In the land of the dead, a bored Shinigami named Ryuk decides to create some entertainment for himself by dropping a Death Note (the notebook of a death god; "note" is simply what the Japanese call notebooks) into the human world.Light Yagami, a brilliant but disillusioned Japanese student, picks up the notebook. On a whim, he tries out the instructions held within its pages — and discovers that he can kill whomever he wants, however he wants, by writing their name and (if he so wishes) their cause of death into the Note.While initially horrified at his actions, Light begins to think about how he could use the Death Note as a force for good — by purging the rotten criminal element of the world and punishing those beyond the reach of the law. A cult following soon arises around the mysterious assassin who kills off criminals across the country; his "fans" end up christening him "Kira"note (A Japanese Ranguage approximation of "killer"). Kira's actions attract the attention of the international police community (who have grave concerns about the vigilante killings) and the world's greatest detective, an enigma known only as "L".L becomes determined to solve the mystery behind Kira's identity and killing method; Light, on the other hand, soon slides further down the slippery slope when he becomes consumed by his egomaniacal "Kira" persona and his desperate need to stay one step ahead of L's investigation.A Psychological Thriller manga with supernatural elements, Death Note (written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata) received an anime adaptation (now available on Hulu and streaming on Neon Alley) and inspired a series of Alternate Continuity live-action films (all based on, but slightly different from, the original manga).This series has a set of character sheets and an extensive set of Headscratcher pages. Also a recap page.These spin offs of the main series now have their own pages:
Accidental Truth: In the manga, when the killings started, various tabloids put forward the Crackpot Theory that L was Kira, so it was harder for the SPK to seriously put this theory forward when it became true.
Accomplice by Inaction: This is an audience reaction to Ryuk, and while he didn't force Light to kill criminals he did start the plot by dropping the book in the human world.
Action Girl: Wedy. Naomi Misora in Another Note. Also, Hal Lidner of the SPK.
Actually, I Am Him: L does this when he introduces himself to Light. Light also pulls this a few times, most notably, and with the worst sense of timing, at the end.
Misa has black hair in the live-action movies, while Naomi Misora goes from having black hair to brown hair.
Then there's Matt, whose hair came out dark greenish brown in the anime, green in some trading card art, was never established in the manga, was blue in the official game, and is bright red in most fanart.
Mello's eyes were pitch black in the manga (to match L and Near), but changed to blue for the anime.
The mafia boss Rod Ross has light skin in the manga and anime, but is dark-skinned in the DS game.
The "Shinigami Eyes" in the manga cause the user's eyes to become gold, with red pupils and light yellow sclerae. In the live-action version, the irises simply change to gold, while the anime depiction has the irises glow a bright red.
Adaptation Expansion: The series is based on a short story about a schoolboy who finds a Death Note and mistakes it for a diary. As a result, he accidentally kills his friends, until Ryuk helpfully gives him the "Death Eraser", which grants him the power to bring people back from the dead. Somewhere along the road to adapting it into a full series, the schoolboy became a mega genius with a god complex, the boring Film Noirish detective became a freakish mega genius with a sweet tooth, and the Deus ex Machina ending was replaced with plans by the bucketload, and the rest is history. The short story, however, appears as the prologue to the manga it sprouted.
Adaptation Induced Plothole: The anime omits several scenes from the manga which, while usually not problematic, have lead to plotholes. In the manga, it's explained that SPK member Ill Ratt is a spy for Mello, which is how the mafia learned the SPK's names and were able to kill them. This is not explained in the anime, but in the Relight 2 special, the mafia are cut, and Light blackmails the president to send their names to Kiyomi Takada. In this version, Light's meetings with her and Teru Mikami are moved to earlier than occurred in the anime, and they kill the SPK.
However, while fixing one plothole, said special creates another: as the mafia are cut, Soichiro making the trade for Shinigami Eyes and his subsequent death is omitted in the process, leaving plotholes regarding Soichiro's absence as well as how Light was able to acquire Mello's true name.
Look at the way Light exploits the public mood. All along, he plays on a reactionary tendency in public opinion — people don't like crime, people don't like criminals, and so if someone's killing off the worst ones, who's really going to disapprove? Then he pushes the envelope, making his brand of vigilante justice more and more mainstream. Five years on, the whole world is rapidly moving towards a police state under one man's control, and it's driven from the beginning by corrupting people's need for safety and justice. That's scary, because that mechanism plays out in less extreme form in the news every day.
Powerful rich people like those of the Yotsuba corporation using the Death Note to kill off rivals for no other reason than personal gain.
Light finds the dangerous notebook in the schoolyard. The guy who left it lying around so that someone - here, Light - would find it? He followed Light home.
Another one for the parents: imagine having to seriously sit and consider that all the evidence indicates that your teenage son is the terrifyingly merciless mass-murderer you've been hunting all along, and that he will get the death penalty if sentenced. Now imagine thinking about having to go home and explain this to your wife and daughter.
The revelation that people who use the Death Note can neither go to heaven nor hell. At the end of the manga series, a flashback to Light and Ryuk's first meeting reveals that all people go to "mu" (nothingness) when they die, and that after death nothing can be done to bring someone back to life. In the anime, this is only shown in one of the eyecatches revealing the rules of the Death Note.
Everyone who uses the Death Note tends to have their personal worst fears become true. Misa ends up completely alone without anyone loving her, Mikami realizes he became what he hates so much, the vain Takada burns to death naked, Higuchi is humiliated in public and then dies like a dog and "god of the new world" Light has his philosophy coldly rejected by Near while the latter squashes an ugly doll of him, before he dies without his dignity or a shred of respect.
Light's philosophy is rejected by the last true friend he has left, Matsuda. He turns against Light completely in his hour of need. He is then pumped with five bullets. After he dies, everything he worked for becomes meaningless and he sees the monster he became.
Misa when she kills herself at the end of the anime.
Light in the anime. Certainly just after Matsuda shoots him. The way he calls out to Takada and Misa, asking what he should do now that he's lost and going to die, is pretty heartwrenching. Also, when he's running away, he sees a younger version of himself (before he became Kira). Heel Realization anyone? He lays bloody on the ground, all allies having died or abandoned him, knowing that his death is coming. As his heart gives out, Light repeats over and over how he doesn't want to die, like a helpless child.
Takada. Her death was really, really ugly. And even if you didn't like her (since she was an arrogant bitch), you can't help feeling a bit sorry for her due to the cruel nature of it all.
All According to Plan: Light's catchphrase. The most notable instance comes when he regains his memories at the end of the Yotsuba arc.
All Are Equal in Death: Ryuk literally says, in the English translation anyway, "Death is equal." Everyone is treated exactly the same upon death in that universe, because they all go to Mu - nothingness.
Alternate Character Reading: The kanji for Light's name is "tsuki", meaning "Moon", but his parents opted for it to be read as "Light" instead. Misa thinks it's cool. This is used by Light as a mechanism to attempt to gain the real name of Detective Raye Penber's girlfriend.
Ambiguous Disorder: L and his similarly brilliant/socially awkward/obsessive-compulsive/emotionally immature brethren, especially Near.
Amnesiac Dissonance: Averted in Light's Memory Gambit in the anime. In relinquishing the Death Note, he loses all memory of ever being Kira and turns genuinely upstanding and moral; apart from, you know, not mass murdering criminals, he also refuses to manipulate Misa, in contrast to his Kira self where his manipulation defined their relationship. Upon regaining his memories as Kira, however, there's no moral conflict between his "good/evil" personas, and he simply picks up right where he left off pre-amnesia.
Amnesiac Liar: Before the Memory Gambit, both Light and Misa are liars. After this, they are very confused by what L tells them about the situation.
Apathetic Citizens: In the anime, Light's second victim was about to rape a woman in full view of a crowded street, and no one else did anything about it. Other instances include a man dying in a subway station and a woman being harassed on a train.
Appeal To Audacity: When Mello tells Near about the killing notebook and the Shinigami, the SPK asks Near if he could really believe such a story. He says that if Mello were lying to them, he wouldn't tell such a ridiculous story, so it must be true.
Appeal to Force: This is why Light thinks he has the right to be the God of the New World. He's got the Death Note, a tool of the Gods; therefore, he's got the power, and so he thinks it's his chosen duty to steer the world in the right direction.
Various characters initially refuse to accept the existence of Shinigami even after accepting the existence of a magic notebook that kills people. Before discovering the notebook, you would think people would be a lot more open-minded after it's been established that the killer can remotely induce heart attacks simply by learning the target's name and face.
Ryuk thinks of the fact that Light thought he came to collect his soul as "some fantasy", despite his nature being considered a fantastic concept from a human point of view.
"Tell me, Light, from the moment you were born, has there ever been a time where you've actually told the truth?"
In the live-action movie, as Light calmly explains how he got Naomi to kill Shiori, Ryuk throws one at him that actually gets Light to ponder his dark actions.
Ryuk: Well, Light... you are far more ruthless than even a Shinigami. Shiori loved you. You had her heart, but you... didn't you love her at all?
Light: I don't know...
