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Characters / Death Note - L Lawliet

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Main Character Index | Main Characters | Light Yagami | L Lawliet | Near | Task Force | Shinigami | Side Characters | Novel, Pilot, and Movies | Death Note (2017)

L Lawliet (エル・ローライト, Eru Rōraito)

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/l_lawlietdeathnote.png
"Coincidence? No, too convenient. This can only mean that Kira has access to police information. It's obvious now, this is a direct challenge to me."

Voiced by: Kappei Yamaguchi (JP), Alessandro Juliani (EN), Roger Pera (Spain), Claudi Domingo (Spain (Relight)), Hugo Núñez (Latin America), Sérgio Cantú (BR), Gillaume Lebon (FR)

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Played by: Kenichi Matsuyama (films), Kento Yamazaki (TV drama), Teppei Koike (musical)

"I don't sit like this because I want to. I have to sit like this. You see, if I were to sit normally, my deductive skills would immediately be reduced by roughly 40%."

The Antagonist of the series, but not the villain.

L is the greatest detective in the Death Note world, able to control and work through the police force worldwide and notorious for uncovering seemingly unsolvable crimes, he's called in to work on the Kira (as Light is known) case. Since Kira needs a face and name to be able to kill people and L does not make public appearances and hides behind aliases (L being the most famous) he is the ideal opponent for Kira since neither knows the identity of the other. He establishes Kira's location by tricking him into killing an unknown death row inmate announcing himself as "L" on a live TV broadcast filmed only in the Kanto region of Japan and deduces his age soon afterward by observing his simplistic, somewhat immature concept of justice and out-of-school-hours killings.

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Having established which members of the Japanese police department he can trust (which include Light's father) he names Light as a suspect for Kira and with a simple combination of remorseless logic, barely legal methods and sugar intake, he places obstacles for him—and eventually Misa—to prove his theory, leaving them barely able to stay two steps ahead of him.

He is the opposing Deuteragonist of the series. His real name, revealed in an encyclopedia of the series (How To Read 13), is L Lawliet.


