It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Death Note franchise, spanning a manga, anime, a live-action Japanese film, and an American Netflix movie, comes with a lot of — you guessed it — death. Many of the victims who die at the hands of Light Yagami in his quest to cleanse the world of evil simply drop dead of a heart attack after Light writes their names in his demonic book.
The “Death Note,” which gives Light what you might call his “powers,” is a special notebook owned by a Shinigami, a god of Death, named Ryuk. If Light writes any person’s name into the book while focusing on their face, that person will wind up dead. There are a great number of rules with varying specificity that govern the usage and abilities of the book, perhaps chief among them being that Light can — and oftentimes does — specify exactly how a person is to die. Over time, Light’s murder spree gets increasingly complex and intricately planned out, but the most important deaths in the series don’t always happen at his hands.
So, to gear up for the impending live-action adaptation coming from Netflix, here are the six most important deaths that happen in Death Note.
It goes without saying, but spoilers for all of Death Note follow.
A brilliant orphan who grew up with the original L, Matt was the direct assistant and friend to Mello, L’s rightful first successor. He assisted in Mello’s kidnapping of Takada only to be cornered by a number of bodyguards after an attempt at a high-speed getaway. Though he surrenders peacefully — and sarcastically — he is immediately gunned down at point-blank range by dozens of bullets.
After Mello captures Kira’s spokeswoman, Kiyomi Takada, he makes her strip down to ensure that she isn’t hiding any tracking devices. Even more dangerous, however, is the piece of Death Note paper tucked inside her bra. Because Light had predicted something like this might happen, Takada is able to use this to unceremoniously kill Mello.
3. Raye Penber
Raye Penber is perhaps the first instance of Light carefully planning out an overcomplicated death to suit his own ends and protect himself, rather than cleanse the world of bad people. Not only is it the first instance of him really flaunting his brilliance, but it’s a murder that’s entirely out of self-preservation. After staging a convoluted bus hijacking to get the man’s name, Light uses the man to write down the names of his fellow FBI agents, unknowingly, onto a page of the Death Note, killing them all in the process before dying himself moments after he exits a train.
4. Light Yagami
In the finale to the series, the villainous main character meets his end fearfully. Though the details of Light’s death vary slightly in the manga versus anime, he winds up shot several times by Touta Matsuda, a member of the Task Force. In the manga, his final moments are riddled with frustration, madness, and pain — but the anime attempts to offer Light a moment of peace after he escapes from the members of the Task Force.
5. Naomi Misora
After Raye Penber’s death, his fiancée, Naomi Misora, comes out of retirement to investigate the Kira murders — just as she’s seemingly on the verge of joining the Task Force with a great deal of insight that could help in uncovering the real Kira. That’s when she encounters Light, who tricks her into revealing her name by handing over her ID. Via a page of the Death Note, Light instructs her to kill herself in a way that she’ll never be found, and we never see her again.
The fact that Death Note actually killed off the brilliant antagonistic hero of the story is shocking enough as is, but it comes after a long, twisting plot featuring several successors to the “Kira” mantle, a stretch where Light loses his memories, and a finale that had Light manipulate a Shinigami into doing the killing for him. It comes at a tense, surprising moment, and though it’s one of many simple heart attacks, losing such a hopeful hero at all strikes a chord.