L (Death Note)

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Death Note character
L from Death Note.png
L, drawn by Takeshi Obata
First appearanceChapter 1: "Boredom" (退屈, Taikutsu)
Created byTsugumi Ohba
Takeshi Obata
Voiced byKappei Yamaguchi (Japanese, anime)
Shin-ichiro Miki (Japanese)
Alessandro Juliani (English)
Portrayed byKenichi Matsuyama (films)
Kento Yamazaki (TV series)
Teppei Koike (musical)
Lakeith Stanfield (American film)
AliasRyuzaki (竜崎, Ryūzaki)
Hideki Ryuga (流河 旱樹, Ryūga Hideki)
Lind L. Tailor
Eraldo Coil
L-Prime (in L: Change the World)
Yoshio Anderson (in the TV drama)
Lebens Dorn (real name; American film)
RelativesWatari (handler)

L Lawliet (Japanese: エル・ローライト, Hepburn: Eru Rōraito),[1] known mononymously as L, is a fictional character and one of the primary protagonists in the manga series Death Note, created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. He is an enigmatic, nameless, and highly esteemed international consulting detective, who communicates only through his equally inexplicable handler/assistant: Watari, who serves as his official liaison with the authorities. Though his entire past is shrouded in a void of mystery, he has gained a highly esteemed reputation for solving numerous crime cases and perplexing homicidal mysteries around the globe and is considered to be one of the world's best detectives.

Throughout the series, he observes and spies on the activities of the series' main character, Light Yagami: a high school genius, in an effort to expose him as the infamous serial-killer: "Kira", who is responsible for massacring numerous high-profile criminals around the world, through apparent supernatural means. As the series progresses, the psychological mind-game of cat and mouse between L and Light intensifies, with each one of them being bent on uncovering their true identities, through a series of intricate ploys and schemes, before their cover is blown.

In the anime adaptation, he is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in Japanese,[2] and by Alessandro Juliani in English.[3] He is portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the live-action film series, by Kento Yamazaki in the TV drama, and by Lakeith Stanfield in the American film.

Creation and conception[edit]

Tsugumi Ohba, the writer of the series, created L as a young adult, since he believed the story would not hold much interest if L were significantly older than his opponent, Light. For L's name, he wanted to use a single letter with a lot of significance; he considered "I" and "J", but eventually he chose "L" after careful consideration.[4] Ohba left most of L's character design to Takeshi Obata, artist of the series. Obata asked Ohba if L could be "unattractive". Afterwards Ohba included ideas in his thumbnails, including L's manner of sitting, "he's English", and "he's listless". Ohba added details regarding L's mannerisms and his interests in sweets. Ohba credits Obata for the character designs.[5] Obata commented that L's thumbnails by Ohba had no bags under his eyes, and that he had a "plain face with no expression" which was very useful. Obata drew L as an "attractive young man" until chapter 11, when the character appeared in person. After chapter 11, Obata and Ohba agreed to contrast his appearance with Light's.[6]

During the development of the early manga chapters, Obata feared L would appear "so suspicious that Light would know instantly it was L if they ever met". When Obata's editor told him that he wanted L to have a face "looking cool based on the angle", Obata added black bags under L's eyes. Obata cited Devilman's Akira Fudou when stating that he believed that black bags were appealing. In addition, Obata thought of a "dead eyes" concept, which involved L having "all-black eyes" and "mostly no eyebrows". Obata believes that black eyes usually makes a character goofier, but the bags "sharpen the character's gaze". Obata believes that the design evokes "a feeling of mystery" and that the reader cannot determine L's true thoughts. Obata also said that the bags under L's eyes were useful for inspiring speculation about his lifestyle and background. The outfit Obata designed for L was a "simple" white, long-sleeved shirt and jeans, to convey that L does not put thought into choosing his clothing. In Death Note 13: How to Read, Ohba presented an initial rough draft of L and said that, with a "cool expression" and without the bags under his eyes, L looked like a different person.[6]

Obata stated that the peculiar traits exhibited by L are best revealed "gradually". Obata added that if he drew L eating "mountains of sweets" before revealing his face, he would not have "much credibility as a super detective" and people would ask if he was "crazy".[7] Both Ohba and Obata chose L as their favorite character from the series, and most of our favorites with the former noting him as the "strongest" character in the series besides Light, and the latter due to "appearance, personality, everything". Obata said that he could never have created a character like L and that he enjoyed drawing him.[8] Obata added that because of this, L was not "real" to him and that he liked that aspect of the character.[9]