Art Evolution: In How To Read Obata discusses how he got better at drawing Light as an evil bastard during the series' progression, but then had to forget everything he'd learned during the Yotsuba Arc.
Artistic License - Chemistry: Earlier in the show, Light booby trapped his desk in order to hide the Death Note by using an electric current, and gasoline in a plastic bag. In real life however, the gasoline would dissolve the bag as it is made up of organic compounds and the gasoline contains non polar solvents.
The FBI Agents all have names that few Americans would have. Raye Penber is the one that is the most arguably normal, and even that tends to raise eyebrows. In Death Note #13 (which is an encyclopedia about the series), the creator says this was intentional, as she wanted to use names that sounded realistic, but wouldn't actually exist. Apparently, she doesn't know that the names s/he picked don't sound realistic in the least...
This is even worse in the prequel novel, where it broke the tension in the worst way possible, especially when Misora had to double-check whether anyone shared the name. In fact, the only realistic name in the novel is Blackberry Brown — considering names such as Believe Bridesmaid, Backyard Bottomslash, Quarter Queen and Blues-harp Babysplit (that's S-P-L-I-T, which makes even less sense), "Blackberry Brown" really does sound normal in comparison.
Light's second kill was a member of a scooter gang who was attempting to rape a bystander (in the anime; in the manga, they just harass her).
Mikami Takada kills a man who is harassing a woman on a subway as a crucial part of Light's plan.
Attention Whore: Demegawa goes from merely praising Kira to actively using Kira to promote his own career. To no one's surprise, and to the joy of everyone both in and out of universe, Kira (in the form of Mikami) eventually gets sick of this and kills him.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Almost all of the main cast does this due to the nature of the series. We have detectives, geniuses and other very smart people trying to Out Gambit each other.
Awful Truth: Light is Kira, and no one who finds out takes it well. Especially not Matsuda.
Ax-Crazy: All the Kiras qualify when they're at their worst, but especially Mikami when he gets into "sakujo" mode.
Bad Powers, Good People: Misa and Mikami believe this. Misa once scolds Demegawa with something along the lines of, "You can't buy peace and love with money, you know!" when he falls for Near's trick with the money.
Matsuda struggles with this idea a bit.
Sochiro begins to believe this from the third volume onwards. L's response underlines it very well.
L: If Kira is an ordinary human being who somehow gained the power, he is a very unfortunate being.
Bad Powers, Bad People: L and the investigation team definitely believe this; even if he only targets the worst of the worst, murder is still murder and Kira is still a criminal.
This is stated to be the fate of any Death Note user. An ending flashback reveals the truth - there is no Heaven or Hell, just Cessation of Existence.
The Relight special of the anime makes this more ambiguous. At the beginning of the special, Ryuk is talking to another Shinigami. Said Shinigami bears striking similarities to that of Light (though not in appearance since the Shinigami is a walking skeleton) leading to theories that the two are one and the same. However, it's never been officially stated if this is true or not.
Light and L do this constantly, especially early on. Many of their most clever moves against each other rely on the other party being smart enough to figure out clues that the average person wouldn't even consider, then acting accordingly.
When Light is incarcerated and loses his memory. He made plans that had to work correctly despite him not being able to make any adjustments for two or three months, or even make sure he carried out his part. In this, it's more impressive than a standard Batman Gambit, since he wasn't able to actively manipulate anyone during that period. It doesn't count as a Xanatos Gambit because, while the plan was flexible, several aspects relied on people acting predictably.
Battle Butler: Watari is L's caretaker and sometimes that involves using a sniper rifle.
Battle of Wits: The appeal of this series is bored honor student Light vs eccentric master detective L.
Became Their Own Antithesis: Compare Light without the Death Note and Light with it. The former is an honorable, highly empathic, very idealistic teen, who believes in the inherent goodness of man. The latter is a manipulative, vindictive murderer with a God complex who believes that Murder Is the Best Solution.
It's also not a good idea to ever suggest that what Light/Kira is doing may be wrong. Look at how big he writes Lind L. Tailor's name!
Light learns what Misa's Berserk Button is when he outlines his plan to date other girls to throw off suspicion. "NO WAY!" indeed.
Beware the Nice Ones: On learning that Light is Kira and seeing him try to write down Near's name, Matsuda, who was by far the softest policeman in the series, flies a rage and shoots Light. Not once, not twice, but five times.
Misa herself. That cute, cheerful girl over there? Don't mess with her.
Beware the Superman: Light gains the power to destroy the life of anyone whose name and face he knows. This transforms him into a Knight Templar that 99% of the world fears.
Big Eater: L is constantly eating candy and sweets and stays in a state of gaunt sickly malnourishment. In the manga, he explains that his overactive brain uses up all the calories, while in the anime he claims that "if you do it right" you can eat whatever you want, effectively outsmarting his food. Also Mello, who gobbles down chocolate bars and stays rakishly thin.
Bittersweet Ending: The ending is one of these because Light's defeat costs the lives of most of the people investigating him. While one serial killer is caught, the absence of his death penalty means crime rises.
Black and White Morality: How Light and his supporters view the world; they are good and criminals (which includes those working against them) are evil.
Blue and Orange Morality: Whoever wrote out the rules that the Shinigami live by believed that killing a human out of necessity, boredom or malice was 100% acceptable, but to kill a human to extend another human's life out of love for that human was the ultimate offense and worthy of death.
Bluffing the Murderer: L tries this frequently with Light; later, L, Light, Misa, and the task force do this to Higuchi.
Bowdlerise: In the anime, Misa's cross necklace is replaced with a fleur de lis, and all crosses worn by Mello are removed. Interestingly, the cross is retained on the Misa collector's figure included with volume 5 of the DVD series, and she is also depicted with it in the first anime opening.
Bully Hunter: Teru Mikami, as a kid, would fight bullies to protect his classmates. If his flashbacks are to be believed, he created a bully hunting army.
Bullying a Dragon: L is very aggressive in his pursuit of a criminal who could kill him remotely with a notebook.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: L writ large: he is the world's greatest detective (in fact, he's also the second and third best under different names), despite being a twen who almost never sleeps, constantly eats sweets, and will only "sit" by crouching on the balls of his feet. Later, Near is just as bad, equaling L's deductive abilities while spending all his on-screen time sitting on the floor and playing with toys.
Butt Monkey: Matsuda is bullied, pushed around, ignored and otherwise the omega male of the investigation.
Bystander Syndrome: As pointed out in Death Note Abridged "in this footage you can see various pedestrians who clearly don't give a shit that somebody near them just collapsed and died."
Ryuk's "Humans are... interesting!" ("Ningen-to omoshiro!"), appears at least twice in every version of the story — the manga, the film adaptations, the TV series.
Also, variations on "I am Justice" crop up a lot.
Teru Mikami also says "sakujo!" ("Delete!") constantly while he is using the Death Note. He seems to get very excited while writing in the Death Note. Fans have called this a "sakujo-gasm".
Rem makes a variant on Ryuk's statement later on. Instead of "Humans are... interesting!" she decides that "Humans are ... such ugly creatures."
"I will be the God of this new world!" ("Boku wa Shin-sekai no Kami da!")
"Just as planned." and conversely, (with a screenshot of him smiling upside down) "Not as planned".
Cavalier Consumption: Zig Zagged. L seems like he's doing this, but he says it's necessary to maintain his energy and intelligence. Except that L lies. L is a liar. He just likes sugar!
Central Theme: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Cessation of Existence: "Don't think that anyone who uses the Death Note can go to Heaven or Hell." In the manga, Light figures out this means there is no afterlife for anyone and all humans are equal in death. In the anime, this is only revealed in a short Eye Catch image in the last episode.
Chained Heat: Light and L are handcuffed together for several episodes because L doesn't trust Light yet.
Characters Dropping Like Flies: Justified. Light needs the names of criminals to kill them, so he's always killing characters who have names. But even ignoring the redshirts, lots of important characters get offed. Several times, they'll have a few chapters of focus, then they'll die...at which point we find out they were being controlled by the Death Note that entire time.
Chekhov's Skill: During the raid of Mello's hideout, Matsuda shoots the Notebook out of the hand of the one of Mello's men holding it. In the climax, he repeats this skill by shooting the pen out of Light's hand when he attempts to write down Near's real name.
In the early interactions between Light, L and the Taskforce, Light deliberately stumbles on L's name: "Ryuuga, I’m sorry I mean Ryuuzaki" to broadcast that L's using an alias, he's an outsider and therefore not trustworthy, but Light as the Chief's son and popular golden boy is. Therefore you lose.
Later Light and Near when Light says to the Taskforce " Nearreally seems against us, doesn't he?" Light also points out how Near associates with a known criminal and he's rude. This strategy works in discrediting his opponent - even when the Taskforce is at their most suspicious of Light they still don't trust Near.
Children Raise You: Maki and "Boy" do this for L in L: Change the WorLd although he doesn't get to find true love. At the end of the movie, L names the boy Near.
The Chosen One: Light thinks he's this in the first episode until Ryuk bursts his bubble. "You think you're special? ....You just happened to pick it up." Depending on how honest he was in his Motive Rant, Light might still think he was chosen to rid the world of evil—-just not by Ryuk.