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    #-F 
  • 20% More Awesome: He occasionally gives statistics about how right he is. The official guide claims that he makes these up to sound more credible, while another claims that whenever he mentions a statistic at all, he's always 99% sure. So all that "5%" or "47%" or whatever meant he was almost totally sure every time, a claim that seems dubious when you consider that L frequently uses these statistics in his inner monologues. However, this makes sense when one considers that his statistics likely only factor in hard evidence. So when he says the likelihood of Light being Kira is near zero, it means he has no evidence at all that Light is Kira since Light is smart enough to leave none at all. However, he realizes from profiling Light that he is almost certainly Kira due to how perfectly he matches Kira's own profile. So when he states these statistics, it is likely just a ruse to get Light to lower his guard.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: In the Korean production of the stage musical, he sports short, light brown hair as opposed to long and black.
    • Him being exceptionally pale was a stylistic choice in the anime. He is colored more naturally in the manga.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Is a lot more arrogant and condescending in the TV drama.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: This L is calm and collected to the point of apathy with a tendency to rarely actually lose control of his temper. However, his counterpart in the American Netflix movie is a lot more Hot-Blooded and emotional.
  • Admiring the Abomination: L only takes on cases that interest him and though understated he finds Kira/Light quite fascinating and regards him as a Worthy Opponent. L gets very annoyed at the appearance of a Second Kira because it's not his Kira and not playing by the same rules. In the live action movies he's clearly entertained by watching Light manipulate Naomi Misora on the monitors.
    Souichiro Yagami: We have to stop this!
    L: We're just getting to the good part.
  • Allergic to Routine: Very easily bored, and even prolongs the Kira case just for the rush.
  • Alliterative Name: His full name is L Lawliet. This is only alliterative spelling-wise, though.
  • Alternate Continuity: In the movies, L outlives Light.
  • Always Someone Better: To Light, in terms of pure intellect. L usually manages to stay a step ahead of Light during their mind games, simply due to Light being unable to grasp the bigger picture. For instance, L's deduction test with the photos of Kira's victims, Light assumes that L is simply trying to bait him into saying something Kira would know. However, he fails to realize that L is actually profiling him with behavior that lines up with Kira's actions. Indeed, Light lets slip that he is a sore loser with a bit of an ego streak, and demonstrates a brilliant intellect that perfectly matches Kira's capabilities, raising L's suspicions. Additionally, Light finds refuge in his ability to play the part of innocence perfectly, but L has the clarity to realize that it is suspicious for a suspect to appear completely immaculate when it is normal for even unlikely suspects to have some traits that suggest guilt. It is this that cements L's hunch that Light is Kira as certainty, and only then does he completely lock on to Light in search of evidence.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: He has odd mannerisms and shows zero interest in confiding in others or romantic relationships despite being a Chessmaster who is very good in manipulating facts and people.
  • Anti-Hero: Not exactly your ideal type of hero. While he does try to capture Kira because he's a murderer, his main motivation is because he sees Kira as a challenge and willfully prolongs the case, endangering countless lives in the process, simply to have more fun with him. Furthermore, he strongly detests physical contact with anyone and is close to emotionally dead. As far as his morality is concerned, he is willing to achieve the good goal of capturing Kira (Light) with evil means, such as kidnapping, not preventing murder, invasion of privacy and torture.
  • Arch-Enemy: To Kira / Light Yagami. He sees his chase as a great challenge.
  • At Least I Admit It: For all his similarities to Light, L at least has enough self-awareness to be aware of his flaws, even admitting he shares the same childishness and Sore Loser tendencies as Kira in front of the rest of the Task Force. Light, meanwhile, is a perfectionist who would sooner declare himself God than admit he made a mistake.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: The gothic font helps.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: In the second episode, L is able to deduce several different things about Kira from one televised broadcast. Throughout the show, L is also shown assessing situations, analyzing happenings and their effects, and planning his next move.
  • Back for the Finale: Anime-only. In the final episode, he appears before a dying Light. Whether his ghost is actually there, he's Back from the Dead or whether he's just a Dying Dream is never made clear.
  • Badass Adorable: How fangirls see him. If anything, look at his picture on this page.
  • Badass Baritone: In the [adult swim] dub. Alessandro Juliani gives him a deeper voice pitch than Kappei Yamaguchi.
  • Badass Boast: When first revealing himself to Kira after Light took his bait:
    L:"But I assure you - L is real. I do exist. Now - try to kill me!"
  • Badass Bookworm: He's a brilliant detective, and quite able to hold his own in the occasional fistfight with Light.
  • Badass Normal: Unlike Light, he does not have a magic notebook or shinigami eyes, and his badassery is largely due to his own intellect and Chessmaster abilities.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Because the creators decided to agree to a fan's question, he was mentioned to be skilled in Capoeira.
  • Barefoot Loon: Is a brilliant but eccentric detective who has a penchant for going barefoot.
  • Batman Gambit: The Do Not Adjust Your Set one being only his first in the series. He was counting on Kira's ego being bigger than his reason.
  • Becoming the Mask: Popular interpretation on the "Light is my first ever friend" line, which was actually a lie. This statement comes from How to Read, yet a different section of How to Read says that L establishes an Odd Friendship with Light, even while fighting him as an enemy, and notes that they make a good team during the Yotsuba arc.
  • Benevolent Boss: As opposed to Light's Bad Boss. L treats his allies very politely.
  • Big Eater: L is always eating sweets.
  • Big Good: He fulfills this role as the one heading the Task Force, despite being an Anti-Hero.
  • Big Sleep: When he dies in the episode "Silence".
  • Blood Knight: More interested in interesting cases than in "right" or "wrong." Which is the main reason that he simply does not kill Light, as he knows with near certainty that he is Kira.
  • Brainy Brunette: Subverted. His hair is more black than brown, but he's still a Smart Guy.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Sometimes. He apparently takes 2 months off of his own investigation and refuses to work on it again until Light points to the Yotsuba Group as potential suspects.
  • Bullying a Dragon: L's main tactic to reveal Light as Kira seems to be to just keep annoying him. Justified in that there really is no evidence other than to test Light's reactions.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Give L a bowl of candy, and he'll work for two nights straight. Three, if he has to.
  • But Not Too Foreign: He's "...a quarter Japanese, a quarter English, a quarter Russian and... maybe a quarter French or Italian..."
  • Catchphrase: "I am JUSTICE!" (Both he and Light have this catchphrase.)
  • Celibate Hero: He was never interested in romantic relationships. The creators confirmed that.
  • The Chains of Commanding: As L, he lives under constant threat of death, has to contend with people dying on his watch, mistrust from the police and from the public and avoiding choosing a successor. Oh, and no social life.
  • Characterization Marches On: Prior to his face being shown, L was overall less eccentric and simply seemed to be an extremely reclusive man with a few quirks. Most notably, he is seen sitting more normally, meditating with his back straight rather than his iconic crouch, and seemed to prefer sitting on bare floors rather than chairs. According to Obata, this was somewhat intentional to make him seem more credible as a detective as opposed to a complete loon. Also, his early design had some notable discrepancies, originally having wavier hair and was drawn to be more handsome with a prominent jawline.
  • The Chessmaster: He is the world's smartest detective and has used various strategies and tactics to get even closer to Kira.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: He has odd gestures and a very unusual personality. It is unclear how much of it is genuine, however.
  • Collector of the Strange: L collects criminals, which is all well and good for a detective, but his way is a bit... creepy. Along with Aiber and Wedy, in the manga, L has an army of peepers at his disposal who do his bidding and help him set up surveillance cameras everywhere. Also in Another Note there's the implication that he steals the names of his vanquished rivals and uses them as his detective aliases.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Official color seems to be blue. According to Obata, his assigned color is gold. Grey also seems to be a recurring color.
  • The Comically Serious: He has a dry sense of humor, after all.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: Despite his Foe Yay with Light, he is canonically of the Married to the Job variety as opposed to Armored Closet Gay. Regardless, he shows no interest in romance.
  • Consummate Liar: To the point where no one can be sure if L is telling the truth, or lying.
  • Covert Pervert: Subverted, perhaps, because he may have grabbed Misa's magnificent ass, but only to steal her phone.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He's prepared to use any tactics. He has money and resources set aside for every scenario imaginable... and some not!
  • Creepy Good: For a certain definition of good. He has No Social Skills, Looks Like Cesare, and is the good guy.
  • Creepy Monotone: The English anime, at least, puts this to good use.
  • Creepy Shadowed Undereyes: Has these as a result of being The Insomniac which has earned him the Fan Nickname of "Panda".
  • Dark Is Not Evil: His appearance is a bit... chilling: he is extremely pale, Looks Like Cesare and has Messy Hair. He's also very stoic. However, he's still on the justice's side.
  • Dance Battler: He knows Capoeira.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: L is an orphan who has been raised to be the world's best detective. He doesn't consider anyone a friend, his lies to Light and Misa aside.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has a very dry sense of humor.
