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Old 2006-10-30, 23:25   Link #1
Weapon of Mass Discussion
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New York, USA
Morality in Death Note? Do the ends justify the means?

Death Note is a story where questions of morality are frequently asked, but only rarely answered. It seems to leave us to make up our own minds about these topics. Or at least if it has answers to offer, it isn't going to do so for quite a while to come.

In this show, both L and Light are portrayed as good and bad. At times it is hard to tell which is the villian and which is the hero. Both have good motives and their own ways of accomplishing them. Does this show even have any sense of good and evil, or just many shades of gray? By not giving us any solid answers about this topic, the writer seems to be asking us to start a dialogue about the meaning of the character's goals and if their means are justified by their worthwhile goals.

Since this topic can easily become incindiary, I'm going to ask everyone to remember that when discussing opinions they should not attack the person who holds that opinion. Also, remember that a contrary opinion does not mean that the person you are talking with is immoral. If we can't all remember this, I'd have to close the thread and I really don't want to do that. (I really hope I'm being paranoid about this.)

There's not that fine a line between willing suspension of disbelief and something just being stupid.
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Old 2006-10-30, 23:42   Link #2
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oh my I was just about to suggest this thread! ^_^ you read my mind.

Its a complex issue, personally I think that no human has a moral ground high enough to kill anyone, no matter what, yet I would find impossible to not use the Death Note if it ever falls in my hands, Im almost sure we all have our list of people the world would be better without, as much as I would feel terrible about it, Im willing to do it, at the very least, the people I care about would be in a better world, its a price fair enough in my eyes.

However, I saw L as the hero the moment Light went crazy all the way in the part I read of the manga, Light was simply the evil guy for me all the time.
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Old 2006-10-30, 23:55   Link #3
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Just started looking into this series.

For starters, I suppose one could argue that no one has the right to decide who dies and who lives.

But then again, in Kira's case he's targeting criminals.

Exactly what are L's justification for bringing Kira down?
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Old 2006-10-31, 00:09   Link #4
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I would focus on Light first.

In reality I am against any kind of death penalty, but in the realms of the Death Note world I believe that... “initially” Light has a point. Current society can’t contain crime no matter how harsh punishments are aside from capital punishment, and it is exactly what’s happening in our society now. He believed that he is the right person to rule the world/play God and decide who is right and who is wrong (or shall be killed). Unfortunately, Light went downhill from his optimistic views almost instantly, when he tried to kill L from the broadcast. Granted that it wasn’t L himself, but still was a criminal, I guess L cut him some slack. But that event alone proved that Light is NOT the right person to save the world, firstly, simply because he violated his protocol of ‘ridding bad people only’, but secondly, because he was a freaking “coward”.

Surprised I said Light is a coward? Despite his arrogance and his supposedly amazing IQ and genius, he was not making smart decisions. I could argue that there is some other way for him to get out of the FBI fiasco without “killing” FBI agents, but I guess he took the easy way out since he has some ‘power to kill’ anyway. Basically, he’s afraid to die, so he tries to kill ‘anyone’ who opposes him, good or bad person.

(I can argue that he can more easily get rid of the FBI monitoring him if he bought more time to act normal, seeing that Raye Penber already is bailing out of investigating him before the bus incident.)

Yup, in the first volume alone I already don’t approve of Light’s actions, but then again it will be boring to not take this kind of direction, this is a manga after all. I can’t imagine a totally protagonistic Light either, which really keeps protocol and kills only criminals.

Last edited by bluemist; 2006-10-31 at 00:21.
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Old 2006-10-31, 00:38   Link #5
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Light was off on the wrong track from the vary beginning, thinking he could rid the world of evil. You can't change human nature like that. Not to mention he was planning on killing immoral people and punishing for petty crimes once he became "a god".

He was drunk with power and just wanted to flaunt his skills. Otherwise, he would have stuck to killing serious/obvious criminals in a variety of ways (instead of using heart attacks to gain attention).