Misa's hyper energy and strange priorities give this impression.
L has his moments when he's in Man Child mode instead of World's Greatest Detective mode.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the anime, whenever L or Light are internally monologuing, they are dyed with blue or red light respectively. Matsuda turns out to be yellow, Mogi is a different shade of red, Aizawa is green, Misa is light blue, Naomi Misora is dark blue, and Mikami is purple. In the final couple of episodes, Near's hair turns a light blue, probably in emulation of his precursor, the deceased L.
The Live-Action Adaptation features similar color coding: at the end of the first movie, as L and Light face each other in person for the first time, L is standing in a shaft of blue light, while Light is standing in orange.
The live action movies have another, subtle example. In the first film Light for the most part wears casual brown clothing, switching to all black in the sequel as he has fully embraced his Kira persona. He goes back to wearing brown once he loses his memory, then starts dressing in black again once it's back. Takada also starts wearing all black once she actively starts using the Death Note.
Comforting Comforter: In the live action movie, Soichiro tucks a blanket around L's shoulders when he encounters him sleeping upright on a sofa, despite the fact that L has been bending all his efforts to try to implicate his son for murder. The paternal gesture doubly speaks to Soichiro's character seeing as L had dozed off in front of panel of television monitors he was using to spy on Soichiro's family.
Compressed Adaptation: The first part the anime simply cuts out a lot of the Wall of Text dialogues, since the manga has an habit of explaining every last detail about the protagonists' plans, and that wouldn't do in anime. In the post-Time Skip episodes however, entire chapters are removed. To give you an idea, the two parts are almost equal in length in the manga; in the anime, the first part is covered in 25 episodes, the second in 11.
Conspicuous CG: Cars in the Yotsuba arc and Shinigami in the live action films.
If Naomi Misora hadn't happened to go to the police station during the ONE instant that the entire Kira task force had left to meet L, and if Light hadn't been asked to deliver a package to his father at that same exact instant, and just happened to overhear what she was there for, or if Aizawa walked slightly slower, or faster, or didn't have an umbrella for the rain that came out of nowhere, or if Misora had another alias, the manga would have ended at 2 volumes, with Light soundly defeated. When he discovers this coincidence, Light acknowledges how "another God" is on his side. Since Word of God and the manga universe have bent over backwards to say that there were no gods in the Death Note universe this means that it's just conjecture on Light's part, and the events fall in his favor by simple, improbable coincidence. (In Volume 13, Naomi is consequently stated to have the lowest possible score in the "luck" attribute.)By another way of seeing it, if Raye Penber hadn't been assigned to investigate Light, hadn't decided to bring his fiancée to Japan while on assignment or hadn't mentioned the bus hijacking to her then a lot of events later on would never have happened and Light would have avoided suspicion. This is only one egregious example; others abound throughout the series, especially in the first half.
Much later on, Near and his allies learn a great deal because Teru Mikami just happens to hear something that makes him wonder if it's Ryuk and goes on to speak out loud about several points that they didn't know about. If he hadn't done this Near's investigation would have at least been slowed down. Light via Takada told Mikami to do this on purpose, in order to throw Near onto Mikami and off Light and Takada.
If it is indeed coincidence and not, as Matsuda theorizes, the result of Near writing in the Death Note to verify it was real and enable Light's conviction, Mikami happening to bring a fake notebook without checking to verify, then dying ten days after Light's defeat would also qualify. The anime doesn't include Matsuda's theory and Mikami instead commits suicide on the spot, implying no such influence, making it seem even more contrived.
Consummate Liar: Light strings Misa and Takada along with false promises of love, keeps his secret from his family, and even stops the World's Greatest Detective from pinning him down.
L is also quite the liar. "Light-kun is my first ever friend." Word of God was needed for that one.
Cosmic Plaything: Light ends up in possession of a Death Note because Ryuk was bored and dropped a Note into the mortal world just to see what would happen. He kills Light the moment he loses his entertainment value.
Crap Sack World: Light certainly thinks the world is one and thus he feels that he needs to clean it up. One criminal at a time... Misa and Mikami believe it, too, willingly joining Light to "make the world a better place".
Crazy Consumption: L's sweets, Mello's chocolate, Ryuk's apples, and Light's potato chips. In the manga there are *pages* of shots of Sayu eating chips. Light has ... one, albeit a damn good one.
Light's three different ways to tell if someone was in his room, not to mention his Porn Stash just in case someone happens to be watching. This was before he found the Death Note. At that point he rigged his desk to catch fire, destroying the Death Note, if anyone but him opened a secret drawer.
Near kept millions of dollars ready to be dropped from the top of a skyscraper at the press of a button, just in case a Torches and Pitchforks mob attacks his secret hideout. Fridge Brilliance in that the SPK are a proscribed terrorist organisation by that point, so their bank accounts would have been frozen.
Misa's necklace and earrings, Mello's crucifix. The anime adaptation of the series, however, changed Misa's crosses to Fleur de Lis symbols while Mello's crucifix became a nondescript red stick, and the crosses on the knees of his pants were taken out.
There is a distinct cross motif on the covers of the manga volumes as well, and the cross is retained on the Misa collector's figure included with volume 5 of the DVD series.
Crime After Crime: The cover-up killings of an agent and his wife narrowed L's attention on Light even more. It was after this that L decided to reveal himself just to keep him closer.
Crimefighting with Cash: L and Near have enough cash for a Cool HQ and distraction from an angry mob. Wammy's House must be loaded.
Criminal Mind Games: The messages are solely to trick/irritate L. On the other hand, Kira tends to take risks when flaunting his superiority to a defeated opponent.
Crippling the Competition: In the anime, Matsuda, upon finding out that Light is the guy behind all of the Death Note incidents, shoots Light's hands to prevent him from ever writing into a Death Note again. Not that it matters much, as Light dies shortly afterwards.
Misa, who can be quite devious when she isn't fawning over Light.
Matsuda. Compare his inane comments early on with the time he blows Light's hand away and then riddles him with bullets.
Cruel Twist Ending: "All humans, without exception, eventually die. When they die, they go to Mu (Nothingness). Once dead, they can never come back to life."
Cry for the Devil: Deserving or not, Mello, Takada, Light, Mikami, and Misa all had very sad deaths.
Cue the Sun: In the first episode, it is stormy and raining when Ryuk first confronts Light. By the time Light has finished outlining his master plan and declared that he will be the god of the new world, the sun has come out and he has a halo of light at his back. It all comes around back in the last two episodes - it's raining all throughout episode 36, but the sun breaks through the clouds in the beginning of episode 37 the very moments after Light dooms himself by declaring his victory prematurely.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: Light anticipates and avoids just about every common villain pitfall. He doesn't have an obsession with revenge, doesn't tell anyone his Evil Plan before finishing it, he kills who he thinks will be his arch-rival L (Lind Taylor) immediately instead of playing games with him, etc.
Death by Adaptation: Mogi dies in Ukita's place in the Live-Action Adaptation, and Takada's death is hastened (granted, because the plot itself is hastened). L's death sort of counts as it's by his own hands instead of Rem's.
Death's Hourglass: Everyone has a time at which they are destined to die. It's only visible to those with a Shinigami's eyes. However, using a death note allows you to kill people before their time and indirectly extend lives.
Death Wail: Light fakes one when L dies. Good actor, that one.
Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: It's established that if a Shinigami uses its notebook to deliberately prolong a human's life by killing someone else (i.e. the human's murderer,) that Shinigami will die. Knowing this, Light manipulates events so that Misa is about to be caught by L, forcing Rem to write L's true name in the Death Note along with Watari's in order to save her. This is lampshaded by Rem just before she writes their names in the Death Note and she curses Light for it.
Didn't See That Coming: How Light met his end. Played with in the manga (but not in the anime) with how Near came very close to being killed by Light. Near looks completely shocked when Light pulls a hidden piece of the Death Note out of his watch. Light was only one letter away from taking Near down with him.
With Kira as judge, jury and executioner, all crimes - even purse-snatching and embezzlement - qualify for the death penalty, for the good of the new world.
Lind L. Tailor while posing as L, tells Light over broadcast television "Kira, I think I have a pretty good idea of why you're doing this. But what you're doing is evil!" Not the nicest thing to say, but at least he gives Light credit for trying to improve the world. Light's response is to kill him.
Early-Bird Cameo: Takeda, Mikami, Near, and Mello showed up in the 2nd openings even though it would be quite a few episodes (plus a timeskip) before their arc started.
Easily Forgiven: during the Yotsuba arc L confines Light for over fifty days and then fakes having his father shoot him in the head. In the manga Light forgives L in the very next panel.
Easily Overheard Conversation: Again during the Yotsuba arc, Matsuda learns about the "secret meetings" because two of the conspirators are talking about it as they wait for the elevator.
Eat the Evidence: In the manga it's explained that Light swallows the Death Note scrap he used to kill Higuchi.
Eiffel Tower Effect: At one point in the anime, the Eiffel Tower and the London Eye are used as visual shorthand for Paris and London.
...and the World Trade Center for New York City, despite both the manga and anime taking place post-9/11.
