The Death Note Ending Explained

The Death Note Ending Explained

The most recent Netflix Death Note movie adaptation released in 2017, has an ending that confused audiences. Even after Kira (Name “Light Turner” in the Netflix adaptation) explains how he pulled off his masterful plan, it still made little sense to the viewer. In this essay, we attempt to explain the ending of the infamous Netflix adaptation and how this ending compares to the manga and anime endings. Spoilers ahead.

Death Note: Basic Plot Summary

death note

The Death Note Manga series was first serialized in the Japanese manga magazine Weekly Shonen Jump on December 1, 2003. It had a total of 108 chapters. The story follows teen genius Light Yagami, who stumbled upon a mysterious notebook called the “Death Note,” which belonged to the Shinigami Ryuk.

The book gave the user the supernatural ability to kill anyone written on the page as long as the user had the persons face in their mind at the time of writing it.

The series centers around Light’s attempts to use the Death Note to carry out a world-wide massacre of individuals who he deems as unworthy of life. These people are typically criminals.

Through killing these individuals, he seeks to create a utopian society without crime, using the alias of a god-like vigilante named “Kira” (“キラ” in Japanese, and translated to English for “Killer). This name was given to him through a message board that noticed his deeds and deemed “Kira” as being a symbol of justice.

An elite task force of law enforcement officers attempt to find Kira to stop his efforts, but this is deemed difficult for the regular police force until a shut-in detective named “L” joins. L becomes Kira’s primary opponent throughout the manga due to his superior intelligence. From the point L introduces himself to Kira, the manga becomes a battle of wit where both attempt to destroy one another through their own form of justice.

The manga doesn’t end with L; in fact, more characters attempt to stop him throughout the story. However, these details don’t matter because the Netflix adaptation ends while L is still investigating the Kira case, with Light being alive in a hospital bed, and Misa (Mia in the Netflix version) dead.

In both the manga and anime series versions, L is eventually killed by Light Yagami, who collapses from a heart attack after his name was written in the notebook.

Death Note Endings: Manga VS Anime Series

The endings of both the manga and anime are entirely different even though all the story beats are the same. By the final chapters or episodes of Death Note, Light Yagami is chief of police for his task force, has killed L, and two other detective geniuses have taken his place.

Mello, who used force to corner Kira by kidnaping his family, dies after being written in the Death Note. Near, who is credited as being just as smart as L, stays alive and eventually invited Light and his task force to a warehouse.

Near reveals that he knows Light Yagami is Kira and presents the evidence. Light attempts to lie his way out of being caught, but the evidence becomes irrefutable. Light admits he’s Kira in front of his task force, and Near.

Manga

Light, who is desperate to get away, asks his Shinigami, Ryuk, to write the names of his task force and Near in the notebook. Ryuk agrees but writes Light Yagami’s name instead of the other people in the warehouse.

Light doesn’t believe it, but Ryuk reveals the notebook to see his name written there. Ryuk does this because Light would rot away in prison without his help, and Ryuk didn’t want to help him anyway. Light dies after 40 seconds from a heart attack in front of the two detective teams.

Anime

Still in a warehouse, Light tries to write the names of his detective squad and Near in a piece of Death Note concealed in his watch. He gets shot by Touta Matsuda (a member of Light’s taskforce) twice in his hand and shoulder.

Light runs away and ends up in another building in an industrial area, where Ryuk sits on top of a chimney and speaks to himself about how he’ll write Light’s name in the notebook. Light dies alone in an unknown building 40 seconds after Ryuk writes his name.

How They Compare

In both versions, Light dies, but in different ways. In the manga, Light dies in front of the two detective teams leading to a sense of poetic justice for the detectives who tried to pursue them. In the anime, Light dies alone. Both versions are great endings to an already fantastic series.

Kira Personality Comparison: Manga VS Anime

kira

Before we talk about the Netflix ending, it’s essential to compare the main character of Light Yagami in both the manga and anime. Regardless of the intention of Netflix Death Note director Adam Wingard, the original manga, anime, and movies are going to be compared because it’s based on an already existing intellectual property.

Light Yagami (Kira) is a mortal human person, regardless of his ability to kill with a notebook. The best-written characters are ones that have motives and a personality that interacts with these motives. In both the Japanese Manga Series and the anime, Light wants to create a world without crime, but depending on the personality and the way he completes this action, this desire could be evil or virtuous.