Somewhat relevant to my point?:
Originally Posted by Matthew 6:5
"When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most assuredly, I tell you, they have received their reward.

But you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
As said in the very beginning of this thread, there aren't absolute good and evil. It's all relative.
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Old 2006-10-31, 00:49   Link #6
Azuma Denton
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Nice topic.
I will talk about L n Light seperately.

Light :
His motive is good. He wants to create a world where there is no need to fear for criminal. But he is stepping into god's region. N finally he is obsessed by his power n blind him. In one side, u can see him as a savior, but in the other side, he is a murderer. So it's up to people, which side will they be. But still, killing (although indirectly) is prohibited by both laws n religion.

L :
L is just a detective want to catch a murderer. You can say he is the actual hero in this story. You can say, "What's wrong with Kira trying too kill the bad guy?" Well, killing is forbidden by laws n religions. So L is just doing his duty as law enforcer to capture Kira.

One thing i want to ask Light, "Will u be able to kill your sister if she becomes a criminal?" Since her sister is the most important person to him.
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Old 2006-10-31, 01:16   Link #7
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Originally Posted by KaneDragon
It's all relative.
Couldn't have said it better. Morality is a human made concept that standardizes the norms of the society. A thousand years from now, it will most likely be completely different. So, arguing whether something is morally correct or not is similar to arguing about religion: to some people, some things are right and other things aren't.

With that aside, I might as well interject my personal opinion out of boredom.

Originally Posted by NoSanninWa
It seems to leave us to make up our own minds about these topics.
Exactly. To me, this is a subtle shade of gray. While Light may possess the qualities of an anti-hero, I personally believe that he is quite justified in his reasoning. This is the conflict between idealism vs cynicism, both within the character and within the story.

The classic fairytale-- the equivalent of shounen in the world of anime-- often presents a naive and idealistic protagonist. So, the protagonist is always "right." Light is idealistic: he wants to create a world free of violence. However, he is also sadistic: he believes in the foul nature of human kind and decides to take a not-so-conventional-hero way of bringing about change. He has the attribute of a "hero" and that of a antagonist. So what is he?

We label as people who want power mongers without control. Light wants to be a God. Is that such a bad thing? In his mind, if he is the ruling entity, then there will be justice to people who never received any. There will be a voice to those who are constantly being exploited. It's similar to Monarchy versus Democracy. Everyone claims that Democracy is a better form of government. The truth is, instead of the tyranny of the monarch, the tyranny of the majority exists. Vice versa, the monarch can be a fair ruler and Democracy can put a check on the ruling entity. It's all a farce; they're all stimgas people like to put on things.

It's the classic case of Julius Caeser's murder. Will he become a dictator? Nothing is proven.
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Old 2006-10-31, 01:24   Link #8
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Just to be pedantic...

I think you meant the ends justify the means.

As for my 2 cents, I think the question is rather vacuous. Either way, both good things and bad things happen; the only distinction is who gets to pass judgment. And that is always the "winner."

That's more or less how I feel about this, and I think the "message" in Death Note pretty much matches that, based on the manga ending (although it may just be confirmation bias). I only read up to...
... and the ending, so maybe there was something I missed.
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute--and itís longer than any hour. Thatís relativity.
-- Albert Einstein
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Old 2006-10-31, 02:12   Link #9
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I think that Light's killing of criminals is a shade of gray leaning more towards good. However, once he starts killing people just because they oppose him, then it become quite immoral. For instance, if he kills the FBI agent, that is way overstepping the line.

The FBI agent is a man of the law, doing his job and trying to catch someone he believes is a killer. He has done nothing wrong, and has committed no immoral acts.

