I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Death Note is a haunting masterpiece that glues the audience to the screens.
From its intensified camera movements to its ground-breaking soundtrack, Studio Madhouse understands how to make a show that can stand the test of time.
While fans all know too well that the compelling characters stood out because of their brilliant minds, fans must not overlook the strong characters as well.
After all, Death Note consists of gritty plotlines that motivate individuals to endure past their limits. Without endurance, the prey and predators of Death Note would not have achieved their ambitions!
Below, I’ll be outlining 10 characters who I think are the strongest in Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s timeless series.
10Aiber / Thierry Morrello
Aiber is a con artist hired by L himself! To maintain his acts 24/7, he spends his energy in multiple disguises and, probably, exhausts himself by imitating the voice ranges and vibrations of the people he’s copying!
He might not have had a lot of screen time. But many fans don’t know what Aiber has had to endure to survive: liver cancer!
His fatal illness might not have had a spotlight in a psychological series like Death Note. But when you reconsider his difficulties, don’t people require great strength of heart and mind when battling a deadly disease?
Thierry Morrello is a man among men, hence, earning him the 10th spot on this list! Fortunately, in the manga, his last moments in a Parisian hospital aren’t brutal because family members surrounded him on his deathbed.
And if family members are there with him, Kira didn’t manipulate nor control Aiber’s death. After all, Kira guarantees his murders to be brutal as he always leaves his victims hopeless!
Morrello’s death proves that his death is one of the many few natural deaths in the series. It makes him an honorable and admirable man because, before dying, he endured despite his frailties succumbing to liver cancer.
9Stephen Gevanni / Stephen Loud
Fans don’t know how much this man endured while employing Near’s ludicrous orders: create a fake notebook by accurately copying word for word and line by line the names and circumstantial deaths of the original!
Merely thinking about forging a Death Note is overwhelming, let alone mind-boggling. But Gevanni pulled an all-nighter to flawlessly carry Near’s orders on a single night! That’s right — on a single night. It’s crazy!
The pages Gevanni must copy should start from the page where Light Yagami first tested the notebook. That includes the page where Lind L. Tailor’s name was written. That’s forging 4 to 5 years’ worth of content!
On top of that, Teru Mikami (the prosecutor whom Light Yagami utilized as a “Kira cover-up” and human shield) filled a page daily with the smallest font size you could ever see in Japanese calligraphy!
Gevanni did not magically copy the contents of the original (including Mikami’s deaths) on a single night. But with his tenacity, patience, and determination, he proves to be a reliable investigator who could forge a Death Note on one night!
This act alone makes Gevanni worthy of his elite investigator position under Near and Anthony Rester’s commands!
8Anthony Rester / Anthony Carter
As the operations leader of the Special Provision for Kira (SPK) working under Near, Anthony Rester reminds me of two other strong and famous people of another show: Erwin Smith and Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan.
Fans could even jest how Anthony is an “adopted son” between Erwin and Levi in an alternate universe! (LOL!) But fan fiction jokes aside, Anthony looks and plays the part of a battalion commander ready to surrender his life for the cause!
To complement his military experience further, Anthony’s cold calculating personality and serious face are traits he shares with Captain Levi Ackerman.
On the other hand, not only do Erwin and Anthony’s backgrounds originated from the military; their neatly combed blond hairstyles are similar as well!
The clean and slick haircuts are important because it helps them give off reputable images of men valuing justice, law, and order above all.
By keeping themselves clean and tidy, civilians understand how men like Anthony possess influence, power, and authority (even if civilians can’t conclude that Rester controls a military unit)!
Near understands the value that Rester brings to the SPK. Seeing how his subordinate’s undercover and investigative skills are unmatched, he assigns Rester as second-in-command (which only emphasizes his importance to the team)!
Despite his military knowledge and note-worthy achievements, Rester procures items from Near’s shopping list. The list varies from finger puppets, darts, dices, matches, decks of cards, Tarot cards, and Christmas trees.
Of course, these toys are procured for Near’s enjoyment so the boy genius can create simulations to capture Kira. It may seem like a pitiful task for Commander Rester because he must spend over US$5,000 to satisfy his boss’ cravings for puzzles, games, and toys.
Nevertheless, he’s a man of the army who respects his boss’ preferences no matter how silly the requests are; thus, making Rester a resourceful and reliable pillar for the SPK!
In his prime, Teru Mikami’s eyes were slowly opened on “good or evil”, “nice or bad”, and “friend or foe”.
He was jeered by the meanest boys in class because he was chosen as a respectable class president. He was bullied and punched by guys stronger than him. Worst of all, he was harassed by classmates when he was stripped naked in front of them (episode 32 of the anime)!
Though at the risk of being brutally wounded himself, he constantly saves violently beaten classmates from their tormentors. Rallying students also gives him satisfaction because it gives him that “All for one, and one for all!” feeling: they are standing up against bullies, the common enemies of the school.
Fans overlooked how Teru’s past is the perfect backstory for a Shōnen Jump protagonist because he’s only a supporting character.
His elementary and high school days were brutal because he was constantly bullied and humiliated. But as he grows up, he slowly builds confidence to achieve his dreams as a prosecutor.
Teru values a healthy strong body as much as a brilliant mind. He goes to the gym to stay physically fit while defending many weak-willed citizens (who may be scammed of their monies) through his prosecuting jobs.
Also, if anyone punches or gets violent towards him or the people he’s trying to save from physical abuse, this lawyer has the confidence to take his opponents down! After all, he’s been building and enlarging his muscles since signing up at the gym.
Though he possesses a strong sense of justice, this slowly warps into malice and vengeance. He rails off the straight path when he rationalizes how evildoers should be eliminated from the face of the earth.
Hence, his maniac “Delete! Delete! Delete!” screams while writing on the Death Note proves his lunacy and madness. He became a Kira fanatic and worships a human murderer as a god!
With screws loose like that, it’s no wonder Teru’s strength is motivated by his insane “Where is justice?” mindset. He’s a dangerous Kira devotee as much as he is a terrifying serial killer like his god.
6Watari / Quillsh Wammy
Watari’s strong heart and will are commendable because he carried out L’s orders magnificently at an old age. As an individual who made a fortune on his patented inventions, this old man possesses the unique tenacity to accommodate his master’s escapades in catching Kira!
But his bonding moments with L are drawn on Mika Ninagawa’s photography book, L FILE No. 15:
- L ~ ONE DAY (aka Watari’s Labors)
Fans can tell that old man Watari has had it tough because even this butler had to dress a teenaged detective!
L dislikes putting clothes on by himself because it’s a “bothersome triviality”. Seems like Watari is both butler and babysitter to a genius teenager!
2. L ~ The Wammy’s House
Watari decided to follow L upon realizing the boy’s fascination in solving his first murder case, which the latter finds more difficult than puzzles and money games (e.g., stock trading simulations).
In both short stories, Watari possesses fortitude in taking care of L since boyhood: he’ll invent a “human washer” accentuated with drying modalities so L can constantly keep himself squeaky clean; he’ll create gadgets and provide computers so the boy can solve murder cases inside one of the orphanage’s private rooms.
Whatever meager or unimaginable tasks they are, Watari has sufficient energy and strength to simultaneously become butler, babysitter, and caretaker for Great Detective L!
Deputy Director Yagami’s greatest strength lies in his humility, not just in the formation and coordination of the Japanese Task Force to fight against Kira.
Though Soichiro’s old and his will is weakening, he endured many hardships as a detective and investigator. Don’t forget that he had to save his daughter, Sayu, from Mello’s mafia kidnappers in America! What a heroic father!
To atone for his mistakes in handling the notebook to Mello’s mafia members (in exchange for Sayu’s life), Soichiro made the eye deal with Ryuk! Not only did it give him the advantage to charge against the mafia and confront Mello. It also enabled Soichiro to verify his son’s innocence!
While still possessing the Shinigami eyes, Soichiro sees Light’s lifespan (which proves to Soichiro that Light is not Kira since the Death Note user must possess ownership of the notebook).
At that time, Light relinquishes ownership of the Death Note but keeps one hidden inside his pants (so it’s not easily discoverable by the Japanese Task Force). It’s also so he can retain his original memories of the notebook.
Thus, when Soichiro looks at Light with the Shinigami eyes, the old man sees Light’s name and lifespan; thus, believing his son’s innocence. Soichiro died believing Light Yagami is not Kira, and it’s a tragic way to end his character.
