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15 Most Popular Death Note Characters Ranked Worst To Best

What would you do if you were given the power to kill anyone just by writing their name in a notebook? For Light Yagami, protagonist of anime sensation "Death Note," the answer is clear: He tries to use the Death Note to create a utopian world, free of injustice. However, as the old proverb says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Light soon becomes the mysterious killer known as "Kira," who will stop at nothing to maintain his bloody rule. Anyone who dares to question Kira is subjected to a supernatural death — but then L, a genius detective with a penchant for sweets, enters the fray. Death gods, high schoolers, models, and police officers are soon sucked into this battle of wills, from which only one winner may emerge.

Light Yagami's downfall is the core of "Death Note," but the series would be nothing without its vast cast of characters. Some suffer at Light's hand, while others fight to end his reign of terror. Some even have front-row seats to the carnage, such as Ryuk, the Shinigami who gives Light the Death Note in the first place. They're all great characters — but who is the greatest? These are the 15 most popular "Death Note" characters, ranked from worst to best.

15. Hitoshi Demegawa

Ratings, ratings, ratings — they're the only thing Hitoshi Demegawa cares about. He's a selfish, greedy, and short-sighted character who'd be awful to work for, but is hilarious to watch. When the Second Kira, Misa Amane, sends blackmail tapes to Sakura TV, Demegawa giggles with anticipation over the high ratings they're sure to rake in. Soon enough, Soichiro Yagami arrives at the TV station and demands the tapes, but Demegawa refuses to give them up, despite the lives on the line. He only surrenders them after Soichiro pulls out his gun and threatens his life. 

Eventually, Demegawa's hunger for ratings gets the better of him. He becomes the official spokesman for Kira, and even dedicates an entire program to him called "Kira's Kingdom." However, many of Demegawa's demands go against Kira's philosophy, only feeding his ego (and his bank account). As punishment for going against the word of "God," Demegawa's name is written in the Death Note. He dies on air. Despite being a gag character, Demegawa potently reminds viewers of the terrible fate that awaits those who only care about fame and fortune in Kira's world.

14. Kiyomi Takada

Kiyomi Takada may seem confined to the second half of the "Death Note" story, but in fact, she makes an appearance fairly early on. Don't remember? She's one of Light's classmates, back when the two of them attended college. They even briefly dated.

Kiyomi sincerely believes she's the love of Light's life. Light, of course, only uses her to keep up appearances. Post-time skip, Light rekindles his relationship with Kiyomi and makes her the new voice of Kira, following the death of Hitoshi Demegawa. Kiyomi is a brilliant and beautiful woman with a notable air of refinement, which makes her a great choice. Kiyomi also seems to be far more compatible with Light than the childish Misa Amane. The show is well aware of this fact, and uses it to its advantage when it pits the two ladies against each other in Episode 33, "Scorn." Sadly, Light disposes of Kiyomi the minute she becomes a liability. She's a tragic symbol of his brutal rise to power fans won't soon forget.

13. Naomi Misora

While Naomi Misora has little screen time, she still has a big impact on the show. In fact, she nearly unravels the mystery of the Death Note murders. Light only escapes her investigation thanks to a chance encounter, which allows him to stop her before she squeals to the police.

Naomi was engaged to Raye Penber, the FBI agent tailing Light Yagami before his untimely demise. Following this loss, Naomi takes it upon herself to solve the mystery Raye left behind. Using her experience as a skilled FBI agent, Naomi deduces that whoever killed Raye Penber was present during the bus jacking Light staged to acquire Raye's name. She is also nearly able to inform the police of how Kira kills his victims. However, Light manipulates Naomi's feelings and tricks her into revealing her real identity. Once he has her name, he forces Naomi to walk to her doom. Though she's yet another casualty of Kira's reign, her brilliance and love make her a memorable character.

12. Mello

On the surface, Mello appears to be nothing more than a chocolate-loving variant of L. However, Mello is very much his own character — one who is willing to sacrifice the lives of others to get results.

Like Near, Mello was raised to be L's successor in Wammy's House, a unique orphanage for gifted children. While Near and Mello are both intellectually superior individuals, their attitudes are nothing alike. Near is calm, collected, and childish — nearly identical to L. Mello, on the other hand, is brash and egotistical. The Kira murders are just an opportunity for Mello to finally prove his superiority to Near and declare himself L's rightful successor. 

While some of Mello's actions are heartless, such as kidnapping Sayu Yagami and using the Death Note to kill members of the SPK (aka the Special Provision for Kira), he is not without empathy. Notably, he mourns Matt's senseless death at the hands of the police. Mello also sacrifices himself so Near can have the evidence he needs to defeat Light once and for all. He's not very nice, but he's not all bad.

11. Near

Like Mello, Near was raised to be L's successor. Even though Mello is no pushover, it is Near who truly embodies everything that made his predecessor great — so much so, in fact, that he shows signs of being able to surpass L some day.

