L (Death Note)

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L Lawliet
Death Note character
L from Death Note.png
L, drawn by Takeshi Obata
First appearance Chapter 1: "Boredom" (退屈, Taikutsu)
Created by Tsugumi Ohba
Takeshi Obata
Voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi (Japanese, anime)
Shin-ichiro Miki (Japanese, American film)
Alessandro Juliani (English)
Portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama (films)
Kento Yamazaki (TV series)
Teppei Koike (musical)
Kim Junsu (musical)
Lakeith Stanfield (American film)
Aliases Lind L. Tailor
Hideki Ryuga (流河 旱樹, Ryūga Hideki)
Ryuzaki (竜崎, Ryūzaki)
Eraldo Coil
L-Prime (in L: Change the World)
Yoshio Anderson (in the TV drama)
Relatives Quillish Wammy (handler)

L Lawliet (Japanese: エル・ローライト, Hepburn: Eru Rōraito)[1] is a fictional character in the manga series Death Note, created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. An enigmatic individual with a past shrouded in mystery, he is an eccentric genius and international private investigator, reputed to be the world's best and brightest, who takes on cases that have stymied national governments and Interpol, and communicates with the world only through his equally inexplicable handler/assistant, Watari. He takes up the task of hunting down the mysterious serial-killer/vigilante "Kira." While being assisted by the Japanese police agency's anti-Kira task-force, L deduces that the series' main character, Light Yagami is Kira, who also happens to be the son of the head of the "Kira" investigation: Soichiro Yagami. Much of the series focuses on L observing Light's activities and his attempts to unveil Light's true identity as "Kira", resulting in a psychological mind-game of cat and mouse between the two individuals.

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, and by Kento Yamazaki in the TV drama. His counterpart in the American film is portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield.

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, 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]

L's disheveled and languid appearance masks his great powers of deduction and insight. He tends to second-guess everything he is presented with, and is extremely meticulous and analytical. He has several quirks such as preferring to crouch rather than sit, eating only sweet foods like desserts, candy and fruits, and holding items very delicately using his thumb and index finger. L stayed in England for five years, and during that time he was the champion in tennis for the England Junior Cup, and he is still a good player, suggesting he might still practice. He plays tennis with Light, who used to be a champion himself. 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%.[17] Whenever L gives percentages to indicate how much he suspects a person of committing a crime, such as "five percent", in reality he means over 90 percent; Ohba said about L, "The truth is, he's a liar [laughs]".[14]

L suspects early in the investigation that Light Yagami is Kira, but cannot 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, finding Light "too perfect" and noting how close his age and intelligence match his exact concept for what Kira must be like. L can easily present his conclusions publicly at any time, and with his reputation, is taken seriously. He also intends to tell Light that he can "take the offensive".[18] After capturing a man who also has a Death Note, Light tricks Rem, the Shinigami owner of a Death Note that she gives to Misa, 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 him, and in his last moment L confirms to himself that he was right about Light being the first Kira. Light then takes over L's identity and uses it to his advantage.[19] However, when one of L's true successors, Near, begins to suspect that Light is Kira, Light remains haunted by the memory of L and feels as though he is still battling against him each time he and Near communicate. In the anime series, when Light himself dies, an apparition of L is shown standing over him, mirroring Light standing over L at his own death.[20]

In film[edit]

Kenichi Matsuyama
Lakeith Stanfield
Kenichi Matsuyama and Lakeith Stanfield act as L in the Eastern and Western films based on the series, respectively.

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. It is his self-sacrifice that allows himself to stay alive for a longer duration (as he supposed Kira would kill him on that day), and allows the investigation team to apprehend Light. However, he reveals he was shocked when Watari was killed, having not expected anyone else but himself to be a target and regarding it as his "last mistake". After Ryuk kills Light, Ryuk offers L the Death Note, but L refuses. Twenty-three days after writing his name in the Death Note, burning all the remaining Death Notes, and having a conversation with Soichiro, L dies peacefully while eating a chocolate bar.[21]

In 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.[22] The light novel adaptation of L: Change the World has many creative changes. For example, instead of discovering him during his final 23-days of living, L has long since claimed Near as his successor. Furthermore, details concerning L's character are revealed during the course of the novel by delving deeper into L's relationship with Watari and exploring L's personal demons. Rather than end abruptly after L drops off Near in the orphanage like in the film, the novel ends with L imagining himself playing chess with Light moments before the Death Note takes effect.[23]

