Death Note

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Name: Death Note
デスノート desu nooto (JP pronunciation)
Abbreviation(s): DN
Creator: OHBA Tsugumi (大場 つぐみ) and OBATA Takeshi (小畑 健)
Date(s): December 2003 - May 2006
Medium: Manga, anime, film, video games
Country of Origin: Japan
External Links: Official anime site (JP) Death note.png
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Death Note is a manga series written by Ohba Tsugumi and illustrated by Obata Takeshi. It was serialized in Weekly Shounen Jump magazine from December 2003 until May 2006. The series has been adapted into an anime series, three live-action films including an original story about L, three video games, a prequel novel, and as a Netflix original movie.

The story follows high-school student genius Yagami Light as he finds a Death Note, a notebook that can be used to a kill by writing a person's name in its pages, and he uses it to kill criminals in an attempt to cleanse the world of crime. Ryuk, a shinigami (death god), purposefully dropped the Death Note into the human realm and follows Light around for entertainment. A great detective known as L challenges "Kira" (a media-given alias to the person killing the criminals). L tries to uncover Kira's identity and Light tries to kill him before he does.



Death Note fandom primarily focuses on yaoi relationships within the series, especially between Light and L with a protagonist/antagonist rivalry that uses enemyslash and also builds on the similarities between the two characters, such as the way that their canon versions are often shown thinking nearly identical thoughts.

In rough order of popularity, the main yaoi ships are L/Light, Mello/Matt, B/L, Mello/Near and Light/Mikami, the het ships are L/Misa and Light/Misa and there are no significant yuri ships.[1] On Ao3 L/Yagami Light is by far the most popular ship of the fandom with around 4,300 fics as of September 2023. Matt/Mello on the other hand had only around 1,300 fics in September 2023. Beyond Birthday/L and Amane Misa/Yagami Light respectively had 284 and 668 works in September 2023. Mikami Teru/Yagami Light had only around 200 works and Amane Misa/L had ca. 160.

The Mello/Matt ship is the only popular ship where both participants are fully on the same side, and was almost unknown in the early days of Death Note fandom until it was popularized by doujinshi focusing on the pairing. This trend catapulted Matt from a minor canon character (only appearing in 18 panels of the original manga) to one of the most popular characters in Death Note fandom.

The B/L (B is a new character from the spinoff prequel novel) and Mello/Near pairings both rely on obsession and rivalry for their sizzle, while the Light/Mikami ship often has a D/s dynamic due to canon Mikami literally worshipping Light as his god. D.Nd: Poisoned by Akane was a popular Mello/Near 18+ visual novel game with their rivalry the starting point of the game; it has an All The Tropes page.

Because of the small female cast in Death Note and the minor roles assigned to most of them, there is a limited potential for het and yuri pairings. However, as Misa has by far the largest female role, the canon Light/Misa ship does draw interest, along with the L/Misa ship. When combined with the popularity of L/Light, this can lead to the series' most popular threesome, an L/Light/Misa OT3.

The canon Light/Takada pairing is almost entirely ignored by fans.

Yuri occasionally appears, mostly as Misa/Takada based on their rivalry over who should have Light, but sometimes a Misa/Sayu or Rem/Misa ship will appear or even Misa/Naomi. In terms of works on Ao3 the ship Misa/Rem is the most popular Yuri ship on Ao3. As of September 2023 there were 183 works under the tag.[2]

Canon Ships

Canon relationships in Death Note are mostly one-sided with little reciprocity or love and there is almost no focus on them in favor of focusing on the plot instead. This leads to the common complaint or saying that "there is no sex in Death Note" which is almost true but not quite, because there is implied off-screen sex. There are also a couple of panty-shots of Misa and a brief shower scene of Halle, but these are very minor instances of fanservice compared with what is average for anime/manga.

Established-relationship canon ships include:

  • Light and Misa
  • Light and Shiori (a character only existing in the live-action movie)
  • Light and Takada
  • Soichiro and Sachiko (Light's parents)
  • Raye Penber and Naomi Misora
  • Aizawa and Eriko (his wife)
  • Various extremely minor canon characters, such as Deputy-Director Kitamura, who are established as married

Dating-only canon ships include:

  • Light and a number of extremely minor female characters who are mostly unnamed
  • Higuchi and Misa

Attraction canon ships (ones that are explicit, not subtext only, however they can be one-sided) include:

  • Mello and Halle
  • Misa and Rem (the only canon homosexual ship, however debated widely as whether it is a "real" ship or not as shinigami can't have sex even if they want to)
  • Misa and Gelus
  • Matsuda and Sayu
  • L and Kyoko (a named but extremely minor character who never actually talks to L on-screen)
  • Matt and Misa (in the manga Matt commented about his physical attraction to her)
  • Demegawa and various women he sexually harrassed (in the live-action movie only)

Shipping Communities

On LiveJournal many communities have sprung up to focus on specific popular ships such as L/Light, Mello/Matt and L/Misa. More Death Note shipping and shipping-related communities with a more general focus include:


Fan Fiction

The earliest Death Note story to appear on was "A Cup of Tea" by Cheryl-chan on May 31, 2004, focusing on the L/Light ship.

