L Lawliet (エル・ローライト Eru Rōraito ), commonly referred to by his alias “L(エル Eru ), is the deuteragonist in the manga, anime and film series Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba, and as an enemy of the villainous protagonist Light Yagami. L is considered the world’s greatest detective, whose identity remains unknown before the story takes place because he has never revealed himself to the public. L takes on the Kira investigation in the first arc. The character of L is portrayed by Kappei Yamaguchi in the anime and Ken’ichi Matsuyama in Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name and L: Change the World. He is voiced by Alessandro Juliani in the English versions of both the anime and live action films.

Design and conception

Tsugumi Ohba, story writer of the series, created L as a “force of justice” and a “super detective” who stands between Light and Light’s goals, and advances the story. Ohba believed that the story would not hold much interest if L was significantly older than Light, so Ohba created L as a young adult. Ohba said that for L’s name he wanted to use a single letter with a lot of significance; according to Ohba he considered “I” and “J” but decided that they did not “feel as good” as “L” and chose “L” “after careful consideration.”

Ohba said that he gave L the alias “Ryuzaki” because L is pronounced like R in Japanese.

Takeshi Obata, artist of the series, described the thumbnails of L created by Tsugumi Ohba, the writer of the series, as having no “bags” under his eyes and a “plain face with no expression.” Obata said that the thumbnail design was “great, and I wish I could have used it as is.” Obata drew L as an “attractive young man” until Chapter 11, when the character appeared in person. After Chapter 11 Obata decided to contrast his appearance with Light’s appearance; Obata said that he and Ohba held this idea.

Ohba said that he left “everything” about L’s character design to Obata. Obata asked Ohba if L could be “unattractive.” Afterwards Ohba included ideas in his thumbnails, including L’s manner of sitting, “he’s English,” and “he’s listless.” Ohba said that he added details regarding L’s mannerisms and his “sweet tooth.” Ohba credits Obata for the character designs.

Obata said that, during the development of the early manga chapters, he feared that L would appear to be “so suspicious that Light would know instantly it was L if they ever met.” When Obata’s editor told him that he wanted L to have a face “looking cool based on the angle,” Obata added black “bags” under L’s eyes. Obata cited Devilmans Akira Fudou when stating that he believed that black bags “looked cool.” In addition, Obata thought of a “dead eyes” concept involving L having “mostly no eyebrows” and “all-black eyes.” Obata believes that having black eyes usually makes a character “goofier,” but the bags “sharpen the character’s gaze.” Obata believes that the design evokes “a feeling of mystery” and that the reader cannot determine L’s true thoughts. In addition Obata said that the bags under L’s eyes attracts speculation about L’s lifestyle and past. He described the bags as “useful.” Obata designed L with a “simple” white, long-sleeved shirt and jeans outfit to convey the idea that L does not put thought into choosing his clothing. In Death Note 13: How to Read, Ohba presented an initial rough draft of L and said that, with a “cool expression” and without the “bags” under his eyes the rough draft L looks like “a totally different person.”

Obata stated that he believes that traits exhibited by L are best revealed “gradually.” Obata added that he believes that if he drew L eating “mountains of sweets” prior to revealing L’s face, L would not have “much credibility as a super detective” and people would question if L was “crazy.”

Obata said that he was often told that L’s fighting style is “similar” to capoeira; Obata said that he did not consider this when he drew L’s fights. Obata said that he was thinking of the most effective method to kick a person while handcuffed. Obata added that if the style resembles capoeira, then this “adds another element to it” and “that makes me happy.”

When designing color book covers Obata assigned colors to characters to “get the atmosphere right.” Obata assigned gold to L.

Design and conception in the film version

Shūsuke Kaneko, director of the films, said that L’s role was the most difficult to cast; as the shooting was near many of the “big name” actors had other projects. Kaneko cast Ken’ichi Matsuyama, “very much a newcomer.” Kaneko added is that when Matsuyama told him that the actor would “live as L,” Matsuyama had “clinched it.”

Matsuyama felt difficulty while portraying L and worried about his performance. Matsuyama portrayed L as if he does not “quite understand other people on an emotional level” since the actor reasoned that L rarely interacted with others. Matsuyama, describing himself as “not very flexible physically,” encountered difficulty in emulating L’s postures. Matsuyama also ate sweets that L would eat and considered the details of L’s signature gestures.

Matsuyama said that he and Fujiwara became “so immersed” in their character portrayals that they did not talk to one another while on the set; when filming ceased they conversed and “went out for a drink or two.”


In Death Note

L in the anime.

The “L” that L uses to represent himself. The font used is “Cloister Black” and can be recreated by using “old english MT”

L, who also uses the aliases Hideki Ryuga (流河 旱樹 Ryūga Hideki), Ryuzaki (竜崎 Ryūzaki), Eraldo Coil (エラルド=コイル Erarudo Koiru), and Deneuve (ドヌーヴ Donūvu), the latter two for which he has developed reputations as the second- and third-best detectives in the world, is quite secretive and only communicates with the world through his assistant Watari. He never shows his face to the world, instead representing himself with a capital L in Cloister Black font. After meeting the Kira investigation team, he requests that the task force refer to him as Ryuzaki for discretion. The Kira investigation team never learns his true name. Ohba said that L is the smartest character in the manga because “the plot requires it.”[12] Ohba also said that he personally views L as “slightly evil”;[13] for instance, in chapter 109, Near discloses the fact that L claimed to pursue cases out of personal interest with no great sense of justice.

