Moral Relativity and Antiheroes in Death Note

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MoralRelativity and Antiheroes in Death Note

MoralRelativity and Antiheroes in Death Note

Afterreading the contemporary Death Note story, one is led to a conclusionthat the modern society has admitted moral relativism as thefundamental moral philosophy. This is evidenced by the fact that themain character kills criminals with a motive of making the world abetter place. A question of morality arises in this case as to whogives him the right to kill or what justifies his actions. Accordingto moral relativism, morality, ethical standard, and positions ofwrong or right are culturally founded and thus subject to individualchoices. Every person can decide on what is right for him or her.Utterly put moral relativism states that if you believe it, then it’strue for you. A rational reader would find it difficult to identifythe hero from the villain in the Death Note story. The reason beingboth have good motive and methods of accomplishing goals. In rightof this, the aim of this study paper is to evaluate the valuesexpressed or encouraged in the Death Note story and the relationshipbetween the ideas and real people. In addition, the paper considersthe popularity of morality in the American culture in general. TheAmerican culture has allowed empirical and natural science to shatterthe old profound way of understanding the world. It leaves people todecide for themselves rather than be decided for by an absolute god.


TheDeath Note story main character Light Yagami is a brilliant studentwho finds a Death Note dropped from the land of the dead to the landof the living by Shinigami. After finding the book, Yagami discoversthe mystery associated with a book he chooses to kill criminals bywriting down their names and cause of death. With time, people startchristening him as Kira. However, the international police communitybrands him as a vigilante and is concerned about his killings. L theworld greatest detective become increasingly aggressive in hisattempts to nail the vigilante who in turn slips further down themoral line as he is consumed by his new found persona ‘Kira’ andis desperate to stay ahead of his pursuer (Ohba &amp Obata, 2007).

Fromthis Death Note story, the definition of a villain or hero isconstantly changing. Each of them can be considered to be importantbased on his actions which either makes him admired or looked uponwith hatred or skepticism. A hero is an individual who uses his powerability for the general good of others while as a villain uses hispower ability for his selfish gains. We can, therefore, say thatheroes and villain mirror each other with their actions. In DeathNote story, the antihero is not your everyday typical good guyneither is he an average villain. He desires justice by fightingcrime. However, his actions and decisions are questionable from amoral perspective making it hard to tag him as a hero. So how do weinterpret evil and good from the Death Note perspective? To answerthis question let us consider a utilitarian answer. A utilitarianwould look at a situation as evil or good based upon theconsequences. This is to say that the act that brings about happinessto the greatest number of people is morally justifiable. On the otherhand, a deontologist would just put it that some acts are notjustifiable because morally they remain wrong and can never bejustified. A dilemma arises when one begins to reason out that somekillers who try to do good can be considered as heroes.

Examiningmoral relativity in Death Note character Light Yagami

Accordingto Tsugumi writer of Death Note, people can`t tell between right andwrong. He adds that even if god placed teaching before his eyes hewould think it through before making a decision of whether it isright for him or wrong (M &amp Nieda, 2009). This means that moraljudgment can be false or true it is only about particular standpoint. The kind of thinking used here in the story is called moralrelativism. It is this kind of thinking that makes him justify theactions of Light as wrong in spite of other people viewing them asheroic. In moral relativity, there is no absolute right or wrong, inthis case, an individual has the mandate to his or her sense of rightand wrong in deciding what is moral. A moral relativist likedetective L does not say that murder or theft is wrong for the reasonthat a thief or a murderer knows whether his behavior is justified.To cut the long story short when Light commits his second murder hedoubts his actions.

CanLight Yagami killings actions be justified? For a start, we know thathe considers himself to be serving the society by wiping out thecorrupt members or unworthy people off the society. For critics, theaction of killing is morally wrong and can never be justified despitethe fact that Light Yagami wanted to make the society a better place.Light as an individual is depicted as a hero, an anti-hero or villaindepending on how the reader may perceive him. The one thing that issure is people begin to notice someone is killing the bad guys, andthe crime rate is reducing. In Light mind, his goals are achieved.The moral question that arises now then is whether it is justifiableto turn the society into a classical dictatorship by scaring peopleinto obeying the law. The reason for saying this is because Kiraplays the role of executive, legislature and judicial power andpeople are forced to fear him. According to him, he plans to create aworld free of injustice this is because he considers himself to befighting for his people. But, he also secretly believes to be abovethe law. As a reader, it is clear that in the world, Light Yagamiplans to create he will be the only villain left. It is morally wrongfor one to consider him above others he claims that he will become agod in his new world.

