Fandom: Death Note
Pairing: Yagami Raito and L
Spoilers: Through 59
Death Note is a series which pushes the boundary of morals. A manga, it is gaining popularity in both western and eastern fandoms. It serves as a study on the death penalty, and examines the concept of what justice is.
Ryuuku, a shinigami (basically a "God of Death") drops a "Death Note." This note is capable of controlling how people die - if you write someone's name down, they will die of a heart attack. You can also detail how that person dies, controlling the method and time. However, a person must know both the face and real name of the victim for it to work.
The person who happens to pick it up is Yagami Raito, and he's rather unusual. Raito wants to create a utopian society, where his ideals and values rule. He uses the note to kill criminals, or those who get away with a crime. This role, which people gradually notice and call "Kira" (for killer) gets the attention of police and the world. Crimes drastically decrease.
Kira is justice, some Web sites start to proclaim.
Or is he? L, a famous detective with a mysterious identity, ends up going head-to-head with Raito in a winner-take-all confrontation that will determine that fate of the world.
The series revolves around Raito and L. L wants to catch Raito and put him in jail; Raito wants to find out L's real name and kill him, since L is the only one capable of stopping him.
Death Note is deeply disturbing, and has been banned in certain places for having a negative impact.
Yagami Raito: Sociopathic Schoolkid
Yagami Raito has it all. He's brilliant (the top student in Japan), handsome, popular, charming, and knows what he wants to do - he wants to be the top police officer in Tokyo, following after his father, Yagami Souichiro.
Unfortunately, Raito is bored. He sees the world as a rotten place. Then Ryuuku drops the note, and things change. Raito is unusual; instead of being afraid to use the note, he takes it upon himself to cleanse the world of evil-doers. He is the ultimate god of this new world, and web sites start to spring up to honor "Kira."
As the series evolves, Raito loses a lot of his innocence. He started with a sincere belief that he was making the world a better place; he descends to somebody who is capable of anything to get his own way. Raito begins to do things which are more and more questionable. Many fans believe he's a psychopath, and it's hard to disagree.
There are almost two Raitos. One, who is "Kira," is Machiavellian and cruel. The other, "good Raito," is someone who is genuinely concerned with justice. The descent from "good Raito" to "Kira" is marked, and when he loses his memory, the reversion is startling. He believes, above all, in justice. He's a Hamarabi's code kind of guy - an eye for and eye, a life for a life. He, of course, is above it all and serves as a judge.
"Raito" is a mistaken romanization of "Light" but most fans prefer to cling to it since it "sounds more Japanese." Also, the use of "Raito" allows people to speculate that "L" stands for "Left" and Raito "Right" in a peculiar symmetry.
L: Ravenous Savant
L is weird. There is no way any fan can deny that L is just plain freaky - but that's his charm.
We do not know L's name. He uses Ryuuzaki and Ryuuga at different times, but neither of these are correct. What we do know is that he as smart as Raito, has a reputation as the greatest detective in the world, and he's extremely secretive. The most striking thing about L is his appearance. During the early manga, L's face is hidden, and people believed he'd be a standard bishounen.
L wears sloppy clothes and had circles under his eyes (so much so that the "Panda" jokes are common among the fans). L's posture is peculiar; he crouches, rather than sits in a chair, and he never is pictured with shoes. All-in-all, he resembles a spider. Some fans might argue he can be cute when he smiles, but he's not meant to be attractive.
L has poor social skills. Many fans believe L is autistic or has Asbergers. I don't believe the character was designed with those in mind (during the author talk, it's clear that some of his defining characteristics, like his love for food, were thrown in as a joke), but many of the characteristics show up quite prominently.
L is also pictured eating constantly. It's a running joke for the manga-ka, but L is always seen with food as he explains the situation.
The Relationship: Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
These two are all wrong for each other, but there's no one else would could be "right" since both are way ahead of everyone else intellectually - and probably every other way. It doesn't matter what they do - it seems they're always the best at it. They thrive on the game they're playing, and damn the body count!
How often do you see a male couple handcuffed together? For numerous chapters?
L and Raito think about nothing except each other. L knows that Raito is Kira, even though he doesn't have any proof. Raito knows that L is his one worthy rival and seeks, more than anything, to prove himself by overcoming L. First he wants to make sure L dies; when he loses his memory, he becomes determined to prove his innocence to L. Either way, he defines himself through L's existence.
Raito and L are foils to each other. L is the weird one; Raito is everyone's idea of perfection. The irony, of course, is that while L may appear somewhat monstrous on the outside, Raito is the real monster. Looks can be deceiving and all.
Raito and L are both in utter control freaks. L is the only person who can make Raito lose his cool - Raito is the only person capable of outwitting L.
