The supernatural and murderous plot of Death Note follows the story of Light Yagami and his journey from studious, popular student to the sharp-minded and devious killer of the series. Although he believes he is working to rid the world of evil and crime, he is viewed as an enemy of all humans by the police. Gifted with the power of the Death Note from Ryuk the Shinigami, Light continues his crusade while dodging the reclusive and equally brilliant L. First published in 2003, this highly-regarded manga went on to become a popular anime.
The series has gained such popularity and acclaim that it has been created into numerous live-action adaptations including the newest American adaptation coming later this year on Netflix. Though surrounded by controversy for its casting choices of non-Asian actors, the newest adaptation's diverse cast could positively impact the well-known world of Light and L.
In this article, we will highlight some of the little-known facts and trivia regarding this manga and the anime. While the Death Note series is intriguing on its own, the behind-the-scene details and planning add another depth to this powerful story. Warning, this article will contain some spoilers for the manga and the series. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Death Note.
15 Author Tsugumi Ohba Has A Hidden Identity
In the anime and manga, the character of L is introduced in a shroud of secrecy. His identity is kept a secret so he can effectively solve crimes without the fear of someone trying to kill. him Not only is his identity secret but he does not make public appearances-- unless it is with a limited audience. Interestingly, Death Note author Tsugumi Ohba may have found inspiration for this intriguing character via a very close source: himself.
Ohba keeps his real identity a secret and writes under a pen name. The truth of his real name, birthday, or any personal information has been undisclosed since he began his career back in 2003 with Death Note. Other characteristics shared with L include his habit of bringing his knees to his chest in a chair while thinking of manga plots. There is some speculation that he may be writer Hiroshi Gamo, but there is no conclusive proof.
14 Ohba and Illustrator Takeshi Obata Never Met in Person to Work on the Manga
The secretive Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata worked together to bring the pages of Death Note to life. Although the relationship between artists and writers are usually close, these two partners never met in person to work on the series. Instead, they would use their editor as the go-between for this ongoing project. The two men utilized thumbnails to represent the artwork, action, and dialogue for the story. Each would review the other’s notes and meet with their mutual editor to relay any changes or updates.
In fact, it was not until 2004 that the two men met, nearly a month after the manga was published. The two maintained this sort of separated partnership into their next project together, the manga Bakuman. Keep your friends close and your work colleague even further away?
13 Different Death Notes
The Death Note, though deadly in its abilities, took the form of an ordinary notebook. Despite the ominous named inscribed on the cover, no one would be suspicious of such an ordinary possession. In fact, that made it the perfect disguise for a normal teenager looking to become a god of his world. However, initial designs for the Death Note itself were intended to be a lot more creative and adaptive.
According to Death Note: The Unofficial Guide, Artist Takeshi Obata originally thought of the books as "Bible-like... Something you would automatically think was a Death Note." So, depending on where the Death Note ended up, it would reflect the culture and traditions of that time period. Some examples included “resembling scrolls in ancient Japan, or the Old Testament in Medieval Europe.” Given the complexity and constant changes required to complete this design, the idea was scrapped for the now famous college notebook design.
12 L almost had 2 sons
Another possible plot point that was never developed was the idea of making L a father. Yeah, you read that correctly: a father. In the Death Note story, characters Mello and Near served potential successors to L after his passing.
Mello was a detective for the U.S. Government while Near was a member of the Mafia. In early drafts of the story, however, these Tykebomb orphans were originally L’s twin boys. While this would have been an interesting concept with the two boys seeking revenge for their father, Ohba could not stomach making this a reality. Basically, he was uncomfortable with the idea of L having sex with a woman in order for these sons to be created. That is an image that none of the audience would have believed given his eccentric nature. Thankfully, this plot was quickly dismissed.
11 Ryuk Was Almost Made To Be Sexy
One of the most unforgettable characters of Death Note is Ryuk, the Shinigami. His appearance and features are unmistakable, and he has become a mascot for the series. With his all-black attire, ghostly face, and extremely long limbs, he is a character you are not soon to forget.
