Light Yagami (夜神 月, Yagami Raito?) also known as KIRA is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the manga and anime series Death Note. He is an extremely intelligent, athletic, popular, but bored young man who finds the Death Note dropped by the Shinigami Ryuk by sheer chance. In the Japanese version of the anime he is voiced by Mamoru Miyano, and in the English version by Brad Swaile.
Conception and development
Tsugumi Ohba, the story writer of Death Note, said that his editor suggested the family name "Yagami" for Light. Ohba said that he did not feel "too concerned" about the meaning of the name (the kanji are "night" and "god"); he said that after he created the final scene in the manga he "liked" that the final scene created "deeper significance" in the name, of Kira worshippers worshipping him at night under the light of the moon.
Takeshi Obata, the artist of Death Note, said that he had "no trouble" designing Light as the character description presented to him, "A brilliant honors student who's a little out there," was "clear and detailed." As the weekly serialization continued, Obata simplified the design by subconsciously removing "unnecessary" lines and felt that he became "better" at drawing Light. When Chapter 35 appeared and the editor informed Obata that Light lost his memories, Obata had to draw Light in a similar manner as he appeared in Chapter 1; Obata said "It was like I had to forget everything I had learned." Obata said that he used "a lot of effort" to design Light's wardrobe. According to Obata, he encountered difficulty imagining the clothing of "a brilliant person," so he looked through fashion magazines. Obata envisioned Light as a "smart and formal guy" who wears formal shirts. Most of Light's clothing in Death Note is "fitted" and Obata avoided jeans.
When designing color book covers Obata assigned colors to characters to "get the atmosphere right." Obata assigned clear or "lack of a color" to Light.
Conception and development in the film version
Shusuke Kaneko, director of the film, intended for Light to appear sympathetic at the beginning of the film; when Light first gains the Death Note Kaneko "was careful" to have Light react in a manner "as you and I would." Kaneko changed the story involving Light gaining his first notebook as he felt that the audience "would have a hard time sympathizing" with Light if the scene remained the same as it was in the manga. Kaneko added that as he portrayed Light as "being enthralled" as he "becomes more cruel" to make the audience members feel that they could "do the terrible things he does" even if the members do not sympathize with Light.
Tatsuya Fujiwara said that he felt difficulty portraying Light in the film series because of the lack of "action" and because Light has no signature mannerisms and therefore has his feelings displayed by his face; Fujiwara added that he struggled conveying Light's "incredible amount of intelligence" and that the performance would appear "very empty or simplistic" if Light received an improper portrayal. Fujiwara explained that he wanted Light to cry in a particular scene even though Kaneko told Fujiwara "Light doesn’t cry" since Fujiwara believed that the scene would feel "more honest"; Kaneko used the take.
Kaneko designed Light's room to reflect the character's personality by making it clean and neat and filling it with legal, criminal history, foreign, and academic books. The original version of Light's room included a stereo; Kaneko replaced it with a vacuum cleaner to reflect Light's "clean-freak self."
Kenichi Matsuyama, the actor who portrayed L, 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."
Light as he appears in the animeOhba described Light's life as "ruined" once he obtained the Death Note, and that Light became a victim of the Death Note "in many ways," Ohba described Light as initially having good intentions despite being "very conceited". Ohba also describes Light as having a "warped... desire to be godlike," bearing love for his family, and intending to transform the world into "a better place." Death Note 13: How to Read also states that Light, "uncompromising" when achieving his ideals, "sullied" himself by using the Death Note and that his actions "may have been the result of the purity within him" prior to obtaining the Death Note. Douglas Wolk of Salon describes Light as "coldly manipulative," "egomaniacal," and "an unrepentant serial killer, a butcher on an enormous scale" who is not "a Freddy Krueger, a monster who represents pure evil, or a Patrick Bateman, a demonic symbol of his age." Wolk describes Light as "the good guy, more or less" who genuinely believes that he holds "the moral high ground."
Light constantly tries to evade the suspicion of L while both maintaining his identity as "Kira"—the name derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the English word "killer" (キラー, kirā?)—and cleansing the world of crime. The fact that he is a genius also adds to his notion that only he is fit to judge humanity and steer it on a proper moral course. James Brusuelas of Animation World Magazine describes Light's quest to rid humanity of its criminals as "altruistic". Travis Fickett of IGN describes Light as a "sociopath." Tom S. Pepirium of IGN describes Light as "brilliant, but disturbed."
Toshiki Inoue, the series organizer for the Death Note anime, describes Light as a "child whose wish happens to come true."
Light, born on February 28, 1986, is a third year high school student (12th Grade) at Daikoku Private Academy (大国学園, Daikoku Gakuen?)  who also attends supplemental classes at Gamou Prep Academy  in the beginning of the story. Light has a father, Soichiro Yagami, who is a member of the investigation team opposing Kira. In addition, Light has a mother, Sachiko Yagami, and a younger sister, Sayu Yagami.
