The manga series Death Note features an extensive cast of fictional characters designed by Takeshi Obata with their storylines created by Tsugumi Ohba. The story follows the novel of a character named Light Yagami, who uses the notebook he found in order to cleanse the world of those humans which he deemed unfit for society. A team of professional investigators set out to find out the mysterious killer and arrest him, and thus many other characters are introduced until Light is eventually caught.
In the fictional stories featured in the Death Note universe, Tsugumi Ohba, the story writer, created characters that lived in a world featuring a notebook in which names written on it would lead to the ones named to die, typically the cause of death being a heart attack when otherwise not specified. Ohba chose names for his characters in a way that, as he described, “seemed real but could not exist in the real world”, due to the fact that most of the characters were criminals or victims. Light Yagami, the main character, is depicted as the deadliest of them. Some character details differ between the manga and its anime, live-action film and drama adaptations.
- Light Yagami (夜神 月, Yagami Raito)
Light Yagami is a bored intellectual high school student dissatisfied with the Japanese justice system. When he finds a Death Note dropped by Ryuk, he envisions to create a world without crime and rule over it as its “god”. His alias Kira (キラ), derived from the English word killer, is quickly popularized and draws the attention of the Japanese police and L. Though initially sensitive to the pain of others, Light’s descent into his role as Kira marks a dramatic change in his personality as he becomes comfortable with manipulating people’s lives.
- L Lawliet (Ｌ・ローライト, Eru Rōraito)
L Lawliet, known solely as L, is the world’s greatest detective and the main antagonist in the Death Note. He takes on the task of tracking down and arresting Kira. He only ever wears shoes in public, just to take them off as soon as he sits down. His disheveled appearance and constant playing with his food, which usually consists of candy or fruit, causes people to doubt his position as L. He lives in solitude, and only his manager Watari is able to contact him directly. L suspects that Light is Kira almost from the beginning, but cannot confirm his suspicions (although they are right).
- Misa Amane (弥 海砂, Amane Misa)
Misa Amane is a popular Japanese idol, who is known for her Gothic-style of dress, hyperactive personality and devotion to Light, falling in love with him after he kills her parents’ murderer. As a Death Note owner and the second Kira, she has the Shinigami Eyes, which allow her to see nearly everyone’s name and lifespan. However, she cannot see the lifespans of Death Note owners. As part of her career as an idol, she performs numerous jobs such as acting, singing and modeling.
- Near (ニア, Nia)
Near, whose real name is Nate River, is the young detective who succeeds L by default. He is the head of an organization created to catch Kira, the SPK (Special Provision for Kira). A placid character with a sharp tongue, he has white hair and wears pale clothes. He constantly plays with toys, building towers of dice and playing cards, and illustrating his exposition with small finger puppets and Lego minifigs. He is seen completing blank puzzles, which emphasizes his problem-solving skills.
- Mello (メロ, Mero)
Mello, whose real name is Mihael Keehl, grows up in competition with Near to succeed L. After L’s death, however, he concedes the position to Near and leaves to hunt Kira through criminal means, eventually joining the American Mafia. His obsession with surpassing Near serves as the primary motivation for many of his actions. He has blond hair, dresses extravagantly, and is rarely seen without a bar of chocolate
Teru Mikami (魅上 照, Mikami Teru)
Teru Mikami is a criminal prosecutor, fanatical supporter of Kira, and the fourth Kira. When Light needs a new Kira proxy to hide his identity, Mikami is selected as the new Kira by Light, purely based on his intuition. Since childhood, Mikami has had a strong sense of justice, but his views have become warped due to years of bullying and trauma. Mikami wishes to punish those he considers to be evil (which, to Light’s dismay, includes unproductive people and reformed criminals), and worships Kira as a god. Mikami mutters the word “delete” (削除, sakujo) repeatedly to himself while writing in the Death Note, which Tsugumi Ohba felt made him more interesting.
Mikami was introduced into the story to take Misa’s role as Kira. After struggling to create Mikami, Ohba created Mikami’s backstory in order to establish Mikami and Light as “equals” and that Mikami is “special in some way.” Mikami is the only character to receive a chapter dedicated to his past, and Ohba was reluctant to create the flashback because he personally does not like creating them. Though he usually did not add detail about “Kira worshippers”, he decided to pay special attention to Mikami’s first appearance. He wanted to have Mikami be both smart and dangerous, and have a hatred for societal evil, which he transferred into Mikami’s role as a prosecutor. He wanted it to be clear that Mikami was evil, but, at the same time, he did not want to focus on the aspects of right and wrong. Ohba’s second favorite human character in the series was Mikami as Ohba believed that Mikami was the second “strongest” character in the series “besides Light.”
Ohba has no visual preferences and therefore let Obata create the visual aspects. Obata based Mikami’s design on Taro Kagami, the main character in the pilot chapter of the series. He was told that Mikami was supposed to be a “stoic character like Light” while not knowing that Mikami was a prosecutor and a follower of Kira. As the series progressed, Obata drew Mikami as an “insane fanatic.” Obata said that he gave Mikami glasses since “glasses are in these days.” Obata added that “things were a little haphazard at this point…”
At the end of the series, Mikami is captured by Near’s team at the Yellow Box warehouse. While Mikami dies in prison after going insane in the manga, he commits suicide by stabbing himself with his pen in the anime. Matsuda believes that Near wrote in the Death Note to manipulate and restrict Mikami’s actions. Ohba stated that he leaves it up to the readers to decide if his theory is true. In the second Death Note rewrite special, Mikami is the one to kill the SPK (after Light blackmails the US President to leak information about the SPK, which he in turn forwards to Takada and Mikami), rather than the mafia, as shown in the manga.
Mikami’s role was well praised in the second half which made him stand out in relation to characters such as Misa, Near, and Mello. IGN’s Tom S Pepirum liked how Mikami’s backstory and his strong sense of justice stood out to other viewers regarding concepts brought to life unlike that of Light who didn’t have that kind of perspective.
In the live action drama, his role is expanded upon. Portrayed by Shugo Oshinari, Mikami is introduced as the prosecutor handling the case of Kyu Nishida, the murderer of Misa’s parents. He eventually deduces Misa’s identity as the second Kira after accumulating information from Kira-related news. After stealing Misa’s notebook to become Kira in her place, Mikami collaborates with Light to kill L. Mikami continues to work with Light until they are both caught by Near and the police in the Yellow Box warehouse. Mikami accidentally kills Light after he sets the warehouse on fire in an attempt to escape.
Mikami makes a cameo appearance in Death Note: Light Up the New World serving as the guardian to Light’s young son, Hikari Yagami (夜神光, Yagami Hikari). He murders Hikari in order to steal the boy’s notebook but is in turn killed by police officer Tsukuru Mishima. He is portrayed by Kensei Mikami in the film