Would You Side With Light Yagami's Character From Death Note?

Before we get started, I'd like to confirm that the write-up contains major spoilers for Death Note, so I would suggest interested readers watch, or at least be aware of the primary plot of the show.

Death Note was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed anime from the last decade, and for good reasons.

As a series and despite the obviousness, Death Note, throughout its runtime, continued to ask viewers about the true identity of the villain, which is one of the major reasons why it is such a viable candidate to introduce anime to new audiences. If the concept of killing a person by writing their name in a magical notebook isn't interesting enough, the battle of wits between the two leads is guaranteed to keep your attention through the series.

Screenshot. Ryuk and Light Yagami.
Light Yagami (aka Kira), a genius high school student in Japan finds this notebook and upon realising its potential, sets himself on a path to cleanse the world of crimes and criminals through a reign of fear. The other main character, the world-renowned detective L, decides to catch him and put an end to this attempt at dictatorship.

What this leads to is a cat and mouse game with each character trying to one-up the other while also maintaining a side-goal of living up to their reputations and achieving their main objectives.

While it's true that neither of them is able to achieve any of their targets by the time the anime ends, what they do achieve is raising doubts about the concepts of justice and morality for the viewers.

If you have read my previous post about the show, A Death Note Fan Theory For The Real World, you'll understand where I am coming from. In it, I've argued about the effectiveness of Light's approach at solving the problems of nuisance and crime in our society and how it delivered the results that most of us hope to see in today's world.

At the same time, there are no two ways about the wrongness of Light's method of delivering justice and when you factor in the possibility of false accusations, the flaws become all the more prominent. It's why the real world is not ruled by dictators and such reigns have been thrown over over the course of our history.

However, for the sake of discussion, assume yourself to be a part of Kira's world. Which side would you be on? Would it be the God of the new world who kills anyone and everyone who does wrong or would it be the mortal who sees the darkness within this all-powerful figure?

In a perfect world, it's safe to assume that Light's approach to justice can work. Sadly, our world couldn't be any further from perfect. Our law doesn't have a 100% score at delivering justice and there are countless occasions where the process takes so long that the actual criminal had already had a long and fulfilling life as the victim continued to live with their trauma. Then there are times when things can get even worse for either the victim or the defendant, further hampering the effectiveness of the 'kill all criminals' solution.

Still, Light's visions of the perfect world seemed to work well for much of the series. While it can be said that the show simplified the distinction between the good and bad outside of the main characters, we need to consider that fear (in this case) and greed, are strong motivators in our society of today.  

As viewers, we never get to see the perfect world that Light wanted to create following his loss in the series finale, we do get a sneak-peak in episode 26, where the narrator mentions the drop in crime rates at a global scale. This result is due to the fear that Light created in the years following L's death, which the series regularly highlighted to be far more effective than the slow process of law.

Again, whose side are you on? The exceedingly charming sociopath who can and does kill for fun or the fearless team of law-men who want to put an end to a reign of terror?

Over the course of Death Note, we get to see Light go from an ideal student to a killing machine that didn't think or care for anyone but himself. And yet, we get to witness his 'good' nature during the 'get rid of the Death Note/Yotsuba' arc. We also get to see his concern when his sister was kidnapped by the Mafia and the hint of fear and upset when his father was first, face to face with Mello and then at the time of Soichiro's death.

If Kira gets caught, he is evil. If Kira rules the world, he is justice.

The fact that Light's words early on in Death Note suit our society so well speaks volume of how volatile is the morality in today's time and maybe since the beginning of human civilisation. It's a safe choice to be in the good books of someone who is in a powerful position only to kick them down in a mob.