L's fighting style has been described as similar to capoeira. However, Obata has denied considering this when drawing L's fights, saying that he was thinking of the most effective way to kick someone whilst handcuffed. He added that if the style resembles capoeira, then this "adds another element to it" and "that makes me happy".[6] When designing color book covers Obata assigned colors to characters to "get the atmosphere right"; gold was assigned to L.[10]

Film adaptations[edit]

Matsuyama had trouble portraying L and worried about his performance. He reasoned that L rarely interacted with others, and so portrayed him as if he did not "quite understand other people on an emotional level". Describing himself as "not very flexible physically", Matsuyama had trouble emulating L's postures.[11] He also ate sweets like those that L would eat, and considered the details of L's signature gestures.[12] Matsuyama said that he and Tatsuya Fujiwara, the actor portraying Light, became "so immersed" in their character portrayals that they did not speak to one another while on the set; when filming ceased they conversed and "went out for a drink or two".[11] Hideo Nakata, the director of L: Change the World, told The Daily Yomiuri that he wanted to exhibit L's "human side" that was not exhibited in the Death Note series.[13]


In Death Note[edit]

L uses a single, capital blackletter "L" to represent himself.

L, who also uses the aliases Hideki Ryuga (流河 旱樹, Ryūga Hideki), Ryuzaki (竜崎, Ryūzaki), Eraldo Coil (エラルド=コイル, Erarudo Koiru), and Deneuve (ドヌーヴ, Donūvu), the latter two for which he has developed reputations as the second- and third-best detectives in the world, is quite secretive and only communicates with the world through his assistant Watari. He never shows his face to the world, instead representing himself with a capital L in Cloister Black font. His real name, L Lawliet, is only revealed in the guidebook Death Note 13: How to Read.[14][4] After revealing himself to the Kira investigation team, he requests that the task force refer to him as Ryuzaki for discretion. Ohba said that L is the most intelligent character in the entire Death Note series because "the plot requires it".[15] He added that he personally views L as "slightly evil".[16]

In film[edit]

Kenichi Matsuyama
Kenichi Matsuyama portrayed L in the Japanese series based on the manga.

L is portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the live-action films that adapt the Death Note manga, with his portrayal and characterization of the character receiving wide praise for being earnestly faithful to his original manga counterpart. Unlike the manga, in the second film, his "death", caused by Rem writing his name in her Death Note, does not take effect, as L had written his own name in Misa's Death Note earlier.[citation needed]

In the 2008 movie L: Change the World, which takes place in the 23 days that L has left before he dies, L decides to solve one last case. He tries to stop a bio-terrorist organization led by "K" from spreading a deadly virus around the world, along the way he meets a girl named Maki, FBI agent Suruga and a boy who he names Near.[citation needed]

In Death Note: Light Up the New World, Kenichi Matsuyama reprises his role as L. He makes a cameo appearance with child Ryuzaki, who inherits his DNA, giving him a lollipop and telling him to not use the Death Note as Ryuzaki promises not to. He is also seen in a CG video that Ryuzaki created.