It's impossible to cover this ship mentioning Amane Misa, who is the "second Kira." Misa had her parent's murderers killed by Kira (Raito) and developed a severe case of hero worship. She does a lot of things to get Raito's attention, and will do anything for him. L seems to like her, although he's not above imprisoning her when he suspects she's the second Kira. Raito is using her; he admits this and she knows this as well. He does not love her, but will act affectionate if it furthers his goals. His treatment of her is chilling.
L is safe from Raito as long as he can keep his name hidden - however, Amane Misa has the ability to see names (gained by trading half her life) and Raito is determined to use this. L, though, manages to stay just one step ahead.
Eventually L accuses Raito of being Kira, and Raito "proves" his innocence by being locked up. Raito then "forfeits" the Death Note and loses his memory - believing he is innocent. L is the only one, then, who is convinced he's Kira.
Another intriguing perspective is how similar they are at the root of their beings. Both quite willingly make sacrifices. Their rivalry has a feeling of a game between two chess masters; both are quite willing to let other people die if it furthers their game. The difference is Raito is willing to kill; L is willing to manipulate others and let others die, but never actually is the "cause." Raito is determined to come out ahead, intact; L is determined to capture Raito at any cost, even if it's his own life.
Raito plays with people's lives. He conducts "experiments" to see how far his power extends. L does this to a similar degree, using the criminal Lind L Taylor as his stunt double. Since Taylor had been sentenced to death, it's "okay" by L's book to use him. It's not that hard to imagine their roles being reversed. Both are, at heart, incredibly selfish.
Where will this go? Absolutely nowhere - recently Raito arranged the death of L. During 58, L drops dead in Raito's arms. It's a tantalizing image.
Thus ends part one. The manga recently started "Part Two" which takes place about four years later. However, since Death Note is a supernatural manga, it's quite possible we haven't seen the end of L. Who knows? He may come back as a shinigami... or maybe he's not as dead as people think.
Canon: Handcuffs, anyone?
This pairing is not canon, but Obata draws some awfully tantalizes images. Deliberate subtext has spawned a healthy doujinshi industry for Death Note. Most notable is chapter 37, where Misa accuses the two of being gay. L and Raito are together 24-7, handcuffed after L has been unable to prove Raito was Kira.
L called Raito his "first friend." Most people are pretty convinced L had an unusual childhood, since it's implied he grows up in an orphanage. Raito is the opposite - he was raised in a very middle/upper class family, was everyone's pride and joy, and seems affectionate to his sister.
L spies on Raito using security cameras at one point. Raito isn't supposed to be aware of it, but he is. The idea of L-as-voyeur is easy to exacerbate, since L is interested in Raito before they even met.
There's also a large Prince of Tennis spoof with Raito and L playing tennis. It's definitely playing on the fangirls, but the sheer intensity of that scene. And chapter 58 is just beautiful, with L looking dramatic and fated with the death scene.
Raito/L: Sex and Candy
I've been in the fandom since well before L appeared officially, but even before they met, it was easy to see they were... destined sounds cheap, but there it is. The two were fated to meet in some way, shape or form, and it was easy to imagine them gravitating like magnets - being attracted and repulsed at the same time. When they did meet - oh, the sparks flew! And the sparks have been flying ever since.
The chemistry between them is simply undeniable - and entrancing.
For the pairing, it's easy to see the sensuality - L's constant habit of nibbling on something, Raito's basic good looks and god complex. Hard, rough sex, a relationship of convenience; that's not impossible to imagine. A relationship of battle for the seme; that's easy, too. Food lemons? Not a problem. Anything with an edge of challenge, domination or competition works.
Fluff/romance? You're kidding me. The two are about as fluffy as a cactus.
I don't sail the "romantic" ship in this relationship - I've yet to meet a fan who believes they are "in love." There is no real gentleness to them. Instead, there's a heady edge of sexuality in this since L seems to be so much a creature of the sensual realm (his eating particularly) and a feeling of mind games. You want to talk about an emotionally abusive relationship? Look no further.
It is a relationship of competition. It is a relationship of equals. It is a relationship where one wrong step equals death. It's a relationship that is a car crash - you know it's ugly, but you can't help staring because it's interesting.
Apple: A good fan site.
Deathnote.org: A another good information site.
We, the Fans: The scanlators. All 59 chapters done, and excellently.
death_note: The main death note lj community. Some good discussion; tons of spoilers.
rxl_fans: The Raito/L livejournal comm.
For fanfiction, you're going to find almost all of it revolves around the Raito/L relationship. Some of it is more gen than others. Right now the fandom is in the beginning stages, so there's less than 500 fics.
Still, there's some very good writers. There's a surprisingly strong drabble community at deathnote100.
satora_chan has compiled a master list of fics.
Personally, I think Office Politics by rageprufrock is a must read. Also check out anything by keraha and sub_divided. keelywolfe had a rather hot series.