Light Yagami is the evil protagonist of the Death Note manga/anime series, as well as its multiple adaptations.
Light was a Japanese high school senior who found a Death Note, a mysterious notebook that would kill anyone whose name was written in it. Initially skeptical of its abilities, Light tested the notebook on two criminals. After realizing that it worked, Light decided to use the notebook as a murder weapon to eliminate all crime and create a utopia full of law-abiding people he accepts, changing his life forever. In addition, he was being accompanied by the notebook's original owner- shinigami Ryuk.
Throughout his journey, he globally became known as "Kira" (a mysterious figure who anonymously murdered criminals) and continued his work for the next few years, while trying to evade capture. Obsessed with his goal, he used and even murdered a lot of innocent people. Although Light got most of the world under his control, his reign came to an end when he got cornered by the Japanese police, and eventually, Light died of a heart attack when Ryuk wrote his name in his Death Note.
The series charts Light's use of the notebook and his struggles with the Japanese police, the detectives L, Mello, and Near, as well as his associations with other notebook users, such as Misa Amane and Teru Mikami. It also demonstrates his evolution from a noble extremist into a sociopathic mass murderer.
In the anime, Light was voiced by Brad Swaile in the English dubbed version, and Mamoru Miyano in the Japanese version.
Light did not start as a murderous vigilante - he was a sympathetic and popular, yet depressed student who was bored with his life, with real concerns about fixing the world of its various injustices. He regained his old personality upon giving up ownership of the Death Note. However, even then, he agreed with the principles of "Kira".
It is upon discovering the Death Note and seeing its deadly effects, that Light went mad with its power while believing himself to be the "chosen one" who would save mankind from destruction and evil (even if Ryuk explicitly stated multiple times during the story that he randomly dropped the book somewhere in the world).
|“||My dad? Ha.. you mean Soichiro Yagami... That's right, Matsuda. In this world, all those earnest people like him fight for justice! They always lose! You want a world where people like that are made to be fools?! I know you understand, so kill the others! Shoot them!||„|
|~ Light Yagami trying to convince Matsuda to kill the others.|
Light is an unfeeling madman who is only driven by his immense hatred of criminals and is ready to do anything in order to become nothing less of a living deity. He has a self-centered personality, as he created the identity of Kira in order to lead a cult devoted to himself, even though his followers were unaware of him being their savior. He even planned to kill unhealthy or lazy people once he became a God in order to build a strong, disciplined utopian society based on a eugenicist ideology, even though he did not hold supremacist views.
He is an extremely clever, psychopathic and sly master manipulator who can easily act as an innocent and friendly individual in public who would never kill someone, while secretly killing dozens or hundreds of people each night. He was able to convince Misa that he cared about her and that he was grateful for everything that she'd done for him when he only thought of her as a pawn which he'd kill once she outlived her usefulness. He was also able to fool Takada, a much more clever woman, into being his “queen” and thinking that he loved her, when it turns out, like Misa, he only thought of her as a pawn, as seen he killed her without hesitation when the opportunity arose to kill Mello and to prevent her from revealing any secrets about Kira. A criminal mastermind, he often elaborated unbelievably complicated schemes to compensate for his lack of henchmen, involving pretty much nearly everyone around him.
He is also shown to be a sadist; though he is not explicitly aroused by the act of giving death, he is sometimes shown smiling devilishly, hinting at his vicious tendencies. Such an instance is seen when he kills Naomi: after she prepares to commit suicide, Light mockingly tells her that his father's cellphone is available while smiling, solely doing this for pleasure. He also could barely contain his laughter during his final confrontation with Near when he thought that everyone in the room would die, demonstrating the sadistic pleasure he took in their deaths and his would-be victory.
He is also shown to be delusional in his quest, believing himself to be doing everything in the name of justice and justifying all of the deaths of criminals, police, even his closest allies such as Takada, as necessary to complete his goals and change the “rotten” world. When Ryuk claims that even after all the world's criminals are dead, Light would be the last criminal left, to which the teenager rebuked and viewed as ridiculous.
As he continued his crusade as Kira, he became an ungrateful, hypocritical and egocentric dictator, viewing people (i.e., his fanatical followers, his devoted henchmen, friends, relatives, his father or even his lover and second Kira Misa Amane who saved his life multiple times (although she almost ruined his plan due to her stupidity)) as mere tools in his quest for godhood.
He doesn't express fear while speaking with Ryuk or others Shinigamis, despite their mysterious and murderous nature, as well as their immense magical powers. Light does fear instead L Lawliet, the enigmatic and genius detective from the Task Force - and the only character in Death Note who's at least as intelligent and sly as Light. Upon their first encounter, L was at first glance suspicious of Light being Kira, but soon befriended the latter (even though he kept strong suspicions about Light's "secret hobby"). Light would use this to gain the upper hand through his most extraordinary scheme involving Misa Amane, thus eventually killing him with no second thought; he went so far as to shout on his tomb that he "won" and nothing would stop him now.
