Welcome back to my episode-by-episode analysis of the Anime series Death Note. Today we’ll be talking about Episode 2: Confrontation, where we meet the odds that Light will be up against for the majority of the series in super-detective and mystery man “L” and the combined police forces of the world.
We open up in Light’s classroom again where, much like the last episode, the translations are highly related to what is happening for Light himself. “He found himself overwhelmed with happiness and satisfaction, knowing that at long last his dream had finally come true.”
Ryuk tries to talk to Light who explains that he can’t talk to an invisible Shinigami because that would draw attention to himself. This moment seems like a time where Ryuk may actually be trying to test Light. This could also be a moment where the writer’s are trying to catch up anyone who may just be watching the second episode on TV. While Death Note doesn’t end up being particularly repetitive, I think its a show that’s highly splashable. You can just pick up an episode and immediately fall into the series.
“Of course I have something to do,” Light tells Ryuk. “Yes, something very important.” These bits of dialogue show Light’s own perception of what he’s doing, though for anyone who watched the first episode this isn’t a surprise. We jump to him writing names in the Death Note. Ryuk repeats his apple eating habits. Light ends up explaining that he kills criminals during a certain period of time each day. This will come up again in a later episode.
Light is interrupted by his younger sister, Sayu. She doesn’t pop up in the series terribly often, but when she does it tends to be important. She is a major plot point later on in the series. When an element like this is introduced early – as opposed to just before it becomes important – it makes it feel like she’s a constant aspect of the universe.
Here she is used by Ryuk to explain that anyone who touches a Death Note can see the possessing Shinigami. This is primarily an impetus for Light to do something in an episode that is more concerned with developing his opposition.
We jump to the ICPO, where Light’s murder spree with the Death Note is being discussed. This scene is important for a lot of reasons, but here I want to point out that when writing something like Death Note you have to figure out who is going to be a primary antagonist for your chosen protagonist. The moral discussions that take place in this scene are primarily basic, their discussion of meaningful evidence, it’s all mostly fluff. It’s all saying the same thing: It would be very difficult for any normal body of police officers to find a way to convict a spectral mass murderer like Light.
We meet the Japanese Chief of Police and a newer officer. Neither of them are named yet, and that’s for a very important reason, but again, we’ll discuss that when it actually becomes important.
The Chief tells us L’s background: “He’s managed to solve every case he’s ever taken on, and he’s tackled some of the greatest mysteries this world has ever known.” These are the primer moments for what will be the episode’s ultimate pay-off. L’s contact, Watari walks in. His shadowy trench coat appearance here is actually less interesting once the context of who he is comes around later on, but for now the imagery of what he looks like adds to our growing sense of curiosity and dread about L. The appearance of the letter “L” on the screen and the voice masker sound introduce us to aesthetic choices that also remain important for the rest of the series.
You may notice by this point that a lot of what I’m pointing out becomes more important later on. That’s because this episode is a lot different from the last one. A lot of what we see is set-up, a lot of it is universe building. That makes this episode a little less interesting or fun than the last one. This is going to be a trend for the next several episodes actually and this marks what I feel is one of the less interesting parts of the series.
We jump to Light who is coming up with some sort of plan to help conceal the Death Note. “If I make one mistake I might end up killing my whole family.” Light says this just in case you weren’t convinced that he is sort of a real bad guy. He’s never discussed just killing people for reasons of self-protection before. This is the hypocrisy of Light. He thinks his own importance is worth sacrificing a consistent morality, or more specifically, he deludes himself into believing that his own life is worth more than anyone else’s.
Back with the ICPO, L says that Light’s murder spree is unforgivable and then states that the ICPO’s cooperation is super important, then singles out Japan’s police agency. He explains what he thinks and then sets up our later scene. “A direct confrontation?” Why that would be the episode title.
Whenever the two officers stand up, you can actually sort of make out the names that are on their desk. In short, you could spot the identity of the Japanese Police Chief before it’s naturally revealed in the series.
We cut back to Light who explains to Ryuk a trap he made to conceal the Death Note. In short, anyone who goes looking for the notebook will either be casually dissuaded by a fake journal, or will accidentally destroy the actual Death Note by forcing their way into a sealed part of the drawer.
