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L (Death Note)

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Created by
Tsugumi OhbaTakeshi Obata

Voiced by
Kappei Yamaguchi (Japanese)Alessandro Juliani (English)

Portrayed by
Kenichi Matsuyama (films)Kento Yamazaki (TV series)Teppei Koike (musical)Kim Junsu (musical)Keith Stanfield (American film)

L (エル,Eru)Hideki Ryuga (流河=旱樹,Ryūga Hideki)Ryuzaki (竜崎,Ryūzaki)Eraldo Coil (エラルド=コイル,Erarudo Koiru)Deneuve (ドヌーヴ,Donūvu)Suzuki (スズキ,Suzuki)L-Prime (in L: Change the WorLd)Yoshio Anderson (in the TV drama)

Quillish Wammy (handler)

First appearance
"Boredom" (退屈 Taikutsu, Chapter 1)

Movies and TV shows
Death Note, Death Note 2: The Last Name, L: Change the World

Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata

Played by
Kenichi Matsuyama, Kento Yamazaki, Keith Stanfield, Kappei Yamaguchi

Light Yagami, Ryuk (Death Note), Misa Amane

L. Lawliet (Japanese: エル・ローライト, Hepburn: Eru Rōraito), exclusively known by the mononym L, is a fictional character in the manga series Death Note, created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. He is an eccentric genius and international private detective, reputed to be the world's greatest, who takes on cases that have stymied national governments and Interpol. He opposes the series' main character Light Yagami by trying to prove his (correct) suspicion that Light is the mass-murderer called "Kira" who is attempting to create and rule a world "cleansed of evil" as its "God".


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In the anime adaptation, he is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in Japanese, and by Alessandro Juliani in English. He is portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the live-action film series, and Kento Yamazaki in the TV drama; his counterpart in the American film will be portrayed by Keith Stanfield.

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Creation and conception

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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 chose "L" after careful consideration. 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. 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.

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.

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". 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. Obata added that because of this, L was not "real" to him and that he liked that aspect of the character.

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". When designing color book covers Obata assigned colors to characters to "get the atmosphere right"; gold was assigned to L.

Film adaptation

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. He also ate sweets like those that L would eat, and considered the details of L's signature gestures. 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". Keith Stanfield will be portraying L in the upcoming American film version.

In Death Note

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. When asked about L's ethnicity, Ohba responded saying "I think of him as a quarter Japanese, a quarter English, a quarter Russian, a quarter French or Italian, like that". After meeting 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". He added that he personally views L as "slightly evil".

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 and fruits, and holding items very delicately. 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%. 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]".

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". 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 Light is the first Kira. Light then takes over L's identity and uses it to his advantage. 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.

Death Note 13: How to Read describes L in the Death Note yonkoma as the "holder of the world's greatest mind" and having the "powerful ability to act like a fool". Death Note 13: How to Read adds that in the yonkoma "it's like L was born to be mocked".

In the film series

Portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the live-action films that adapt the Death Note manga, L retains many of the same characteristics. Unlike the manga and anime, 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. He is shocked when Watari is later killed. 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.

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.

L stars in a Death Note film version special, aired on Japanese television, that takes place after Light's death; in it Touta Matsuda has to come to terms with L's eventual death.

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.

In Death Note: Another Note

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.

In the L: Change the World light novel

The events of the novel adaptation of L's spin-off film play out very similarly to the film, but with 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 Watari moments before the Death Note takes effect.

In the TV drama series

In the live-action drama, L is portrayed by Kento Yamazaki. There are some difference made to this character. He drinks juice more than anything else and also always stays neat and clean. He wears white pants instead of jeans. He sometimes solves puzzle with Near. 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.

In Death Note: The Musical

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


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

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. 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. 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". In the NEO Awards 2007 from Neo, L won in the category "Best Manga Character".


L (Death Note) Wikipedia