Religious Symbolism in Death Note

Alivia Hough, Staff Writer

There is no heaven or hell. No matter what you do while you’re alive, everybody goes to the same place once you die. Death is equal.” Death Note is a show that was released in early July 2007, the story began in late 2006  in Tokyo Japan. It follows our main character, Light Yagami, through his descent into madness after discovering a “Death Note”. The “Death Note” is a notebook that comes with an abnormal power to kill, all they need to do is write the name and picture their face. Even though the 2017 Netflix adaptation was a massive letdown, the series init of itself has a lot to offer. 


God Complex

The main character Light develops what is known as a God Complex. A God Complex is a narcissistic personality disorder that gives someone a grand sense of self-importance and a need for validation. It’s a disorder that makes the person afflicted feel as if they themselves are a god, they tend to have a feeling of being invincible and comes with a concerning lack of empathy for others. Light, after confirming the power of the book, takes it upon himself to judge the world. He sets out to kill criminals and anyone he deems unworthy in order to create a utopia where he can reign as a god. After committing hundreds of murders he grabs the attention of the top detective simply known as “L”. L keeps his name and face hidden from the world and tends to solve cases without even having to be there in person. Naturally given these two characters you would assume that L is the protagonist and Light is the antagonist, however, the writer takes it upon himself to morally blur these characters making it difficult to really deem anyone as “good”. Light and L are known as parallel characters, they mirror each other with how they think, this is shown throughout the show by having them state similar sentences about Justice and how they convince themselves that the other is in the wrong. Naturally, this opens the door for an allegory with the Christian religion. 

Light Yagami 

The first one we can focus on is within one of our main characters, Light Yagami. When translating Light Yagami you get something along the lines of “A god of darkness named Light”. Light himself is convinced that he is a savior and that he is needed to create a perfect world; however, in the process, he goes on to kill over 100,000 people. He is an antichrist or devil that sees himself as a savior. You can compare this to the verse 2nd Corinthians 11:14 “And no marvel; for Satan, himself is transformed into an angel of light.”, on how someone seemed as evil attempting to transform himself into something better than he is. We can also draw parallels with Light in judas which we will get into in greater detail soon. 

L Lawliet 

Our second character is L, many have drawn similarities between him in god – more openly our “Lord”. In the show, L is seen as someone as omniscient and otherworldly. At the beginning of him helping the police, you see multiple police officers refusing to work with him because they cannot trust someone they can’t see. L takes this opportunity to weed away individuals who choose not to trust him and eventually has a limited group of officers willing to follow his word and orders. The comparison here is when Jesus collected disciples, and just like in the Bible, L himself ends up having 12 followers that make up the task force. He constantly tests his faith in the people who follow him similarly to how Jesus tested his disciples. 

The 12 Disciples 

Light himself is considered one of those disciples, throughout the show he helps L find Kira (Lights alias meaning killer) both while conscious he is Kira and when he is not. The disciples that followed Jesus had a traitor named Judas, he betrayed Jesus leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. Light throughout the show is aiming to kill L and eventually succeeds in it killing L halfway through the show, similarly to how Jesus dies in the book of Mark consequentially to the actions of Judas, towards the middle of the Bible.  If you have noticed both Light and L start with the same letter just like how Jesus shared the first letter of his name with Judas. Going along with the connection of Judas and Light we can further it by comparing that Judas’ dad Simon was also a disciple of Jesus – on the other hand, Light’s dad was a large part of the Task Force following L’s orders. One of the most discussed scenes in “Death Note” is when L washes Lights’ feet right before he died. During this scene, L knows he’s about to die and he knows Light is Kira. This scene is a direct parallel when Jesus washed Judas’ feet knowing he would betray him. 

The Rule of 3

After Jesus’ crucifixion, he is revived after 3 days, the show “Death Note” takes a similar approach to this by introducing Mello and Near, two other detectives 3 years after L died. If you caught it, the first letters of their names are sequential, L-M-N. Many have speculated that the three of them are meant to represent The holy trinity; The Father – The Son  – The Holy Spirit. On the same note of waiting 3 years after L died, that means that Light ruled the world for exactly 3.5 years. We can draw a comparison here Revelations 13:5 “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.”, if you didn’t know 45 months is exactly 3.5 years.


Moving onto a new character I would like to introduce Ryuk the Shinigami that gave Light the Death Note.  An iconic part of the series is the fact that Ryuk is obsessed with apples. In the Bible apples have always played a large role, the fruit that Adam and Eve ate in defiance of god was an apple. Knowing this we can link apples to a symbol of temptation and is known as the original sin. In the opening to the show, we are able to see Ryuk giving Light an apple and him consuming him. Similarly, in multiple concept art, you can see Ryuk handing apples to people that possessed the death note. 

That is only a handful of the religious symbolism that can be found in “Death Note”, the reason it’s one of my favorite shows is because of how it truly plays with the idea of morals and the concept of good vs. evil. The creator clearly furthers this by using the Bible, which has a strong sense of what is right and wrong.