“L, do you know Gods of Death love apples?”
So we all know Death Note. And we’re all more or less familiar with Christianity. Which is good because there is so much symbolism in this series that links in with Christianity, particularly Renaissance artwork. There’s so many references throughout Death Note, so I’m doing to go through some of them today!
(Also just a heads up that this post is mainly talking about the anime, not the manga, as I talk about the OP quite a bit)
Let’s start off with this because Ryuk and his obsession with apples is just an iconic part of this series.
In the Bible, apples are linked to temptation as they are the ‘forbidden fruit.’ They are the symbol of original sin and represent the Death Note throughout the series – such as how in the first OP, Light catches an apple and takes his first bite from it. At first Light thought the Death Note was just a joke, but then temptation got to him and he ended up using it. This is when he committed his first ultimate sin.
Plus Ryuk really likes apples… Guess it isn’t really hard to tell why…
- Doves and Crows
Well, where do I even begin with this? So doves, are a big symbol in the Christian faith. They’re a symbol of hope, peace and are even considered to be messengers of God. But the doves don’t hang around with Light for long, quickly leaving him to be with crows. This could be interpreted as a reference to how Light believes that he is doing the right thing and believes he is ‘god’ – while the doves are just an image that leaves him, they aren’t real.
Crows are also quite often associated with death. They’re scavengers so they tend to hang around things that are dead or about to die – such as Light, so this can be seen as a foreshadow to Light’s death. Ryuk’s wings are also shown to be quite crow-like, and Ryuk’s a god of death. So this can be argued to foreshadow how Ryuk is just hanging around Light, using him for entertainment as he waits for Light to die.
The bells a clear foreshadow to what’s going to happen to L later in the episode, especially as they ring when L recounts his parents’ deaths and when L dies.
The bells have a sombre tone to them to start with, but bells can also be considered a bad omen. It’s said that if bells ring for no reason, then death is close. Church bells specifically though are also rung at funerals – so really the whole bell thing was an obvious foreshadow to L’s immediate future.
- Foot massage
This scene can be considered a reference to when Jesus washed Judas’ feet the night before Jesus was betrayed by Judas – such as how Light betrays L.
However, this scene can also be interpreted as L talking about how Kira has become the ‘god’ of the new world. The foot massage begins with L saying, “It’s the least I can do to atone for my sins” before proceeding to dry off Light’s feet. The drying off could be a reference to how L has been trying to stop Kira and this is the ‘sin’ that L’s committed.
- God complex
Where do I even begin with this? Light CLEARLY has a god complex. And practically everything in the series points to this. But for the sake of discussing symbolism, I’ll move on and actually attempt to say something interesting for once.
In particularly the first OP, Light is seen in many shots to take a ‘god-like’ position. He extends his hand as Misa’s saviour, he stands on top of skyscrapers as the ‘god of the new world’ he perceives himself to be and during the first few shots is shown to be facing downwards from a ceiling (almost like he was looking down upon people from a Church roof). Light is also shown to be in Renaissance artwork parallels during the OP – such as how he and Ryuk and featured in a parody of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
Throughout the entirety of Death Note, Light and L are pretty much portrayed as opposites. And their colours are no exception to this. Light is shown in red, while L is shown in blue.
Light’s red coloured hair and eyes can be symbolic of many (all negative) things such as killing and blood. L’s blue though is meant to be the opposite of Light’s colour.
(Okay, so this doesn’t really have anything to do with symbolism or religion a ton but it’s a very large part of the series so I felt like mentioning it anyway)
Justice is such a big theme throughout Death Note. And in Christianity, what is considered just is determined by a set of rules that God has given to his people to follow. So by breaking any of these rules, then a person has sinned. Light likes to break a lot of the rules though that are set in the 10 Commandments – he has a god complex, makes himself into a ‘god’ figure, definitely doesn’t honour his father, DEFINITELY doesn’t follow the rule about not killing others and tells soooooo many lies. Interestingly though, L seems to support the death penalty – though this may have something to do with the fact that this punishment is only determined after a trial has finished. L also talks a lot about how ‘childish’ Kira is – suggesting that Kira’s judgement isn’t exactly very wise.
The roses aren’t featured all that often during the series, though they were placed into the OP. They are noticeably wilting, and are shown over a shot of Light’s face too. This could be a reference to the ‘crown of thorns’ with how much detail is placed on the thorns. Or the roses could represent something else entirely, as they were used frequently in Renaissance art to symbolise anything from triumph to love to sorrow to purity to blood to faith to charity. Based upon from what we know about Light though I’m going to say that either the martyrdom (as Light did view himself kind of like a martyr), blood (because of all the people he killed) or triumph (as he is a very arrogant character and does tend think of the whole thing with L a lot in the terms of a game – as he ‘wins’ some rounds, but plans to ‘win’ in the end).