    Misa: I couldn't live in a world without Light!
    L: Yes, that would be dark.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In Another Note it's strongly implied that L takes the names or aliases of his vanquished rivals as trophies: "Ryuuzaki" is from the LABB murder case and "Eraldo Coil" and "Deneuve" came out of "detective wars". If things had gone differently in the Kira case, L might have taken to calling himself "Light Yagami".
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: Allows himself to be punched in the face before kicking Light hard.
  • Determinator: He hates to lose.
  • Deuteragonist: He is the second viewpoint character after Light, who is the protagonist.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: How he's introduced. He basically goes on television and tells Kira through his stand-in Lind L. Tailor where he can put his justice. Kira, of course, kills Tailor immediately, thinking that it's L. Then, L keeps on taunting him anyway.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: He passes away in Light's arms.
  • Didn't See That Coming: He, the master of I Know You Know I Know, didn't realize that he was dealing with an Outside-Genre Foe in the form of the supernatural Death Note and the existence of Shinigami. When he discovers this, he's so surprised he falls right out of his chair, and he continues to be taken off guard because he didn't know all of the rules surrounding Death Notes.
  • Ditzy Genius: Quirky, but very smart. He was stated by the author to be the most intelligent character in the series, and has enough idiosyncrasies and few enough social skills that he can barely interact. Generally hyper-competent, he tends to fail in normal conversations and interpersonal relations.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: He is killed at the midpoint of the story, and Light reigns over the world as a god for several years before finally being brought down himself by the SPK and members of the Kira Task Force.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: He sets up the initial one of the series, identifying himself as Kira's sworn enemy.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: L goes barefoot except when outdoors, due to his knack for crouching. Even when he wears shoes, they're ratty sneakers left untied to slip back off at a moment's notice.
  • Does Not Understand Sarcasm: In the novel, Naomi's sarcastic remarks at the beginning apparently go over his head.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: L, unsurprisingly, polishes off a whole box by himself.
    • In the live-action adaptation, he creates a donut kebab by placing several on a skewer.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the musical, he's killed by Light this way, dying of a gunshot wound to the head.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: He has an extremely pale skin, and was specifically designed to be unattractive.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: "You can call me whatever you like, but I'm taking your cake."
  • Et Tu, Brute?: He realizes that Light, the person he is working alongside with, is once again Kira, moments before his death.
  • Everyone Has Standards: He only takes on cases that he's interested in, but expresses an apparently sincere belief that he finds Kira thinking of himself as a god and killing people he doesn't approve of unacceptable.
  • Evil Twin: Has one in the form of Beyond Birthday in Another Note, although it's unclear if BB is literally L's twin or not.
  • The Exotic Detective: L is the only member of the task force that isn't Japanese; he was raised in England.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Soichiro Yagami and the other detectives are visibly surprised when they meet L.
  • Expy:
    • Of Sherlock Holmes according to Obata.
    • To Batman himself, being the world's greatest detective with face concealed from the world. L himself is not above acts of vigilantism if he views it necessary and also has a Badass Butler ready to handle certain day-to-day task.s
  • Extreme Doormat: Despite being one of the most powerful and influential people on Earth, he acts like one. It might (in part) be an act of some sort to lure Kira out as it's also been seen that he can be just as stubborn as Light. In Another Note it's teased that he was raised as some sort of Tyke-Bomb which would go far to explaining this behavior.
  • Extremity Extremist: On the rare occasions he fights physically, he mainly uses kicks.
  • Face Death with Dignity: In the anime, he attempts to have one last heartfelt conversation with Light that implies he knows his time is not long. As he is dying, he quietly accepts that Light has beaten him, but indicates he had one last contigency before dying.
    • In the musical, his last words before dying are "you haven't won, Yagami."
  • The Faceless: We do not see L's face for the first few chapters. His face is finally revealed when he officially, and physically, introduces himself to the Japanese Police Force.
  • False Friend: To Light and Misa. The creators confirmed that. He always lied.
    • Although this may be more complicated as he knew that they both were False Friends themselves, so he knew they couldn't ever be his friends. It may well be that he wanted to be friends deep down.
  • Fatal Flaw: If he hadn't drawn out the case to keep playing mind games with Light because it amused him, he would have lived to the end of the series.