Let’s look at how the manga and anime depict Light and his personality, motives, and actions.

Manga

Manga Light is framed immediately as a bored genius, tired of his everyday routine. Light conducts himself differently from how he thinks and feels. On the outside, he’s bored, on the inside, he seeks change, thinks the world is corrupt and seeks validation.

Light is also blocking out the rest of the class, implying he’s the focal point. He appears to be a loner character, but he’s seen walking home with a group of people – suggesting he’s popular and well-liked.

Although he’s popular (most notably with women), he’s emotionally distant from his peers due to his high intellect and doesn’t relate to people. Still, he’s social and likes to flaunt his cleverness to his peers when it’s naturally brought up.

He likes being admired, and his peers don’t seem to be annoyed by his intelligence, attractiveness, and sportiness. In Japanese schools, these three traits make you incredibly popular and well-liked, as opposed to an American school where intelligence is considered nerdy.

He is often seen smiling in public, and when he picks up the Death Note outside of the school, he laughs and makes a joke out of it. He takes it home and is quite vocal about the notebook while he’s reading the rules while on school property.

While at home, he continues to use dark humor to justify the existence of the note but eventually decides to test it out on someone who won’t be missed by society. He turns on the news, picks a criminal to kill, he dies, and he’s shocked.

Still not convinced, he writes another name in the book – a leader of a motorcycle gang harassing a woman. Light is disturbed as he confirms the note is real and thinks about throwing it away. While wrestling with the fact that he’s now killed two people, he spends five days losing weight, sleep, and his mind before looking at the Death Note again.

Manga light is conflicted between right and wrong but agrees that the notebook will help better society after wrestling with his moral compass.

Anime

Whether it’s the budget, the episode constraints, or decisions from the director Light Yagami is introduced differently than the Japanese Manga Series. Light isn’t just bored; he’s resentful. The animation team specifically gave Light a pupilless, red-eye which suggests evil madness. There is no internal monolog, but his expressions suggest he’s annoyed with his classmates when they gossip.

An extra scene not shown in the manga shows Light as he’s asked to read a passage from the bible. He sighs loudly, acting disinterested, but gets up and translates the passage. The song “Kyrie” (a Christian liturgy) plays in the background. An interesting choice, because the religious song indicated an already festering god complex within Light.

Anime Light hates people. It’s clear that he is judgemental and uninterested in spending time with others. He walks home alone, spends lunch alone, and is more introverted than his manga counterpart. He’s more jaded than bored and comments on how the world is rotten only after hearing a news report while walking home from school. Anime light feels empty because of how insignificant he feels, and how powerless and aimless his life is.

The best way to describe light is misanthropic, a loner, and a serial killer stereotype. He established early on that he’s a broken figure underneath his perfection. When the Death Note drops from the sky, he is content, excited, and amused. However, he puts the note back at first but picks it back up in hopes that it will actually work.

He reads the notebook at home, alone inside his head, until he reads the rule about how the note can make people suffer painfully before death or kill them quickly.

It’s disturbing that he would highlight that particular rule because he seems excited at the thought of hurting others. He decides to test the note by turning on the television, writing the name. He looks surprised.

Light kills the motorcycle gang leader, but the gang leader isn’t harassing the women. Instead, he’s attempting to rape her. It’s likely the animators did this to make the man’s death more comfortable to digest for Light and the audience.

Although Light isn’t thrilled with the thought he’s now a murderer, he ever suggests throwing the note away, and he doesn’t seem affected by his choice.

He sees the note as his savior, as a thrill, and as a means to an end. He doesn’t seem to struggle with the idea of being a murderer, or his choice of killing people. Power seems to be the primary motivator, as opposed to bettering the world.

How They Compare

The two iterations of Light are different psychologically, which ideally makes them different characters. Whereas manga light is destroyed from finding the Death Note, anime light is put back together. Unfortunately, despite these fundamental differences, the main character doesn’t make different choices, as the narrative ultimately remains the same.

How Manga and Anime Kira Compare to Netflix Kira

death note kira

We established that manga Light is destroyed, while anime light is saved. The manga version is often seen as more canon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other.

What does make the manga version better is that he is a human corrupted, while the anime version views Light as an inherent sociopath. The anime version would likely have done something drastic anyway, regardless of the intervention of the Death Note.

So, how does the Netflix Kira compare?

The first issue arises from the setting. It’s impossible for Japanese Light Yagami to translate into Light Turner because American audiences don’t identify with Japanese cultures and their values.