L hasn't committed any immoral acts, yet. But we will see if he does later on. Atm he is just a detective in the leagues of Sherlok Holmes.
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Old 2006-10-31, 03:31   Link #10
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Originally Posted by NoSanninWa View Post
It seems to leave us to make up our own minds about these topics.
Actually, they did a lil discussion in the manga
Spoiler for Near 's opinions:

Spoiler for Light kun' opioions:
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Old 2006-10-31, 05:00   Link #11
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Of course, Light's motive isn't purely to "rid the world of evil." It's more selfish than that. His real motive is to make himself a celebrity, a god. Essentially, he's a child given the power and responsibility most adults couldn't handle, and this is how he uses it.

In a civilized society, his victims, no matter what they've done, are being deprived of due process. Light is at best a vigilante, at worst a murderer.

L is also on a bit of a personal vendetta, and setting up a man to be killed in his place on national television as a means to an end isn't particularly noble, either.

Both men are driven by obsession as well as their own sense of "justice," but by the end of the second episode, it's clear that both are driven by more personal and selfish motives than "justice."
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Old 2006-10-31, 05:53   Link #12
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Its fairly simple.

Light: Is some1 that thinks that what he does is the right thing. It's not like he gets pleasure out of killing. And its also isnt like he's trying to rule the world. He wanted to change the world and the Death Note gave him that posibilty even it meant killing others.

L: Is some1 who actually think the same way as Light. Eventhough his stance is diffrent. It's his job to get Light and he does by any means. Sacrfice a few for the Majority. In that way he's the same Light.

I don't see Light or L as a bad guy, but I think killing is wrong by anymeans except for self-defence.

And if we where actually in the world of Death Note. It's simple as the winner is right. History thought us that. Morals do change over-time, but humans will always will have urge to go against the general moral.
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Old 2006-10-31, 06:16   Link #13
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I was and always will be against capital punishment. Apart from thinking that I won't be any better than the murderers themselves, I personally think that letting major criminals rot in jail for the rest of their life is a much harsher fate than a quick death.

As such, while Light is interesting because of how he acts, I still don't agree with him.

There is one phrase though that describes Light to a tee, and is the driving force for my interest in the series because we already see him already spiraling down to darkness:

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Yes its YOU childhood friend - source of BERZERKER RAGE since forever
Childhood Friend couple STATISTICS(spoilers abound though)
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Old 2006-10-31, 06:44   Link #14
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Originally Posted by SoldierOfDarkness View Post
For starters, I suppose one could argue that no one has the right to decide who dies and who lives.

But then again, in Kira's case he's targeting criminals.
He's targeting criminals that are already in the slammer.. what good does it do..
If they were criminals from the outside it would be all heroic and such but because they're locked in they're cells serving time.. it's just mass murder..

Originally Posted by SoldierOfDarkness View Post
Exactly what are L's justification for bringing Kira down?
It's the fukin' law.. there's no moral bull anywhere.. it's just the law pure and simple..
If people were to kill eachother over petty difrences then what.. ?

Anyway.. IMO they're all fukin' "evil"
Think of it this way.. C kills A, B is all heroic and kills C, D kills B for the same reason..
So.. who's more just B or D ?..

Well in the anime, like in the real world there is no justice.. only the laws of revenge exist (be they supported legally or illegally)
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Old 2006-10-31, 09:42   Link #15
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He's targeting criminals that are already in the slammer.. what good does it do..

I agree with Raito's ideas more than should be sane.

Besides as was said it is not for us to judge what is right or wrong. Morals & ethics were set by ourselves or rather those with power. But we still view what is right & what is wrong differently.


It's the same as looking into a case in court, if you lose you were wrong, if you win you were right. Later if the person whose entire family you slaughtered comes & shoots you, he is still put in pirson cause you WON. The real truth might be of no importance at all, cause who can tell what it is anyway?

Last edited by ^_Usagi_^; 2006-10-31 at 09:54.
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Old 2006-10-31, 09:57   Link #16
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He was drunk with power and just wanted to flaunt his skills. Otherwise, he would have stuck to killing serious/obvious criminals in a variety of ways (instead of using heart attacks to gain attention).
To me, he did that intentionally. He used heart attacks in the beginning to make people believe that *someone* was killing all the criminals to make people be afraid of committing anymore crimes. If he just used random methods, while the law will have a harder time catching Light, the criminals will have a harder time believing that *someone* is intentionally trying to kill them if they do any crimes. They would just see a bunch of people dying, that's it.

