One of the more interesting questions surrounding Dragon Ball‘s Son Goku is how he can be killed, seeing how he possesses a tremendous amount of power. Now, we know that Goku has died on several occasions, but he was revived each time and is now alive and well. Now, if we stray a bit from Toriyama’s universe, we can explore even more possibilities. One such possibility is the Death Note from the manga and anime of the same name. People wonder whether the Death Note could kill Goku and we are going to answer that question for you.
It is unknown whether the Death Note can actually kill Goku because it is unknown how the laws of the Death Note would work in Toriyama’s universe. Some people think that it could not because Goku is a Saiyan and the Death Note only works on humans, whereas others think that the Death Note transcends such notions and could be able to kill Goku if all the rules are respected.
The rest of this article is going to be divided into two sections. The first one is going to bring you an overview of all the official and known rules of the Death Note as they have been confirmed by the creators. The second one is going to analyze whether Goku could be killed by the Death Note or not, and why our answer is like that.
What are the rules of the Death Note?
The full list of known and official rules of the Death Note was presented in the Death Note 13: How to Read encyclopedia. There, all the individual rules that have been scattered throughout the original manga have been collected and properly ordered. They are grouped into four major chapters: How to Use It; Ownership; The Shinigami Eyes; and The Shinigami Rules. Now, not all of these rules govern the usage of the Death Note, so we will only list those that are related to using the Death Note as an object, and here they are:
The human whose name is written in this note shall die. This note will not take effect unless the writer has the subject’s face in mind when writing his/her name. This is to prevent people who share the same name from being affected.
The Death Note will not ever affect a victim whose name has been misspelled four times.
When the same name is written in two or more Death Notes, the Note which was used first will take effect, regardless of the time of death.
If the same name is written in two or more Death Notes within 0.06 seconds, the entry is regarded as simultaneous; the Death Notes will not take effect and the individual will not die.
If a Death Note owner accidentally misspells a person’s name four times, that person will be free from being killed by the Death Note. However, if the Death Note owner intentionally misspells the name four times, the owner will die. The person whose name was misspelled four times on purpose will not be free of death by a Death Note.
The Death Note will not take effect if a victim’s name is written on several different pages. However, the front and back of a page are considered to be one page. For example, the Death Note will still take effect if the victim’s last name is written on the front page and first name on the back.
If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of the subject’s name, it will happen.
If the cause of death is not specified, the subject will die of a heart attack.
After writing the cause of death, the details of death should be entered within the next six minutes and 40 seconds.
If the time of death is specified within 40 seconds after writing the cause of death as a heart attack, the time of death can be manipulated and can go into effect within 40 seconds after writing the name.
The conditions of death will not be realized unless they are physically possible for that human or could be reasonably assumed to be carried out by that human.
Since the limitations applying to the conditions of a death are unknown to the Shinigami, Death Note owners must find out on their own.
You may write the cause and/or details of death prior to filling in the name of the individual. Be sure to insert the name in front of the cause of death. You have about 19 days (according to the human calendar) to fill in a name.
Suicide is a universally valid cause of death as all humans are thought to possess the potential to commit suicide. It is, therefore, something that may be reasonably assumed of an individual.
Whether the cause of the individual’s death is either suicide or an accident, if it would lead to the death of more than the intended victim, the person will simply die of a heart attack. This is to ensure that other lives are not impacted.
After an individual’s name, time of death, and conditions of death are entered in the notebook, the time and conditions of death may be altered as many times as desired as long as they are changed within six minutes and 40 seconds from the time they are filled in. But, of course, this is only possible before the victim dies.
If you write “dies of accident” for the cause of death, the victim will die from a natural accident six minutes and 40 seconds after the time of entry.
Even if only one name is written in the Death Note, if the victim’s death causes other humans that are not written in it to die, the cause of death will default to a heart attack.
If you write “dies from disease” and specify which disease and the time of death, there must be a sufficient amount of time for the disease to progress. If the set time is too tight, the victim will die of a heart attack six minutes and 40 seconds after the entry in the Death Note.
If you write, “dies from disease” as the cause of death but specify only a time of death and not the actual disease, the victim will die from a plausible disease.
The Death Note can only operate within a 23-day window (in the human calendar). This is called the 23-Day rule.
If you write “dies from disease” and specify which disease but not a time of death, if the progression of the disease takes more than 24 days, the 23-Day rules will not take effect and the human will die at an appropriate time depending on the disease. However, rewriting the cause and/or details of death must be done within six minutes and 40 seconds: you cannot change the victim’s time of death, however soon it may be.