  • Fiction 500: He has a hotel built solely to house (and disguise) a heavily secured task force headquarters, pays for everyone on the task force's life insurance, hands them gadget belts, can afford to hire a professional con man and an international thief, and still has enough left over that his successor can just pour a waterfall of hundred-dollar bills out the top of a building.
  • Flashback Nightmare: The opening of episode 25.
  • Foil: To Light Yagami. Both are extremely intelligent young men who can play others like a fiddle, but while Light uses his smarts to commit acts of tyranny and oppression he believes are for the greater good, L uses his genius to prevent them and/or catch the criminal(s) responsible. Furthermore, both L and Light have a whole reciprocal shadow thing going. Light is the social one, who not only understands but really cares about proper socialization and not being indecorous, but as Kira he's also the one who's the most prolific serial killer in history. L is antisocial and willfully unsocialized, and he doesn't really care about a little thing like illegal detainment, mock executions, and torture, but he's the one trying to enforce the fact that you don't go around killing people, and he means it. Enough to be unwilling to test the Death Note. They're certainly both liars. The primary difference between L and Light — two childish geniuses who hide behind their claims of justice — is that L has emotional intelligence and is capable of accepting and coping with his own and the world's flaws, something that Light absolutely refuses to do.
    L: "Kira is childish and he hates losing... I am also childish and I hate to lose. That's how I know."
  • Freak Out: He starts screaming hysterically when it's suggested that Shinigami are behind the Kira killings.
  • Friendless Background: L has no friends.
  • Friend to All Children: Despite his poor social skills, L is pretty nice with kids, especially at Wammy's House, and children treat him with a beloved reverence, except Near.
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    G-L 
  • The Gadfly: L will often say things he doesn't mean just to get a reaction.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's both the world's greatest detective and trained in Capoeira.
    L: I'm a lot stronger than I look, y'know.
  • Genius Sweet Tooth: He's a genius and he always has something sweet nearby.
  • The Glomp: Glomps Naomi at the end of Another Note. It's his way of thanking her for her efforts.
  • Godzilla Threshold: L backs Light into such a tough corner that he has to resort to manipulating Rem into killing L just to get rid of him.
  • Good Counterpart: To B.B. / Beyond Birthday. While L is a Cloudcuckoolander Anti-Hero, B.B. is an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer who looks exactly like him.
  • Good Is Not Soft: L is not above using torture and treating other people like mere tools, even if he recognizes the immorality of a Serial Killer.
  • Great Detective: The top three, actually.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: Even after his death, L's influence on Near and Mello (his allies and mentors) still lived.
  • Guile Hero: Relies on his keen intellect.
  • Gut Feeling: He is suspicious of Light from the moment he meets him. Guess what, L, you were right.
  • Hates Being Touched: Zig-zagged. He tenses up and trembles when Aizawa roughly grabs him by the shoulder in one instance. But in another, when Misa kisses him on the cheek he responds rather positively to the gesture, blurting, "I could actually fall for you." It might depend on context.
  • The Hero: He's the one who starts the chase against Kira.
  • Hero Antagonist: As opposed to Light.
  • The Hero Dies: L, one of the most epic heroic antagonists in Shōnen who nearly took down Kira, ends up murdered by Kira himself.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The public and the police don't trust L because he hides behind a computer screen.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In the Alternate Continuity, Death Note: The Last Name. He writes his name in the Death Note with the longest possible time until his death, and is able to survive and catch Light before he dies.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: A completely falsified version with Light. They attend the same college, are constantly hanging out and later on begin living together, with L calling Light the only real friend he's had in his entire life. In reality, all of this is a sham and both are simply playing mind games with the other to further raise the stakes of their battle.
  • Hikikomori: Justified by Mello on the grounds that L's life was always in danger, due to his line of work.
    • Subverted in the "L: One Day" mini-manga, where it's shown that he goes to amusement parks, concerts, and out for walks in his free time.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": In The Last Name, it's revealed that his first name is actually L.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: The Yotsuba Group attempts to hire Eraldo Coil, the world's second greatest detective, to hunt him down. L is not worried... because he is Eraldo Coil. Both the second and third greatest detectives in the world are aliases of L.
    L: I've found that people who try to find me usually fall for this.
  • Honor Before Reason: He's almost certain it's Light from the very beginning but instead of say nabbing him in the middle of the night or just shooting him, he insists on waiting until he has 100% proof before making an arrest. Of course, killing him without evidence that he's right would pretty easily turn the police against him, especially since the police chief is Light's father.