An example of this is how Light Yagami would be viewed as a straight-A student in American. Although Light Yagami is considered attractive and athletic, that wouldn’t save him from the social disconnect of his apparent perfection. A guy like Light Yagami would likely be bullied or at least considered a weird outcast.

Light Turner needed to be more grounded with American values, which isn’t a problem within itself, but the execution is mediocre at best, and laughable at worst. Our original introduction to him is an exchange of money for copying test answers for another student.

Comically, the test Light gives back to the student is half-filled out, and it’s unlikely that the student could hand in the test after leaving the classroom with it. Regardless, the intent was to establish Light as someone who uses his smarts for monetary gain.

The biggest glaring flaw of Light Turner compared to Light Yagami is that he isn’t intelligent. If Light Yagami acted with as much grace and subtly as Light Turner, L would have caught him in less than 24 hours. Lucky for Light Turner, L in his universe is as much as a babbling buffoon as his intellectual counterpart.

Light Turner is easily manipulated by others because he’s a more emotional character. Being emotional isn’t a negative, but comparing cool-headed Light Yagami and easy-to-anger Light Turner is like comparing apples to oranges.

An excellent example of this is how he reveals the nature of the notebook to another character named Misa, despite the fact he knows nothing about her and does this purely to impress her. As another example, he uses the notebook after Ryuk taunts him to do so, and quickly accepts the fact that this is his life now. He’s a murderer, and that’s cool.

Instead of his motivation equating to making the world a better place by killing criminals, his primary motive is questionable. It seems that he wants to kill criminals because his mother was murdered by a mobster who received no prison time, and he wants to bring these criminals to justice. However, the writers quickly forget about this motivation when Light kills a hostage-taker and a school bully—basically, two people who didn’t deserve to die.

Death Note Ending: Netflix Version

death note netflix

Now that we’ve established both characters, their motivations, and their intelligence, we can discuss the ending and how much it missed the point of the characters and the intellectual property.

The movie insists that Light Turner is intelligent, which accumulates to his master plan at the end. Declaring a character is something they aren’t is poor writing, but insisting their intelligence, while also intentionally confusing the audience in an attempt to look intelligent is insulting. With that being said, let’s take a look at the Netflix ending.

When Mia, Light’s “girlfriend,” takes the Death Note from Light, the ending starts to kick off. The two eventually meet on the top of the Ferris wheel. At some point, Light does take the notebook back, but Mia retrieves it from his grasp.

Light states that he wrote her name in the notebook, but that she would only die if she took the note away from him. The Ferris wheel tips over, throwing both characters from the structure, and Mia falls to her death as Chicago’s “I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love” plays. Light survives in the water, gravity, and physics be damned.

Light wakes up in the hospital and explains the Light’s plan, where he wrote in the death note to be retrieved by a mailman who will continue to kill criminals while he’s recovering. He even made sure to save his own life by making the piece of the book that Mia wrote his name on to land conveniently in a fire. Then, L finds a page of the notebook and contemplates writing a name down.

Death Note Ending: Netflix Version Explained

The Death Note ending was meant to be a cliffhanger, as the director intended for there to be at least three movies where L would eventually die, and two characters, Mello and Near, would take his place to catch Light. Considering the first movie was a critical failure, it’s unlikely that there will ever be another one. Despite this, let’s look at how the ending could be explained.

Ferris Wheel Scene

Anyone who’s a fan of Death Note, read the manga or watched the anime knows that the Death Note doesn’t work the way the movie explains it to work.

For example, once a name is written the person written will die, regardless if the page is distorted, burned, wet, or ruined in some way. The note also can’t pass on to another user unless the original owner wills it, or the original owner loses it for some time. By the cannon of the story, this ending wouldn’t be possible.

However, we’re talking about the Netflix version where the cannon is different, the characters are different, and they act differently with different motivations.

Mia, for example, takes the place of Misa who is originally a Kira obsessed fangirl who will do anything for Light Yagami. Since Mia stole the note and wrote Light’s name down to kill him, she clearly doesn’t care about him or his living. L is also more aggressive, chases Light down in a car, with a gun, and yells excessively.

Light: The Strong Swimmer

So, we’ve established that the Ferris wheel scene wouldn’t have been possible, but if it were, would Light survive the crash into the water? Unlikely. Although the notebook is a supernatural item, it isn’t capable of doing the impossible within the laws of the human world.