Like L, Near sits in a crouched position and seems somewhat distant in conversation. While Mello inherits L's sweet tooth, however, Near prefers to play with toys. During his investigation of the Kira murders, Near's childish love of all things plastic and playful encompasses darts, puzzles, and even hand puppets that resemble the suspects. In keeping with this approach, Near treats the Kira investigation as a game. 

While Near can come off as emotionless, he has some genuine cheer to him, evident in the impish smile that crosses his face whenever his suspicions are confirmed. Given the age difference between the two, Near's victory over the older, tired Light feels like a social commentary: The older generation inevitably succumbs to the new. This adds intriguing new dimension to the "Death Note" saga right before it ends.

10. Teru Mikami

Although Teru Mikami is introduced fairly late in the anime, his presence is enormously significant. Mikami shares Light's passion for justice, but his outlook on life is even more dangerously black and white. To Mikami, there is only good and evil — and evil must be deleted.

In Episode 32, "Selection," a flashback shows a young Mikami standing up to bullies at school. This childlike desire to play the hero bites him in the end, as it means the bullies at his middle school don't hold anything back. Mikami even loses faith in his mom, who scolds him for continuously putting his life on the line. When his mom and tormentors are killed in a freak accident, presumably by Kira, Mikami devotes his life to the new "god," who kills the "wicked" in the world. This worldview makes Mikami the perfect candidate to be the "Hand of Kira." However, Mikami's approach is more theological and self-indulgent than Light's – when he uses the Death Note, he appears to experience extreme euphoria. His eventual death isn't a surprise, but his character arc still makes for one heck of a ride.

9. Watari

Watari is the Alfred to L's Batman: He's not only the detective's right-hand man, but also the father figure in his life. As the founder of Wammy's House, an orphanage that trains gifted children, Watari is responsible for producing some of the greatest detectives in the world. His support doesn't stop there, either — he's always around to aid L as he works on the Kira case. Sometimes this means providing him with the equipment he needs, and sometimes this means bringing a load of delicious sweets to satisfy L's hunger. Whatever it is, Watari is on it.

Watari can seem like a humble old man, but he's absolutely not to be messed with. Before Kyosuke Higuchi can commit suicide in Episode 23, "Frenzy," Watari, perched in a helicopter, uses his insane sniping skills to disarm him. When Rem writes Watari's name in her notebook, he uses the last bit of his strength to delete all of his records, just as L requested. Moreover, Mello and Near wouldn't have the smarts to defeat Light without their training at Watari's orphanage. When you think about it, Watari is the unsung hero of "Death Note."

8. Touta Matsuda

For the majority of "Death Note," Touta Matsuda is a comic relief character. The youngest member of the Task Force, Matsuda is also the most reckless and naïve. Despite his good-hearted nature, he often gets on everyone's nerves. When he feels he isn't doing enough on the Task Force, Matsuda takes matters into his own hands and infiltrates Yotsuba Corporation for their connection to the Death Note. Of course, he needs everyone's help to get out of this situation when his cover is blown. 

Despite his mistakes, Soichiro Yagami still treats Matsuda with respect. Matsuda, in turn, admires Soichiro for being the sort of brave cop he desperately wants to become. When it's revealed that Light is Kira, Matsuda finally grows up. He chews out Light for betraying everyone and leading his father, Soichiro, to his grave. As Light tries to write on a piece of Death Note paper hidden in his watch, Matsuda fires, hitting him multiple times. He nearly kills him out of anger, but his partners hold him back. Growing into adulthood isn't easy, especially after witnessing the true ugliness of the world. Matsuda knows this first-hand.

7. Rem

Rem is one of the most fascinating characters in "Death Note." This isn't because she's a Shinigami like Ryuk, though — it's because of her incredible loyalty to Misa Amane. Sadly, this loyalty comes at the cost of her own life.

Rem is responsible for bringing the Death Note to Misa, who uses its power to become the Second Kira in the hopes of attracting the original Kira. Rem is also dedicated to protecting Misa from harm, which is why she has a strong disgust for Light Yagami, who only sees Misa as a disposable tool. Nevertheless, Rem can't compete with Misa's fanatical love of Light. When Rem realizes Light has put her in an unwinnable situation in which she must sacrifice her existence to save Misa, the compassionate Shinigami still goes through with it, because Misa's happiness and safety means more to her than her own future. This tragic sacrifice is an intense illustration of why a Shinigami must never fall in love with a human — but it's also what makes Rem such a great character.

6. Misa Amane

Cute, bubbly Misa Amane is the sore thumb that sticks out of the cruel and ugly world of "Death Note" — yet she can be just as clever and cutthroat as Kira himself. She is also both the luckiest and unluckiest woman around. Her life is spared thanks to a Shinigami admirer, who sacrifices his life for her. Later on, she's saved by Rem, another Shinigami, who only wants to ensure Misa's happiness. However, Misa's life is irrevocably changed when her parents' suspected murderer is acquitted of the crime. After Kira takes care of the killer, Misa develops an unhealthy admiration, which turns into love when she discovers Kira is Light. 

