Death Note: The First Arc’s 5 Most Shocking Twists

Death Note stood out as the rare Shonen Jump series not focused on training montages, overpowered fights or the power of friendship. Instead, it's a psychological crime thriller that asked dark and challenging questions about crime, law, justice and morality. Wild plot twists kept the story gripping from start to finish.

Arguably, the series is at its most gripping during its first arc, which centered on the battle of wits between Light Yagami, a high schooler with a god complex, and the mysterious L, the world's top detective. These brilliant characters are using every trick in the book to expose the other, and a few third parties are ready to shake things up too. The following five twists were the most memorable from Death Note's first story arc.

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When Light Killed Lind L. Tailor

Light vs Lind L taylor death note

This was the first trick L used to try and find Kira. The detective needed this trick to confirm whether "Kira" really was a singular entity at all. Early in the story of Death Note, Interpol's agents were bewildered by all the sudden heart attacks in prisons around the world, and they argued that perhaps a crime family was responsible. L, for his part, was sure that one person was behind it all, and to test this, he created a broadcast for the Japanese airwaves.

A condemned criminal name Lind L. Tailor took the real L's place on the announcement, baiting out Kira with threats and taunts. Light immediately killed his enemy before realizing he'd fallen right into a trap. The real L now knew that Kira was real and could kill from afar. The supposedly worldwide broadcast was only shown in Japan's Kanto region, so L knew that Kira was somewhere in Kanto. This was the moment when Light and L declared their intentions to destroy one another. L won this round, but the fight was just beginning.

When L Enrolled At Light's University

L and Light

L tried using hidden cameras and bugs to catch Light Yagami red-handed as Kira in his own home, but Light wormed his way out of that one with his legendary potato chip bag ploy. Light was entering the esteemed To-Oh University, and L realized that he'd never capture Kira unless he got to witness Kira in action before his very eyes. In a bold move, L applied to enter To-Oh university with Light.

Light was aghast when he saw a strange-looking fellow glaring at him in the examination. Then, during the induction ceremony, L approached Light en route to the podium for a speech and declared, "I am L." Light was now on the defensive, with the world's best detective tracking his every move with his own two eyes. If Light slipped up, he'd be done for, and he couldn't even kill L without giving himself away to the police. The stakes were higher than ever.

When Misa Emerged As The Second Kira

light meets misa death note

Death Note began as a battle of wits between two parties, but then a wild card appeared: a new Kira, claiming to be the original. This new Kira caught L's and Light's attention at once, and both chased after this new Kira. In a shocking twist, the new Kira, Misa Amane, found Light first. She used her shinigami eyes and clues to lure Light and Matsuda to Aoyama, and Misa zeroed in on Light since he didn't have a visible lifespan over his head. Misa later met Light at his house and swore her allegiance to him, shinigami eyes and all. The battle of wits was 2-vs-1, and L was backed right into a corner.

When Misa Got Herself Captured... And Light "Confessed"

misa captured death note

Misa was cleverer than her yandere personality would suggest, but she did leave behind some tangible clues to her activities, such as her fingerprints and flower pollen on the packages she sent to Sakura TV. One afternoon on To-Oh's campus, the hulking Mogi captured Misa on L's orders and took her to a secure facility elsewhere, and Misa was bound and blindfolded as L's captive. She refused to say a word about the original Kira out of feelings of love and loyalty, but still, L was on the verge of total victory, and Light had to make a move.

At Rem's insistence, Light stepped forth and launched his plan to "prove" his and Misa's innocence. He confessed that he just might be Kira, in effect clearing himself and Misa of suspicion and earn their freedom back once a different "Kira" (Kyosuke Higuchi) resumes operation while they're both in L's custody. If this plan didn't work out, Misa would have never seen the light of day again, and Rem would have to kill Light if that happened.

When Light Forced Rem To Kill L


Light, L and Misa went through a lot together, and after a point, L was sure that Misa was innocent after all, and let her go free. By now, Light had regained his memories from the notebook, and he ordered Misa to resume operations as Kira. This caught L's attention at once, and if something wasn't done, Misa would be recaptured and possibly face the death penalty. Rem couldn't allow that, and Light knew it.

Acting on her personal feelings, Rem resolved to give her own life to kill L and Watari to protect Misa, just as Light hoped. Rem's act of extending Misa's life by killing L and Watari cost Rem her own life, meaning Light had one more loose end tied up. L was out of the way, Rem was in no position to blab, and Light became the new L, reigning free as Kira for five bloody years... until Near and Mello came along, launching the series' second arc.

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