He temporarily regained his old personality when he turned amnesiac; though this did not last long, as upon recovering the Death Note as well as his memories, Light turned into an even more sadistic and manipulative Machiavelli.
Despite his heightened intelligence and calculating nature, Light's arrogance and overconfidence are his greatest weaknesses. It was seen in his final confrontation with Near, where he boastfully claimed he won before everyone was supposed to die, which only further proved his identity as Kira. Claiming to be a living divinity, Light getting murdered by Ryuk showed that he was nothing more than an insane mass murderer at the very end, and not the god he thought he had become.
Underneath his calm, collected and intelligent demeanor also lies the heart of a coward: upon being revealed as Kira by Near, he rushes in fear upon trying to be handcuffed, and when he tries to kill everyone in the room with a piece of the Death Note, he frantically tries to get Matsuda to kill the others, even though Light was prepared to kill him just moments before. After he was shot, he flailed like a worm on the floor, and in a futile attempt told Mikami to write down the names of the detectives, even though Mikami didn't have the Death Note, and desperately calls out for Misa and Takada, even though both are not there.
Light's last act of cowardice until his death differs between the manga and anime; in the manga, Light remorselessly sends other people to their death. However, when his own death comes as Ryuk writes Light's name using the same method he uses to kill others, he gets terrified and screams that he doesn't want to die. He even tells Ryuk to reverse the process even though he knows full well that it cannot be reversed. He then died pathetically screaming and crying. In the anime, he flees when Mikami distracts everyone in the room and shows some semblance of regret for his actions, having envisioned a life he could have lived if he hadn't found the Death Note in the first place. Rather than fearing for his death, he silently succumbs to his fate when Ryuk writes his name and as he slowly passed away, he sees a figure of L looming over him.
Light's Reincarnation Theory
There is a popular theory that the unnamed Shinigami featured in the anime OVA, Death Note Relight 1, is the reincarnation of Light Yagami. Arguments to support the Reincarnation Theory are:
- He wears a coat that looks very similar to the one Light was wearing when he died which also looks to be stained with what could be blood.
- He sports a red tie around his head that's similar to the tie of Light's high school uniform.
- He carries a messenger bag, almost identical to the one Light often carried with him when he was in high school.
- The Shinigami's mouth is shaped like Light's "Kira" smile.
- Light also stands in the Shinigami Realm during the end of the second intro sequence- a possible foreshadowing of his reincarnation.
- The Unnamed Shinigami also sports goggles, which could allude to the fact that Light never made the deal for Shinigami Eyes.
- The way he tosses the apple to Ryuk, as Light did when alive.
- He walks with something of a limp, which could be related to the injuries Light sustained when shot several times by Matsuda.
- Ryuk himself has some vague dialogue that could be interpreted as him referring to the Unnamed Shinigami as Light: After looking at his own Death Note, Ryuk speaks to Light as if he were there; "You were not God. You were just... gone already?" This could mean Ryuk was addressing the unnamed Shinigami as Light.
- Ryuk also allegedly addresses the Shinigami as Light when he asks "Wouldn't you agree, Light?" at the very end of the special.
- The Shinigami doesn't stay to hear the end of the story, which could imply he already knows how it ends.
In other media
Othellonia is a Japanese mobile strategy game that did a collaboration with Death Note in 2017, and featured many characters including Light.
- Light's last name "Yagami" is also the last name of Hikari in the Japanese version of Digimon, whose crest is the Crest of Light. Also, his nickname "Kira" is an anagram of "Kari", which is Hikari's English name.
- In a pair of four-panel omake chapters in the manga, Light is shown to soften his heart around Christmas time, even dressing as Santa Claus and giving out presents. However, his generosity only goes so far, as he will not get Ryuk the Gameboy Advance SP he wants because it is too expensive and Shinigami do not celebrate Christmas.
- Both his actors Tatsuya Fujiwara and Masataka Kubota have stared in Rurouni Kenshin movies where Fujiwara played Shishio Makoto and Kubota as ill-fated Akira Kiyosato.
- Light's relationship with L is similar to Judas Iscariot (theology)|Judas' relationship with Jesus. The scene where L massages Light's feet highlights this as it was a reference to Jesus washing Judas's feet, aware of his betrayal and that his demise was coming soon.
- Despite serving as the main villain of the series, he has been gone on to become of the most prominent characters of the official Anime Heroes franchise, alongside Ryuk and L Lawliet, featured in countless merchandise and hero-related media.