Lakeith Stanfield portrays L in the live-action American film adaptation. In this adaptation, he is shown as an enigmatic, skillful and highly esteemed international consulting detective of a calm and calculating, yet socially inept and eccentric disposition, who only communicates with the authorities through his handler/assistant: "Watari" and is affiliated with a number of law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, CIA and Interpol, and has earned a reputation for solving numerous cold cases and takes up the task of apprehending the world-famous serial-killer, known as "Kira", who is responsible for massacring numerous high-profile criminals around the world, through apparent supernatural means. This version of the character retains much of his manga counterpart's traits and characteristics, such as his preference to crouch rather than sit, his fondness for sweets and candies, which serve as his sole diet, his socially-awkward, quirky and eccentric personality and behavior, his tendency to hold things with his index fingers and thumbs, along with his past originating from a secluded orphanage, though his real name is given as "Lebens Dorn". After deducing Kira's location in the city of Seattle within the United States, by purposely seeding the names of obscure criminals to "Kira", in an attempt to trace his location, he assists police detective James Turner: the local head of the "Kira" investigation within Seattle, with apprehending "Kira". As the investigation progresses, L manages to deduce that "Kira" needs a name and face to kill his victims through a city-wide broadcast and eventually begins to suspect that Light Turner: James' teenaged son and a high school student, is somehow connected to the murders and obsessively tries to expose him and assigns a group of FBI agents to shadow him, along with other potential "Kira" suspects. As the film progresses, he begins to demonstrate allusions of a more darker, aggressive, unstable and morally ambiguous side of his personality, which is intensified by the eventual deaths of the FBI agents (which is attributed to Kira) and Watari's sudden disappearance, which leads to an irrational change in L's behavior, as he becomes emotionally unstable and even attempts to attack Light in his home, when he refuses to confess that he is "Kira", which eventually boils down to the point that L begins his own manhunt for Light, when Watari is seemingly murdered by "Kira", while James issues an arrest warrant for L, whom he sees as increasingly unstable. In the end, Light manages to hoodwink the authorities, by manipulating a number of criminals to continue carrying out his activities through the Death Note, while inducing himself into a medical coma, which seemingly proves Light's innocence and as a result, L is taken off the case by his superiors, for failing to apprehend "Kira". However, after deducing Light's girlfriend: Mia Sutton's connection with the serial-murders, L finds a hidden page of the Death Note within her home and out of a thirst for vengeance, contemplates writing Light's name in it, while elsewhere, Light is visited by Ryuk: the Death Note's original owner, who smilingly comments to Light in his hospital bed: "You humans are so interesting", possibly hinting that L may or may not have written down his name in the Death Note page. L's background and past is also briefly explored in this adaptation, with his childhood originating from a secluded and currently abandoned orphanage named the St. Martin's Orphanage, where he was subjected to a series of tests and experiments, as part of a clandestine government project, which involved the rearing of intellectually-gifted orphans into skilled black ops agents, who would secretly operate on behalf of the government. As a result of these tests and experiments, his mental psyche was severely affected, which explains his unusual quirks, awkward behavior, along with his more unstable, irrational and repressed side of his personality, which is displayed by the film's second half. After his training and the institute's subsequent shutdown, L went on to gain a reputation as an expert international detective with the help of his mentor/handler: Watari, who kept his mental stability in check and set up high-profile connections with local and international governments around the world to search up information for potential new cases and to assist L in solving them, with L eventually cracking such cases, with deft and adept skill, and as time progressed, he gained a highly esteemed reputation as a world-class consulting detective, regarded to be the world's top criminal consultant, before stumbling across the "Kira" case.[17][18]

In other media[edit]

In the light novel Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, L recruits FBI agent Naomi Misora to investigate a series of murders. While the story includes several phone discussions with him from Misora's perspective, he only appears in person at the end of the novel, when he goes by the name "Ryuzaki" - an alias he appropriates from the novel's serial murderer, Beyond Birthday, who masquerades as L under the alias "Rue Ryuzaki". The light novel also says that L won the aliases Eraldo Coil and Deneuve in a "detective war" with the real Coil and Deneuve.[19]

In the musical adaptation, L is portrayed by Teppei Koike in the Japanese version and Kim Junsu in the Korean version. In the demo recording, he was portrayed by Jarrod Spector

In the live-action TV drama, L is portrayed by Kento Yamazaki. A few differences with different attitude has made to this character. White shirt and white trouser is his all-time outfit. While capturing Higuchi, Light saves L's life from Higuchi's gunshot. Later, while confessing Light, with a fake death note, Mikami kills him. Then Near takes L's place and follows the videos left by L. L's funeral is shown at the end of the series.


Alessandro Juliani's work as L's English voice actor has received praise.