When asked about L’s ethnicity, Ohba responded saying “I think of him as a quarter Japanese, a quarter English, a quarter Russian and… maybe a quarter French or Italian? Something like that.”[3]

L’s disheveled and languid appearance masks his great powers of deduction and insight. He tends to second-guess everything he is presented with, and is extremely meticulous and analytical. He has several quirks such as preferring to crouch rather than sit, eating only sweet foods like desserts and fruits, and holding items very delicately. L stayed in England for five years, and during that time he was the champion in tennis for the England Junior Cup. L also secretly assumes the identities of the world’s second and third best detectives (Eraldo Coil and Deneuve respectively).

L suspects early in the investigation that Light Yagami is Kira, but can not obtain any concrete evidence. In several situations, Light seems to be proven innocent by the circumstances, but L remains skeptical. If Light were Kira, the case would be solved, and L has trouble letting go of this simple and complete solution. L can easily present his conclusions publicly at any time, and with his reputation, is taken seriously.

Because of his initial suspicions of Light, L decides to join To-Oh University, the university that Light attends, using the name of Hideki Ryuga for investigative purposes. L attends To-Oh because he feels confidence in his reasoning skills and wishes to test them. He also intends to tell Light that he can “take the offensive.” L understands that his act is dangerous and since he understands Light’s thought process he feels confident that Light will not kill him at that point.

After L introduces himself as Ryuga, Light does not attempt to kill him since the name is conspicuously fake. Also, he has no way to know at the time whether the person is the real L or a proxy acting under orders. Light also reasons that L would have already introduced himself to Light’s father earlier, and thus that if he somehow killed L, he would be easily uncovered as Kira. When Light discovers his “Hideki Ryuga” alias, Light fears that if he writes this name in the Death Note, the face of the pop singer from which the alias was derived would enter Light’s head and therefore Light would inadvertently kill the pop idol. This would lead L to the obvious conclusion that Light is Kira.

Whenever L gives percentages to indicate how much he suspects a person of committing a crime, such as “five percent,” in reality he means over 90 percent. Although L gives Light a low percentage indicating how much he suspects Light, in reality L is “pretty certain” that Light is Kira. Ohba said about L, “The truth is, he’s a liar. [laughs]”

In Chapter 58, Light tricks Rem into killing L for his own personal gain, making her believe that she must kill him for the sake of Misa’s life. L’s last sight before death is Light triumphantly smiling over his defeated rival, and in his last moment L confirms to himself that Light is the first Kira. In episode 25 of the anime, prior to L’s death Light and L talk to each other for one last time on the roof of the investigation building; some viewers believed that L, somehow, knew that his death was drawing near.

Death Note 13: How to Read revealed many facts about L. His true birth name is L Lawliet. His date of birth is October 31 of 1979 (1982 in the anime), making him 25 when he dies on November 5, 2004 (2007 in the anime). His height and weight are estimated to be 179 centimeters and 50 kilograms (5 feet and 10 inches and 110 pounds). His blood type is “unknown.” It is implied that L was a former resident of Wammy’s House, one of Watari’s orphanages, as well as a safe haven and educational facility specifically for intellectually-gifted children. Therefore, similar to Near and Mello, L’s abilities were discovered while living there, and he is most likely an orphan.

In chapter 38 of the manga, L suggests that even though he eats only sweet foods, he remains underweight because the brain uses the most calories of any organ in the body. He also says that if he sits normally, his reasoning ability would drop 40%.

Ohba said that his favorite human character in the series was L as Ohba believed that L was the “strongest” character in the series “besides Light.” Obata chose L as his favorite due to “appearance, personality, everything.” Obata said that he could never have created L and that he enjoyed drawing L. Obata added that because of this, L is not “real” to him and therefore he likes that aspect of L. In response to the question “Who was the most fun to draw?” both Ohba and Obata answered “L.”

Death Note 13: How to Read describes L in the Death Note yonkoma as the “holder of the world’s greatest mind” and having the “powerful ability to act like a fool.” Death Note 13: How to Read adds that in the yonkoma “it’s like [L was] born to be mocked.”

L stars in a Death Note film version special, aired on Japanese television, that takes place after Light’s death; in it Matsuda has to come to terms with L’s eventual death.

In the film series

Ken’ichi Matsuyama as L

As there is no time delay between the first and second films, the second film begins soon before L supposedly dies. L retains many of the same characteristics seen in the original series. At the end of the first film, L eats potato chips in front of Light; Light had used a potato chip sack to hide a mini LCD television from security cameras while L filmed his room.

