L Lawliet (エル・ローライト), widely known by the letter L (エル Eru?), is the main antagonist in the manga and anime series Death Noteby Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Considered the world’s greatest detective, he lives in secrecy. During the story, he acts as the main antagonist to Light Yagami, otherwise known as the mass-murderer “Kira”. However, his popularity as a character inspired the release of a spin-off live-action filmL: Change the World and a novel adaption of said film where he is the main protagonist. The character of L is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in the anime, and portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the films Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name and L: Change the World. He is dubbed by Alessandro Juliani across the English-language media. Since his introduction in the series, L’s character has been praised by several manga and anime reviewers.
Creation and conception
Tsugumi Ohba, the writers of the series, created L to represent justice, as a “super detective” who stands in Light’s way. Since Ohba believed the story would not hold much interest if L were significantly older than Light, the character was created as a young adult. 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. The alias of “Ryuzaki” was given to him because of a previous murderer L had captured, who went by the name of “Rue Ryuzaki.” Ohba said that he left everything about 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 he decided to contrast his appearance with Light’s appearance; Obata and Ohba shared this idea. Obata said that, during the development of the early manga chapters, he feared that 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.
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”.
In Death Note
The “L” that L uses to represent himself. The font used is “Diploma” (which can be recreated with “Old English MT”), or downloaded for free. 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 Readadds 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 becomes upset when Watari is later killed. After Ryuk kills Light, Ryuk offers L the Death Note. L refuses.
Twenty-three days after writing his name in the Death Note, and after 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 is in charge of a case in stopping a deadly virus from spreading across the world. He meets the daughter of a doctor who was striving to find an antidote and a boy who was the sole survivor of a village destroyed by the virus; after solving the case, he brings the boy to Wammy’s House and names him 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 novel Death Note: Another Note The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases Naomi Misora helps L solve a murder case. She was recruited for the case by L because she was on leave from the FBI. During the investigations she works with a detective calling himself Rue Ryuzaki, who acts very much like L and shared many characteristics like crouching to sit and consuming sweets. In the end of the book the reader learns that Beyond Birthday, a detective calling himself B, who was another candidate to replace L before Near and Mello, was not only the killer but also Rue Ryuzaki in disguise under heavy makeup. He was trying to make a case L could not solve to prove his superiority to L. In the book the only certified reference to L was the phone conversations Naomi had with him to discuss the case. In the very end of the book as Naomi was going back to work she sees a man similar to Rue, who the reader is led to believe is L. This man attempts to give Naomi a hug which she counters in self-defense and sends him tumbling down a flight of stairs. She then catches up to him and asks him his name, to which he replies, “Ryuzaki”. In L: Change the WorLd (novel)
The events of the novel adaption 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.