Top 5 Convincing "Death Note" Theories

Updated on April 24, 2020
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.

"Death Note" Fan Theories

Whether through anime, manga, or film adaptation, Death Note's intellectual battles still delight fans to this day. Light Yagami obtains a supernatural notebook that he uses to execute criminals as "Kira", who is hunted by the genius detective L and his investigative team.

The mind games that ensue are brilliant and tense, with many interesting moral questions raised. Some issues are neatly wrapped up by the story's end, but others are left ambiguous and open to interpretation. So, which theories are most believable? Here are five fascinating Death Note theories!

Spoilers ahead.

Misa in the epilogue
Misa in the epilogue
Misa contemplates suicide
Misa contemplates suicide

1. Misa Commits Suicide After Light's Death

Evidence:

  • In the manga, it's confirmed that Misa kills herself after Light dies
  • Fits with Ruyk's statement that Death Note users inevitable face tragedy
  • Misa is standing at the edge of a building in her final anime scene, solemnly closing her eyes
  • Earlier in the show, Misa stated she "couldn't live without Light"

Misa Amane, Light's obsessed fangirl and Kira-helper, is confirmed to kill herself in the manga after Light's death, but her fate is more open-ended in the anime. Still, she likely commits suicide; she's lost Light, Rem, her memories of the Death Note, her family. You get the idea: Misa has a very messed up life.

In the final episode's credits, she's standing at the edge of a tall building in an odd goth-like outfit with a grim expression, and if that doesn't hint at suicide, I don't know what will. Although she doesn't know it anymore, she didn't have long left anyway; after halving her lifespan twice, probably well under 15 years left of natural life. Plus, this theory connects to...

Misa's Song (English Version)

2. Misa's Song Actually Occurs in the Epilogue

Evidence:

  • Misa's outfit and expression match the epilogue
  • The time of day (twilight) matches the epilogue
  • The song's grim tone fits her epilogue self more than her episode-25 self
  • The song never directly mentions anything Death Note-related because Misa has no memory of it
  • She ends atop a building (where she's shown in the epilogue)
  • Only occurs in the anime, just like her anime-only epilogue scene

Misa's song is an infamous anime-only event that we see in episode 25, the same episode where L dies. This is long before the anime ends (in episode 37) and prior to the years-long timeskip between the show's two seasons.

The song is hauntingly beautiful, an oddly grim tone for Misa during episode 25. At this point in the story, she's ecstatic; Light has agreed to love her forever in exchange for her helping kill L. She has all she ever wanted: Light's love (or at least, his claim of it).

So why would her song be so bleak? Well, it's because (unknown to the audience) it's actually happening in the show's epilogue, where Misa is depressed over Light's death. But it's cleverly inserted at this point in the show to set an ominous tone for L's upcoming death, despite it actually stemming from Light's.

The mood, her outfit, and the time of day all match, so as far as I'm concerned, this one's closer to fact than theory. The one stipulation is that the brief scenes of her writing in the Death Note do occur around Episode 25, as it wouldn't make sense for them to happen after Misa has lost her memories.

Near with the Death Note
Near with the Death Note

3. Near Used the Notebook to Control Mikami

Evidence:

  • Explains why Mikami kills himself
  • Gives Near more control over the final confrontation
  • Matsuda believes this (shown in the manga epilogue)

In the anime, Light's follower Teru Mikami, also known as X-Kira, commits suicide during the final confrontation where N defeats Light. In the manga, Mikami kills himself in prison a few days after Light's defeat. Either way, this theory suggests that Near used the Death Note to control Mikami (remember, you can puppeteer victims for up to 23 days), which not only ensured he would arrive during the final battle, but also provided a measure of safety by controlling his actions.

In the manga, Matsuda firmly believes this, suggesting it's why Near burns the Death Notes, not only to get rid of them, but also to cover up the evidence of his control over Mikami. It's unlikely Near would have a moral objection to such an action; Mello uses the Death Note, and L wanted to (in order to test the 13 day rule), so why not Near if it helps catch Kira?

Manga creator Tsugumi Ohba commented that it's left open to interpretation. While this isn't direct confirmation, it means it's at least possible, unlike the previously widely-believed theory that the Kira cultist shown in the manga epilogue is Misa (Ohba confirmed it isn't).

My one hesitation with this theory is that if true, it doesn't match Ryuk's statement about Death Note users facing tragic ends, as Near is seen alive and well ten years later in the one-off special. That said, Light didn't meet his end until many years after using the Death Note, so it's still possible Near's is on the way.

The unnamed Shinigami and Light
The unnamed Shinigami and Light

4. Light is Reborn as a Shinigami

Evidence that the unnamed shinigami from Relight is Light's reincarnation:

  • He walks with a limp (like Light did after being shot in the final)
  • He has a grin and red eyes, like Light's "Kira" face
  • His coat and hair resemble Light's outfit when he died
  • He knows Ryuk likes apples
  • He leaves before Ryuk finishes his story, and Ryuk then talks to "Light"
  • Light is shown in the shinigami realm in the anime's second opening

Death Note Relight is an OVA that summarizes the Death Note anime with a few new scenes. These include Ryuk recounting the story to a mysterious unnamed shinigami widely believed to be Light Yagami's reincarnation. I definitely agree; this makes the additions far more interesting.

Now, it's true that Ohba once stated there is no afterlife in Death Note, that people only go to Mu (nothingness) when they die, but many fans believe this only applies to the manga, not the anime; after all, L's spirit (or at the very least, Light's hallucination of it) appears as Light dies. Plus, Light becoming a shinigami is far more believable if you accept the general theory that...

Shinigami in Death Note
Shinigami in Death Note

5. Death Note Users Become Shinigami After Death

Evidence:

  • Explains how Shinigami are created (we know they don't sexually reproduce)
  • Explains why the Death Note states that users don't go to heaven or hell (instead, they go to the shinigami realm)
  • Explains why Shinigami occasionally display human-like behavior, such as love or enjoyment of food

In the Death Note: How to Read special manga chapter, we learn various bits about the shinigami realm, like the fact they have a ranking system. However, many bits about their world are still shrouded in mystery, like how they exist in the first place. How to Read implies shinigami could only exist after humans were created because they need humans to extend their lifespans.

This also clarifies the Death Note's statement about users not being able to go to heaven or hell. After all, if no afterlife exists, then such a statement is redundant; both users and non-users would simply enter nothingness. However, if this theory is true, then the Death Note is subtly hinting that users won't go to heaven/hell, but could become a shinigami after death. And we have a strong example from the "Light becomes a shinigami" theory; if he becomes one, in stands to reason that others might also.

Who is your favorite Death Note character?

See results

Differences Between "Death Note" Anime and Manga

While the Death Note anime mostly follow the manga's story, it offers a slightly different ending a few anime-only scenes. Thus, while some of today's theories don't fit the manga or the author's statements on the manga, they're believable for the anime (of which Ohba had little involvement with).

Heck, between the anime, manga, radio drama, various movie adaptations, musicals, and more, there's several Death Note continuities, meaning the rules and characters will always vary between them. But for now, share your own Death Note hidden lore and I'll see you at our next anime countdown!

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    © 2020 Jeremy Gill

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