In order for the Death Note to take effect the victim’s name must be written on one page; however, the cause and conditions of death may be entered on other pages. This will work as long as the person who writes in the Death Note keeps the specific victim’s name in mind when writing the cause and conditions of death.
If the cause and conditions of death are written in before the victim’s name is, multiple names can be written as long as they are entered within 40 seconds and the cause and conditions of death are not impossible. In the event that the cause of death is possible but the conditions are not, only the cause of death will take effect for that victim. If both the cause and the conditions are impossible, that victim will die of a heart attack.
When you write multiple names in the Death Note and then write down one cause of death within 40 seconds of writing the first victim’s name, the cause will take effect for all the written names. Also, after writing the cause of death, even if the conditions of death are written within six minutes and 40 seconds in the human world, the conditions will apply only to the victims for whom they are possible. Those for whom the conditions are not possible will simply die from the specified cause.
A human death caused by the Death Note can indirectly lengthen another human’s original life span in the human world even without the owner’s specific intention to do so.
Once the victim’s name, cause of death, and conditions of death have been written down in the Death Note, the death will take place even if that Death Note, or the part of the note used, is destroyed before the stated time of death.
If the victim’s name has been entered and the Death Note is destroyed while the cause of death is being written, the victim will be killed by a heart attack 40 seconds after the name was entered. If the victim’s name and cause of death have already been written, then the victim will be killed within six minutes and 40 seconds via the stated cause of death if it is possible within that period of time. Otherwise, the victim will die by heart attack.
If you wish to change anything written in the Death Note within six minutes and 40 seconds after you wrote it, you must first rule out the characters you want to erase with two straight lines. The time and conditions of death can be changed, but once the victim’s name has been written, that individual’s death can never be averted.
It is useless to try to erase names written in the Death Note with erasers or to white them out.
Even if a new victim’s name, cause of death, or conditions of death are written on top of the original victim’s name, cause of death, or conditions of death, there will be no effect on the original victim’s death. The same thing will also apply to erasing what was written with a pencil, or whiting out what was written with a pen.
The Death Note will not affect those less than 780 days old.
You cannot kill humans who are more than 124 years of age with the Death Note.
You cannot kill humans with less than 12 minutes of life left (in human calculations).
You cannot set a death date longer than the victim’s original lifespan. Even if the victim’s death is entered in the Death Note, if it is beyond his or her original lifespan, the victim will die before the set time.
The human who uses this note can go neither to Heaven nor to Hell.
One page taken from the Death Note, or even a fragment of the page, possesses the full power of the note.
Any writing instrument or medium (cosmetics, blood, etc.) may be used, as long as it can write directly onto the note and create legible text.
The pages of the Death Note will never run out.
Some limited number of Death Notes have white or red front covers, but this makes no difference in their effectiveness as compared with the black Death Notes.
A Shinigami can extend its life by writing human names in a Death Note, but a human cannot. A person can only shorten his or her life by using the note.
Even the original Shinigami owners of Death Notes do not know much about them.
Shinigami must own at least one personal Death Note, which must never be lent to or written on by a human.
Shinigami may exchange and write in each others’ Death Notes.
If a Shinigami decides to use a Death Note to end the life of the killer of an individual it favors, that individual’s life will be extended but the Shinigami will die. The Shinigami will disappear but the Death Note will remain. The ownership of this Death Note is usually carried over to the next Shinigami that touches it, but it is common sense that it be returned to the Shinigami King.
By manipulating the death of a human who has influence over another human’s life, that human’s original life span can sometimes be lengthened. If a Shinigami intentionally does this that Shinigami will die, but even if a human does the same, the human will not die.– Death Note 13: How to Read (2006)
As you can see, this is quite an extensive set of rules that governs how the Death Note takes a life. Now, some of these rules might be relevant for our analysis, and some might not, but they do explain the inner mechanisms that are applied to this case, as well as every other case. Let us now see how it could apply to Goku.
Can the Death Note Kill Goku?
Now, we shall start off our article with the following presumption – the owner of the Death Note knows Goku’s name and what he looks like. We know that this is a major prerequisite for any Death Note to take effect, so talking about this issue without that aspect would be useless and silly. This is why we started off our analysis like this. Some fans speculate about whether the Death Note would need to contain Goku’s birthname, Kakarot, or Son Goku, as he is known generally, but that is not important for our analysis, nor is the fact that Goku actually doesn’t have a surname. Whether it’s Son Goku or Katarok is irrelevant to whether the Death Note has any effect on Goku or not, and that is why we are trying to figure it out here.