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[24] portrays L in the American film adaptation, as an enigmatic and highly-intelligent FBI profiler, who only takes up on crime cases that interest him. His actual name is briefly revealed as "Lebens Dorn", unlike the manga, where he was named "L Lawliet". A number of changes were made to this version of the character, though most of his core characteristics remain the same, such as his quirky, eccentric and socially-inept personality, fondness for sweets, preference to crouch than sit, his past originating from a secluded orphanage (named the St. Martin's Orphanage, instead of Wammy's House) where he, along with other similar intellectually-gifted children were trained and tested in a clandestine government programme (unlike the manga, where it served as a special academy for gifted children), along with his genius-level intellect. He is shown to be of African-American origin, is a lot more aggressive, emotional and quick-tempered than his manga counterpart, wears a dark-colored hoodie and jeans, is more prone to aggressive outbursts, is less morally rooted and emotionally insecure, and has a willingness to kill "Kira", after his assistant and foster-father, Watari, meets his end at the hands of the serial-killer, despite his early moral code to never kill criminals. Although L initially suspects that high school student, Light Turner, is the world-famous serial-killer, "Kira", he is unable to detain him due to lack of evidence and the fact that one of the co-investigators and Light's father, Seattle detective James Turner, refuses to believe that his son is a serial-killer, with the rest of the film following L's efforts to prove that Light is "Kira", and comes to a climax when L goes on his own manhunt to apprehend Light, but is outwitted by Light in the end and is forced to leave Seattle. In the end, after L learns the involvement of Light's deceased girlfriend, Mia Sutton, in the serial-killings and uncovers a hidden page of the Death Note in her room, he contemplates writing Light's name in the Death Note page out of anger and thirst for vengeance, while the Death Note's original owner, Ryuk, learns of what L has possibly done and simply comments to a bed-ridden Light in his hospital room, "You humans are so interesting", with a sinister grin in his face, possibly due to the fact that L had written down Light's name in the Death Note page.[25][26]

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.[27]

In the musical adaptation, L is portrayed by Teppei Koike in the Japanese version and Kim Junsu in the Korean version.

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".[28] Pepirium said that the "excellent translation" is responsible for L being a "success" in the English-language dub of Death Note.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31][32] 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".[33] 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.[34] Pepirium adds that Alessandro Juliani, L's voice actor, portrays his slurping and gulping sweets as "somehow non-irritating".[35] Theron Martin has also repeatedly praised Juliani's work, noting that he "captures the eccentric brilliance of L".[30][36] 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."[37]

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.[38] 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.[39] 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".[40] In the NEO Awards 2007 from Neo, L won in the category "Best Manga Character".[41]

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.is." The Star. Sunday March 23, 2008. Retrieved on January 25, 2010.
  14. ^ a b 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. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2006). "Chapter 21". Death Note, Volume 3. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0170-8. 
  18. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2008). Death Note 13: How to Read. Viz Media. p. 70. ISBN 1-4215-1888-0. 
  19. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2006). "Chapter 58". Death Note, Volume 7. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-0628-9. 
  20. ^ Ohba, Tsugumi (2007). Death Note A Animation Official Analysis Guide. Shueisha. p. 100. ISBN 4-08-874197-8. ISBN 978-4-08-874197-0. 
  21. ^ Death Note II: The Last Name (DVD). Viz Media. 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2015. 
  22. ^ Death Note 3: L, Change the World (DVD). Viz Media. 2009. Retrieved August 23, 2015. 
  23. ^ M (2009). L: Change the World. Viz Media. ISBN 978-1-4215-3225-7. 
  24. ^ "Lakeith Stanfield". IMDb. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ http://www.christiantoday.com/article/death.note.netflix.movie.official.cast.revealed.production.begings/89833.htm
  27. ^ Isin, Nisio (2008). Death Note Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases. Viz Media. ISBN 1-4215-1883-X. 
  28. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Matsuda" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  29. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Unraveling" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  30. ^ a b Martin, Theron (2007-12-27). "Death Note DVD 1". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  31. ^ "Death Note: Volume 1". Hyper. Next Media (173): 79. March 2008. ISSN 1320-7458. 
  32. ^ Rosato, Julie (2006-09-05). "Death Note Vol. #07". Mania Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  33. ^ Alexandre, Carlos (2008-03-10). "Anime Review: Death Note, Vol. 3". PopCultureShock. Archived from the original on 2008-08-08. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  34. ^ Rosato, Julie (2006-01-11). "Death Note Vol. #03". Mania Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  35. ^ Pepirium, Tom S. "Death Note: "Ally" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  36. ^ Martin, Theron (2009-06-10). "Death Note DVD - Box Set 2". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2009-11-23. 
  37. ^ Isler, Ramsey (February 4, 2014). "Top 25 Greatest Anime Characters". IGN. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Oricon: Fans Want L, Char Aznable Spinoffs". Anime News Network. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  39. ^ "Anime Expo 2008 Announces the 2008 SPJA Award Winners". Anime News Network. July 4, 2008. Retrieved July 4, 2009. 
  40. ^ "SPJA Industry Award Winners Announced at Anime Expo". Anime news Network. July 3, 2009. Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  41. ^ "NEO Awards 2007". NEO Magazine. Uncooked Media (40): 06–11. January 2007. ISSN 1744-9596.