By the time Kira was known to the public, Kira was known to deliver justice by killing criminals by heart attacks. If Kira suddenly stopped using heart attacks, the criminals would believe that they can do crimes again because they would feel safe again.

Him killing the fake L. I could also argue he did that with more than one purpose in mind. He wanted the world to know that Kira exists, and that he has the power to bring justice. Think of the fake L fiasco as a demonstration of power, so all criminals watching TV would know, Kira definitely exists and he has the power to kill criminals. If Kira didn't do anything, the criminals would have a sigh of relief, Kira didn't hurt L, and L is fighting for the criminals, L will save the criminals from dying. Kira had to make it known at that time, that criminals have no choice but to die, and that no one, including L could save them. So that people would be too afraid of committing crimes lest they incur the wrath of someone named Kira.

Also, with the fake L fiasco, Kira has basically said on TV that he is not afraid of the police, the law or anything. That he will deliver justice where justice is due and will not back down from the police. If Kira wanted to build his ideal world, eventually the world will have to know that Kira exists, and once that happens, the police will be after him anyways. Kira just decided that was the best time, considering that L openly challenged him on "live TV", to make it known that Kira exists.

But, even if Kira succeeded, him judging people is wrong. With his justice, there is no second chance either.
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Old 2006-10-31, 10:13   Link #17
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PS: doesn't Kira remind you of somebody... how about... erm... lets say God? If anyone has read the OT then you'd see that he kills & punishes people whenever HE seems its right. He gets rid of other nations who (by what is said in the book at least) are more (I don't think that is mentioned, but I suppose it could imply since he chose the Israelites, this might be wrong & chosing a specific people might have been just cause by accident or favouritism towards their ancestors - Abraham, Isaac, etc) wicked & sinful. Besides not one of us is without sin, so we each deserve to die. When God kills its justice, if he spares it's mercy & grace.

Just out of curiosity, who out here that opposes Kira's ideas is a christian? (cause as far as I see it now, your these two are exactly the same)

Him killing the fake L.
I think that was one of his biggest mistake. I really don't belive he might have thought about all the person above mentioned. He acted on emotions (maybe anger... no.. maybe competiveness, I'm not sure), which also gave away his location.

Last edited by ^_Usagi_^; 2006-10-31 at 10:26.
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Old 2006-10-31, 10:17   Link #18
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It was exactly this point of morality that made me not watch this show or read the mange. The description I read for this show instantly turned me off, it was a contradiction in itself, it reached of immorality.

Originally Posted by description by anidb
Light Yagami is an ace student with great aspects who`s bored out of his mind. One day he finds the Death Note a notebook held by a shinigami (Death God). with the Death Note in hand, Light decides to create a perfect world. A world without crime or criminals. However when criminals start dropping dead one by one, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer.
If people like this show it is their right, I'm not going to bash it, but this topic will at least let me say my peace.

The protagonist
This Light guy has the most simplistic idea about the world, it would show that he is one of those people who is so weak and cowardly that they have to cower behind the law in order to feel save and security. Seeing the law as some absolute guide, rather than the joke it really is. A world without crime would be perfect? We'll still get all the natural disasters, where people die and property gets destroyed. Perfect world? Nope. I can go on a killing spree and not be a criminal. I simply have to enlist in the army. I can sell weed and not be a criminal, I simply have to go to Holland. Perfect world? Nope. It takes more than a world free of crime for it to be perfect.

