L Quotes from Death Note: 14+ revealing thoughts translated and explained

Ata-Boy Death Note L in Blue 2.5" x 3.5" Magnet for Refrigerators and Lockers

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L’s Death note Quotes compared with Light.

The characters of L and Light in Death note present like long lost twins separated at birth. They are opposite, mirror images, heads and tails, Yin and Yang. 

And, of course, they are the classic hero, anti-hero combo. They are enemies that have an affinity for each other. Or, at least find a kind of respect for each other amidst their mutual latent acrimony.

Which makes them also the classic love-hate relationship, in platonic form.

So it’s intriguing to look at L’s most representative quotes side-by-side with quotes from Light Yagami, Mello quotes and quotes from Ryuk.

I’ve gone through and done new translations from the original Japanese of all these quotes and given my interpretations of their meanings.

What attracts us to Death Note’s L?

ABYstyle - Death Note Notebooks ("L" Notebook)

L is a lovable hero because of his courage, his unflinching nature, his honesty, his determination, his commitment to justice. 

At the same time, he has all those pleasing quirks and foibles that makes us able to identify and feel a sense of closeness with his character. 

We love a hero with a few eccentricities. Some love one so much they try and become one by being one of the many people that try doing a Death Note L Cosplay costume.

Think of the character of Detective Cooper in Twin Peaks, stuffing donuts with one hand while he tosses a stone guided by divine force as part of a strange Tibetan mystical ritual with the other. 

L tells us that eating sweets increases his deductive abilities by 90% & squatting adds 40% to his brain power score. He’s a weird old bird. Well, a weird young bird perhaps.

The differences between L and Light’s thought patterns

Death Note - L (SFC Figure #006)

But perhaps it is “faith” that sets L apart from Light more than anything else. Not a religious faith in a higher power, but a faith in his fellow man. 

L is a humanist. 

He believes in cooperation, and seeing yourself as being part of a greater whole:

#1) No matter what kind of genius you are, you can’t change the world alone. It is not us that can change the world. All that we can do is lend a hand.




donna tensai de mo, ichi nin de wa sekai wa kaeraremasen. sekai o kaeru no wa watashitachi de wa nai no desu. watashitachi ni dekiru no wa, tedasuke o suru koto dake desu.

There are parallels in L’s and Light’s initial world views, in that they both see humans as initially flawed. But where Light sees this as a unalterable state, L views people as having agency and the ability to improve:

#2) There’s no doubt that people are idiots. But people are also organisms capable of change. If all the children with a sense of righteousness were able to sincerely hold onto their pure hearts, don’t you think that the world would begin to change?




hito wa tashika ni oroka desu. desu ga hito wa mata, kawaru koto ga dekiru seibutsu de mo arimasu. seigikan o motta kodomotachi ga, sono sunaona kokoro no mamani otona ni nattekuretara, sekai wa kawatteiku to omoimasen ka?

And though the second half of this quote does descend into a kind of “I believe that children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way” kind of pop-triteness, there is something genuinely inspiring in L Lawliet’s belief in the human ability to progress.

Contrast this with Light’s world view, where people are either good or bad and incapable of breaking through their innate traits. 

As with many such absolute world views, he perceives the only answer to install himself as a god-like figure capable of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and shovelling the latter into the searing cauldron.

Light’s is a nihilist and essentially misanthropic view of the world. L’s is a belief in humanity with all it’s foibles and pitfalls.

L Lawliet and Light Yagami as “Children”

Good Smile Death Note: L (2.0 Version) Nendoroid Action Figure

Further parallels can be seen between Death note’s heroes and anti heroes in L’s perception of both himself and Light as being like little kids:

#3) “Killer” is childish and hates to lose. Well…I’m childish and hate to lose too…that’s why I understand him.


そう… 私も幼稚で負けず嫌い… だからわかる…

kira wa yōchi de makezugirai da. sō watashi mo yōchi de makezugirai dakara wakaru

L is unapologetic for his childishness, and even goes onto to intone it’s praises:

#4) Childish people who hate to lose are the ones who really get results.


” yōchi de makezugirai” na hito ni wa kōka batsugun de aru.

It is true, the world often is changed by the young, with the fires in their bellies (and usually every where else to boot, they are  “young, dumb and full of cum”, to pull a quote that I first heard in the film “Good Morning Vietnam”).

But the childishness we see in L and Light shows how a character trait can present in very different ways. 

In the case of L, this “juvenile” nature represents a child-like innocence, a determination to stay true to an unsullied way of seeing the world. 

For Light, the same juvenile nature presents as only selfishness, and a lack of magnanonymity. He demonstrates all the negative elements that we associate with childishness. 

Not only is Light fixed in his own view of the world, but fixed in his own growth. He is stuck in a childish world-view, where L is determined to hold onto all the good things from the child-like world view as he grows.

L is also able to channel his child-like nature into a supreme sense of confidence, even in the face of extreme adversity and tragedy. 

It is the confidence of youth.

Take, for example, his reaction to being forced into a corner in strategic opposition with Light, leading to the death of several American operatives coordinating with his team:

L’s Confidence & Courage

HUI Anime Poster Death Note Poster L and Kira Canvas Art Poster and Wall Art Picture Print Modern Family Bedroom Decor Posters 20×30inch(50×75cm)

#5) It’s true. The fact that I showed my face, and that 12 FBI agents lost their lives prove that I lose. But, I will win in the end.

そうです 顔を出した事もFBI12人を犠牲にしてしまったことも…負けです。しかし 最後は勝ちます

sō desu kao o dashita koto mo FBI ichi ni nin o gisei ni shiteshimatta koto mo make desu. shikashi saigo wa kachimasu

Here, L shows us a bravado that is often associated with youthful brashness. 

L is able to take this a step further and transform his brashness into extreme courage. It takes a brave soul to step out in front of a known powerful killer and give them the opportunity to take your life. Especially when this is essentially part of an experiment, an educated guess, to determine a theory that there are possible limitations on the killer’s powers:

#6)  Go on, see if you can kill me. C’mon, give it a go. C’mon, try and kill me. It seems like you can’t do it. So there are people you can’t kill. Thanks for the hint!


さあ早く やってみろ さあ早く!殺してみろ

どうした できないのか。


殺せない人間もいる いいヒントをもらった!

sā! watashi o koroshitemiro!! sā hayaku yattemiro sā hayaku! koroshitemiro dō shita dekinai no ka. dōyara watashi wa korosenai yō da na. korosenai ningen mo iru ii hinto o moratta!

Through putting his own life on the line, L was able to demonstrate that there were indeed limitations to his adversary’s powers. 

It’s not the kind of risk that most of us would be willing to take to advance an investigation!

But then, it seems L sees risk through a different paradigm to most of us!

L’s view of risk 

XIWEIG Death Note Action Light for Boy Room Lava Comic Theme L Lawliet Table Lamp Manga Cartoon Led Night Light USB 7 Color Mood Luster Holiday Xmas Party Friends Kid Birthday Gift Toy (l Lawliet)

L gives some hints about what he is and is not willing to risk in the following quote:

#7) Putting your life on the line, and doing something that makes it possible for your life to be easily taken away from you, are exact opposites.

命を懸,事と 命をやすやすと奪われる可能性があることをするのは 正反対の事です

inochi o kakeru koto to inochi o yasuyasu to ubawareru kanōsei ga aru koto o suru no wa seihantai no koto desu

It seems that, even when what L is doing appears “reckless” to the viewer, there are complex calculations of risk going on in L’s computer-like head (no Radiohead jokes please).

Here L draws a distinction between actively taking a risk and passively waiting for risk to come to you and concludes that these are exact opposites

This makes me think of the world’s present challenge with climate change where we are presented with a clear existential risk. Here we too are presented with the “opposite” choices of proactively “attacking” this risk, or waiting for the risk to come to us. 

Was “L” an environmentalist? We will never know, but he certainly looked scruffy enough to have engaged in a little tree-hugging from time to time…

You also get the sense that L has a high level of self-awareness in relation to risk and his own mortality. He gives us quite a few moments of black-humour to pepper what can often be a dark story ark:

#8) As long as I don’t die, I reckon university is a pretty fun place.


shinanakya daigaku wa tanoshii tokoro desu

In order to get closer to Light, observe his adversary at close hand and apply pressure, “L” enrols in university. 

