that he was not sure whether that was because he "liked" Light or because he drew "such a diabolical character" in a magazine for children.
According to Ohba, Light sees Misa Amane, who he uses as an accomplice, as a "bad person" who killed people, so he acts emotionally cold towards her and manipulates her, although he pretends to love her, and even says he will marry her. He is only stopped from killing her by the shinigami Rem, who threatens to kill him if she dies early or if he tries to kill her, despite her knowledge that doing so will cause her own death.
Light's personality dramatically changes after he has a Death Note compared to when he does not. This can be seen when Light puts himself in L's captivity because he 'might be Kira'. Light tells Ryuk to relinquish his ownership of the Death Note after saying 'get rid of it'. Afterwards, Light loses all memory of the Death Note and he reverts to his normal personality. Without the Death Note, he has cares for the people around him and is reluctant to manipulate them. He even refuses to 'use' Misa Amane to get information out of her when L asks him to; however, later in the story, when Light regains his memories, he seems to have no problem 'using' Kiyomi Takada and manipulating her feelings in order to get what he wants.
Although Light originally had good intentions, he was "very conceited", with a "warped ... desire to be godlike," bearing love for his family, and intending to transform the world into "a better place." Ohba also states that Light, "uncompromising" when achieving his ideals, "sullied" himself by using the Death Note and that his actions "may have been the result of the purity within him" prior to obtaining the Death Note. Nevertheless, Ohba states that Light never lost his love for his family since he viewed them as righteous people.
Douglas Wolk of Salon describes Light as "coldly manipulative," "egomaniacal," and "an unrepentant serial killer, a butcher on an enormous scale" who is not "a Freddy Krueger, a monster who represents pure evil, or a Patrick Bateman, a demonic symbol of his age." Wolk describes Light as "the good guy, more or less" who genuinely believes that he holds "the moral high ground." When asked about which character was most similar to himself, Ohba indicated Near and "maybe Light." Regarding Light, Ohba cited "because I did well in school."
Travis Fickett of IGN describes Light as a "sociopath." Tom S. Pepirium of IGN describes Light as "brilliant, but disturbed." Wolk describes Light's ideal world, a "totalitarian" place "ruled by a propagandistic TV channel and an arbitrary secret executioner." Wolk said that Ohba sometimes suggests that this world is "in some ways a better, happier world than ours." Jolyon Baraka Thomas describes Light's vision of justice as "impure": "[His] supercilious attempt to save society from itself is both self-aggrandizing and cruel". Toshiki Inoue, the series organizer for the Death Note anime, describes Light as a "child whose wish happens to come true."
Conception and development
Tsugumi Ohba, the story writer of Death Note, said that his editor suggested the family name "Yagami" for Light. Ohba said that he did not feel "too concerned" about the meaning of the name (the kanji are "night" and "god"); he said that after he created the final scene in the manga he "liked" that the final scene created "deeper significance" in the name, of Kira worshippers worshipping him at night under the light of the moon.
Takeshi Obata, the artist of Death Note, said that he had "no trouble" designing Light as the character description presented to him, "A brilliant honors student who's a little out there," was "clear and detailed." As the weekly serialization continued, Obata simplified the design by subconsciously removing "unnecessary" lines and felt that he became "better" at drawing Light. When Chapter 35 appeared and the editor informed Obata that Light lost his memories, Obata had to draw Light in a similar manner as he appeared in Chapter 1; Obata said "It was like I had to forget everything I had learned." Obata said that he used "a lot of effort" to design Light's wardrobe. According to Obata, he encountered difficulty imagining the clothing of "a brilliant person," so he looked through fashion magazines. Obata envisioned Light as a "smart and formal guy" who wears formal shirts. Most of Light's clothing in Death Note is "fitted" and Obata avoided jeans.
When designing color book covers Obata assigned colors to characters to "get the atmosphere right." Obata assigned clear or "lack of a color" to Light.
Conception and development in the film version
Shusuke Kaneko, director of the film, intended for Light to appear sympathetic at the beginning of the film; when Light first gains the Death Note Kaneko "was careful" to have Light react in a manner "as you and I would." Kaneko changed the story involving Light gaining his first notebook as he felt that the audience "would have a hard time sympathizing" with Light if the scene remained the same as it was in the manga. Kaneko added that as he portrayed Light as "being enthralled" as he "becomes more cruel" to make the audience members feel that they could "do the terrible things he does" even if the members do not sympathize with Light.
Tatsuya Fujiwara said that he felt difficulty portraying Light in the film series because of the lack of "action" and because Light has no signature mannerisms and therefore has his feelings displayed by his face; Fujiwara added that he struggled conveying Light's "incredible amount of intelligence" and that the performance would appear "very empty or simplistic" if Light received an improper portrayal. Fujiwara explained that he wanted Light to cry in a particular scene even though Kaneko told Fujiwara "Light doesn’t cry" since Fujiwara believed that the scene would feel "more honest"; Kaneko used the take.
