The theme playing at the very beginning of the pilot is a chanted variation of the taize prayer Kyrie Eleison, which is Greek for "Lord have mercy."
The theme that plays at various key moments - the "I am Justice" duet, the capture of the Yotsuba Kira, the revelation of Light's final gambit against Near, and the timeskip montage (where it plays in full) - is a Dies Irae. Oddly, it does not include the fifth verse of said apocalyptic choral number ("The written book will be brought/In which all is contained/Whereby the world will be judged"), but that is covered in "Teleology of Death", which plays when less overblown Ominous Latin Chanting is called for.
In the first episode (blink and you miss it) one of the names written in the Death Note is Uwe Bnote oll?...
One subtle indication of Light and L's opposition: Light uses a PC whereas L uses an Apple Macintosh.
In episode 24, when L pilots a helicopter, he sits normally. There's an in-universe reason for this, as helicopter controls cannot be used from L's usual sitting position.
During the English dub scene in the helicopter in episode 24, when L is holding the Death Note and giving a stream of thoughts showing how this notebook proves that Light is Kira, that last thing he says at the end of the stream is 'Yellow Box'. As this is the name of the abandoned warehouse mentioned and used in episodes 36 and 37, this can either be considered an accidental spoiler or epic Foreshadowing. In original audio he just says "two notebooks".
The "13th" issue of the manga (basically a Death Note encyclopedia) notes that any time L gave a percentage of the likelihood that Light was Kira, he was lying— it was always 100% - in fact, "any time L throws out a percentage, it basically means that he suspects that person by over 90 percent." (this still doesn't explain why L throws out the same statistics even in his inner monologues) It also notes that he was lying when he called Light his friend.
L has enough traits to be diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Same with Near, but he doesn't have enough traits to be albino.
Even though he is shown mostly sitting, Near is shown standing while meeting with the President.
Minus Takada if you count her as the fifth Kira, the Kiras die in alphabetical order. Higuchi is killed by Light, Light is killed by Ryuk, Mikami dies by Near's actions (I follow the Near manipulated Mikami with the DN theory) and a year after Light's and Mikami's deaths, Misa commits suicide. H,..L, Mik, Mis... Clever, eh?
It's the same with L and his successors. L, then Mello, and eventually Near. So it's L, M, N.
Mello and Near's character designs were accidentally switched during character creation explaining why they have Ironic Codenames-they were originally going to be Meaningful Names-Mello was intended to be the "mellow" one and Near was intended to be the Axe-Crazy one who was drawing "near."
Ascended Fanon: Ohba originally had no intention of meaning anything when L kicks Light in retaliation for being punched— Obata was the one who staged the kick, and he staged it the way he did based on the fact that L was handcuffed to the person he was kicking at the time, but when fans identified L's kick as a move in Capoeira, both the creators and the light novel just ran with it.
Banned in China: Yes. They're 'a poison which creates wicked hearts', apparently. Mainly because it inspired students to alter notebooks to resemble Death Notes and write the names of the teachers they hated in them, which came off as a little rebellious. That being said, it did receive a Cantonese dub and was aired in Hong Kong.
Directed by Cast Member: In the Latin American Spanish dub, Rolando de Castro is the ADR Director as well as the voice of Ryuk.
Fandom Nod: The interstitial factoids in the manga.
Flip-Flop of God: In the How To Read volume of Death Note, Tsugumi Ohba (the writer) stated the L was the most intelligent character in the Death Note series because the plot required it. However, in the very same book, his intelligence was rated 8/10, compared to Light and Near's 9/10.
No Export for You: The one-shot chapter has never been released in North America. Also unreleased in are the three DS games produced by Konami, four of the DVD collector's figures (Soichiro, Takada, Mikami and the King of Shinigami) and the anime guidebook. Luckily, Viz released the one-shot with the Omega Edition Blu-Ray set of the show.
One-Take Wonder: One of the most beloved moments across the 12 different versions of the anime, the Italian take on Light's Evil Laugh in the final episode, was done on the first take.