  • Hurricane Kick: Ow, Light, that looked like it hurt.
  • Hurting Hero: Not so much in the manga or anime, but the two light novels Another Note and L: change the WorLd suggest that he is this. An excerpt from the latter:
    It was a hurt that L. Lawliet had suppressed, that he had to suppress in order to continue his existence as the peerless Detective L. How had the world's top detective been described with regard to facets of his personality other than his ability as a detective? He had been called a kinky detective who relished bizarre murders, a human computer capable only of measuring mass numbers in terms of cold numbers, a reclusive sociopath. What L thought of such estimations of his personality only L could know. But no one could truly understand L. How L did not and could not forget the faces of thousands of victims. Who could comprehend the man who had lived his life, and had to live confronting all the lives ended prematurely, the tears of the grief-stricken survivors, the devaluing of life as a daily reality? How was it possible to measure the pain of such a man? Was it a strain so heavy that L's back curved under all its weight? Was it an agony so terrible as to leave the indelible dark circles around his eyes? Was it a feeling so bitter that every bite he took needed to be coated in sugar? The chronically rounded shoulders, the inevitable dark circles, the eccentric tastes-L suppressed the pain of being a champion of justice, but the evidence of the pain was molded into his very body.
  • Hypocrite: He tells Light that it's illegal to murder outside of the law, but he does plenty of illegal things, like spying, kidnapping, and torture, in his efforts to catch Kira. He's even willing to let both criminals and the innocent die just to prove Kira's identity during the investigation of Yotsuba. Granted, he's never murdered someone outside of the law.
  • I Am a Monster: Says this almost word for word in a flashback in Relight 2 when one of the children at Wammy's asks him what he's afraid of.
    L:"Lying monsters are a real nuisance. They are much more cunning than other monsters. (...) If I were to encounter such a monster, I would likely be eaten by it. Because in truth, I am that monster."
  • I Am the Noun: "I am JUSTICE!"
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Many times.
  • I Have Many Names: Besides L, he's also known as Ryuzaki, Eraldo Coil, Deneuve, and Hideki Ryuga. In Another Note, Mello estimated the amount of aliases that L possessed to be in the three digit range, and wonders which one of them finally killed him (not knowing that it was none of them), or if L himself even knew.
  • The Insomniac:
    Aizawa: So, when does Ryuzaki sleep?
    Matsuda: I once saw him sleeping in a chair in that position ... No, really!
  • Insufferable Genius: He seems confident enough in his abilities that he thinks he can keep a supernatural killer an arm's length close to him. This is taken Up to Eleven in the TV drama, wherein the pilot episode has him behave impolitely to Soichiro's face.
  • Intelligence = Isolation: To the point where very few people have actually seen him in person; most of his interaction is done via a computer screen and a voice changer.
  • Interpol Special Agent: Interpol agrees to bring in L for the Kira case.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Sugar and spice and everything nice. That's what little Ls are made of. In one of the Omakes, he got some 3D nail art done (And for someone who bites his nails a lot, he always manages to look nicely manicured!). Plus he has cross-dressed for cases before as shown in the novel, where he dresses as a woman to pass as Maki's mother and goes all out with it, flirting with the FBI agent with them, even calling him "darling".
  • It Amused Me: His main motivation revolves around this trope. He mostly goes after Kira simply For the Lulz. In fact, part of L's reputation is that he refuses to take on a case that doesn't interest and challenge him, even though he's leagues above the rest of the world's police.
  • It's Personal: His reason for getting involved with the Beyond Birthday case; ordinarily, L only takes on cases where there are more than 10 victims and/or more than $10 million at stake.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: L only reserves his justice for people he sees as evil, and to be fair, his accusations are always correct (Light, Misa). Moreover, while L does order the deaths of a few criminals to help further the investigation, these criminals were on death row anyway.
  • Killed Off for Real: In the manga and in episode 25 of the anime after Light corners Rem into writing down L's name in the Death Note to prevent Misa from being arrested as Kira.
  • Legacy Hero: L becomes one of these; Light and later Near adopt his persona and identity, though the "mask" is only a letter on a computer screen. Also played with in that everyone Light passes the mantle of Kira to is just a fall guy.
  • Lighter and Softer: His film counterpart in L: change the WorLd.
  • Limited Wardrobe: L is almost never, if ever, seen wearing anything but that pyjama-top-and-jeans ensemble. He even shows up at To-Oh University's Opening Ceremony to give a speech dressed that way!
  • Loners Are Freaks: Unnerves a lot of people with his appearance and habits.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Probably because he's The Insomniac.