The most famous Death Note story is probably the 359,850-word epic "Poison Apple" by RobinRocks and Narroch, a controversial but extremely popular L/Light rapefic that won the 2008 UFO Awards in the Death Note category for both first place and for members' choice.[7] It has also inspired at least nine AMVs[8], and it has a fanclub on DeviantArt.[9]

By April 26, 2010 Death Note was the twelfth most popular fandom in the anime/manga section of as measured by the number of stories. Death Note had 22,092 stories on the site, only exceeded by Bleach at 39,958, Cardcaptor Sakura at 23,599, Digimon at 33,357, Dragon Ball Z at 32,043, Fullmetal Alchemist at 31,183, Gundam Wing at 40,364, Inuyasha at 93,081, Naruto at 233,979, Sailor Moon at 31,915, Yu Yu Hakusho at 22,828 and Yu-Gi-Oh at 51,464.[10]

By that date, there were also 48 Death Note stories and 8 Death Note fanfiction writers recommended on TV Tropes. [11]

Tv Tropes also popularized the most widely-known Death Note crackfic and badfic, "Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami".[12] It concerns a Mary Sue main character who pushes aside the main characters and eventually spawns more Mary Sues. It has nonsensical plots twists, lots of the rare Death Note yuri, includes plenty of incest, and has been widely sporked, such as on badfic_quotes.[13]

On Ao3 the tag Death Note (Anime & Manga) had around 12,160 works. The tag for the prequel story Death Note: Another Note had ca. 560 works.[14]


Death Note doujinshi are mainly produced in Japan by individual doujinkas or doujinshi circles. Scanlated English versions can often be downloaded after joining an online community that distributes scanlations. A few doujinshi are produced in English, German, Spanish or other languages but these are rarely printed and are usually only distributed as files. Fresh Baked is one of the rare English-language doujinshi circles.[15]

Famous circles or doujinkas include:[16]

  • Balgus REC
  • Erare
  • Emotional Q
  • FLAT
  • Omega 2D
  • Pink Jelly[17]
  • Zerohaku

The most famous individual doujinshi are probably:

  • "Taikutsu" by Balgus REC, an L/Light story set during Light's time locked up in a prison-like cell. It is mostly PWP yet is surprisingly IC.
  • "Pieta" by Balgus REC, often mislabeled as "God Eye" due to a reprint collection of that name it was included in. This is an AU set after the end of the series, with an amnesiac L and a mostly-amnesiac Light falling in love with each other.
  • "Pink Sniper" by H-Eichi is arguably the most well-known Mello/Matt doujinshi.


  • Jump for the Stars - cinematic-style zine featuring shounen anime series as movie posters (2022)

Fan Subbing and Scanlation

In 2007 Kuro Hana Subs received a cease and desist letter from Viz when they only had two episodes left to subtitle, leading to a brief boycott of Viz.[18]

Doujinshi scanlating groups, individuals and communities include:

Art Gallery


Death Note as a series can generally be divided into two distinct halves, related to the highly spoilery departure of a major character and two new main antagonists joining the cast. The fandom is generally divided on the issue of the series' second half, with many fans feeling it jumped the shark and some going as far as to consider it non-canon. A significant number of Death Note fans are known to have stopped reading/watching entirely after the first half of the series ended. Other parts of the fandom, however, prefer the second half of the series for the addition of popular antagonist characters Mello and Near.

Another source of conflict is the "Raito"/"Light" divide. Early scanlations translated the main character's name as Raito. The official releases of the manga, and later scanlations, referred to him as Light. Heated arguments have erupted between fans who prefer one name over the other. [22]


In September 2007, a man was found murdered in Belgium.[23] Two notes were found near the victim, both reading "Watashi wa Kira dess", an erroneous romanization of 私はキラです (watashi wa kira desu) which means "I am Kira." No other clues were found on or near the victim.

Disciplinary Actions

Students at various schools in the United States have gotten into trouble for creating their own Death Note replicas and writing names in them. A senior at Franklin Military Academy in Richmond, Virginia was suspended; a student at Hartsville Middle School in South Carolina had a replica notebook confiscated which followed in a disciplinary hearing; two six grade boys were arrested in Gadsden, Alabama when their Death Note replica was found with names of fellow students and school staff members; in Gig Harbor, Washington one middle school student was expelled and three were suspended for having Death Note replicas.


Several cities in China, including Beijing, have banned Death Note due to students creating their own Death Note replicas.

Plagiarism Scandals

Megabaka, a manga by Naka Gomura and published by Kodansha, allegedly contained images plagiarized from Death Note. The publisher apologized, withdrew the manga from its website, and disqualified the manga for an award.[24]

Rapper "Soulja Boy" has been accused of sampling Near's musical theme from the Death Note anime, sampling that was allegedly both uncredited and too extensive to avoid being plagiarism. [25]

Whitewashing in the Netflix Film

In 2015, Warner Bros announced production of a U.S. adaptation of Death Note. Netflix bought the rights in 2016. The teaser trailer was released in 2017, and was immediately met with criticism. In the Netflix version of Death Note, Light and Misa are both played by white actors, despite being Japanese teenagers in the source material. There were allegations that the casting team for the Netflix Death Note adaptation was not even considering Asian actors for the role of Light.[26]

Besides the whitewashing of the cast, there was also criticism surrounding the decision to set the film in America and remove the story from a Japanese context. As many critics and Death Note fans discussed in the wake of this film's release, Death Note is a story heavily rooted in Japanese culture and mythology. Critics argued that removing Death Note from a Japanese setting hurt the Netflix film by ignoring important context from the source material.[27]

One of the film's producers, Roy Lee, addressed the negative criticism. Among his statements, he claimed that the majority white cast was chosen to make the film "more appealing [...] to the English-language market".[28]

Many fans have compared the whitewashing in the Netflix Death Note film to whitewashing in other adaptations of popular Japanese and anime-inspired media. For example, The Last Airbender is a live-action movie adaptation of a popular animated show, which was heavily inspired by Japanese anime. The film features white actors portraying characters of color. Other examples of whitewashed anime-inspired films include "Speed Racer" (2008), "Dragonball Evolution" (2009), and "Ghost in the Shell" (2017).[29]

Fannish Resources