Unlike the manga and anime, in the second film, his original “death”, caused by Rem writing his name in her Death Note, does not take effect, as L had written his own name in Misa’s Death Note earlier. It is his self-sacrifice that allows himself stay alive for a longer duration (as he supposed Kira would kill him on that day), and allows the investigation team to apprehend Light. After Ryuk kills Light, Ryuk offers L the Death Note. L refuses, and Ryuk, while saying that L is boring, leaves.

Twenty-three days after writing his name in the Death Note, and after burning all the remaining Death Notes and having a conversation with Soichiro, L dies peacefully while eating a chocolate bar, with a picture of Watari lying right beside him. He is portrayed by Ken’ichi Matsuyama, who also voices Gelus (Jealous) in the anime.

Matsuyama said that L and Light are “extremely” alike in that they have “very strong sense of justice.”

L: Change the WorLd

In L: Change the WorLd, which takes place in the 23 days that L has left before he dies, L decides to solve one last case. He is in charge of a case in stopping a deadly virus from spreading across the world. He meets the daughter of a doctor who was striving to find an antidote and a boy who was the sole survivor of a village destroyed by the virus; after solving the case, he brings the boy to Wammy’s Orphanage and names him Near. Because L wrote his own name in the Death Note specifying his manner of death, he is not harmed by the virus, and he uses this to his advantage. The movie also shows that there are other agents with single letter names, presumably all trained by Watari.

Hideo Nakata, the director, told The Daily Yomiuri that he wanted to exhibit L’s “human side” that was not exhibited in the Death Note series.

In Death Note: Another Note

In the novel Death Note: Another Note The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases the reader is led to believe L under the alias Rue Ryuzaki is helping Naomi Misora solve a murder case. She was recruited for the case by L because she was on leave from the FBI. This Rue acts very much like L and shared many characteristics like crouching to sit and consuming sweets. In the end of the book the reader learns that Beyond Birthday detective name B, who was an another candidate to replace L along with Near and Mello, was not only the killer but also Rue Ryuzaki in disguise under heavy makeup. He was trying to make a case L could not solve to prove his superiority to L. In the book the only certified reference to L was the phone conversations Naomi had with him to discuss the case. In the very end of the book as Naomi was going back to work she sees a man similar to Rue, who the reader is led to believe is L (and probably is, considering that Mello earlier stated that this case was the first time that L had shown himself in public under the alias ‘Ryuzaki’). This man attempts to give Naomi a hug which she counters in self-defense and sends him tumbling down a flight of stairs. She then catches up to him and asks him his name, to which he replies, “Ryuzaki.”


Tom S. Pepirium of IGN describes L as “the coolest, most well developed character in anime today.”[25] Pepirium said that the “excellent translation” is responsible for L being a “success” in the English-language dub of Death Note.Pepirium adds that Alessandro Juliani, L’s voice actor, portrays his slurping and gulping sweets as “somehow non-irritating.”

Kitty Sensei of OtakuZone had her opinions of the portrayal of L in the first film published in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. In it Kitty Sensei said that Matsuyama’s portrayal of L is “outstanding.” She said that he accurately depicted L’s characteristics “from the way he squats to the way he grasps objects.” Peperium IGN described L’s voice in the English anime version as “low monotone, while inspired by the original Japanese actor, sounds like a man deep in thought, a master detective on the hunt.”

Christy Lee S.W. of The Star said that Matsuyama’s portrayal of L in the second film is “the most intriguing” and that the characteristics, including the “looks,” “expressions,” and “the way he moves” makes Matsuyama as L “a joy to watch.”

Matsuyama describes L and Light as having “such unique characters that they’re impossible to understand” and that “the inside of L’s head remains a mystery” to him.[10] Popular reception to Matsuyama’s portrayal of L led to the creation of the spinoff L: Change the WorLd.[9]

During January from 2007, Oricon made a poll in which they asked Japanese fans from manga and anime which characters from any series they would most like to see in spinoff series. The overall winner from the poll was L, who also ranked first in the women’s poll and second in the men’s poll.In the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Awards (SPJA) from 2008 Alessandro Juliani was the winner in the category “Best Voice Actor (English)” for his work as L.Kappei Yamaguchi was the winner in the category “Best Voice Actor (Japanese)” from the 2009 SPJA Industry Awards for his work as L. L also won in the category “Best Male Character”.In the NEO Awards 2007 from Neo, L won in the category “Best Manga Character”.

L Lawliet
Death Note character
L from Death Note.png
L as he appears in the manga
(Front cover of 2nd Volume : Join)
First appearance Chapter 11 : One
in 2nd Volume, Join
Last appearance Chapter 58 : Feelings within
in 7th Volume, Zero
Created by Tsugumi Ohba
Takeshi Obata
Voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi,
Alessandro Juliani (English),
Ken’ichi Matsuyama (Live Action)
Nicknames L
Aliases Ryuzaki, Hideki Ryuga, Eraldo Coil, Deneuve
Age 24 at introduction
25 at death
Species Human
Date of birth October 31, 1979[1]
Date of death November 5, 2004[1]
Occupation Detective
Title World’s Greatest Detective