    M-S 
  • Martial Pacifist: He's a perfectly skilled fighter in Capoeira. However, he would only use these skills in very exceptional cases.
  • Manchild: He self-confesses to be rather childish and sore loser, not unlike Kira himself. Unlike Soichiro, L himself doesn't really care particularly for justice, seeing all his cases to be games to be solved for his entertainment. He is not good with interpersonal relationships, requiring Watari, and near exclusively eats sweets as a child would. What differentiates him from Light is that he at least has the self-awareness to realize his faults and is mature enough to realize that actual lives are at stake and tries to protect them as best as possible.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Undeniably. L has no problem using people to get the job done. Light of all people calls him out on it when he loses his memories and refuses to go along with L's plan to manipulate Misa.
  • Married to the Job: Has no canonical relationships, because his line of work (and lack of charisma) makes it difficult.
  • Master of All: He is the golden standard of the series that everyone strives to surpass. Most notably, he lacks many of the fatal flaws many of the other major player have. For instance, Near and Mello are near-perfect complements. Near has near-perfect control of his emotions but has little initiative or practical skills. Mello is emotionally unstable but is very proactive and street smart. L has both high initiative and a strong hold over his faculties. Light was driven by an endless need to prove himself to the world, which leads him to make very questionable decisions. L had already proven himself to the world many times over and doesn't feel a need to prove his worth to others.
  • Meaningful Name: His last name Lawliet, which is pronounced "low-light."
    • While the first part is obviously a reference to his job, the last part "liet" is Dutch for "(one who) left behind".
  • The Mentor: To Near, Mello, Matt and every kid in Wammy's house. In Wammy's House, Mello used to walk barefoot, possibly to imitate him.
  • Messianic Archetype: In the anime, he washes the feet of Light before he is killed by him - a deliberate reference to Jesus' act of washing *all* of his disciples- including the one who would betray him. (Matthew 26:14-39, Luke 22:24-27, John 13:1-17). Some may also find additional parallels between Christ and L - his choice to gather followers, his lack of attractiveness and his strange demeanor (Isaiah 53:2, Wisdom of Solomon 2:15), his humility leading up to his death (Philippians 2:8) and his choice to leave a successor to guide his followers (John 14:26.)
  • Messy Hair: L puts little to no stock into his persona appearance. His hair looks like he's never held a comb or brush in his life.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: He's scrawny, but strong enough to knock Light flying across the room with one kick.
  • Must Have Caffeine: He is frequently shown dumping sugar into a cup of coffee or tea; when Matsuda asks him how he can be of help, L asks him to go get him coffee.
  • Mysterious Past: The taskforce, Light, and the audience never really learn anything about L.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning:
    • With L dead and Light assuming the identity of L unbeknownst to the world, it would seem like Light had won... if not for a countdown timer set up by L to inform his chosen heir of his death if he fails to reset it every month.
    • In the live-action version, L writes his own name in the Death Note, which grants him temporary immunity from Kira, but will kill him in 23 days time. L's backup plan often works like this too, since if he is killed by Kira it will narrow the suspects down significantly.
  • My Greatest Failure: L admits that the deaths of the FBI agents and having to reveal his face to the Kira Investigation Force are failures of his that he considers terrible.
  • Nice Guy: An odd example. Despite his poor social skills and Anti-Hero status, he's fairly polite, accessible and civil. That, and his soft side with children.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: He's the world's greatest detective (actually, top three detectives), but he only takes cases that interest him because otherwise effortlessly solving countless cases would no doubt get boring after a while. He draws out the Kira case partly to keep having fun.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Relies on Watari for almost everything.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Coinciding with his No Social Skills.
  • No Social Skills: Not good at interacting with people, or conforming to their expectations.
  • Not So Different: Frequently lampshaded, especially with his true last name: Lawliet, which is pronounced like "low light." The Great Detective L is a nameless, anonymous force of justice / retribution that may strike down when your least expect it. Sound familiar? Sucks to be you, Light.
    L: Kira is childish and he hates losing.
    Soichiro Yagami: Just what do you mean?
    L: (somewhat sheepishly) Well...I'm also childish and I hate to lose. That's how I know.
  • Not So Stoic: When he sees Light's Slasher Smile as he's about to die. Nothing shows this better than episode 11 ("Assault"). Shortly after Ukita is killed by the second Kira live on the news while trying to stop the airing of that Kira's threats towards the task force, L stops Aizawa from impulsively going to the TV station and suffering the same fate. Aizawa is enraged by L's seeming indifference and grabs his shoulder to confront him about it, but he immediately backs off and calms down once he sees that L is literally trembling with anxiety.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: One of his greatest strengths, according to the creators. L's eccentricity makes others believe he is completely oblivious in things unrelated to deduction, but L is fairly emotionally intelligent and is knowledgeable on how the world works. Light often underestimates him due to some of his more outrageous actions, mistaking it for recklessness when it is more often a calculated gamble.
  • Oh, Crap!: When he sees Light above him with a huge Slasher Smile as he's dying.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: The older Hero Antagonist to Light's younger Villain Protagonist.
  • Older Than They Look: He's twenty-four at the start yet doesn't look much older then the 17 year old Light. If anything, he looks younger. However, his age shows when it is demonstrated time and time again that he is far more emotionally mature than Light.
    • Evoked in the Live-action movies, where L's actor is younger than Light's actor.
  • One-Letter Name: In fact, it's his real first name.
  • Oral Fixation: The amount of time the guy spend with his fingers/various food substances in his mouth is amazing. Also, he can tie cherry stalks into knots with his tongue.note 
  • Out-Gambitted: By Light; essentially what his death came down to, although he had no way of knowing Rem would kill to protect Misa.
  • Papa Wolf: In the Alternate Continuity movie L: change the WorLd, L is very protective of his orphans.
  • Paranoia Gambit: When L puts 64 cameras in Light's room and then waits to see what will happen.
  • Parental Abandonment: L is an orphan.
  • Parental Neglect: Beyond seems to think so.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: With Light, all the time. They subvert this exactly twice, during which Light finally just punches L and a brawl breaks out.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Given the dark nature of the franchise, the one he gives to K in Change The World is unusually poignant.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: He locks people up in solitary confinement and uses sensory deprivation on them for months on end in order to get a confession, and he has few qualms about letting a few dozen people die in order to catch his man (although when presented with a less objectionable option, he did accept it with enthusiasm of an undetermined sincerity level).
  • Sweet Tooth: He can be seen eating various sorts of confections — sweets, cakes, cookies, ice creams — all the time. It goes with his characterization as a Manchild.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: L would qualify as a more serious and less hands on example. As the worlds greatest detective, he early on (correctly) fingers out the main protagonist as the most likely candidate to be the notorious serial killer known as "Kira" and continues to pursue his hunch for the rest of the series, even when circumstances (orchestrated by Light of course) seem to disprove this.