Kaneko designed Light's room to reflect the character's personality by making it clean and neat and filling it with legal, criminal history, foreign, and academic books. The original version of Light's room included a stereo; Kaneko replaced it with a vacuum cleaner to reflect Light's "clean-freak self."
Kenichi Matsuyama, the actor who portrayed L, said that he and Fujiwara became "so immersed" in their character portrayals that they did not talk to one another while on the set; when filming ceased they conversed and "went out for a drink or two."
Character in the film version
In the film, a few changes were made to the character. At the film's beginning, Light is a first-year law student at a university, instead of still being in high school as in the beginning of the manga and anime. Light's motives differ; in this version, he uses the Death Note out of frustration from the perceived failures of the Japanese justice system. Light, prior to his discovery of the Death Note, hacks into the government database and finds that the government secretly acknowledges that it is unable to prosecute many criminals. Light discovers the Death Note in an alley during a rainy night after encountering Takuo Shibuimaru in a club. Light meets Ryuk after killing Shibuimaru. At the end of the first movie Light kills his girlfriend, Shiori Akino, and frames her death as a murder in order to join the Kira investigation team as a result of their sympathy.
As in the manga, Light relinquishes ownership of the Death Note in order to prove his innocence. He gives the notebook to Kiyomi Takada. After Takada is caught, Light kills her to recover the Death Note, but it is taken by the investigation team. L states that he will test the 13-Day Rule, a fake Death Note rule designed to prove Light and Misa's innocence. Rem, knowing that L's actions will reveal Misa's identity as the 2nd Kira, writes both L's and Watari's names in the Death Note. Light then proceeds to write his father's name in the book, manipulating his father to return the confiscated Death Note.
Light confronts his father, but Soichiro does not die. The investigation team members, including L, reveal themselves. Having already written his own name in the Death Note, thus negating Rem's actions, L tells Light that he had just written in a fake note.
Light tries to write on a hidden piece of Death Note, but is shot by Matsuda, an investigation team member. Light tells Ryuk to write the team's names, promising to show him many interesting things, and begins to laugh. He stops, however, when Ryuk shows him that he had written just one name: Light's. Light tries to stop Ryuk, but merely passes right through him. As Light begins to succumb to the effects of the Death Note, Ryuk takes this opportunity to reveal to him that humans that have used the Death Note are barred from entering either Heaven or Hell, instead spending eternity in nothingness. Light dies in his father's arms, begging him to believe that he acted as Kira to put the justice, which Soichiro had taught him since his childhood, into practice. The film concludes one year later, on Light's birthday. Sayu fetches Soichiro and says that Kira helped reduce crime rates, however, she says that she does not support Kira as Light was killed by Kira (which is what Soichiro told her). Light is portrayed by Tatsuya Fujiwara, known for his role as Shuya Nanahara in Battle Royale.
Death Note 13: How to Read describes Light in the Death Note yonkoma as "the chosen brainiac with a knack for funny comments". Death Note 13: How to Read adds that he is the "butt of jokes" due to his "serious demeanor".
Tom S. Pepirium of IGN said that he felt surprised when he learned that some viewers, while watching the series, wanted Light to emerge as the victor of the storyline; Pepirium added that his wife said that she was "kinda rooting for Light". Pepirium compared wanting Light to win to "cheering for Kevin Spacey at the end of Seven". Pepirium added that Brad Swaile, Light's English-language voice actor, "nails" the "difficult" task of making Light "both likable and hated". Jason Charpentier of The Anchor stated that Light's attributes and his role as a main character form "part of what makes Death Note interesting". Light was also listed 18th in IGN's 2009 best anime character of all time list with writer Chris Mackenzie praising how Light is "mesmerizing". In 2014, he was placed seventh on IGN's list of greatest anime characters of all time, saying that "Light Yagami was the force that drove Death Note and made it a phenomenon."
Tetsuro Araki, the director of the anime, said that he felt an urge to support and cheer for Light. Araki added that Light would have used and killed him if he was one of Light's friends, but the director still believed that Light is "that interesting" and therefore he would have felt an attraction towards Light.
Pauline Wong of OtakuZone had her opinions of the film portrayal of Light Yagami published in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. In it Wong says that the "very bishie-status-worthy" Fujiwara portrayed Light with "aplomb and near-perfection, right down to the evil little smile". Kitty Sensei, quoted in the same Malaysian article, says that the portrayal of Light in the film is "very faithful to the manga's".
Tatsuya Fujiwara, the actor who portrayed Light in the films, said that he "could understand" Light's intentions to create a new world even though "Murder is a horrible thing". Matsuyama describes L and Light as having "such unique characters that they’re impossible to understand". Erika Toda, the actress who portrayed Misa Amane in the films, described Light's and Misa's actions as "criminal".
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