There are two details that are important about this scene that make it both different from everything else you’ve probably ever watched, and naturally compelling on its own. The slow pace and intellectually based ideas established so far in the series lend themselves to this breakdown. Light uses a very small key, the pen insert, to make the drawer safe. This means that tiny details get incorporated into Light’s plan and he has a powerful spatial awareness. Then he also explains the two scenarios that he’s thought about happening: a normal person snooping around in his desk and seeing the diary, but also, someone more determined looking for incriminating evidence. It’s the fact that Light has multiple plans for something as simple as a drawer trap that impresses us even more. I mean really, who would’ve thought about that?
Here we get a montage of civilians in Kanto. We also hear dialogue discussing the fact that inmates are “dropping like flies.” Then, someone says, “Don’t you know about Him?” “Kira.” We see a text message that transitions to Light’s computer screen. Light explains that the people have begun believing in him as a righteous force of judgment. This is the scene that gives us the name of Kira, which will later become entirely exchangeable with Light.
Light explains that people will always say the correct response to whether or not someone should be killed. He explains it entirely as social pressue. This is another example of Light self-righteously explaining that he’s doing something people actually want him to do. The fact that Light has opposition in the series sort of shows the fact that Light isn’t actually correct about this. His enemies believe that he is evil. As viewers we are interested by Light’s philosophy and ideas, but we should also recognize the string of psychotic justification that Light uses to motivate himself and elevate his own self-worth.
A “world-wide” broadcast begins. We see a man named Lind L. Tailor on TV and he reveals himself as L. So we instantly think that this L guy isn’t as smart as everyone claimed he was. He’s made himself entirely vulnerable to Light’s ability to kill people. We understand that L would have no reason to think he’s going to die. And really we shouldn’t have a reason to believe that Light would kill L. L is a detective, he’s a good guy, he’s a hard working individual protecting innocent people from criminals. Light in his “justice” should have no reason to kill this guy.
And then L calls Light evil.
“You think I’m Evil.” We see the first flash of the L grin, a reoccurring aesthetic image throughout the series. “I am justice, I protect the innocent and those who fear Evil. I am the one who will become the God of a New World that everyone desires. All who would oppose that God, they are the ones who are truly evil.” Light’s emotions get in the way of his talk of justice and a better world. He doesn’t want to make the world a better place, he wants a new one, he wants to be worshipped, he wants to be the God. This is the moment that makes it clear how bad of a guy Light really is. If the end goal doesn’t include him at the top he doesn’t care about the lives that are ended to make it happen. In this moment, every police officer, secret agent, and super detective are put in Light’s cross hair.
“This could have been a lot more interesting if only you were a little smarter.” Light writes Lind L. Tailor’s name in the notebook to a massively huge degree.
This is the first time we get the countdown sequence as well. This includes a shot to the Chief and Matsuda in the office. We will see this countdown again, we will also see this type of shot again. This is again a reoccurring aesthetic for the series.
If you didn’t think that Death Note was a smart series before, the next scene should convince you.
Lind L. Tailor is dragged off screen and L’s pop-up comes on over the news feed. “I never thought it would actually happen. Kira, it seems you can kill people without having to be there in person.”
L explains that Lind L. Tailor was an inmate Light could not have known about (in short, he knows where Light gets his information). L tells Kira to kill “me, if you can.” Light knows he can’t do it. We get a shot to the streets of Kanto again where some civilians are alarmed and others are encouraging Light to kill L. The police officers think L must be crazy.
Ryuk laughs. L tells Light that the “world-wide” broadcast isn’t truly worldwide, they’re only broadcasting in Kanto, meaning L knows Light’s location. L explains he knows who the first victim was. The end result of the scene is that L has radically outplayed Light. It also zooms up what could’ve been a long series of dead ends for police and detectives in a normal procedural investigation. L has proved about four core facts all at once, and the pressure and stakes for Light have instantly raised ten fold.
L’s dialogue and sureness is reflective of Lights as well. He doesn’t seem to think he could lose. He explains that he will find Kira and execute him. Ryuk explains the new stakes that this scene has established. “Each of them has to hunt down the other without knowing each other’s name or face and the first one whose identity is revealed will die.”
“I will hunt you down wherever you’re hiding and I will eliminate you.”
If you enjoy these analyses, go ahead and hit that Like button down there. These will be published on a weekly basis each Tuesday. See you next week for Episode 3: Dealings.