    T-Z 
  • Tautological Templar: His methods, including violations of privacy, unlawful imprisonment/kidnapping, and physical and psychological torture, seem to be justified, both in-universe and out, because he's the one doing it.
    • In the case of Misa's imprisonment given that he knows she can kill with just a person's face, but does NOT know that she has to have the Death Note to do so, you could say that it is a case of Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
  • Teen Genius: He's several years past his teens by the time of the series, though you have to assume he started that way.
  • Thanatos Gambit: He ensures that his successors, Near and Mello, would succeed him after his death.
  • That's What I Would Do: He tries to think of Kira's next move using this reasoning.
  • Thinking Tic: He often bites his nails, particularly the nails on his thumb.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: When he first addresses the ICPO he calls Light's spree "an atrocious murder case I will never forgive!"
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: He does this quite a few times.
  • Together in Death: With Light, at the end. In the anime, he is the last thing Light sees before dying.
    L: Let's explore the World of Nothingness together!
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cake and really sweets of any kind.
  • Tragic Bromance: With Light during the Yotsuba arc.
  • Trash of the Titans: L in his movie. Justified in that he's only got 23 days to live and he's not going to waste his remaining time cleaning.
  • Troll: Does several things completely unnecessary to the case just to screw with Light, like claiming him to be the best friend he's ever had and pretending not to hear him in the rain. Since he knew he was Kira pretty much immediately, it's a given.
  • TV Genius: the clues he gets about the Kira case can lead anyone to a multitude of logical conclusions, but as a general rule, he always gets everything right in his deductions.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: L is his alias, while L Lawliet is his real name.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In the TV drama, he's noticeably more arrogant and stuck-up than his original counterpart. He even installs the cameras and microphones without telling the investigators involved, especially Soichiro.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In the films, especially in L: change the WorLd.
  • Tyke Bomb: Was trained as this, and started out as such.
  • Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain: L is the strange-looking hero to Light's handsome villain. However, his legion of fangirls disagree.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Uses some questionable methods, and is not above lying and manipulating others.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: To everyone at first, until Light forces him into a situation where he needs to come out into the open to Light himself and the Kira taskforce members.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Taskforce yells at him from time to time. Such as for his treatment of the Kira suspects during confinement. Also for wanting to wait around for more people to die (and thus have a more solid case) before making a move against the Yotsuba Group.
  • When He Smiles: The normally stoic L gets one of these moments when he tells the Task Force "Justice will prevail no matter what."
  • Workaholic: He spends all his time solving cases and eating candy. He rarely sleeps.
  • World's Smartest Man: In a world where intellect equals strength, L is canonically the smartest of them all. The creators state that he had to be the most intelligent character from a narrative perspective for Light to be truly challenged, and the goal of every major player is to surpass him and his legacy. Indeed, no one comes close to L in terms of sheer ability, with Light being the only person smart enough to challenge him in that regard. His two successors Near and Mello are both forced to cooperate to finally corner Light, whereas L could've done it all by himself.
  • Worthy Opponent: Light views L this way, and L views Light this way.
    • This is in direct contrast to Near and Light's relationship, where Near viewed Light as "just a crazy mass murderer" and Light resented Near as being "far below L."
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: He's a master of it, as shown when he saves Matsuda from being discovered by the Yotsuba group by having him fake his own death.
  • Young and in Charge: He's 24 at the beginning and the world's greatest detective with control over the world's police forces. It's suggested he's been this for several years, back into his teens and possibly even his childhood. In-series, the middle-aged cops of the taskforce answer to him.

    Other versions 

In films


In the Live-Action TV series


  • Adaptational Jerkass: While he's not exactly a perfect hero (the creators even confirm he's "slightly evil"), the TV drama plays up the immorality of his actions a lot more, and he also acts rather condescending.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Subverted with this counterpart, who's more interested in showing off his intelligence and snuffing Light out than trying to keep people from getting killed. However, when he does find out that Light is Kira, he wanted Light to atone for his crimes.
  • Mr. Fanservice: His TV drama counterpart frequently changes his white shirt anytime it gets stained. And it's a Running Gag.
  • Race Lift: Just like the films, the very multiracial L is played by a purely Japanese actor.

In the American Netflix movie


See Death Note Characters (2017 film) for more information.

"An eye for an eye my friend"
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