The TV drama uses a completely new cast, recasting even Ryuk who is voiced by Jun Fukushima instead of his original voice actor, Shido Nakamura. This, along with the musical, is the only time that Nakamura has not reprised his role.
In the series' English dub, the only inconsistency was the FBI Director, Steve Mason. For his phone call to L, Michael Dobson provided his voice, but after the Time Skip it was changed to John Novak.
Promoted Fanboy: Doubly so for Hugo Núñez, who had read the Death Note manga, novels and movies and become a fan of them long before he even knew the anime was going to get dubbed in Latin America - and at the dubbing studio he was working for, no less. He eventually got cast as L, who happened to be his favourite character in the series (he even has his letter tattooed in his left arm).
Ohba decided that the third Kira would be Higuchi by essentially undergoing a process of elimination - after establishing Mido and Takahashi as Red Herrings and deciding that Shimura didn't have the right personality, he picked Higuchi to be Kira based on Obata's remaining designs.
One of the major turning points in the early story (and one of Light's first mistakes) is when he pauses to gloat at Raye Penber as he dies. Penber's death is caught on security camera and L watches it. The way Ohba drafted it in his thumbnails, Light just says "Good-bye, Raye Penber," and moves on his way, but when Obata drew it, he staged it in such a way that L could clearly see Raye Penber looking at someone in recognition off-camera. While Ohba did not script the scene that way, he utilized it by having L realize that Raye Penber's killer must have been someone he knew, and thus he zeroed in on the people Penber was investigating... like Light.
Technology Marches On: At one point in the story, Light has to buy a small portable television in order to covertly listen to the news while his room is bugged. Had the story been set a decade later and he owned a modern smartphone, this might not have been as necessary.
The author originally intended to use Mogi for an awesome and epic plot development, but could never figure out what that would be (beyond it being awesome and epic).
According to How To Read 13, the entire task force were going to die in heroic ways. In the actual story Matsuda, Aizawa, Mogi and Ide all survive.
Ryuk was originally going to look like this◊ but the creators were worried that if he looked cooler or more attractive than Light then the fans wouldn't pay attention to Light.
According to How To Read 13 for that scene where Light and L are "getting to know each other better" the creators were originally thinking of having Light and L do a fencing duel before ultimately settling for tennis instead.
Also according to the How to Read 13, Mello was supposed to be the one who defeated Light, not Near. Ohba ended up killing him off though due to him learning too much about the Death Note, meaning if he were kept alive much of the tension in the series would have gone kablooie. Both Ohba and Obata admitted to liking Mello better than Near, with Ohba saying that being told Obata also preferred Mello probably would have been enough to change the ending back to Mello winning.
Naomi Misora was also originally going to be more of a major character, but Ohba had to kill her off quickly as it was felt she'd complicate the story by being too smart and figuring things out fast.
How To Read also mentions that in the planning stages it was briefly considered that Mello and Near would be L's twin sons but that idea was scrapped, likely as it would mean someone like L actually managed to have sex with a girl and the author just couldn't see that ever happeningnote as well as with L being 25 at the time of his death and Mello and Near being young teenagers when they're introduced, that would have brought up some Unfortunate Implications about the age of their "father", so Mello and Near became Tyke-Bomb orphans instead. Mello was also going to have white hair, as seen in an early color poster featuring the younger versions of him and Near (on the main page), but had his hair changed to blond by the time Obata started doing color images with his adult self.
The high-ranking Daril Ghiroza was originally going to play the role that Sidoh ultimately did, but this was scrapped because of her complex design, and her having a high ranking wouldn't look good against her being "pushed around" by humans.
Tsugumi Ohba's and Takeshi Obata's next series, Bakuman。 had a thinly veiled Self-Deprecation in which a series that was a stand-in for Death Note, was be pressured by the Editor to continue dragging the story out past the main rivalry. This leaves the impressions that Ohba and Obata originally did not plan for the series to continue pass the "Light vs L" plot.