Now, we know that the Death Note is a supernatural object used by the Shinigami to kill humans, mostly. But, we also know that the Shinigami know very little of the Death Notes themselves, which means that there probably are additional functions and powers that the books have, but which have been left unknown. A main point here is whether the Death Note can be applied to all living beings or just humans, as the rules state. This is where things get tricky.
Namely, if the Death Note only works on humans, that means that Goku is completely immune since he is a Saiyan and not a human. Now, this would raise questions as to the effectiveness of the Death Note on half-Saiyans, but that is not something we can discuss in this article if we want to stay on topic. If the Death Note, indeed, works only on humans, that means that it is by no means such a powerful tool and that it has a very limited scope of applicability. This would make Goku, of course, completely immune to it and the discussion ends there.
But what about the other option? Namely, the Death Note is an instrument of the Shinigami, i.e., the deities of Death, who use the Death Notes to fulfill their duties. It wouldn’t make much sense if these notes had such a limited scope, wouldn’t it? That means that the Shinigami would only be limited to one single species in the universe (heck, on planet Earth!), which wouldn’t make them all that important on the grand scale of things, right? Sure, there could be other similar deities for other species, but that hasn’t been hinted at in the world of Death Note, which means that the Shinigami are the only deities governing death in the whole universe. (Okay, Death Note never really discussed alien civilizations, to be fair, but since we’re at it…).
If that hypothesis is true, then the Shinigami would also be responsible for the deaths of the Saiyans and all other non-deities from the Dragon Ball universe (so, Beerus and Zeno, for example, are not under their jurisdiction). Since Goku is a Saiyan, which is an alien race modeled on the Kryptonians from the Superman stories (but with a twist!), he is not a god, regardless of the level of power he has. This means that he is under the jurisdiction of the Shinigami.
Now, of the Shinigami use a Death Note and are above Goku – who is mortal, without a doubt – that means that the Death Note is certainly capable of killing Goku, despite what the rules state. Namely, the fact that the rules state use the word “human” doesn’t necessarily mean much. First of all, the use of the word is not really consistent throughout all the rules, as you can see in the source we have provided to you. Secondly, the rules were written by Ryuuk for the purpose of testing a human specifically (and in a world that did not discuss alien civilizations), which means that Ryuuk might have tweaked the rules to serve his purpose and that the Death Note does, indeed, apply to all non-deities.
This theory makes perfect sense if you ask us. What would the purpose of such a book be if it is applicable only to a small portion of the whole universe? It simply doesn’t make much sense. Dragon Ball fans will always argue that Goku is invincible – heck, you’ll even find arguments stating that the Death Note can be applied to Goku, but that he is too powerful to die, which is complete nonsense, as Goku did die on several occasions in the series and is certainly not powerful enough to overpower death – but this is an argument that they might not be able to win.
Escaping death is impossible for non-deities. It seems that only Zeno is truly immortal in the world of Dragon Ball, which means that Goku definitely cannot escape death. And the Death Note is merely an instrument of Death, as a process, and nothing else. This is why we think that the Death Note can kill Goku and that it definitely does apply to him and most of the characters we’ve seen in Dragon Ball.
Now, whether the owner of the Death Note would be able to do it with ease or not is a completely different issue. First of all, he would, indeed, have to find out Goku’s name, which isn’t all that complex, but it is a prerequisite. Then, he would have to do it secretly, since Goku is definitely fast enough and powerful enough to stop someone in the process of writing, before he manages to write his name in the book. All of these things make the process more complicated, but we honestly think that the Death Note would work on Goku, as the idea behind the Death Note wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.
All of this is, of course, just a theory. Both our arguments and the arguments of the other side make as much sense as any. The fact is that the worlds of Death Note and Dragon Ball function on a completely different level. One is a down-to-earth realistic world with supernatural elements, whereas the other is a fantasy world that only slightly resembles the world we know. This is why an objective comparison is so difficult to make; they are simply not that compatible and there is not much that can be done there. The respective authors will probably never collaborate on a story that would give us an official answer, so all we have is our theories, our evidence, and our arguments. And this article was a collection of all of these, as we wanted to help you get a fresh perspective on things.