But since the old man refused to completely write Mello’s real name in the notebook, he’s fortunate in some ways. The truth that his son is a serial killer was kept hidden from him even on his deathbed!
Up until his last breath, Soichiro remained courageous despite Light’s taunting of how a loser of a father and detective he became. Hence, he ranks 5th on this list for his bravery, willpower, and unwavering faith alone!
4Mihael Keehl / Mello
Mello is one of the strongest characters in Death Note because he’s an agile youth who values mobility over caution.
His reckless actions are rooted in his competitiveness against Near, a child who’s always #1 in Wammy’s House (an orphanage established for gifted children in England).
Unlike the prodigious and logical Near, Mello swiftly took matters into his own hands. He left Wammy’s House before completely turning 15 years old and joined an American mafia to pursue Kira.
Mello doesn’t beat around the bush and gets his job done while eating chocolate bars. His brash actions and fashion tastes stem from the fact that he must prove his kingly worth as one of L’s successors (even if he already declared his relinquishment of “L’s True Successor” title to Near upon leaving the orphanage).
To achieve his ambitions, Mello competes against Near in a race: whoever catches Kira first wins and rightfully deserves “L’s True Successor” title!
Mello and Near’s fiery competition could be viewed by fans as a battle of brains. But for the ambitious and competitive Mello, it’s as much as a battle of brawns!
While Near cowers and hides under the SPK’s protection and military power, Mello mobilizes his American mafia to kidnap prominent people relevant in the Kira case; their hostages were:
- Kanichi Takumura (Director of the Japanese National Police Agency or NPA)
- Sayu Yagami (daughter of Soichiro Yagami, the Japanese Police Director)
- Kiyomi Takada (journalist and anchorwoman of NHN news broadcasting corporation)
Fans could argue that Mello is operating under Near’s manipulative tactics, but this isn’t true. Mello isn’t brainwashed. He is independent of Near because he willingly defies his rival’s rule and superiority pressed against him since their days at Wammy’s House.
Still, Mello chose to commit those dangerous actions (joining the mafia to kidnap and hostage people) to aid Near in Kira’s capture. No matter how unwilling he is to help his rival, Mello’s actions inevitably created situations that favor Near, the SPK, and the Japanese Task Force.
These traits mold Mello into a flavorful character in the series despite his brief appearances. He knows he is relevant in some ways to Near’s plan in successfully capturing and cornering Kira.
Aware of his looming death, Mello trusts how his unemotional but analytical rival, Near, will find irrefutable proof to catch Kira and bring the mass murderer to justice! But Mello needed to create an opening for his rival first by kidnapping Kiyomi Takada, NHN’s news anchor and Kira’s spokesperson.
Despite a boastful attitude, Mello’s team-up and cooperation with Near are admirable traits. They are exactly what makes him strong; hence, his 4th ranking on this list.
Rem is another tragic, but strong, character in Death Note. Her emotional strength purely comes from her powerful love towards the happy-go-lucky human — Misa Amane.
Foolish and careless as she is, Misa has little regard for Rem. She spills Rem’s secret when the Shinigami revealed Gelus’ death and even blurted this sacred secret to a cunning human-like Light!
Hearing this exposition, Light exploited the Shinigami’s weaknesses to kill Rem, Watari, and L (the detective whom Kira perceives as his greatest obstacle in ruling a new world)!
Light knows that protecting Misa is Rem’s ultimatum. If anyone hurts Misa, be it Shinigami or human, Rem will not forgive that individual and go as far as to write that culprit’s name in the Death Note!
Forget about circumventing a mere human’s deceitful plans. Rem is fully aware of how the treacherous Light surpassed the omniscient Shinigamis themselves!
Hence, Rem easily gave up in circumventing Light’s treacheries. She willingly played into the cruel madman’s manipulations since she believed there’s no way to survive Light’s cunningness.
Rem may have had underutilized her supernatural powers to defend herself from Kira’s manipulations. But Kira’s exploitations of her weaknesses alone display a great feat — to save by killing.
It’s an ironic twist of fate for a God of Death who willfully committed godly acts to salvage and save a selfish human’s life; hence, why Rem’s ultimate sacrifice is perceived as her greatest strength (ranking her 3rd in this list).
