Homosexuality in Death Note?

Yaoi art

One could say I am a fan of anime. Not a huge fan, mind you, but enough to say I have watched through the Dragonball Z series from start to finish, devoured Inyuasha, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchimist and others. So needless to say I have been a fan of Death Note form the very beginning. This being said it is only recently on my fifth (or so) playback that I noticed the moderate amounts of homoeroticism inherent in Death Note.

                There are several instances where this gay tract is revealed. Some are subtle others not so subtle. An example of the not so subtle variety can be seen in the first season where REM reveals that if Light attempts to kill Misa she will, in turn, kill Light. She does this in order to protect her but moments before this is said there is an exposition which details that the only way to kill a Shinigami is to make them fall in love with a human; once in love they are susceptible to prolonging that person’s life but preventing their intended death. The consequence for doing so is death for the Shinigami.

                So we see that REM has romantic feelings for Misa. The show’s first, and only, Lesbian pseudo-romance.

                Later on we can begin to question Light’s sexual orientation. We know from early in the show that Light is a brilliant student with a strong sense of justice. Yet he is also brutal and cunning, he harbors delusions about creating a perfect world and is determined to bring this dream to reality. To this end he will utilize any means necessary, including using Misa’s infatuation with him as a controlling tool.

                He is seen with several woman throughout the course of the show yet through it all the audience never gains the impression that the women he dates are anything more than business partners. He plays several women against each other and, ignoring a contrived scene where he looks at “dirty magazines” in order to fool spy cameras, never is he intimate with a member of the opposite sex.

                This isn’t to say that he is seen to be genuinely intimate with members of the same-sex. However, when taken together with several occurrences throughout the show the question of Light’s sexuality comes under some scrutiny. By this I mean his friendship with “L”.

                While it is obvious to anyone that Light hates “L”, as L is attempting to imprison Kira, him, as the investigation drags on, and the intensity boils, one can begin to sense this strange almost frustrating tension between the duo. For example, beore “L’s” death when he is standing atop the team’s headquarters in the pouring rain and Light comes to drag him back in-doors, there comes a scene soon after where “L” is dying off Light’s feet while musing about their “freidnship”.

                This scene can be interpreted in many different ways, including religious. It could also mean nothing more than a dramatic lull in the story to showcase “L’s” complete acceptance of defeat. Still, this scene, and their whole dynamic in general, takes on a wiser importance come the series conclusion.

                By the end of the second season Light has been revealed to be Kira: his plan to create a utopia has failed and so, bleeding by the hand and clearly deranged, he flees his persecutors. Struggling to a nearby warehouse Light rests on an iron staircase. As Ryuk writes his name in his notebook, thus killing him, Light, in his final moments, sees “L” standing before. A smile crosses his face and before long he passes.

                We may never know for sure if this tentative friendship between two genius detectives who never showed much of an interest in the opposite sex was anything more than an awkward gesture between men or if it was a suppressed love. Yet we can say that it raises some eyebrows if one thinks hard enough. In addition with the love shown by REM (the one definite homosexual attraction) we can see that the show was not all together devoid of same-sex romance, so it would not be much of a stretch to say that, had some more details been provided, a romance could have been possible between Light and “L”.

                In any case, whether Light and “L” were straight or gay Death Note is a provocative show. The dialogue is well written and the plot is something, while fitting into Otaku convention, takes the viewer on a stimulated and suspense filled ride. True to my word the only real criticisms I have of the show is that there has yet to be another series.

15 thoughts on “Homosexuality in Death Note?

Add yours

    1. Apologies, but at this point in time, Death Note is a fairly old show; like, many people have seen the ending by now and obsess over it. I am a strong believer in the idea that after a certain amount of time has passed, one no longer needs to be beholden to spoiler tags (otherwise, what can we really say about something?). In any case, you will be happy to know that Death Note, as you’ve been already exposed to, is a show where half the fun is knowing how the characters got there as much as what actually happened. I would suggest continuing watching. Trust me, there is a lot of ups and downs.

  1. In episode 18 of season 1, L does the cherry stem trick. For those who are unaware, this is were one takes a cherry, stem and all, puts it in their mouth, eats the cherry, and then ties the stem in a knot using only the tongue. This is usually only done by woman to showcase their skill with their tongue, ie oral sex. Not only that, but before L does this, him and light have just started liveing together and handcuffed to one another. Further more, him and light have their first PHYSICAL confrontation before this cherry trick scene as well. Metaphorically speaking, them being chained together could be an analogy for a relationship. Their fight could also symbolize them becoming physically intimate after perusing each other over so long a period of time, erupting like passion tends to do after long periods of anticipation. All this, coupled with the almost too obvious homoerotic cherry trick, and it leaves little doubt that this series has underlying homosexual tones.

    1. Completely missed that! Great find! I didn’t even consider that as a sexual act, but merely as another one of L’s oddities.

      Additionally, we could add Light’s obvious uninterest in Misa. There is a point where she is in lingerie, ready for bed, and heads up to the investigation room to say goodnight to Light; every male character’s mouth drops except Light, who absentmindedly waves her off. Sure, there are some moments where Light is seen as a typical cis-hetero male, but for the most part, I think it is clear he is something other than he says and that the arrogance and manipulation is there to mask his sexuality.

  2. One, L never seemed into girls, really.
    Two, are you sure Rem’s a girl.
    Three, Lights last name backwards is I’m a gay.^o^

    1. I am almost certain that REM is a woman; the voice sounds more feminine than any of the others and just the general design connotes more of a female orientation. I don’t think I have heard of anyone calling REM by male pronouns so it seems to make sense… but I dunno, maybe “Gods of Death” don’t have genders and it is merely own own cultural subjectivity which is problemitzing things.

      1. No the “God’s of Death” have gender Ryuck relieves a hug from Misa at some point in the series and removes her from his body stating “sorry I’m a guy sometimesaid I get a little shy.”

        1. That is right! Completely forgot. Which brings up the point: when he says ‘guy,’ then it is a good indication that Shinigamis have, in the bare minimum, gender identities but, does that mean that they have organs capable of biological reproduction? Ryuuck simply says that he is a guy; does not mean anything about his reproductive organs (assuming he has them). The show seems coy. Love and some kind of desire exist, as depicted through the God which agonized over Misa, but I am not recalling an instance of sexual desire. This brings up a point on how gender identity’s would have evolved in the Shinigami world; it is a complex social and cultural question, and one that we simply do not have enough information to pinpoint, but it is interesting to think about, at least. (Though, we do know that the Shinigami world is ruined and we know that they are ruled by a king; additionally, we know that they have become apathetic in regards to humanity and no only write names in their notebook to prevent death for themselves. Not sure if anything could be parsed from this, but it is there)

      1. Hi Adi,

        The link is broken and says that the scene is not available. Additionally, in a previous response in this thread, I posted a video from Youtube which featured many facts; one of those facts about Death Note was that the creator said that Shinigami are essentially genderless, and any similarities with human gender are purely coincidental. This would mean that Shinigami operate, if they have sexual inclinations, as pansexuals while gender-wise, a-gender.

        I must say, this makes for a interesting world!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: