Death Note and Philosophy: Light Yagami and The Will To Power

Death Note is an astounding anime overflowing with moral controversy and existential ambiance. It follows the story of an incredibly intelligent, disinterested young man known as Light Yagami, who I will talk about almost exclusively (at least on this post :P). Light receives a power that gives him the ability to kill people using a notebook. The more he kills though, the more he begins to lose himself to his lustful appetite to become God.

Background Information (If you are familiar with the story you may skip this part)

As Light sits in class assessing his boring and exceptionally monotonous lifestyle he notices a black notebook falling from the sky. After class, he discovers that the book he picks up is no ordinary notebook, it is a Death Note. Inside, a chilling statement reads ‘The name of the person written in this book will die.’ Now that Light has the Death Note he begins to conspire a plan. He tests out his first victim on a criminal and succeeds to watch his death air on TV moments later. Once he is assured that it works his mind begins to go wild at the thought of what he can become. He believes truly that by eradicating all criminals he will become a God of sorts able to restore the violent and immoral world of today into a peaceful wonderful place.

It is important to note that the Death Note has a very specific set of rules to follow, I’ll list a few major ones for you here:

  • When writing the name of the person you are killing you must have in mind their face in order to prevent killing someone with the same name
  • If cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack
  • If time of death is not specified the cause of death will commence after 40 seconds of writing the name.

There are many other rules, but these will suffice for those who have no prior knowledge.

What is The Will To Power?

Schopenhauer was the first to ignite the idea of  “the will to live,” a basic principle he claims is the most fundamental aspect of life. This attribute is likely found in every living human on the planet. On the other hand, “the will to power” is much more in depth.  The concept was brought forth by Nietzsche and appears many times throughout his works. “The will to power” can be described as follows: when one is endowed with power, one finds pleasure in utilizing ones own power. Also, when someone has “the will to power” they will become in love with the very idea of using their power to dominate others even by ways of cruelty.

Light Yagami and The Will to Power

Light finally has the power to do what he always wanted to do, save the world from criminals and the useless. As time goes by we see just how much this power swallows his rationality whole. What starts as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to save the world becomes a path built on the pleasure of his own domination and rise to power. After his first few killings, light feels pretty confident. The deaths of those he kills are being broadcast on TV and Light is eating the entire thing up.

Soon enough though the authorities start to catch on that all these deaths are not due to some coincidence. An FBI agent by the name of Raye Penber is on Light’s trail and when he begins to suspect Light as the killer, Light does something drastic. Fearing his capture, Light takes things into his own hands and eliminates the entire FBI team coming to investigate him. Light uses Raye to get the names and faces of all the FBI agents and after he received the list, Light writes Raye’s name in the Death Note. These victims are the first non-criminals to be killed proving that Light is in no way willing to give up his power. As Light leaves Raye’s dead body,  a smile appears on his face. He congratulates his method and precision of utilizing his power to eradicate all that stand in his way.

The most interesting display of his “will to power” appears during the events that take place after Raye Penbers death. Enter Naomi Misora, Raye’s fiance and ex FBI agent, who sees Penber’s death as a link to the mystery in who might be the alleged killer. Light discovers this when he bumps into Naomi at police headquarters. Light overhears her name and proceeds thereafter to write her name in the Death Note specifying nothing other than the cause of death (suicide from the loss of her fiance). Alas! 40 seconds have gone by and Naomi is still alive? Light knows that when overhearing her name for the first time that she must have been using a fake name. That’s where Lights intelligence comes in. He tricks Naomi into believing that he is one of the main detectives looking for the killer and when Naomi admits to using the fake name Light can barely contain his happiness. He writes her name and cause of death and when 40 seconds passes he pronounces to her that he is the killer. The gratitude overwhelms him as he watches Naomi walk away. He even follows her for a little fantasizing about how Miss Naomi is going to decide to end her life. Light has gone off the deep end and is now finding pleasure in his own cruelty.

Conclusion

Light Yagami gains access to a killier notebook and becomes overrun with his power. The more he kills the more power he lusts for as he sets his course to become the ultimate god of judgment. Light’s own desire for control leads him to kill many innocent people and eventually even makes claims of having no problem eliminating family members and friends for his cause. The will to power consumes Light in a way that he loses all touch with every other emotion and sense of being. The radical crusade plunges Light in a struggle to dominate or die trying.

Lights claims “I am justice” but he’s not alone. The world renown detective known only as “L” makes this same claim. He’s been called on the case and plans to crack it and arrest this killer. “L” has an agenda that constitutes a different philosophical conundrum. For today though, I think we’ve covered enough and we can save L for his own post.

Thanks for reading my first article in the Personal Philosophical Thought section of (un)Enlightened Philosophy — I’ll try to keep it shorter next time!

Until then, Keep Thinking!

Posted in Philosophy.

13 Comments

  1. I love Death Note, and I have to admit that I STRONGLY agree with Light’s ideas. But I love Near, so I am against Kira. 🙂

  2. Really interesting! I’m happy to say, this goes along quite a bit with a project I’m doing in English class. I’m comparing Death Note to Macbeth. 😛

    As far as Light’s ideals are concerned, I can definitely see where he went wrong. The ambition to make the world a better place was always meant to be a good one, but Light let power go to his head. Eventually, that led to his downfall. And the strangest thing about it is that the power may have corrupted anyone, not just Light himself. That’s what makes him a fairly believable character. ^-^

    Sorry to say, I love L most. *hugs*

  3. This is nice. I’ve always wondered what people thinks of Light Yagami. Btw, I’ve made a same post about the morality and philosophy of Light here– http://vertigo-is-love.blogspot.com/2010/06/light-yagami-hero-or-anti-hero.html

    I loved the scenes that you mentioned, when Light smiles at Ray Penber just as the train door is closing, and also when he tells Naomi Misori that he is Kira, and there’s a second when Naomi’s eyes widen but it’s too late. Come to think to it, he gave himself away this way on his confrontation with Near. He immediately pronounced himself the winner, thus removing chances of talking his way out.

  4. i was starting to sense i may end up being the only human being who thought about this, at least now i understand i’m not weird 🙂 i will make sure to find out more about a number of various blogposts just after i get some caffeine in me, cheers 🙂

  5. as they say POWER CORRUPTS and absolute power CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY…the road to damnation is paved with good intentions,right? like the fall of man….

  6. Light immoral/ moral debate can go on for centuries. I’d say immoral, if it counts. I loved what Ryuk said the first episode:

    “So if you kill off all the bad guys the only bad guy left will be you.”

    Precisely.

  7. I feel very strong support for L because he is not corrupt like Light, although i am on the bad guys side of course (lol). It made me smile an evil smile when i read the passage of how he told Naomi and Ray’ both of thier deaths were fantasticly thought out. I cant imagian being so close to your enemy and so far away when given an allias! keep posting!!

  8. i really loved how thoroughly you explained everything. i wond er if i should share it… cause my friend and i were talking about death note and she believes its about the thought process of a serial killer. this of course made me kinda mad because i believe Kira had pure intentions but was consumed by power. he never was a serial killer and i support him. his downfall wouldve happened to ANYONE in his shoes. but she’s one of those people that think “omg your should NEVERRR kill someone!!!”. i made us drop the subject before our disscussion could turn ugly. so… thoughts, anyone?

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