Death Note Plot Overview And Biblical Elements

Updated On 17th September 2020

Death Note is an anime deserving of eulogization, getting its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and debated and dissected for decades. Death Note’s plot is intense, it’s gripping and the overall mix of animation, dialogue, and music is done extremely well. But above all, it lets you think about various problems of morality, justice, and human nature.

Death Note, the mind-bending psychological thriller, was first released in 2003 as Japanese manga. It was then aired in 2006-07 as a series of 37 episodes. 

High School prodigy, Light Yagami stumbles on the Death Note and — since he deplores the state of the world — tests the lethal notebook by writing the name of a murderer in it. As the murderer dies soon after his Death Note experiment, Light is deeply saddened and instantly realizes how destructive the force that fell into his possession could be.

Light’s original plan is to use the notebook to kill all criminals and create a ‘new world’ of which he is the god. But, things start to become interesting when L, an eccentric genius of a sleuth, decides to track down the owner of the Death Note and stop him from killing.

Biblical References In Death Note

Although mostly unintentional, the Death Note has many analogues and biblical references. It may be due to a few comparisons which were originally used and planned for the plot. This was a precedent for people beginning to see other analogies from different objects, characters, and scenes.

Several other anime and manga series have been inspired by the Bible, but few have secured such praise and captured the long-lasting fascination of people like Death Note has.

For Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit was never intended because God knew they could not handle it. Yet it was put in Eden’s Garden, out of reverence for human freedom of choice. If God never put the tree, and instead surrounded Adam and Eve with good choices, then freedom it would not be. It’s fascinating to remember that Ryuk is the one who always eats the apple because he was not human and could cope with the effects of recognizing both good and bad in the world.

The Original Sin (Death Note Apple)

death note apple
Credits: Studio Madhouse

This fruit’s connection with something biblical was accidental but is frequently associated with the forbidden fruit that caused Adam and Eve to fall. We may not actually know what kind of fruit came from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, but it’s always made to look like an apple in illustration.

Throughout the story, you’ll find Ryuk express his fondness for apples. In fact, a lot of the Shinigami seem to have taken a liking towards them. According to Ryuk, it’s because apples in the realm of the living are juicier and better than apples from their realm.

We can also allude to the Death Note being the forbidden fruit itself, as Light (Adam) was tempted to (ab)use its power.

In the series, Misa once tries to eat an apple from Ryuk- a reference to the serpent tempting Eve.

Reapers And Shinigami

Credits: Studio Madhouse

Soul Reapers (or Shinigami) are the beings responsible for leading lost souls to the next life. As such, they also find themselves roaming our planet in search of souls. They’re often considered executioners, as their name denotes. They know when our time is up, and accordingly, they reap us. Soul Reapers are similar to the Grim Reaper, although they exist in greater numbers than the one.

The Angel of Death was the first mention of a being (other than God) that carried out death in the Bible, mentioned when God ordered Moses to bring about the final plague in Egypt which was the death of all the land’s firstborns. There is some controversy as to whether it was an angel or God himself, but it is certainly one of the earliest texts about it.

In Death Note, the Shinigamis resemble more demon-like creatures. It is not unlikely that demons will cause death because by nature they are evil. In fact, with the Death Note, Ryuk never really cared for Light and only became interested in his ambitions. You may also be aware that fallen angels are called demons because they were angels before they were what they became.

In the Bible, there were three archangels– There was the archangel warrior Michael who also had angels of war with him. There was the messenger angel Gabriel, who appeared in the Bible many times. Then there was Lucifer who became jealous of God’s love for his creations. Lucifer would then become as we now know him– Satan or the devil. Lucifer’s demise also brought about the demise of the angels behind him. The reason the demons appear the way they do now is that they’re no longer in contact with God’s light and holiness. Human beings are also the only ones created in the image of God and many references to angels in the Bible reveal them in many different forms.

Light as Judas

Credits: Studio Madhouse

L is seen as a hero for his cause, because he would do everything to solve the most difficult cases, even to die. A few followers speak of his task force as disciples. Throughout the show, too, there is a time when L works closely with Light and considers him a comrade. This relationship is an analogue for Jesus and his disciples with Light being Judas who betrays Jesus. 

Light of course just deals with L to find out his real name and kill him. Throughout the show, there is also a profound scene in which L washes the feet of Light. The act is a reference to Jesus Christ’s act of foot washing. If this is intentional or not, one can not help but consider the associated actions of interest.

Other Minor References

Credits: Studio Madhouse

One of the main characters in the series is Soichiro Yagami, father of Light, believing against all proof that Light is innocent and willing to go to great lengths to prove it, he has the most unshakable trust in his family.

One particular scene recalls that of Abraham, the biblical figure.

Soichiro had a similar role in the story, like when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his own son, to prove his son was not a killer, he agreed to a plan set up by L to take Light and Misa to a location. Soichiro would inform them they had been exposed to be Kira, so he would kill him in order to avoid the killings. 

Like Lucifer, Light was a good Japanese youth—one of the “best and brightest” sons, but he got corrupted and fell from grace inevitably. This outlines Satan’s fall and how he chose to resent God rather than worship him and try to usurp the place of God. This is very similar to the way Light has behaved itself.

In the end, Death Note (and especially Light) is a story of the corruption and how no human could handle the power of a God.