Interestingly enough, he could have been remembered for being a very attractive creature. Ryuk was to be given more human features and become a lot easier on the eyes. However, Ohba became concerned that his attractiveness would steer readers away from Light, and that he'd ultimately become a distraction. After all, Light needed to remain the focus of the story in order for the premise to work effectively. He was known for his good looks and intelligence so he could not have any competition.
The only evidence of the prettier Ryuk is available in the picture above. Would you have been distracted by that character?
10 There was almost a Death Eraser
Throughout the Death Note tale, the rules for using the notebook were very specific on how the user had to proceed and specific timeframes that must be respected. However, what if you changed your mind about what you had done? An option for a second chance? Well, there could have been with the Death Eraser.
In the Death Note pilot manga, this tool could be used to revive those that had been killed by the notebook just by erasing their names. Considering how committed someone had to be in order to use this notebook, this would have been a silly cop-out for a cowardly user. By making the deaths permanent and unchangeable, users were forced to fully commit to the god-like powers of the Death Note and their choice to take lives. Gods do not make mistakes, right?
This element was dismissed in the further publishing of the manga and did not appear in the anime.
9 Thanks to the fans, L knows Capoeira
One of the more iconic scenes of the show occurs when L and Lights are handcuffed together. L felt he needed to keep Light close, considering he was suspected of being Kira. The two ended up fighting, and after Light had punched L, he returned with a powerful kick.
Based on his stance and technique, fans assumed he was a practitioner of Capoeira, a form of Brazilian martial arts. Because of the popularity of this style of martial arts, fans were excited to see it incorporated in both the manga and anime. However, that was not Ohba’s intention. He had planned to have L deliver just a simple kick in retaliation.
Based on the enthusiasm of the fans and popularity of theory, he decided to incorporate this element into the story. So thanks to the fans, L is a talented practitioner of martial arts.
8 Character Naomi Misora was killed off for being too smart
After the death of her fiancé Raye Penber, former FBI agent Naomi Misora began an investigation of her own into his death. Though she had left the force years before the beginning of the story, her keen intuition and detective skills were still quite good. Light becomes very agitated by how quickly she is able to piece together certain hypotheses regarding Kira’s killing abilities. She was even cautious enough not to give her real name to anyone. Sadly, it was her character’s strong sensibility and intelligence that led to her death. Not by Light, however, but by Ohba.
According to Death Note: How to Read 13, though she was intended to have a much larger role in the story, Ohba felt that she was simply too good at her detective work. She could have interfered with the dynamic between L and Light. Though he loved the character, he had to kill her for the sake of the manga's future.
7 Death Note characters made an Appearance in Full Metal Panic the 2nd Raid
Many anime shows have a tendency to create crossover episodes with other popular shows within the same company. Characters from shows like Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Toriko, and Fairy Tail have spent time in other anime worlds in special episodes, series, and movies.
However, with a show like Death Note, with its deadly themes and thought-provoking undertones, you would never expect to see its characters in a light, more casual setting. Despite this, the creators of Full Metal Panic the Second Raid found them to be the perfect fit for their anime. Several characters are depicted in the background action of the scene in Part 6. These cameos include L riding a bicycle, Light with his father as Misa is standing nearby spying on them. The scene lasts about three seconds, but you will definitely see them.
6 Another "Death Note" Themed Manga Exists
Though there is a large variety of manga available to readers, some stories still share many plot points with other published stories. Some of these are by coincidence while others toe the line of all-out plagiarism. In this case, maybe the existence of the Death Note was borrowed from an unusual manga published prior to the series. In 1973, a manga called Fushigi na Techou (The Miraculous Notebook) was released.