In Spring 2004 Light becomes a first-year student (freshman) at To-Oh University (東応大学, Tōō Daigaku?), becoming one of two freshman representatives after getting 100% in every test; L is the other freshman representative. During a tennis game with L at To-Oh, spectators reveal that Light was the junior high school tennis champion in 1999 and 2000; After his 2000 victory, Light quit tennis as he entered high school.
According to Ohba, Light sees Misa Amane, who he uses as an accomplice, as a "bad person" who killed people, so he acts emotionally cold towards her and manipulates her, although he pretends to love her, and even says he will marry her. He is only stopped from killing her by Rem threatening to kill him if she dies early or if she kills him trying to kill her, even though she knows that will cause her death.
When L is finally able to corner him, Light puts his master plan in practice. He temporarily gives up his Death Note to Ryuk, erasing his memories about his time as Kira from his mind, after asking to be put into custody by L to prove he is not Kira. Rem, under instruction by Light to give it to someone who would use it selfishly, gives it to Kyosuke Higuchi of the Yotsuba Corporation. Now unaware of the fact that he was the original Kira, Light accepts L's offer to join the investigation team to hunt down Higuchi, known as the third Kira, although he is handcuffed to L throughout the entire case. Light requests the alias Light Asahi (朝日 月, Asahi Raito?) to be used for him. Light proves very useful in helping to track down Higuichi, realising the new Kira is connected to Yotsuba. When Higuchi is finally captured, Light touches his Death Note, thereby regaining his memory of when he was the original Kira. He then proceeds to killing Higuchi by using the Death Note paper he put in his watch before he lost his memories; and manipulating Rem, who also dies in the process as Shinigami cannot purposefully extend a human's life, to kill both Watari and L to save Misa, who has made the eye trade with Ryuk.
Light is later nominated by L's investigation team (who are unaware that he is Kira) to act as L, because they cannot reveal the death of the real L to the world. Light also takes over the role of L's assistant, Watari. Now able to act as both Kira and L, Light can continue killing criminals while leading the investigation team in circles. His secret identity as L is soon discovered by the Special Provisions for Kira, President David Hoope, and Mello's gang. Light joins the Japanese Police Force's Intelligence Department in April 2009, believing that no one can stop his plans. Near and Mello eventually appear before him, trying to accomplish what L could not: to expose Kira's true identity, and bring him to justice. At this point, according to Death Note 13: How to Read, Light becomes "overtaken with evil" and possessing "arrogance that came with Kira's power"; Light loses sight of his former self.
Wolk describes Light's ideal world, a "totalitarian" place "ruled by a propagandistic TV channel and an arbitrary secret executioner." Wolk said that Ohba sometimes suggests that the world is "in some ways a better, happier world than ours."
In the end, the combined efforts of Mello and Near, combined with a large miscalculation and miscommunication on the part of Mikami and Light, force Light to reveal himself as Kira. In the final clash between Near and Light at a warehouse, all is revealed and the Kira case comes to an end after six long years.
In the manga version, after completely losing his head and characteristic cool over the prospect of being arrested, and in complete desperation after his attempts to write Near's name down are thwarted by Touta Matsuda (who had previously believed in Light most ardently of everyone involved in the Kira case), Light begs Ryuk to help him. Ryuk reminds Light that he is on neither side, and fulfills his earlier promise to write Light's name in his Death Note so he can return to the Shinigami realm, thus ending Light's life with Light being told he is going to go to Mu (Nothingness).
In the anime version, Light manages to flee the warehouse after Mikami commits suicide. Near instructs the team that there is no reason to pursue Light given that there should be no more hidden Death Notes, and Light's wounds would prevent him from getting far. Despite this, Shuichi Aizawa, Kanzo Mogi, Hideki Ide and Matsuda follow Light but are unable to find him before he dies on the staircase of a nearby warehouse due to cardiac arrest from Ryuk writing his name in his Death Note. As Light slowly closes his eyes, an apparition of L appears before Light, mirroring Light standing over L in episode 25 at L's death. In the one-shot special of the anime, an Unnamed Shinigami appears in the Shinigami Realm. This new Shinigami asks the others where the Rogue Shinigami named Ryuk is. Members of the fanbase believe this Unnamed Shinigami to be the reincarnation of Light Yagami due to five pieces of evidence: his coat looks similar to Light's when he died, he walks up stairs to meet Ryuk (a subtle reference to Light's death); the way he tosses the apple to Ryuk; the fact he inexplicably knows Ryuk's love for apples (without asking the other Shinigami) and the fact that Ryuk says "Raito" (Light's real name) after the Unnamed Shinigami leaves. His hair is red, like Light's hair was shown in some parts of the anime.