Light and Misa's one-sided relationship is somewhat reminiscent of the one between DC Comics' Joker and Harley Quinn: Light uses Misa to get what he wants with little regard for her safety, while she loves him to the point of complete devotion. He even tricks her into shortening her life a second time for the Shinigami Eyes, so he can find out L's real name. Later, despite everything Misa does for Light, he's willing to throw her away and make Kiyomi Takada his "goddess of the new world." Misa's story is a powerful tragedy, and a potent reminder: Never let your happiness depend entirely on another person, especially if they're someone like Light Yagami.

5. Shuichi Aizawa

When "Death Note" begins, Shuichi Aizawa is just another background cop investigating the Kira case. However, as the series continues, Aizawa becomes a fully fleshed-out character in his own right. This process kicks off when his dedication to the investigation interferes with his larger career and harms his relationship with his family. Aizawa does things by the book, which puts him at odds with L, who employs unorthodox tactics. Eventually, this leads to Aizawa temporarily quitting the Task Force. 

Following the death of L in the post-time skip chunk of "Death Note," however, Aizawa continues L's work by secretly investigating Light after he is once again suspected of being Kira. Aizawa is also responsible for providing Near with critical information regarding the early investigation of the Kira case, and catches Light and Kiyomi communicating secretly with each other during their "dates." He might not be as flashy as many other members of the Task Force, but Aizawa deserves recognition for his contributions to the Kira case — Near wouldn't be able to convict Light without them

4. Soichiro Yagami

If there's one character in "Death Note" who truly cares about creating a just world, it's Soichiro Yagami, Light Yagami's father. Soichiro is one of the most respected cops around, and the one most dedicated to catching Kira. Unfortunately for Soichiro, Kira is living right under his roof.

Soichiro often puts his life on the line for the Kira case — he drives straight towards the Sakura TV building to confiscate the Second Kira's tapes, even as Misa uses her Shinigami Eyes to kill anyone who tries to interfere with her broadcast. He also subjects himself to imprisonment when Light is locked up under suspicion of being Kira and monitored by L. Perhaps the greatest tragedy he endures is the kidnapping of his daughter, Sayu Yagami, who falls into a state of shock after the terrible incident. But no matter how much he suffers, Soichiro never sells out his principles. In his refusal to use the Death Note, he is able to die believing that Light has never been Kira. This is a lie, but it's hard not to be thankful that he passes in peace.

3. Ryuk

Without Ryuk, there would be no "Death Note." Unable to endure the boredom of the Shinigami Realm, Ryuk drops his Death Note in the human world out of a desire for entertainment. Luckily for Ryuk, the Death Note lands into the hands of someone equally fed up with his own world: Light Yagami.

The relationship between Ryuk and Light is an interesting one. This unique pair works together throughout the series, yet neither of them considers the other a friend. Ryuk is merely an observer of Light's actions, content to witness the horrors that result from this human's use of his Death Note. When it's clear that Light's plan to rule the world as the new god is over, Ryuk dispassionately writes his name in his Death Note so he doesn't have to waste his time waiting for Light to die in jail. Ryuk is a horrifying creature utterly without mercy, and yet he is also a comical fellow it's hard not to like. His love of apples is especially hilarious — a lack of them results in him performing a crazy dance-like routine. Humans contain multitudes, but so do Shinigami.

2. L

L is one of the most peculiar characters in "Death Note." His mannerisms are odd. His posture is terrible. He has an almost unbelievable love of sweets, which he eats in bizarre (and entertaining) ways. And yet, his intelligence is unmatched. He is the first real challenge to Light's dominance, and though he doesn't bring him down, he still stands as Kira's greatest foe.

Much of the appeal of "Death Note" lies in Light and L's cat-and-mouse game. They're two highly intellectual individuals with their own strong interpretations of justice — two sides of the same coin, basically. This is clear in their rare moments of synergy, which make you wonder if, in another lifetime, L and Light could have been friends. Notably, though L fights on behalf of what's right, his methods veer towards the unethical. This parallels Light's questionable methods of creating a just world.

But of course, L's dedication towards solving the Kira case and his undying suspicion of Light make any kind of friendship impossible. They're eternal enemies — and that's what makes "Death Note" great.

1. Light Yagami

When you watch "Death Note," you want to see Light wriggle his way out of seemingly impossible, completely deadly situations. And yet, you also await the moment he finally gets his comeuppance. He's just that fun to hate, and it makes him one of the greatest characters in anime history.

Light Yagami starts out as a bored high school student who stumbles upon the horrifying power of the Death Note. Before long, he's committed to using it to create a better world, firmly under his rule. Sure, this initial desire to do away with crime is somewhat commendable. However, as the series goes on and Light is continually one step away from being caught, his atrocious actions reveal his real, ugly personality. He never actually cares about creating an innocent world — he only cares about becoming a god. 

While Light tries to hold onto his good name for as long as possible, the mask eventually slips and exposes the devil who's been hiding inside him all along. Eventually, everyone finds out that Light is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way, including his own family. When the time finally comes for his name to be written in the Death Note, he thinks about the "boring" life he threw away, all those years ago. He's a bad guy through and though, but it's hard not to be moved by Light Yagami's tragic end.