Publications from manga and anime have commented on L's character. Tom S. Pepirium of IGN describes L as "the coolest, most well developed character in anime today".[20] Pepirium said that the "excellent translation" is responsible for L being a "success" in the English-language dub of Death Note.[21] Anime News Network's Theron Martin found that the mental duels between L and Light are appealing to viewers of the series due to how each attempts to discover the identity of the other while at the same time wanting to hide their own.[22] The Hyper staff and Mania Entertainment's Julie Rosato agreed with Martin, with the latter commenting that L's and Light's rivalry as one of the best parts from the series to the point of being something "unique" in a manga.[23][24] Although PopCultureShock writer Carlos Alexandre also praised their rivalry, he still found L to be "too smart" noting that "some careful listening and application of critical thinking will make apparent the holes in L’s supposedly superhuman logic, holes that simply, given L’s character, should not be there".[25] While reviewing the manga's third volume, Rosato concludes the article by saying that L "wins this volume; he really drove it forward" due to how close he gets to Light in such little time, which makes Light lose his temper after meeting him despite how calm he normally is.[26] Pepirium adds that Alessandro Juliani, L's voice actor, portrays his slurping and gulping sweets as "somehow non-irritating".[27] Theron Martin has also repeatedly praised Juliani's work, noting that he "captures the eccentric brilliance of L".[22][28] IGN ranked him as the 19th greatest anime character of all time, saying that "Every good lead character needs a challenge, and L provided the opposition that the Death Note series required to captivate fans."[29]

In January 2007, Oricon made a poll in which they asked Japanese fans from manga and anime which characters from any series they would most like to see in spinoff series. The overall winner from the poll was L, who also ranked first in the women's poll and second in the men's poll.[30] In the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Awards (SPJA) from 2008 Alessandro Juliani was the winner in the category "Best Voice Actor (English)" for his work as L.[31] Kappei Yamaguchi was the winner in the category "Best Voice Actor (Japanese)" from the 2009 SPJA Industry Awards for his work as L. L also won in the category "Best Male Character".[32] In the NEO Awards 2007 from Neo, L won in the category "Best Manga Character".[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi and Takeshi Obata. "Character File 2: L." Death Note: How to Read 13. Viz Media. 10.
  2. ^ Madhouse (October 10, 2006). "l対決". Death Note. Episode 2. Nippon Television.
  3. ^ Madhouse (October 28, 2007). "Confrontation". Death Note. Episode 2. Cartoon Network.
  4. ^ a b Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 61. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  5. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 62. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  6. ^ a b c Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 127. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  7. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 119. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  8. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 190. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  9. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 181. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  10. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 117. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  11. ^ a b "The stars." The Star. Sunday October 29, 2006. Retrieved on December 3, 2009.
  12. ^ "CAST." Sinchew. Retrieved on December 3, 2009.
  13. ^ Kan, Saori. "23 days to live Archived 2008-05-02 at Archive.today." The Star. Sunday March 23, 2008. Retrieved on January 25, 2010.
  14. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 10. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  15. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 191. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  16. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 69. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0.
  17. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 10, 2016). "'Short Term 12's' Keith Stanfield to Star With Nat Wolff in Netflix's 'Death Note'". Variety. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  18. ^ http://www.christiantoday.com/article/death.note.netflix.movie.official.cast.revealed.production.begings/89833.htm
  19. ^ Isin, Nisio (2008). Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-1883-X.
  20. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Matsuda" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  21. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Unraveling" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  22. ^ a b Martin, Theron (2007-12-27). "Death Note DVD 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  23. ^ "Death Note: Volume 1". Hyper. Next Media (173): 79. March 2008. ISSN 1320-7458.
  24. ^ Rosato, Julie (2006-09-05). "Death Note Vol. #07". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  25. ^ Alexandre, Carlos (2008-03-10). "Anime Review: Death Note, Vol. 3". PopCultureShock. Archived from the original on 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  26. ^ Rosato, Julie (2006-01-11). "Death Note Vol. #03". Mania Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  27. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Ally" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  28. ^ Martin, Theron (2009-06-10). "Death Note DVD - Box Set 2". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
  29. ^ Isler, Ramsey (February 4, 2014). "Top 25 Greatest Anime Characters". IGN. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  30. ^ "Oricon: Fans Want L, Char Aznable Spinoffs". Anime News Network. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
  31. ^ "Anime Expo 2008 Announces the 2008 SPJA Award Winners". Anime News Network. July 4, 2008. Retrieved July 4, 2009.
  32. ^ "SPJA Industry Award Winners Announced at Anime Expo". Anime news Network. July 3, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2009.
  33. ^ "NEO Awards 2007". NEO Magazine. Uncooked Media (40): 06–11. January 2007. ISSN 1744-9596.