According to the manga, Light's date of death is January 28, 2010.
In Death Note 13: How to Read Ohba said that Light was "a young man who could understand the pain of others" when he first encountered the Death Note. Ohba said that if Ryuk never developed an interest in the human world, Light would have become "one of the greatest police leaders in the world" who, with L, worked against criminals. Ohba added that he believed that debating whether Light's actions were good or evil is not "very important." Ohba says that he personally sees Light as a "diabolical" character. Obata said that Light was his second favorite human character and that he was not sure whether that was because he "liked" Light or because he drew "such a diabolical character" in a magazine for children.
When asked about which character was most similar to himself, Ohba indicated Near and "maybe Light." Regarding Light, Ohba cited "because I did well in school."
Character in the film version
In the film, a few changes were made to the character. At the film's beginning, Light is a first-year law student at a university, instead of still being in high school as in the beginning of the manga and anime. Light's motives differ; in this version, he uses the Death Note out of frustration from the perceived failures of the Japanese justice system. Light, prior to his discovery of the Death Note, hacks into the government database and finds that the government secretly acknowledges that it is unable to prosecute many criminals. Light discovers the Death Note in an alley during a rainy night after encountering Takuo Shibuimaru in a club and throwing a law book into the rain in a fit of rage. Light meets Ryuk after killing Shibuimaru. Light has a girlfriend, Shiori Akino, who attends his university. Light kills her at the end of the first movie by controllling someone to murder her then commit suicide, to gain sympathy from the investigation team so he would be allowed to join them.
As in the manga, Light relinquishes ownership of the Death Note in order to prove his innocence. He gives the notebook to Kiyomi Takada. After Takada is caught, Light kills her to recover the Death Note. L states that he will test the 13-Day Rule. Rem, knowing that this will reveal Misa's identity as the 2nd Kira, writes both L's and Watari's names in the Death Note. Light then proceeds to write his father's name in the book, manipulating his father to return the confiscated Death Note.
Light confronts his father, but Soichiro does not die. The investigation team members, including L, reveal themselves. Having already written his own name in the Death Note, thus negating Rem's actions, L tells Light that he had just written in a fake note.
Light tries to write on a hidden piece of Death Note, but Matsuda shoots him. Light tells Ryuk to write the team's names, promising to show him many interesting things, and begins to laugh. He stops, however, when Ryuk shows him that he had written just one name: Light's. Light tries to stop Ryuk, but merely passes right through him. As Light begins to succumb to the effects of the Death Note, Ryuk takes this opportunity to reveal to him that humans that have used the Death Note are barred from entering either Heaven or Hell, instead spending eternity in nothingness. Light dies in his father's arms, begging him to believe that he acted as Kira to put justice, which Soichiro had taught him since his childhood, into practice. The film concludes one year later, on Light's birthday. Sayu fetches Soichiro and says that Kira helped reduce crime rates, however, she says that she does not support Kira as Light was killed by Kira (which is what Soichiro told her). Light is portrayed by Tatsuya Fujiwara, known for his role as Shuya Nanahara of Battle Royale.
Death Note 13: How to Read describes Light in the Death Note yonkoma as "the chosen brainiac with a knack for funny comments". Death Note 13: How to Read adds that he is the "butt of jokes" due to his "serious demeanor".
Tom S. Pepirium of IGN said that he felt surprise when he learned that some viewers, while watching the series, wanted Light to emerge as the victor of the storyline; Pepirium added that his wife said that she was "kinda rooting for Light". Pepirium compared wanting Light to win to "cheering for Kevin Spacey at the end of Seven". Pepirium added that Brad Swaile, Light's English-language voice actor, "nails" the "difficult" task of making Light "both likable and hated". Jason Charpentier of The Anchor stated that Light's attributes and his role as a main character form "part of what makes Death Note interesting". Light was also listed 18th in IGN's Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time with writer Chris Mackenzie praising how Light is "mesmerizing".
Tetsuro Araki, the director of the anime, said that he felt an urge to support and cheer for Light. Araki added that Light would have used and killed him if he was one of Light's friends, but the director still believed that Light is "that interesting" and therefore he would have felt an attraction towards Light.
Pauline Wong of OtakuZone had her opinions of the film portrayal of Light Yagami published in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. In it Wong says that the "very bishie-status-worthy" Fujiwara portrayed Light with "aplomb and near-perfection, right down to the evil little smile". Kitty Sensei, quoted in the same Malaysian article, says that the portrayal of Light in the film is "very faithful to the manga's".
Tatsuya Fujiwara, the actor who portrayed Light in the films, said that he "could understand" Light's intentions to create a new world even though "Murder is a horrible thing". Matsuyama describes L and Light as having "such unique characters that they’re impossible to understand". Erika Toda, the actress who portrayed Misa Amane in the films, described Light's and Misa's actions as "criminal".