A criminal, aren't we all?
Who is a criminal? A person that breaks the law? Why does a person break the law? Because s/he is a evil thing that plagues society? Or someone who is driven over the line by society having no choice but to become a criminal in order to survive? Someone who is unaware of laws and accidentally breaks a law? All of you who download fansubs and scanlations? There are many reasons why a person breaks the rules, as many unjust reasons as just reasons. Robin hood, who steals, but gives to the poor. A soldier who can't kill a child with a bomb which results in the deaths of his squad. A prostitute, who is forced to sell her body by a pimp? A drug dealer who sell drugs to children out of greed. Good people? Bad people? Of course this distinction should never be made by the courts, because justice is supposed to be blind, but unfortunately these days it is not. A good lawyer will be able to bend and twist the truth in such a way that laws are twisted in there meaning. A jury does not base their verdict on the facts alone, as they should, but also on their emotions. A criminal to one person can be the hero of another. The criminal from one perspective, can be the loving father from another, or evil monster from yet another. Who is the main protagonist to judge from his one perspective? Nothing but a fool as he himself becomes a criminal in the process of his judgment and by that same judgment he should kill himself. The walking contradiction. Every person on this planet has broken a law once in their existence, be it the law of man/society or be it the laws of god/religion. How stupid is it to condemn all criminals to death, might as well kill everyone in the world. He might as well start with himself, because he too is a criminal. He too deserves death by this own judgment, because killing a person, be it a criminal or an innocent, is still a crime, unless of course it is sanctioned by that same law. Which should show the true colors of law to those that understand the full implications of that statement.

The joke of law
What is law? A set of rules that redistributes the freedoms of individuals so everyone can be equal, so everybody has equal freedom. Well that was the dream of law, the ideal of law, but that dreams has ended long ago. Rules are said to be set by a society, but these days they are set by those in power, which has produced some very unjust laws. Different societies have different rules/customs/believes and cannot be judge by one person, who has only one perspective. Some examples? In the US one needs to be 21 drink, 16 to drive, smoking weed, prostitution is not allowed. In Holland one needs to be 16 to drink, 18 to drive, smoking weed is allowed, prostitution is allowed. How does Light wish to judge people that live by another set of rules which differs from his own? Applying his own set of rules onto a society where he does not live is unjust, applying his set of rules to the whole world is no different than oppression or a dictatorship, because it is only based on the perspective of one person.

To judge
Everybody has a right to judge, this is not the problem. These are your own thoughts and everybody has a right to them. Yet to sentence, is another story. A judge appointed by the court has this right given to him. The courts (as the story goes) represents the collective will of the people, the collective interests, which symbolizes the judgment of individuals by the whole of sociality. (if only that dream was true) A person off the street does not have right, the protagonist does not have that right. But I'm sure the protagonist will try to justify this actions later on in the story by telling himself that the death note was given to him by fate/god in order to judge. I can only hope that he gets judged by the powers that be after he has corrupted himself beyond redemption.
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Old 2006-10-31, 10:28   Link #19
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Think like this

-Laws = Created by human being. < that is the fact.

What kind of human Being create laws?

-intelligence, smart, powerful, authority people (no matter how many ppl they are still Human being)

-Yagami Raito = Human being

-Yagami Raito is smart, intelligence, well planned.

-Yagami Raito has the Death note - powerful, authority

-Yagami Raito setting Laws
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Old 2006-10-31, 10:32   Link #20
Am I bad? Yes... Very X(
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Originally Posted by ^_Usagi_^ View Post
Just out of curiosity, who out here that opposes Kira's ideas is a christian? (cause as far as I see it now, your these two are exactly the same)
edit: I need to rewrite this before someone gets the wrong idea.

Christianity is a joke to me, but I respect the faith and I do not wish to offend, the holy bible is an assembly of the gospels written by the disciples of Jesus, some parts were left out because they didn't fit with the believe system. One of the parts that was left out was where it said that in the end, end of time, when all souls are split between hell and heaven, the souls in heaven will take pity on the souls in hell and will pray to god to show mercy on those in hell. This will result in god opening the gates of heaven and the emptying of hell. It would imply that there is no real reason to be good or evil, which is why it was left out of the bible.

Last edited by Aidan; 2006-10-31 at 11:42.
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