Empathic Environment: The aptly titled episode "Overcast" features a brilliant and chilling example. The year's first snowflake floats into frame and past Naomi Misora's drivers license a split-second after she lets it go, handing it to Light, thereby sealing her fate. Light reads the license and jots down her name in his Death Note. Less than a minute later, when Light reveals to Naomi that he's Kira — and thus that she's about to die — the snowfall is already heavy.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: Mello's mafia. It becomes Fridge Brilliance when you remember that Kira is purging criminals and it would make sense that the remaining criminals would band together for protection into a "super-gang."
Eureka Moment: Naomi Misora gets a lot of these in the BB Murder Cases. They were planted by Ryuzaki.
Ryuk, an absolutely pitiless Death God, is still sometimes astonished by the depths Light will sink to; it's remarked several times that Light is worse than any Shinigami, something that amuses Ryuk to no end.
In the second live action film, Misa stops her terrorist broadcast when Sayu calls her out for being a murderer (though she goes right back to killing once she meets Light. Toward the end of the film, she's horrified and begins to cry when Light writes Soichiro's name in the Death Note.
Light is also dismayed when Mikami's killing spree extends to even elderly and sometimes innocent people.
Not so much dismayed for who Mikami was doing it to, but the way he was doing it. Light himself admitted very early that he'd be using disease and accidents to eliminate non-criminals he felt were unfit for his ideal society and thus people would believe Kira would only target criminals and would be seen in a more positive light rather then a heavy handed dictator who wanted perfect human beings. Mikami was killing them by heart attacks and making it blatant that Kira was responsible.
The Death Note doesn't work on people younger than 780 days old, on people 124 years old or older, or on people who have less than 12 minutes to live.
Rem is apparently fine with Light and Misa killing people so long as it makes Misa happy, but she's disgusted by Kyosuke Higuchi.
Light zig-zags the trope in a rather complicated fashion: He objected strenuously to Misa murdering an innocent police officer who was only doing his job, but he had no problem doing the same thing to a bunch ofFBI agents, Though technically Raye Penbar was the one who killed them and himself, Light used the Death Note to force him to do so, but that at least gives Light the ability to say he wasn't the one writing the names. He also killed Lind L. Taylor early on for no other reason than the fact that Taylor had offended him (he was unaware of Taylor's convict status at the time).
L's character is largely based on Batman and Watari on Alfred Pennyworth - making Yagami Light a typical supervillain in the story.
Soichiro Yagami's character is very much like that of Commissioner Gordon from Batman.
The Extremist Was Right: The news reports as the series progresses make it very clear the knowledge of Kira's existence dramatically reduces the worldwide crime rate, but there are severe costs entailed when world justice is dictated by one still-human person and it only worked in the short-run. When Kira went inactive or was gotten rid of for good, crime returned to its previous rate. Near says as much in the anime version.
Extremity Extremist: Among L's many curious habits is holding things only with his thumb and forefinger, letting them hang by his fingertips. Food, utensils, pens, phones, whatever. When he fights, he does it exclusively with his bare feet.
Light: Look into my eyes, I'm telling you the truth! Are these the eyes of someone who is lying?!
Face Death with Dignity: Whether a character can do this depends on their moral fiber. Soichiro, the most moral figure in the series, goes out with the most, while L and Watari, who are noticeably greyer though still recognizably good, each die with some, and the Villain Protagonist, Light, dies crying, whining, and cursing in a puddle of his own blood.
Though Light probably had the hardest thing to face with dignity. Heart attack or a Rasputinian Death, which takes longer and gives more time for a breakdown?
For Want of a Nail: The Live Action Movies shows how events would have played out if L defeated Light.
Foregone Conclusion: In The Los Angeles BB Cases, the mysterious stranger who follows Naomi is obviously L because we've read the manga or watched the anime. Except it isn't. In one of the best subversions of this trope ever, its not L but BB, the murderer suspected of the killings.
Functional Genre Savvy: Strange how when people living in the same conditions all started suffering heart attacks, everybody started thinking "supernatural serial killer"...
The Fun in Funeral: In a scene added for the Relight special, Light certainly looks like he's enjoying himself (spoilers) 
Funny Afro: Aizawa; the series may well have the least comical scene in which a guy with an afro falls on his butt.
Gaining The Will To Kill: Light's first two kills serve as this. The first guy Light kills is a serious headcase who had taken a school full of kids hostage. Light writes the guy's name into the title notebook as a means of figuring out whether or not it was real or just a sick prank. When the criminal in question dies of a heart attack 40 seconds after Light wrote the name in, Light still isn't completely convinced that the Death Note is real, so after school, he decides to test out the notebook a second time, taking out the leader of a motorcycle gang and stopping his Attempted Rape of a young woman by sending him and his bike into the path of an oncoming semi. After wrestling with the implications of passing judgement upon people like this, Light makes the decision to become Kira and "change the world" by killing off its criminals and evil people, which sets him on the path to developing his infamous god-complex and becoming the Villain Protagonist of the series.
Gambit Pileup: The entire plot of the series is basically a sequence of overlapping gambits from Light, L and (for a while) Misa.
Genghis Gambit: The final episode revealed that Near and Mello, who were individually trying to succeed where L failed, finally agreed to work together to defeat Kira. It works.
The explanation is a bit different in the manga: when Near credits Mello for creating the situation that allowed him to defeat Light, Lidner suggests that Mello realized the flaw in Near's plan (namely, that the notebook could have been fake) and kidnapped Takada purposefully to expose it. Near disagrees, saying that Mello believed he could surpass Near and L. Near continues that he always knew he wasn't capable of surpassing L alone, and neither was Mello—it was only by a combination of their two plans that they could win.
Genius Sweet Tooth: Mello is always eating chocolate, and L with any kind of sweet. It's a wonder how they stay so thin.
L claims that he stays thin by burning calories by using his brain.
Good Is Not Nice: One of the story's main themes, as whether anyone in the series can truly be called good is open to interpretation. Quick examples? #1: L, who is quite scheming and manipulative. #3: Near; who is the same.
Not in the original manga, but present in the anime's series finale. Mikami attempts some kind of poor man's seppuku, either out of despair or to distract the police so that Light can escape. Unfortunately for the audience, it works a little too well. Then again, if gore is your thing...
In the Director's cut, the deaths of three Yotsuba Group members, featuring a Gross-Up Close-Up of Midou lying on the sidewalk after falling or jumping from a tall building
Grey and Gray Morality: Light and his supporters have a very good purpose, but won't stop at doing anything to achieve them. While his antagonists (except Mello) use less questionable means, their goals are more morally ambiguous.
The Grim Reaper: Ryuk and many other shinigami are an aversion. While they kill people they are not doing it as a duty or public service or natural order thing.
In the second episode / first manga, L's and Light's shouting match (directed, in both cases, to electronic screens) concerning Justice.
Harassing Phone Call: A certain anonymous individual Near keeps calling up this one guy Kira in the middle of the night promising that he has a very unpleasant fate in store for him. Alas there is no caller I.D.
Have You Told Anyone Else?: Light asks these exact words of Raye Penbar's fiancée Naomi, who is investigating Kira. Unsurprisingly, she doesn't live much longer after answering no.
Hidden Eyes: Light, frequently to show his secret sinsister side.
High-Pressure Blood: In the last episode of the anime, a fairly simple stabbing (with a pen) initiates a fire-hose like blood jet.
Hired to Hunt Yourself: Both main characters accomplish this. Light manages to land himself a spot on the anti-Kira task force and spends the majority of the series hunting himself, though not without being suspected by L and later Near. L pulls it off when The Yotsuba group hires Erald Coil to uncover L's identity, not knowing that they're the same person.
Hope Spot: The entire Yotsuba arc is one for Light. Without the Death Note, Light reverts to being genuinely good, to the point that he thinks he's not even capable of killing. He establishes a genuine alliance with L as they work to hunt down the new Kira, and even comes off as more moral than L at times. Even though you know from the start that Kira!Light planned for this to happen, the arc still gets your hopes up that Light might somehow find a way to stay good... And then it all goes to hell when he gets the Death Note back.
Horrifying the Horror: Light frequently evokes this reaction from the Shinigami who say he's "more of a demon than a Shinigami" and that he's "surpassed the Shinigami." Then Rem finds Higuchi so disgusting and vile that she becomes more sympathetic to Light. There's also the instance where Mello freaks out Sidoh but then Sidoh is kind of a wuss. On a lighter note there's also Misa's original manager, Yoshi. Misa, the second Kira, is afraid of her and even L and Kiraseem a bit unnerved.
Humans Kill Wantonly: This is why Ryuk decides humans are fun and Light most of all. When meeting him, he says Light has killed more people in less time than any other death note owner.
Hypocrite: Most characters, at some point. However, a notable example is when Light berates Misa for killing innocent people. In the manga, she meekly points out that: "To defeat evil, sacrifices have to be made. That's what you've done, right? I was only doing the same..."
Not one of the detectives, including L, could figure out that the last two rules were fake. Despite the fact that unlike the other rules, they sound like they were written from a human's point of view.. Understandable considering they have no idea how the Death Note works and further justified by L's desire to apply the scientific method. This triggered Rem to kill him to save Misa.
