I am going to write a post about my favorite anime character of all time: L Lawliet, from Death Note. My previous anime-related post was on another favorite of mine, Sebastian Michaelis. But the other night I watched some Death Note with my parents (this is their first time and my fourth time through), and I realized how close this character is to me, and that he is my ultimate favorite anime character.
Before I begin, I must recommend a piece written by a good friend of mine, titled "8 Reasons I Love L Lawliet". It explains a lot of stuff I am unable to put into words. It's very good!
I love the strange dance of similarities and differences between L and Light in the anime/manga. Their similarities - and there are a lot of them...they both possess extreme intelligence, arrogance, confidence, and strong personal convictions. In fact, they share these traits so much so that it is as if someone is finally able to hold up a real conversation with L, which I think is the reason he admits that Light is his first friend (also more on that later). However, they share multiple differences as well. The biggest difference, obviously, is in their personal convictions. While L's conviction is to let justice prevail, Light believes that he is justice, and their beliefs on right and wrong are on opposite spectrums. Even in the period when Light loses his memories, they have differing views on how they should pursue catching Kira. But there is one difference I want to especially discuss as one of the reasons L is my favorite character. Light is basically the definition of a "people person". In almost every single episode/chapter, Light has to put on an act in pretending he is not Kira, which is not as easy as it sounds when his father is the chief of police leading the investigation against Kira, as well as working alongside the greatest detective in the world. He definitely knows how people work - he knows what makes people tick, how to get people to trust him, how to blend in a crowd, and how to win someone over with his wit and charms - and he repeatedly takes this to his advantage. This is most apparent in his relationships with Naomi Misora, Misa Amane, Kiyomi Takada, and pretty much the entire task force.
In stark contrast stands L...the polar opposite of a "people person". He is immune to what is appropriate or inappropriate in a conversation, saying things that can be terribly personal or embarrassing without consent or respect. He stands out in a crowd like a sore thumb with his unkempt appearance, odd posture, and his "staring" at everybody. Certainly, he too knows how people work, proven in that is he able to back Light, Misa, and other characters into a corner during a conversation multiple times, but he is not the type to win them over as Light does.
And I love this about L. Most heroes are depicted more like Light - social, extroverted, generally good with people, and full of wit and charm. At the very least, the hero/heroine's significant other is depicted this way. Not L. Again, he is the polar opposite. L is not a people person at all. I love that. A character like L, who can be the living definition antisocial and still a hero, has helped me feel better about my own introverted personality. I am not as embarrassed by my own quirks, and I don't feel as forced to appear social or extroverted in a crowd, as I sometimes feel forced to as if there is something wrong with me. I can be me. There is nothing wrong with having quirks or not being a great people person, and the character of L helped me with coming to terms with that. L's quirks...I love them.
His staring too...I love the way he is always staring at people. It shows that his brain is constantly working at 100%, constantly observing, analyzing, and comparing conclusions. He is always in that state, and in fact, I don't think he could walk out of that state if he wanted to. He is so intelligent he has no choice but to think on that level 24/7. This, I can relate to in a way.
Time to bring out the big guns.
If you have watched the anime or read the manga, you know this - L dies. Light betrays him by manipulating the shinigami Rem into killing L to save Misa Amane. L, always intelligent and fiercely gifted with foresight into situations, knows that Kira has defeated him. He knows that he has finally been outsmarted. The world's greatest detective lost in a game of wits. L knew he was going to die.
What rips my heart out with razor-sharp claws is the fact that L was always there to save the people of the world from injustice, but in the end, no one was there to save him.
Here is where it absolutely murders me. Not only does L know he is going to die, but in his last days, he loses everything that he had as he was working as "L". I imagine in his last days he was falling apart on the inside, which is one of the worst feelings a human being can have. Think about it. What was it that brought L to Wammy's House instead of leaving him alone and forgotten? His intelligence. What was it that made him become the world's greatest detective? His intelligence. What was it that gave his life a purpose and a direction? His intelligence. How was he able to bring about justice to the world for all those years? Because of his intelligence. And what was it that made everybody respect him, consider him important, worthy, and accepted? Yes...his intelligence. For when you look at L's behavior, his appearance, his arrogance and poor social skills, you realize everybody who meets him or has contact with him would have no other reason to give him respect/acceptance/a sense of importance. His intelligence is the only reason that anyone throughout his life has deemed him of value.
But in those last days, L's intelligence could not save him. He realized that the one thing that, for his entire life, had given him worth as a human being had been squandered by Kira. The one thing that made people accept and respect him was not good enough.
It gets worse. Remember when L admitted that Light was the only friend he ever had? It makes sense, doesn't it? Would the greatest detective in the world - and quite possibly, the most intelligent man in the world - ever be able to have a true friendship with somebody unless they were at least as smart as him? L has been robbed of much of any human interaction in his life. And Light Yagami, although L knew he was Kira all along, was the only one he could truly connect with and consider as his friend.
The one person who was L's friend is the one who betrays him to his death.
L knew this. And I think, as revealed in the scene where he dries off Light's feet, he accepts this. I think as that scene symbolizes Christ washing the disciples' feet in Scripture, because when you think about it, Christ too knew that his disciples would soon desert him, deny knowing him, and one would betray him. Instead of calling them out, Christ washed their feet as if to say he had already forgiven them. I think L was doing the same thing. In other words, in his last hours, L chose to see Light as his friend, and not as Kira.
The reason this kills me is that, as Light is holding L in his last seconds of life, Light looks down at him with the eyes of Kira - as the enemy. L wanted their last moments to be ones of friendship, but Light was too proud and full of himself. Instead, he made L's last moments a reminder of his defeat, and Kira's victory. He looked down at L as his unwitting pawn. To add insult to injury, Light never even saw L as a friend in the first place. The whole "friendship" was one-sided, and I think L knew that all along. But he chose to not let go of that friendship anyway, even if he knew it was one-sided. He would rather pretend he had had one friend in his short life, than admit that one friend was his betrayer and the one who proved all that made L valuable was "not good enough".
In the end, I see a lot of myself in L.
Just no on this one, OK? He's too quirky and unique and sad and broken and quiet in the face of the death. Just, no.