Written by author Shigeru Mizuki, this one-shot followed a protagonist far different than the handsome Light. The middle-aged worker comes across the notebook that (surprise, surprise) kills anyone whose name is written on its pages. Its killing powers even work on dogs! Thought never citing a specific work or piece for his inspiration for the plot, we have to wonder if Ohba knew of this story's existence. Hmm…
5 Has been banned in China and almost banned in the US and Russia
Though the Death Note manga and anime have garnered great reviews and popularity throughout the world, some countries were so shocked by the material that they attempted to ban the work completed. According to Xinhuanet.com, school officials initiated bans due to an increasing number of students creating their own custom Death Notes and bringing them to school.
The manga was banned in 2005 in Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province (People's Republic of China). Later, the ban grew to include “Beijing, Shanghai, and Lanzhou in Gansu Province.” The ban was approved as a basis for preserving “’physical and mental health’ of students from horror material that ‘misleads innocent children and distorts their mind and spirit’.” Additional attempted bans took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2010 and in Russia in 2013. However, neither of the bans were approved for each area, and copies of the manga remained available for purchase.
4 Six other live-action versions already exist
The highly anticipated (and slightly hated) American live-action adaptation of Death Note will be released on Netflix on August 25, 2017. While audiences are anticipating how the story will be handled in this version, some are perplexed by why another adaptation was in the works. In total, there have been six additional Japanese live-action adaptations of the Death Note series.
Beginning in 2006, Warner Bros. Pictures Japan produced Death Note, Death Note 2: The Last Name, and L: Change the World. The last movie was a spinoff to the previous two movies. Adding to this long list of adaptations was a mini-series called Death Note: New Generation that bridged the gap of time between the last movie and the new movie that came out in 2016, Death Note: Light Up the New World. On television, the 2015 series Death Note was yet another adaptation of the manga. Moreover, while this seems like an exuberant number of adaptations, you have not heard about the best one yet…
3 And then there’s Death Note: The Musical
Because nothing says premeditated murder like a soulful ballad! Despite the saturation of Death Note in all forms of media, a musical appeared in 2015 based on the manga and anime series. Premiering in both Japan and later Korea, the musical was one of the most highly anticipated plays in recent history. Productions ran from 2015 to this year with its last showing in Tokyo, Japan.
Some of the musical numbers from the two-act production included Misa’s "Ready for Love,” "They are Only Human" performed by Ryuk and Rem, and "The Way It Ends”, a duet by L and Light. Each production used different casts but generally receive positive reviews for the lead roles and the production in general.
If you are dying to check it out, you can get access to the 2015 U.S. concept album for a taste of the play and the musical numbers.
2 An Increase of Death Notes found in U.S. Schools
As discussed earlier, many children who read the Death Note series or saw the anime were motivated to create their own versions of the notebook. Whether for malicious intent or just for fun, these homemade books did not sit well with school official or with parents. Students across the country were being caught with notebooks with their fellow students’ and even celebrities’ names inscribed in the books.
Incidences were reported in South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Washington, Michigan, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. While some students went without punishment, others found themselves suspended from school (one student was suspended indefinitely) and expelled. In one of the most severe cases of punishment, a student was brought up on charges in juvenile court! Though there were some instances were adults overreacted, others had reasonable cause for alarm. In one such case, four students had managed to write the names of 50 students in one notebook!
1 Real-life Deaths Connected to the Series
While the fictional use of the Death Note has plagued schools around the world, there were a couple of cases where a real-life death was linked to the supernatural series. In 2013, a fifteen-year-old girl was found dead after committing suicide in Yekaterinburg, Russia. At the site of her suicide were several volumes of the Death Note manga. Though this was a stretch to connect the manga to the suicide, outraged parents still called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to present media that linked to ideas of death to enter the country. No such ban ever came to pass as the manga was found not to be connected to her death.
In a case in Belgium, a serial killer called the Manga Killer left strips of paper with the phrase “I am Kira” near his victims’ bodies. Moreover, while the murders began in 2007, it was not until 2013 when three suspects were apprehended in connection with the murder. The murderers received 20 years in prison for their crimes.
Do you have any Death Note trivia to add? Share it in the comments!
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