Naomi Misora, who has been consistently shown to be intelligent, competent, meticulous, and above all, careful,foolishlytells Light her real name after giving him a pseudonym, when she has no more reason to trust him than before. The result of the writer painting himself into a corner: had she not made this fatal mistake, the story would have been over very quickly.
Light successfully bluffs this to Raye Penber in order to ensure his cooperation.
Mello does for real this when he kidnaps Sayu.
I Know You Know I Know: Light and L rarely tell each other how much they know the other knows they know, because they don't want to give away how much they know what the other knows, or at least think they know but can't be sure of. Yes, there is a lot of internal monologuing in this series.
Incredibly Obvious Bug: In the live action film version the investigation team leaves a truly enormous one in Takada's apartment. However, Takada was meant to find it so she'd believe they really had evidence on her. There were many other bugs that she didn't notice at all.
Infant Immortality: One of the rules is "The DEATH NOTE shall not affect those under 780 days old.
Interim Villain: The Yotsuba executives. Explanation can be found on the trope itself.
Interrogated for Nothing: When Light and Misa are cleared and released from surveillance towards the end of the first arc, the scene seems like this to the police. The audience, of course, knows better.
Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: L orders Watari to do this to Misa. We don't see what he does, but whatever it is lasts three days and leaves her begging Rem for death. When physical torture fails to get her to talk (because of a Memory Gambit that ensures she really doesn't know anything), he instead leaves her in full-body restraints, sensory deprivation earphones, and a blindfold for weeks on end. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
Jerkass Gods: Ryuk is downplayed on two levels; for one he is less a 'god' then a 'supernatural creature' and for two he's more into watching Reality TV Black Comedy then actively causing suffering.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Any debate about the morality of Light's actions is aborted when in the second chapter he kills a man he sees on tv merely for calling him a murderer and declaring his intention to stop him.
Subverted — Whenever Light reveals his identity to a rival, he is very sure they are already in their death throes or otherwise under the effect of the Death Note.
Used by L to mock Light in his introduction. For being so "helpful", L lets light in on a "secret", and proceeds to mock Light's arrogance in front of the entire Kanto region of Japan on live television.
Justice Will Prevail: Discussed in the second arc. No matter who wins, Kira or the Task Force, 'justice' will prevail because the winning side will claim it.
Kaleidoscope Hair: When Light and L confront each other, they glow red and blue, respectively. Sometimes this happens to their bodies, other times just to their hair and eyes.
Kansas City Shuffle: The 13 Day Test 1) L knows Light is plotting to kill him and he suspects Light is plotting with Misa to do it. 2) L thinks he can prove that both Light and Misa are Kira by testing the 13 Day Rule. 3) Neither Light nor Misa are going to kill him. Rem is going to kill him.
Ryuk returns to the Shinigami world no worse for wear and there's nothing to stop him from doing what he can to create another Kira and generally mess around on Earth.
Misa in the live action movies. The fact that the police let her go is a particular bad when you consider that she killed Mogi. Of course, it does make sense, as there's no way they could convict her without revealing the existence of a magic notebook that kills people, which they instead destroy, causing Misa to lose her memories of her crimes anyway.
Near, who used underhanded tricks and lies to turn the task force against Light, then later talked down to Aizawa, continues living as the third L and even commands the task force on occasion (although the alliance may be shaky). Especially bad if you believe Matsuda's theory of Near controlling Mikami with the notebook.
Light kills Lind L. Taylor for for the crime of opposing him. This makes his villain status clear to the audience.
L gets a turn when he has Misa cold-bloodedly tortured, up to the point where she tries to kill herself to avoid revealing Kira's identity.
In episode seven, Light tells Naomi that he is Kira, just as the Death Note takes effect, and she goes off to commit suicide. He opens his phone and offers her the chance to call his father with the information that would put Light away, but she's forced to carry out the Note's instructions, so that really comes off as putting salt in the wound.
Killed Mid-Sentence: L during a deduction due to heart attaack and Matt due to Kira supporting police.
Kill 'em All: How many major characters in a cast of around 20 survive? Three of the original police task force, plus Misa, Ide, and Near. The companion book How To Read 13 reveals that Misa dies a year later from suicide.
Knight Templar: Any of the series' protagonists and the Kiras in general are visonary villains that believe themselves wholly good.
Laughing Mad: Light, when he is cornered by Near and revealed to be Kira.
Lawful Stupid: Team Kira's philosophy is "You broke the law-DIE!" Light himself tries to stick to serious crimes (and those who interfere), but will often kill for lesser crimes if it fits his plans, and gets worse as he goes.
Life Drinker: When a Shinigami kills a human, that human's lifespan is added to the Shinigami's. Shinigami who don't kill regularly will eventually die. Conversely, a Shinigami who uses their Death Note to save a human loses what's left of their own life to extend that human's time.
To a lesser degree, Matsuda acts like this towards L and Light.
Also both Misa and Mikami, towards Light.
Love Makes You Dumb: Inverted. Misa is noticeably less "airheaded" when around Light, especially when she tries to manipulate things so that she can be with him. From tricking the third Kira to trying to find the first Kira.
(type 3 Triang Relations): Takada and Amane are both after Light. Light is just using both of them. Pointed out by Near in episode 33, who deduces that Light "has" a love triangle. That is, a love triangle is among the things he happens to possess. "Near, please be more serious."
Another type 11 crops up later: Takada is seeing both Light and Mikami, but Mikami is VERY loyal to Light...
Ludicrous Precision: L and his constant revisions of the probability Light is Kira. In How to Read it states that whenever he gives a percentage, he's lying; he actually suspects Light with a 90 to 100 percent certainty.
Magic A Is Magic A: The Death Note's rules apply strictly, although Light finds ways to stretch them to their limits in every storyline. He then exploits this by creating fake rules to divert suspicion from himself.
Yeah, that shot was definitely of a hidden sheet of the Death Note, not Taki's breast.
Misa's introductory shots feature an image of her breasts and waist on exhibit while she walks, before showing her face. This is definitely to show off her cutesy gothic clothing and therefore to establish her childlike-but-evil character. Definitely.
Rem to Misa; she threatens to write Light's name in her notebook if Misa comes to harm, and in the end gives her life to save her, even while knowing she's acting accordingly to Light's plan.
Sachiko to Sayu: "no way in hell!" is Sayu marrying a cop.
Man Child: L and Near, to varying degrees because of their sugar obession and toy fixation respectively.
Manipulative Bastard: Light, who treats all those around him as tools for him to use, therefore making manipulation the dominating characteristic of every one of his relationships.
L, mind you, also has no problems manipulating, or asking others to manipulate, people.
Misa is also willing to manipulate people to get what she wants; her childlike charm is particularly useful for this.
Mass "Oh, Crap!": The taskforce members when Light is outed as Kira in the finale. This is not helped when Light takes the opportunity to pack all the sheer, psychotic creepiness of the moment into one absolutely epic Evil Laugh.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In the manga's final chapter, it's noted that Mikami mysteriously died in prison ten days after Light's defeat, leading Matsuda to theorize that Near wrote in the Death Note so as to restrict Mikami's actions, enabling Light's conviction. The anime includes no such speculation from Matsuda, and Mikami instead commits suicide on the spot, casting doubt on a supernatural interpretation.
Done three times and ironically every time. Mello is a complete loose cannon, Near spends most of his time in another country from the protagonist, and Light is not good.
According to Death Note: How To Read 13, the graphic encyclopedia, Mello and Near were originally going to have regular Meaningful Names; Mello was going to be Near, since he was always close to but not at the other's level; and Near was going to be Mello because he was calmer. Ohba got the characters mixed up, so....
Also Bilingual Bonus Light's worldwide alias "Kira" Engrish for Killer also means "sparkling," "shining," or "glitter" in Japanese. Additionally, Kira is also a Russian name by origin and is the feminine version of Cyrus. Cyrus comes from the Greek Κυρος (Kyros) which is the Greek version of the Persian name Kürush which may mean "far sighted" or "young" — this, in and of itself, may refer to Light's grand, far-reaching dreams and his own youth and inexperience. Where it gets more interesting is that the name is also sometimes associated with the Greek κυριος (kyrios), meaning "lord." Indeed, the Greek word Kyrios means "lord, Lord, and Master" and in religious usage designates God, appearing 740 times in the New Testament referring to Jesus. Consider that one of the songs in the Death Note soundtrack is titled "Kyrie" which is a transliteration of Greek κύριε (kyrie) and a vocative case of κύριος (kyrios). It's an interesting connection, even if it wasn't done intentionally.
Yagami (夜神) means "Night god" or "Dark god", so his name is "Light Dark God". The important thing is the god part.
One for the Shinigami- "Res", in Latin, is a feminine noun meaning 'thing' (well, 'thing' in this case means quite a lot, including exploit and advantage, but it'll get confusing). An accusative is when something is happening to it. The accusative for Res? Rem.
Misa comes from "Kuromisa", meaning "black Mass" (fitting with her cross motif), and Teru Mikami's name means "illuminated."
