Light Yagami is the lead antihero in Death Note who evades the authorities and makes the world tremble at his secret ability to kill. Lelouch vi Britannia is the star of Code Geass, where he obtains the power to control others with his eyes while also playing head games to wage a full-scale war. In anime battles of cunning and wits, Light and Lelouch are both legendary powerhouses.
Given the dominant intellectual performances in their respected series, they've left many fans of both anime wondering who is the smarter antihero of the two. Both of these calculative characters have earned respect and notoriety in the anime community, but here's the genius who would ultimately come out on top.
Light Yagami: The Antihero With the Power to Kill
Light Yagami comes into possession of a Shinigami's Death Note, which gives him the power to kill anyone he knows the full name and face of simply by writing their name down in the notebook. The Death Note comes with a complex set of rules that Light gradually learns to take advantage of, like being able to determine the day, time, and manner of someone's death. He develops a secret persona, Kira, with the aim of killing and ridding the world of dangerous criminals. With his father as the Chief of the NPA, Light joins the Japanese Task Force aiming to stop Kira so he can directly control and misguide them.
As Light continues to evade the authorities and kill those he deems unfit for society, he develops a dangerous god complex. His arrogance increases throughout Death Note with every minor win he experiences. When L arrives and becomes Light's main adversary who rivals him in intellect, he quickly suspects Light is Kira and sets out to prove it. Light and L go back and forth in a battle of mental warfare, but getting rid of L proves difficult because his real name is carefully kept secret, exposing Light's greatest limitation regarding the Death Note.
After falling under great scrutiny and suspicion, Light must act carefully and requires the help of Misa and their Shinigami. With the aid of Shinigami Eyes, he's able to uncover L's true name and bring about his death. No longer respecting the value of life, Light becomes so desensitized to death that he shows no fear or remorse over his own family members dying. As a dangerously selfish narcissist, he believes no one can possibly stop him with L out of his way. However, his blind arrogance and reckless inhibition allows L's successor, Near, to successfully orchestrate Light's downfall in the end.
Lelouch vi Britannia: The Antihero With the Power to Control
Lelouch vi Britannia is a prince who despises his own family and empire, causing him to lead a rebellion on behalf of occupied Japan. As an antihero and yandere, he wages war in the name of his younger sister Nunnally, who he cherishes above all else. With the intellect and strategic wit needed to stage a rebellion but lacking the firepower to do so, he suddenly finds himself with the ability to carry out his ambitions. Lelouch is gifted the power of Geass from C.C., allowing him to control anyone he makes eye contact with. Lelouch's Geass command does not have a time limit, but it can only be used once on the same person.
With the "Power of Absolute Obedience," Lelouch finds himself in an advantageous position to win the rebellion and see his plan realized. In addition to his unique power, Lelouch relies primarily on his judgment and master strategy. While he also develops his own god complex, he doesn't become as demented and reactionary as Light. With a clear goal in mind, Lelouch is able to keep his emotions in check to concentrate on the bigger picture of helping those he loves. While Light resorts to desperately killing anyone he thinks may pose a threat, Lelouch is clever enough to not kill all of his adversaries.
Lelouch orchestrates his ultimate plan, "Zero Requiem," in secret with the help of C.C. and his former best friend and adversary, Suzaku. After winning the bloody war, Lelouch ascends the Britannian throne and acts as a wicked and evil figure for the world to collectively hate. Working together, Suzaku dresses as Zero and assassinates Lelouch during a publicly televised victory parade. While this initially appears as a loss for Lelouch, it was actually part of the plan all along, as his death successfully accomplishes his goal of bringing about world peace.
Lelouch Vs. Light: Who Would Outsmart the Other?
Given their respected powers, a battle between Light and Lelouch would ultimately come down to how they meet or come to know each other. Despite his name, Light operates best from the shadows where he can observe the rest of the world. He can only use his Death Note if he knows someone's full name and face. However, Lelouch does an incredible job at concealing both his face and true identity behind his Zero façade, making it highly unlikely that Light could obtain this information from afar.
With this limitation in mind, their rivalry would likely lead to a sudden face-to-face interaction, like L surprising Light by appearing at his school. Even if Light possesses the Shinigami Eyes to uncover Lelouch's true name, he wouldn't have time to write it down in the Death Note before Lelouch activates his Geass. With an in-person interaction and Lelouch's Geass in play, he could easily make Light obey any order and even make him forget possessing the Death Note. Given the strengths and limitations of their respected abilities, Lelouch has the advantage over Light who requires more information and is slower to act.
As for sheer intelligence and cunning, Lelouch has the advantage with a calmer and more collected rationale than Light, making him less likely to be swayed by emotions and arrogance. Importantly, the biggest difference between the Death Note and Code Geass antiheroes is that Lelouch fights for those he loves while Light cannot claim to genuinely love anyone. A person's reason for fighting is critical to their outcome, which allows Lelouch to successfully carry out his plan while Light is brought down. Given both their abilities and resolve, Lelouch would ultimately outwit, outplay and outlast in an intellectual battle against Light.