Throughout the series, fans perceived Ryuk as nothing more than Light Yagami’s pet and tool. He seems more like a jokester than a terrifying God of Death bringing justice to the forsaken world that Light lives in.
But a mere human like Light (who’s had troubles with his god complex as Kira) managed to extract Ryuk’s true essence as a God of Death!
By slowly entangling Ryuk into his mischievous schemes, Light demonstrated the “correct and proper way” a Shinigami should act. The 17-year-old boy utilized the Death Note by brutally murdering victims one after another as if they were mere playthings.
Of course, the apple-crazed Shinigami is constantly entertained by Light’s killings! He enjoys them so much that he always looks forward to how the boy creates plans upon ploys upon plays to avoid capture.
If Death Note was a Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, kids would be scared out of their wits if they see a drawing of Ryuk on the pages of a children’s book! But manga-readers and viewers of Death Note know better — they should not be afraid of this silly grim reaper.
Ryuk is intimidating and scary if you don’t know anything about him. Take the victim of the bus-jacker for example. He was scared out of his wits when he saw the Shinigami’s height and his frightening gothic looks!
But Ryuk is also mischievous in other ways: he can trick humans into making eye deals with him. Of course, this strategy didn’t work on Light cause his intelligence is leagues above Ryuk.
However, a treacherous grim reaper like him is common in legends and fairy tales! Had this trickster utilized his mind well and possessed Rem’s calmness and rationality, Ryuk could have acquired years and years of lifespans from the many humans he could have scammed with the Death Note.
Ryuk is a formidable opponent. The only other supernatural being more frightening than him is the Shinigami King himself!
We’ve finally arrived at one of the strongest creatures (not to mention, the most hideous) in the series and it’s no other than the Shinigami King!
Though he was only briefly mentioned in the original run, his full appearance debuted in “The C-Kira Story” one-shot manga that was published in February 2008.
The Shinigami King’s powers are so powerful that his stats in the fan book, “Death Note 13: How to Read”, are literally “immeasurable”. He didn’t display his incredible powers in the main series; so, no comparison to other Death Note characters would suffice to measure his infinite powers.
Nevertheless, this ancient old man incites fear at Shinigamis like Rem and Ryuk! Though he’s an all-powerful God of Death, it’s more like he has become lazy in the Shinigami Realm and only resorted to becoming a sore loser of a king.
For example, the Shinigami King turned a blind eye instead of punishing Ryuk into tricking him to carry two Death Notes. He was also easily bribed to giving a Death Note to Shinigami Midora (also known as Shinigami Meadra) in exchange for 13 juicy apples!
Truth be told, the Shinigami King’s powers lie in his ability to add rules to the Death Note as displayed in the “2019 Never Complete Exhibition” one-shot or “The a-Kira Story”.
To prevent a human (Minoru Tanaka) from profiting off the Death Note, the Shinigami King added the rule, “Once the notebook is exchanged for profit between the buyer and seller, the parties will die.”
Like Light, L, and Teru Mikami, the Shinigami King hates losing and likes to win in games. Since he has the power to do so, why not avoid losing by cheating (or by using his authority as the God of Death)?
The Shinigami King added the new rule but also created two different outcomes for the parties involved. Death befalls Minoru (the seller) because he accepted the money from the auction.
But the president of the U.S. government (the buyer) refused to accept the merchandise (the Death Note) and did not die thanks to Ryuk’s interference!
So, in a way (and through Ryuk’s indirect help as well), the Shinigami King won without using his base-level strength. He utilized his authority to outsmart a human opponent (Minoru) while ensuring huge financial losses on another human (the president). It’s a win-win for the Shinigami King!
Minoru’s death is a precedent example for future Death Note users. Whether the notebook is written on or auctioned off, it brings misfortune to its human owners.
About Death Note
Death Note is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. Published by Shueisha, the manga has a total of 12 volumes. An anime adaptation of the story aired for 37 episodes from October to June 2007.
The series revolves around Light Yagami, an extremely smart highschooler who stumbles onto a notebook owned by Ryuk, a shinigami. If the user follows a specific set of rules, the notebook allows him/her to kill anyone by writing their name down in the notebook while picturing their face.