Memory Gambit: The "Exactly As Planned" Gambit Roulette. Light allowed himself to be incarcerated and gave up his memories of the Death Note to make the act convincing. After proving his 'innocence' Amensia!Light earnestly worked with L and the Task Force to catch the Third Kira, who was chosen by Rem at the behest of Light. Once this was accomplished and Light came into physical contact with his old notebook, all his memories returned.
Messy Hair: L and Near always look like they just rolled out of bed. This is because, unlike Light, they dont' care about appearences.
Light does this to himself if The Scream when he's regaining his memories is anything to go by. Then there's the ending of the manga when Near exposes him as Kira, knocking him off his pedestal and forcing him to face up to what he's done and what he's become; he is drawn as (symbolically) naked and traumatized.
This could also be seen as what Light did to Naomi. A bright woman driven to solve her husband's death - and in fact, uncovers information that could have stopped Light in the second chapter - has her mind force-shifted to suicide by the Death Note. Her abrupt change in speech from decisive and sharp to a Creepy Monotone drives this home.
"Nobody can tell what is right and what is wrong, what is righteous and what is evil. Even if there is a god and I had his teachings before me, I would think it through and decide if that was right or wrong myself."
Morton's Fork: An interesting case: When L accompanies Light to college, Light feels that all of his interactions with him will only confirm his suspicions about Light. Every decision Light makes boils down to him deciding how to react. His thoughts are like this: If I react one way, L would think I'm Kira because of X. If I react another way, L will think I'm Kira because of X. Funny thing is that he is RIGHT about these assumptions because no matter what he does nor how he reacts, L never drops his suspicion of Light as Kira and often has the same thoughts about whatever situation he's in with Light.
The Movie: Two Japanese live-action movies based on the original comic (with "Dani California" as the theme song) and one L spin-off. Warner Bros. bought the rights to remake the Live Action movie in America...
Shinigami can't be seen by anyone other than the humans who have touched their Death Note. So when Light is under surveillance by the police, he uses his homework as a cover-of-sorts to carry on a conversation with Ryuk by saying things ostensibly to himself, like "I got this question right!" to indicate a "yes" answer.
When the Yotsuba group catch Matsuda, he takes cues from L over the phone to let them know he's in trouble while making it sound to his captors like he's just turning down an offer to hang out with his friend.
Light Yagami, in the anime only. He's an ordinary school student until he write the first name. After that, he develops delusions of grandeur and wants to cleanse the world of evil (leaving himself as the only evil person, as Ryuuk points out). In the manga, this first target is skipped over, showing instead Ryuuk showing up after he's already killed numerous targets.
His girlfriend Misa; she was pretty normal before she got the book.
Light feels this way as part of his Ignored Epiphany at the beginning of the story. He quickly talks himself out of it.
My Sister Is Off Limits: The rest of the Yagami family is not keen on Matsuda's interest in Sayu. Also there's an incident in the manga where Light screams when L suggests that Sayu could be Kira.
Mythology Gag: In the last few chapters/final episode, Near says that anyone who was truly just would have been horrified at what happened when he used the note even once, and would get rid of it or destroy it. This is precisely what Taro tries to do in the pilot; eventually, the notebook is destroyed.
Also at one point Light introduces Matsuda as "his cousin Taro" which also may be a Shout-Out to the pilot chapter.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Light's alias Kira is "Killer" made to fit into Japanese phonetics. His last name, Yagami, is written with the symbols for "night" and "god." Additionally, Misa's name comes from "kuromisa", meaning "black Mass."
National Stereotypes: Parodied, in L, Change the WorLd, Suruga attempts to disperse a crowd surrounding the truck he's driving by showing his F.B.I. badge, but everyone thinks its fake because he's Japanese.
Never Hurt an Innocent: Light will only kill unrepentant criminals... unless you get in his way. Then you're fair game.
Never Suicide: L is suspicious of Naomi's death because he knew her personally and believes she is still strong willed for suicide.
Subverted in Another Note. The first three victims are killed in ways that are obviously not suicide (strangulation from behind, beating, etc), and the doors are locked. This is so that, when the murderer does commit suicide inside a locked room for the final crime, it is thought to be another murder, and the case goes unsolved. Luckily, Naomi realized this just in time.
When Mello kidnaps Takada and orders her to strip, he offers her a blanket to preserve her modesty. This, of course, gives her enough leeway to hide pieces of Death Note and a writing utensil. Guess what happens next.
No Matter How Much I Beg: Light, when submitting himself for imprisonment as part of his memory gambit. L is more than happy to oblige.
No Place for Me There: Defied by Light when Ryuk asks how he'd fit into the Utopia he envisions - Light plans on running the place, not barring himself from it.
Noodle Incident: According to Another Note, L claimed the names Eraldo Coil and Deneuve after winning "detective wars" against their original holders. We are never told what a detective war entails or how those two played out.
Not the Fall That Kills You: In episode 19, Matsuda has to fake his own death by falling from a building. He instead lands on a mattress conveniently placed some floors below by his fellow members of the investigation team.
Odd Couple: Light and L; the entrance ceremony speech depicts them as a 'pampered honor student' and the 'grungy prodigy'.
Oddly Small Organization: The Kira Task force is composed less than ten people. This is justified as the rest of the police force was too scared to investigate someone who can kill them remotely by knowing their name and face; both of which are on their ID badge.
Out-Gambitted: In the second episode, when L uses a body double to draw Kira/Light into striking in order to confirm his suspicion that Kira can kill in such a manner. And he did the broadcast region-by-region in order to narrow down where Kira might be based, getting it on the first try.
Overshadowed by Awesome: To hear the fans talk, Misa is stupid. People seem to forget that she's only stupid from L and Light's perspective and outmaneuvers both Light and Higuchi easily when she sets her mind to it. In any other anime, Misa Misa could have been the iconicGenius Ditz.
Misa is trying to find Light so she sends a diary page to the task force saying that they should "show off their notebooks in Aoyama" on a certain day. On that day, Light goes to Aoyama with Matsuda and meets friends whom he hangs out with expecting to perform this trope. Misa, however, finds him first and leaves before he can see her.
L first reveals himself to his Kira suspect at the Entrance Ceremony and L frequently meets with Light to discuss the Kira Case in public places on the university campus.
Paper-Thin Disguise: Light wears a hoodie and bennie when manipulating Raye Penber, which renders him unrecognizable to both Raye and the investigators that view the surveillance cameras.
Light takes a break from committing mass murder to help his little sister with her homework. He also volunteers to run an errand for her, compliments his mother in the first arc, and attempts to talk his father out of resigning from the police in the second arc.
Phosphor-Essence: A subtle example which crosses with Red Oni, Blue Oni: when Light and L confront each other, or meet each other on the street, Light shines a deep, blood-like red, and L a naval blue. Sometimes it appears as a tiny aura around their bodies, other times their hair and eyes glow that color.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: In many scenes with the Taskforce HQ in the second arc, Light is the only one even pretending to work... So is it any wonder the Kira case stalled?
Playing Drunk: Matsuda, after being caught by Yotsuba, pretends to be drunk so he can fake his death via falling.
Pragmatic Villainy: Light Yagami who was willing to kill tens of thousands of criminals and other undesirables to further his ambition but he doesn't approve when his Bumbling Sidekick Teru Mikami announced that Kira was going to kill lazy people as well. Light doesn't object to killing the lazy, he just hasn't decided yet if it's an effective method of imposing his reign.
Poisonous Friend: Although he doesn't actually work with Light in person until the very end, Mikami is VERY fanatically devoted to him.
Police Are Useless: The public believes this more and more when Kira emerges and takes over. Which is ironic because without the police investigating crimes and arresting suspects (or at least coming up with them), Kira wouldn't have any names or faces to use with the Death Note.
Politeness Judo: So, so much. "Let’s do X, is that alright, Light-kun?" and of course Light has to agree or he'll look like he's avoiding L, which makes him look like Kira.
Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: Light himself is usually soft-spoken, courteous, and reserved, and to an extent Misa, Mikami, and Takada all share this. L and Near, however, are brutally honest and openly manipulative; Near in particular earned quite a lot of annoyance from Mogi and Aizawa for the way he treated them. Compare some of Light's and Near's conversations, where Light is accommodating and non-confrontational while Near says exactly what's on his mind in the most blunt manner possible.
Poor Communication Kills: Part of Light's downfall is that Mikami was told not to make a move before the showdown with Near. When Takada was kidnapped by Mello, he decided to be assertive and write her name down two minutes before Light did. It comes back to bite both of them in the ass later, to say the least.
Pop The Tires: This happens when they are trying to stop Higuchi from driving away with the Death Note.
The Pratfall: When discovering about the true nature of Kira, L is so surprised he falls out of his chair. Word of God confesses that this scene was drawn just for the visual image of L flat on his ass.
Product Placement: The manga is crawling with it. L uses a Mac, Ryuk loves to play Mario Golf, Misa walks past a vey conspicous Tabasco clothing store and mentions in her fake diary that the PS2 will soon be released, Aizawa and Ide drink Pepsi.
Protagonist Journey to Villain: Light is the protagonist who turns into a villain because the Death Note's power warps his ideals from heroic to villainous.