Lightis a resemblance of real evildoers in the modern world. For instance,while talking to himself he regrets killing because he has no rightto judge others. However, to console his thoughts he comes up with anexcuse that maybe he is right to kill because the world is rottingand those causing the decay should die. To an extent, he seems tobelieve that he is making a sacrifice for the greater good. Todaymost individuals who commit evil do not perceive themselves asevildoers according to them just like Light they know they actionsare wrong, but they believe that they are serving the greater goodthus justify their actions. The storybook ‘Death Note’ seems tobe a critique of the modern-day consumer society where people aregrowing tired of the violence around. People want a savior, butnobody wants to be the villain just like Light. When he hears abroadcast from L about him branding him as the villain, he repliesthat he is the good guy saving humanity. According to him, those whoconsider him the good are the innocent while the guilty are the onesaccusing him of being the villain because they know that they time toface justice is coming.

Moralvalues govern people behaviors. An individual may derive his or hermorals from the society, the government or the religion. Moral valuesmay obtain from one own self this is demonstrated in the behavior ofolder infants. For instance, a child warned against taking individualobjects will look over their shoulders before taking it. People usemoral values to justify they actions, intentions and decisions andalso define an individual character. A person with high moral valuesdisplays traits of courage, respect, honesty, integrity, compassion,and courage. Thus, from the story Death Note it is clear that LightYagemi fell short of moral values this is because he did not displayany of the mentioned moral values. Rather he was dishonest in that hekilled those he believed were against him, he was not courageous nordid he show compassion to his victims who deserved a second chance tochange their ways.

LinkingKira actions to the modern society, would people appreciate someonewho kills the bad guys? Just like the society in Death Note story,the modern society would branch into two. There are those that wouldappreciate the killing of the bad guys in the street while there arethose who believe that nobody has the right to take the life ofanother. The issue of killing the bad guys is morally complex becauseno human has a moral ground that is high enough to kill another humanbeing. Unfortunately if the same Death Note were found by an ordinaryAmerican, he or she would find it tough to withstand the temptationof using it. The finder would think to himself that he is anopportunity to make the world a better place. Most readers wouldagree L comes into the spotlight as a hero only after Light startsshowing signs that his new found power obsesses him. Light nowtransforms into the play villain. Using moral relativity to explainthis we can say that he had the moral obligation of choosing to dothe right thing, but he allowed his ambitions to take the better ofhim.

MoralRelativity in American culture

Shiftingthe focus to the American culture where moral relativity is deeplyrooted because relativism tolerates all views. An effort to livetogether as a community the American society believes that they musttolerate each other which is misleading because evil must never betolerated. The issue of following moral relativism is it makes peoplefavor things labeled as alternative thus rebelling againsttraditional values naively. In addition, moral relativism whenadapted as a culture tends to portray criminals as a victim forinstance when a celebrity such as athletes or politician people tendsto forget quickly assuming that unreasonable fortune and fame causethe behavior. It is in the American culture for people who are in thefront line advocating for abortion right also to be a radicalenvironmentalist who will jump in front of a bulldozer to save theeggs of a bird. All in all, the American culture is hypocritical infollowing moral relativity. This foolish thinking paves a way toliberals who support aborting and drug abuse.

Whenit comes to moral relativity that is widely accepted in the worldtoday, the question of what is virtuously right or wrong is based oncultural differences. To state that an individual is right or wronggood or bad guilty or innocent depends on who is the judge. Justlike Light if you want to get away with it first consider keenly whois your victim. One is likely to walk away with murder is he or shemurders a low status, unemployed and with a criminal record victim.By contrast, the murderer should a socially integrated individual whogenerously contributes to the community, employed, married and withchildren. Statistically, this is the reality in the American societyand has nothing to do with moral values. In conclusion, it is hardfor me to determine whether Light Yagami was the hero or the antiheroor the villain, whether he was good or evil because moral relativityhas no absolute truth and an action is right if the doer believes itis.


M,., &amp Nieda, T. (2009). Death note: L, change the worLd. SanFrancisco, CA: VIZ Media.

Ohba,Tsugumi, &amp Obata, Takeshi. (2007). Death Note 2: Confluence. PawPrints.

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