For example, in the manga and anime Light Yagami test the notebook to see if someone was able to fly across the globe within a few hours to die in another location. Since the criminal couldn’t make it to that location in the amount of time, he died within 40 seconds.

The movie never explains if the notebook can do the impossible, but it does it consistently. Light would likely have lost earlier on, for example, when he takes control over Watari to reveal L’s name if the note wasn’t capable of such feats. Would a person survive a 53m (174 ft) drop (the height of the Seattle Great Wheel, the set for the final scene) into standing water? No, definitely not.

As stated by the World High Diving Association: “Because of the high potential for injury, the World High Diving Federation recommends that no one dive from 20 meters (65.5 feet) or higher unless there are professional rescue scuba divers stationed in the water.”

L and the Death Note

L and the Death Note

The only other question to ask is, who would L write in the notebook? There are many fan theories as to who he would off before the sequel. Would L in the original manga or anime write a name in the Death Note? Actually, yes, or at least he suggested doing so to see if it worked. However, his detective team says not to, or he’d be just like Kira.

L in the Netflix’s Death Note, being more aggressive than the original character, could use it to kill Light Turner because he knows he’s Kira. Other theories are Light’s father, no one, or himself. However, we will probably never know because there’s never going to be a sequel.

FAQ

How does Death Note end? (Spoiler)

Both the manga and anime have different endings.
In the manga, Light, who is desperate to get away, asks his Shinigami, Ryuk, to write the names of his task force and Near in the notebook. Ryuk agrees but writes Light Yagami’s name instead of the other people in the warehouse.
Light doesn’t believe it, but Ryuk reveals the notebook to see his name written there. Ryuk does this because Light would rot away in prison without his help, and Ryuk didn’t want to help him anyway. Light dies after 40 seconds from a heart attack in front of the two detective teams.
In the anime, still in a warehouse, Light tries to write the names of his detective squad and Near in a piece of Death Note concealed in his watch. He gets shot by Touta Matsuda (a member of Light’s taskforce) twice in his hand and shoulder.
Light runs away and ends up in another building in an industrial area, where Ryuk sits on top of a chimney and speaks to himself about how he’ll write Light’s name in the notebook. Light dies alone in an unknown building 40 seconds after Ryuk writes his name.

Does Light die at the end of Death Note? (Spoiler)

Yes, Light dies at the end of Death Note in both the anime version and manga version. Both times, his death god Ryuk kills Light with the notebook after he is exposed by Near as being Kira through irrefutable evidence. In the Netflix’s Death Note, Light isn’t dead, however that movie was supposed to be the first of three films. At this point, it is unlikely the series will see a conclusion.

How does Death Note end Netflix? (Spoiler)

The ending of the Netflix version of Death Note is different from both the anime, and the manga and begins shortly after the prom scene where Mia reveals she wants to kill Light.
When Mia, Light’s “girlfriend,” takes the Death Note from Light, the ending starts to kick off. The two eventually meet on the top of the Ferris wheel. At some point, Light does take the notebook back, but Mia retrieves it from his grasp.
Light states that he wrote her name in the notebook, but that she would only die if she took the note away from him. The Ferris wheel tips over, throwing both characters from the structure, and Mia falls to her death as Chicago’s “I Don’t Want to Live Without Your Love” plays. Light survives in the water, gravity, and physics be damned.
Light wakes up in the hospital and explains the Light’s plan, where he wrote in the death note to be retrieved by a mailman who will continue to kill criminals while he’s recovering. He even made sure to save his own life by making the piece of the book that Mia wrote his name on to land conveniently in a fire. Then, L finds a page of the notebook and contemplates writing a name down.

What happens to L at the end of Death Note? (Spoiler)

The L in the anime and manga die in the middle of the story, around manga book 7 and on episode 25 of the anime. In both versions, Kira defeats L after a long and complicated plan unfolds, involving the death of Misa’s death god, and the second use of the Shinigami eye, resulting in Misa’s lifespan being halved for the second time.
In the Netflix version, L is considering whether or not he should kill Kira with the Death Note after figuring out his name, but he is still alive.

Conclusion

Regardless of the Netflix versions many flaws, it still gets a lot right. For example, Ryuk looked surprisingly scary. However, if you want to experience the best Death Note has to offer, stick to the manga or anime.

What was your favorite Death Note version? The manga, anime, or Netflix adaptation? Will you check out any of the versions we’ve listed? Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment.

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