Psychological Horror: This series thrives on suspensense and mind games with a serial killer that has magic powers.
Public Secret Message: Misa is a Kira-fangirl, but doesn't know who he is. So she uses her own death note to kill people and force the news to send messages. Light is annoyed, since while people who don't know about the notes won't be able to figure out what they're talking about, it is still far too public for his taste.
Punch Clock Villain: This applies to most of the Shinigami. Ryuk says they only kill humans so they won't die themselves and they only truly qualify as "evil" insofar as the occasional decision to kill a human earlier than intended - and doing so to save another is an offense for which death is punishment.
The Shinigami Eyes. (Incidentally, Ryuk has red pupils.)
The anime makes a hobby out of catching Light's eyes just right so that they look red (despite him never even considering the Shinigami Eyes deal), and the opening and closing sequences make it even stronger as part of the red/blue motif.
Mello and Near fit the trope pretty well, except there it's Orange Oni Teal Oni.
Red Right Hand: By the end of Relight (everything after the funeral scene) Light seems to be sporting fangs in addition to perpetually glowing red eyes.
Red Shirt: Most of the minor victim characters with the most notable being Naomi Misora, who originally was considered to have a bigger role before it was decided to kill her off quickly to prevent the story from becoming more complicated or way too short). Matt, the third-in-line to succeed L, was given no backstory whatsoever and introduced solely to give Mello someone to interact with before the author killed him off after his sporadic appearances in 12 panels. Despite this, both characters have a large fan following.
Refuge in Audacity: In episode 9, when L simply approaches Light and actually tells him he's L, this is Light's assessment of the tactic, as he has no effective way to counter it.
Refused The Call: Ide doesn't join L's taskforce because he doesn't trust L. He later joins after L is killed and Light takes over.
Replacement Love Interest: After Misa Amane transfers her Notebook to Teru Mikami, Kiyomi Takada comes onto the scene as Kira's spokesperson and Light's new girlfriend while Misa just kind of fades out of focus. Like Misa, Kiyomi is a Kira-worshiper completely devoted to Light and willing to kill for him.
Repressive But Efficient: It's mentioned a couple times that Kira succeeds in dramatically reducing crime rates. An interesting example considering that it's only his method of killing that is supernatural; he relies on news reports to identify criminals, meaning that he kills mostly those that have already been apprehended by police. So it is ONLY the rampant use of the death penalty as a deterrent that achieves this effect, not any increase in efficiency of actually catching criminals. (Note that studies have shown that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent in Real Life.)
While How to Read 13 states that the SPK disbanded and returned to their old jobs after Kira's defeat, in the one-shot manga special released two years later, Lidner, Gevanni and Rester are shown to still work with Near.
If the strongly implied rule that a shinigami must follow the owner of the Death Note was observed throughout the series, nothing after the Yotsuba arc could have happened.
Also comes into play at the end. The immediate cause of Light's downfall was Mikami going to write Takada's name in the Death Note. He only did that to prevent information from leaking, either to Mello (by Takada telling him) or Near (if SPK got ahold of her, Death Note pages and all.
Revealing Hug: There are a few scenes where Light and Misa embrace; Misa's expression is either lovestruck or tearful, while Light's is ... not.
Reverse Whodunnit: The audience knows full well who Kira is. The fun is to see if L can figure it out, too.
Right Behind Me: When Aizawa and Ide are discussing putting Light back under surveillance, guess who should walk in at that very moment?
Rooting for the Empire: Light's followers and fans, both in-universe and out, count, especially considering the amount of antipathy some of the fanbase holds for Near.
Rousseau Was Right: Played straight with Light, who reverts to an apparently genuinely good person on losing his memories. Averted with Misa, who jumps at the chance to be useful to Light in any way, even if it results in someone's death.
Scheherezade Gambit: Ryuk is bored, he wants to be entertained and if he gets too bored he'll just kill Light and go home. Light constantly reminds Ryuk how entertaining he can be. It works for six years.
Schmuck Bait: What causes Light to pick up the notebook and cause the series to happen. His thought process goes like this: 'Notebook of Death? It has to be a prank but what if...."
Scholarship Student: Referenced and inverted. When L and Light both give the entrance ceremony speech, Light is said to look like a normal private school student, "pampered and brilliant." L is said to look like a "crazy genius," though one of the conclusions (based on L's physical appearance) is that he's a poor scholarship student. It's an inversion, because L is rich from all of the cases he's solved and received money for.
In episode 24, L and Light capture the Death Note. Light suggests analyzing it. L replies that the Death Note is the kind of thing that can't be analyzed, and is later confirmed when they do try to analyze it and are unable to determine what it is made of.
It is stated in the rules at the end of a manga chapter that no scientific or clinical analysis can reveal if someone posseses Shinigami Eyes.
Averted when Light uses his brain as opposed to gizmos to analyze the Death Note and determines what it can or cannot do. Ryuk wasn't aware of some of these things.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Unlike most examples, this one is used by villains to justify their serial killing because they're only killing criminals. This logic falls apart when they go after honest cops tracking a serial killer.
Misa never seems to get a clue that Light hates her guts and just pretends to love her in order to use her. At one point, she even says she won't kill the girls Light has dated in the past because she knows "he was just using them and didn't really love them." Er, Misa...?
"My son is not capable of being Kira!"
Ryuk: ...then you'd be the only bastard left.
Light: I have no idea what you're talking about Ryuk...
Self-Destructing Security: Light goes to great lengths to protect the Death Note. Not only is it hidden in his locked bedroom in a secret panel of his desk drawer, but opening the panel without first deactivating the failsafe will incinerate the notebook before it can be found. After all, if someone else takes it he's unlikely to get it back, and it links him to hundreds of murders.
Raye Penber, an FBI agent sent to Japan to aid in the investigation of the Kira case, does not want his fiance, ex-FBI agent Naomi Misora, to get involved in the Kira case. Unfortunately for him, she was the better detective between the two. If he had let her get involved, the series would be one and a half volumes long, and both of them would still be alive.
Averted when Matsuda has an obviously crush on Sayu, Light's sister, after She's All Grown Up. Her parents Soichiro, who's Matsuda's superior, and Sachiko forbid her to marry a policeman beforehand. That's hypocritical, considering that Soichiro is a police officer himself.
Slobs Versus Snobs: L and Near are the slobs, dressed in rumpled jeans or pajamas, and Light and his allies all are usually impeccably dressed and groomed. This was highlighted when L and Light stood on stage together: Light was the 'groomed overachiever' and L was the 'eccentric prodigy'.
Someone's Touching My Butt: In classic L fashion, he was pretending to cover up for touching Misa's butt by saying it was an outrage, when in touching her butt was a cover so she wouldn't notice him taking her phone.
Spoiler Opening: Both the anime opening and the cover of the second volume reveals L's appearance before he's introduced in-universe.
Light and L tend to finish each other's thoughts / inner monologues between cutaways.
Light and Mikami: They both had the idea of Takada's suicide and written it in the Death Note at the same time.
Strawman News Media: Type IV. You'd think that after the emergence of Kira that there would be a massive clampdown on broadcasting suspect's names... WRONG! Trial by media becomes execution by media: Here's the names and faces of people our viewers want to die in a fire.Let's hope they die on live TV! This is especially exemplified with Demegawa and Takada. The cops consider a media clampdown as soon as L points out that Kira is killing by reading names of criminals out of the newspaper; however, L shoots the idea down, on the grounds that he reads Kira as a Psychopathic Manchild who would just start killing anyone he thinks is guilty, and blaming any innocent deaths on the police for instigated a media clampdown.
Strongly Worded Letter: One of these might be something to fear if it's out on the Internet and Kira agrees with the writer. In a way, Light and Mikami used the Death Note as this.
Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Light's experiments with the Death Note teach him the fine details about how it works. Soon, he knows more about than Ryuk!
Teens Are Monsters: Light and Misa are serial killers but with their faces, you'd never even suspect at first without being like L.
Teen Genius: The most intelligent characters in the series are all very young.
Light and L were both adults for a great deal of the series, but it's pretty obvious that they were both very smart way before that. Light was consistently at the top of his class throughout his entire life and heck, L was pretty much solving cases from the time he was still under custody of Wammy's House.
Speaking of Wammy's House, Near, Mello, Matt, and pretty much all the kids there.
Considering the fact that we're dealing with a bunch of smart kids here, it is implied that every single one of them had been a Child Prodigy at some point in their lives before the series started.
Light's rival L pulls one of these off when he uses a dead-man's drop on his computer to send a message to Wammy's house, telling them of his death, if for some reason he doesn't check in every day or so. He knows this will set Near and Mello to task with catching Kira, and he probably knew that they would race each other to catch Kira and that Near especially was almost but not quite as smart as he was.
At the end of the live-action movie, L writes his own name in the Death Note to die 23 days in the future to protect himself from Rem when he confronts Light. Watari still dies but Light and Misa are caught red-handed.
That's What I Would Do: Light explains this to L regarding a theory of his about Kira and the second Kira. Soichiro is a bit freaked out.
