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Light Yagami from Death Note

With great power comes great responsibility.

Light Yagami from Death Note runs with this philosophy with tremendous fervour, however, sees his responsibility to the world in a very different way than your average Spiderman or Superman.

Like my Jekyll and Hyde post, I'm talking about Death Note's Light Yagami as a prime example of a trope common in sci-fi, fantasy and even horror.

For those of you who don't know this anime series - perhaps my favourite of all time - Death Note is about a book (called the Death Note, surprisingly) that gets dropped into the world by Ryuk, a Shinigami-demon of death, out of boredom. When a name and cause of death is written, that person will die in that manner. Light discovers this book and - rather than completely flipping out like any rational person - decides it's his duty to rid the world of evil people by writing their names in the book.

This world is rotten, and those who are making it rot deserve to die. Someone has to do it, so why not me? Even if it means sacrificing my own mind and soul, it's worth it. Because the world can't go on like this. Light Yagami, Death Note

Characters like Light are drunk with power. They have a God Complex.

And they embody all our fears that when people become too powerful, they become less than human. We can see this trope all over the place in superhero fiction because 'power' is used literally; pyrokinesis, laser vision, supernatural persuasive ability, etc.

But you don't have to look far to see that this fear has been with us long before superhero fiction. The oldest examples I can think of are the Roman emperors including Caligula and Tiberius, both of whom were up to some real messed up stuff and got away with it. But also Henry VIII, Ivan IV, Joseph Stalin and, obviously Hitler and all his commanders.

It was in the era of Hitler that comic books rose up, pitting their uber-powerful heroes against Nazi-esque villains in a catharsis we desperately needed.

Because it allows us to take these very true, if hidden aspects of humanity, bring them into the light (pun intended) and push them to extremes. And at a time power runs rampant and perhaps you dare not risk to point directly at these tyrannical figures, you can use fiction to make the point, but indirectly.

Ringing any bells?

A trope closely related is that the characters in this situation often become their own antithesis. Everything they once believed in becomes subverted and perverted after gaining power.

We see this really clearly in Light when he temporarily loses his memory and we see a Light without that power - he believes in justice, just as evil-Light does, but doesn't believe murder is justified.

If you've never given this series a go, I would strongly encourage you. It's the best anime series out there.

And for those Death Note fans hoping for more, have you ever stopped to think of the reality of what Light actually did? One of my favourite Youtube theorists, MatPat, worked out the math on how many people Light killed. If you've never really thought about it, this is something you have to watch.

Whatever your opinions on Light's actions, this will help you see the series in a whole new light (again, pun intended).

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