Death Note ending explained – Why did Light die the way he did?

Light's death

Death Note is an elaborate mind game of inner monologues presenting to viewers infinite things to think about, especially with the ending. Even if the ending is spelled out in the most detailed way possible, doubts still manage to sneak in, which is a result of the layers we see in the actions of the characters throughout the manga. These layers are unraveled differently in the anime and the manga. 

Death Note Ending Explained

Teru Mikami Death note
Teru Mikami | Image Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

Everything went as Kira planned except for one thing, Mikami’s actions. 

  • Mello kidnaps Takada. This changes everything as Mikami had no idea that Kira had a way to kill her. Kira in turn didn’t know about this minor deviation. 
  • Mikami decides to take action himself. In an attempt to kill her, he retrieves the real death note from the bank.
  • The SPK was tracking his movements from the past few months up till that day. Usually, Mikami is a methodical person who lives by a certain routine or method. His last visit to the bank was out of the ordinary
Mello Death Note
Mello before kidnapping Takada | Image Courtesy of Studio Madhouse
  • This helped Near in figuring out the location of the real notebook and replacing it. With the help of Giovanni, he replaced the real death note with a fake one. 
  • Mikami had two fake death notes and Near had the real one. Kira didn’t know about any of this and he declared his victory out of arrogance and certainty. 
  • Kira still had a piece of death note on his watch, which he tried to use in the end. Although he didn’t succeed as Matsuda shot him. We see him crawl on the ground and beg for life. Ryuk pays no mind to his plea and writes his name on the death note, leading him to his end. 

In this way, Near along with the help of Mello defeated Kira.

Anime vs. Manga: Why did Light die the way he did?

Kira Death Note
Light during his last speech | Image Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

The ending in the anime and the manga are not that far apart. But there are key differences that change the way we perceive Light’s character at the end

  • In the manga, Light meets his end in the warehouse. His fear of death comes out as he begs Ryuk to not kill him. He dies the way he has been killing hundreds of people in the name of justice. He dies in front of everyone he has been deceiving all along. There’s no sign of remorse or regret. We see him die as a killer. 
  • The depth that is usually apparent in his thought process was nowhere to be seen. He was a murderer with a severe God Complex until the very end.
Light's death Manga
Light’s death in the manga | Image Courtesy of Viz Media
  • The anime executes his death in a way where we see his progression from a teenager who could have been a lot of things straying off to a path of ruin. During his death, there are scenes where he sees his younger version as well as L. All of this helps us feel a tinge of empathy toward him and the sorry state he is in. He dies on the stairs with the light falling on him. 

In the manga, Ryuk says that those who use death notes to kill don’t end up in either heaven or hell. We see a visual representation of this in the anime with Light neither ending up on the top of the stairs nor staying at the bottom. It’s a depiction of how he’s somewhere in between. There’s no place for him anywhere anymore.  

Conclusion

Light Yagami
Light’s death in the anime | Image Courtesy of Studio Madhouse

Light’s death is an important part of the ending of Death Note. The manga kills him ruthlessly. The way he did it to numerous people. He was no longer the bright teenager we met at the beginning. He died as Kira. His actions led him to a cruel end. Whereas in the anime, we can still see some parts of Light and some parts of Kira

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