Theme Tune Cameo: Misa and Matsuda both have the first ending song as their mobile phone ringtones, and the 2nd ending theme is used in the Director's Cut of the car chase in episodes 22 & 23.
There Are No Therapists: Grief counseling for Misa could have solved a lot of things. Also, Light comes across in that first episode as depressed.
Raye, Naomi's finance. If only if he hadn't told her to Stay in the Kitchen and let her work alongside him...
Naomi, the former F.B.I. detective who figures out crucial information on the Kira case and then decides to trust Light after he's been acting creepy, following her around, and asking "Have You Told Anyone Else?" As mentioned below and according to Word of God, she's less stupid than about as lucky as Near is socially skilled — i.e., not at all. note If you think about it, her big "mistake" was going to the police station at absolutely the wrong time — the one time when no one working on the case was available and also when the real Kira (who, bad luck for her, was the son of someone working on the case) was also arriving. Well, that, and succumbing to Light's explanation. She had every reason to be convinced — not least because she implicitly trusted L, and Light reminded her of L (which also lampshades that they're Not So Different.)
Demegawa. Someone who uses the name of Kira to pad his own pockets, knowing that Kira is a vengeful god of justice without much sense of mercy. Demegawa? Can you say "SAKUJO"?
Mello. Oh sure, tell a woman to strip naked in order to make sure she doesn't have any Death Note pages, cell phones, tracking devices, or what have you, but give her a blanket to cover herself with before she removes her undergarments. Yep, nothing bad can come from that at all. Of course, this show being what it is, it turns out to be a Thanatos Gambit in disguise.
Took a Level in Badass: Matsuda. Starts out as comic relief, ends up riddling Light with revolver bullets in the finale.
Tragedy: The story could be interpreted as such depending on how the audience looks into the essentials. In the classical sense, a tragedy meant 'The Protagonist dies'.
Tragic Hero: Light fits into the Shakespearian mould for a tragic hero. For example compare him to the classic tragic hero character of Macbeth: a noble person tempted by the supernatural and ambition to commit one act of evil after another until it catches up with him.
Treachery Cover Up: At the end of the second movie, Light's family were led to believe that he died trying to stop Kira.
Light is a textbook case: a charasmatic person who challenges conventional morality (in this case, about justice and the merits of the death penality) and gathers like minded followers. L, his candy loving and amusement seeking Last Man, sees him as a sociopath with a god complex.
In the first Live Action Movie he's seen reading Nietzsche's 'Beyond Good and Evil' shortly before being approched by Naomi Misora for the first time. In German even!
Unflappable Guardian: Nothing fazes Watari; death notes and death gods mean he brings out the sniper rifle.
Unholy Matrimony: Light and Misa, whether Light likes it or not. They were both villains in their own right before joining forces.
Unintentional Backup Plan: Light OutGambits Near by fooling him into stealing a fake Death Note. However, because of Mello's own unrelated failed Indy Ploy to kidnap Takada, Near realizes the note is fake and is alerted to the location of the real Death Note, which he also steals and replaces with his own fake, allowing him to outwit Light.
In the anime, Mikami narrates the flashbacks to his youth, as opposed to the ominiscient narrator in the manga. He thus has an unfavorable view of his mother's advice to stop fighting against the bullies, whereas the manga's narrator noted that she was motivated by genuine concern for his welfare that was largely lost on him.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Usually we don't see Light writing his more complex death plans into his diary before they happen.
Misa does this twice, to the severe detriment of both sides. Once, it's as a Poisonous Friend to Kira, giving L physical evidence in the case in her sending the tapes, and the other time, it's out of Mad Love to same, endangering her own life to the point that her shinigami has to intervene. For a fervent Kira supporter, she's really a loose cannon: she never fully appreciates her role in either disaster.
Sachiko asks her children to bring their father a change of clothes, and Sayu is reluctant to take the task. When Light volunteers, he ends up running into Naomi, learning about how close she is to figuring out an important part of how he kills people, and silencing her before she can reach L.
Aizawa opens up his umbrella when it begins to snow and so just misses seeing Light and Naomi Misora together.
Light and Mikami at first appear to be Type I but a diagram in the databook actually implies that Light and Mikami are more of a Type III: Mikami is honestly loyal to Light, but Light views both Mikami and Takada as murderers who aren't that much better than other criminals. He does, however, think that Mikami is useful. Mikami swears absolute devotion to Light when Light entrusts him with the Death Note and in turn he was the only one Light was planning on keeping around after he won. However, in the anime at the very end it turns into Type III. When his plan to kill Near and others fails, Light tries to save himself by sacrificing Mikami, claiming that he doesn't know him; Mikami, while broken by this rejection, remains loyal to Light and responds to his call for help by killing himself, creating a distraction that allows Light to escape. In the manga they are not friends at all as not only Light abandons Mikami, but also Mikami responds to Light's call for help by yelling at him that he's not a god.
Light and Rem are type IV, at first Rem hates Light for the way he manipulates Misa but later after spending time with Higuchi, Rem comes to sympathize with Light and his cause, finding Light to be "as pure as Misa."
Villain Protagonist: In another series, Light would be the shadowy villain that the heroic Master Detective had to capture before someone else was killed.
Villain Song: Misa sings one when Light chooses her to act as Kira in his place. "Ki wo tsukete, Kami-sama wa miteru..." ("Watch your back, [because] God can see you...")
Villain World: During the second arc, crime has dropped to zero, many countries have declared their support for Kira, and he's got multiple TV spokesmen.
Visionary Villain: Light envisions a world without crime that is ruled by a god-like human with the power of death.
Light starts out by killing prominent murderers, but then jumps off the slippery slope by the second chapter and kills anyone who gets in his way — whether or not they qualify as "immoral", "criminal", or anything else. After the time skip, he makes plans to eventually target lazy people.
This also applies to Kiras X- (a lawyer who not only kills criminals, but extends his punishment to people who have atoned for their crimes and "those who do not use their potential" — that is, lazy people) and C-, (the unseen Death Note writer in the manga sequel who kills adults over the age of 70 [which he later drops to 60] in order to unburden the youth of Japan).
While L serves as The Leader of the good guys while he's alive, he does some morally dubious things during his quest to stop Kira.
Mello, who wants to be L's successor, ends up joining the Mafia, kidnapping Sayu, and indirectly getting Soichiro killed; his actions are so ruthless that he's not much better than Light.
Then you have the debate over whether Near controlled Mikami with the Death Note or not, based off of Matsuda's theory in the final chapter. Series artist Takeshi Obata also states that Near is a "cheater" and less innocent than he seems compared to Mello. He treats detective work as a game, and will try to "win" the game by any means necessary; he has no emotional attachments or morals to distract him.
We Need to Get Proof: Both L and Near end up suspecting Light almost right off the bat; though they'd both play fast and loose with ethics to solve a case, Near says ex post facto justification (like killing Light and seeing if the murders stop) is intolerable for either of them.
Some food for thought- Light was seriously considering the school bully for his second kill despite how it might implicate him to kill someone he knows.
And Taro Kagomi from the pilot chapter.
Kiyomi Takada in the live-action movie.
Willing Suspension of Disbelief: The Death Note's rules invoke this trope. If a victim's description of death has them writing "death gods love apples" before dying, they'll just die of a heart attack without fulfilling the description, because the victim would have no way of knowing that. What they can do is write an ordinary suicide note that just happens to spell "death gods love apples" if you take the first letter of each line.
With Due Respect: Aizawa says this to L when convinced of Light and Misa's innocence.
Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Not a specific character, but the Death Notes themselves. One of their How to Use rules states that a Death Note cannot affect anyone under the age of 780 days (two years and 50 days).
In the live action movie, this is Ryuk's explanation for why he hadn't told Light why, if you have a Death Note, your lifespan is hidden from a human who has traded for Shinigami-sight (which allowed Misa to discover who he is).
This is his explanation in the manga as well. In addition, one of the rules of the Death Note as presented in "How to Use" is that the Shinigami is not obligated to tell the holder of the Death Note anything, even if the holder asks.
You Fool!: Light says it a couple of times in the English dub and usually to Matsuda or Misa.
You Have to Believe Me: Light invokes this word for word during his Memory Gambit. When Light reverts to his "innocent" self and knows he's not Kira, he has no memory of his time as Kira, and something strange is going on here. Naturally, no one believes him.
You Just Told Me: Light of all people falls for this and accidentally outs Higuchi as Kira to Namikawa. Made even funnier by the fact that he's using L's name at the time.
Misa: "Wow! Namikawa is really smart to have figured that out!"
A human that causes a shinigami's death inherits their life span.
You Meddling Kids: Light would have gotten away with it too (or a realistic chance to argue his innocence)...if he had waited two freaking seconds!!!
You Were Trying Too Hard: Light makes his life worse by not giving up — when he kills FBI Agent Raye Penber, he ends up casting suspicion upon himself, not long after Pember judges Light free of suspicion of being Kira. If he had simply done nothing, L would not have managed to narrow the suspects down to him.
Young Conqueror: All of the four main characters have the mental qualifications to be this, but only Light is idealistic enough to follow this route. He plans to take over the world.