He shows a kind of wry acceptance of his own closeness to death by simultaneously appreciating the lighter side of campus life while acknowledging he could become far more than a college drop out any moment.

Indeed, L consistently exhibits a calm awareness of the precarious nature of his own existence, abilities and weaknesses.

He comments that he believes Light also has a high degree of awareness:

L & Light’s self-awareness

#9) He and I are alike. The way we are so self aware, and so unwilling to try and change ourselves.


nita mono dōshi. jikaku ga aru tokoro mo, sore o sukoshi mo naosou to shinai tokoro mo.

But where we could say that L’s is a true awareness of not just his place in the cat-and-mouse game he is playing with Kirra, but of his place as a mere mortal in the larger scheme of the universe, Light’s self awareness is more limited by his own ego and fixed view of humanity.

A sort of wry self-awareness can also be seen in quotes like:

L’s views on life death and justice

Death Note (Original Japanese Version)

#10) All’s well that ends well. But, if you don’t live long enough to see the end, then there’s no way you can say you’ve won.



owari yokereba subete yoshi. shikashi, saigo made ikinokoranakereba, shōri to wa ienai

L is aware that he is part of a game. But he is also fully aware of the consequences that exist well beyond the confines of the game itself.

Indeed, L frequently refers to the game-like language of “winning” and “losing”, and to the greater context of life and death:

#11) This is my first time to have my life on the line. All of us gathered here, gambling our lives, we have to show the world that justice always prevails.




watashi mo inochi o kaketa shōbu wa hajimete desu. koko ni takatta inochigake no ningen de miseteyarimashō yo. seigi wa kanarazu katsu toiu koto o

With an eye on the larger context of the “game” and life and death, L leaves himself open to all possibilities, in life and in investigations.

He urges the people he is working with to be equally open-minded in their search for the truth:

#12) Lose all assumptions, like “a student couldn’t possibly be the culprit”. Commit to exploring all the possibilities. That has to be the fastest way to put Killer behind bars.

gakusei ga hannin na wake ga nai toitta, kotei kannen wa sutete kudasai. arayuru kanōsei o mosakusuru koto. sore ga kira taiho e no chikamichi ni naru hazu desu

The Japanese have a saying “急がば回れ”, meaning something like “if you’re in a hurry, take the long way”. If you try and cut corners, or take the easiest route, you often end up taking longer to achieve something, because you end up having to go back and do all the work you avoided in the first place. 

L is determined in his resolve to explore all possibilities right from the start.

L’s complicated relationship with Light Yagami

Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom

Of course, as time goes on, the possibility that Light is Kira becomes stronger and stronger. 

At different points, L expresses contradictory opinions on how he feels about this possibility:

#13) Light, you’re not Killer. It would suck if you were Killer. Because you’re my first ever friend.


tsuki kun wa kira janai. iya, tsuki kun ga kira de wa komarimasu. tsuki kun wa, watashi no hajimete no tomodachi desu kara

Whether L is bluffing or not when he calls Light his “first ever friend” is hard to say. It seems likely that there are elements of truth and lies here. You get the sense that in L’s heart of hearts he couldn’t possibly see Light as a “friend” per se, but could see him as a kindred, yet opposite and parallel, spirit. 

It’s as if having an enemy makes L complete.

Perhaps it is this sentiment he is expressing when he says:

#14) I’ve just now realised. I wanted you to be Killer, Light.


ima, kizukimashita. tsuki kun ga kira de atte hoshikatta

Through looking through these quotes by the character of L from Death Note, we get a sense of his growth mindset, his commitment to not losing contact with the pureness of youth, and his awareness of the dynamics of the game-like nature of life.

These can be contrasted with the fixed view of the universe and humanity in the Yagami Light’s quotes.

Or you could go further, and compare L’s quotes with the intensely positive, confident quotes of Luffy from Onepiece.

The anime effectively asks the viewer to choose their affiliation. Do you believe in L’s worldview or Yagami Light’s? What would you do if you had the death note?

Look here if you are interested in seeing a mixture of various Japanese quotes or Japanese manga and advertising quotes.

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