Death Note: Who Is Smarter, L or Light Yagami?

Death Note: Who Is Smarter, L or Light Yagami?

As all Death Note fans will know, there is one eternal debate among the fandom, and that is: who is smarter, Light or L? The protagonists of the first part of the series are two geniuses that hunt each other over the course of the manga. After Light disposes of L, Near takes over his role and manages to outwit Light and finally bring upon his demise. And while fans are quick to discard Near completely, they always come back to L. Based on that, we have decided to solve the eternal debate here on Fiction Horizon, as we are going to tell you who the smarter character is – Light Yagami or L!

Based on everything we’ve seen and read about L and Light, we would honestly state that L is a bit smarter than Light Yagami. Both are geniuses, that much is clear, but we have to understand that Light was always a step ahead of L because the latter did not know about the book, and yet, despite being in the dark, L managed to discover Light’s identity and would have outwitted him had Light not killed him. Also, the author himself confirmed that L is the smartest character in the series.

Now that you have the short version of the answer, the rest of the article is going to be divided into three sections, with the first two introducing the characters, their powers, and their abilities. In the end, we’re going to give our final verdict and explanation on why L is ultimately smarter than Light, despite what most Light Yagami fans online say.

Who is smarter, L or Light?

As we have said, this is one of the biggest known debates in the world of anime and manga. Not necessarily because the answer is so difficult to determine – as it is not, really – but because both of these characters have such devoted fans that the debate becomes really nasty very quickly. Both L and Light Yagami are exceptionally popular characters, which cannot be denied. But the vehemence with which these fans defend their characters is truly admirable (or scary, depending on how you prefer to approach the issue).

Who’s worse? We don’t know, actually, but we’d put our money on Light because he is such an atypical protagonist – an honor student, handsome, smart, and liked by all. Yet he is a brutal serial killer with a god complex. On the other hand, L is an outcast in many ways, but he is righteous, and that is sometimes boring (despite the fact that he is definitely quirky). Light is a killer and he does embody the populistic moral values of black-and-white justice that a lot of people can relate to. But such radical views are rarely correct and, what might be even more important, consistent throughout.

This is important because Light Yagami fans tend to be absolutely subjective when it comes to their favorite character and if you’re not in agreement with them, they will simply label you a hater. L fans, so that you do not think that we’re defending anyone, aren’t much better, but they sometimes tend to be more rational in their argumentation. This was an important introduction because we had to explain why the debate about who’s smarter, L or Light, is one of the hottest ones ever. And this is our two cents on the issue.


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As we have said, we think that L is the smarter one and, basically, that he is the smartest character in the series. We have based our opinion on two groups of facts. The first one concerns the facts we know from the manga, the second one concerns the out-of-universe official information we know. Let us slowly analyze both groups here.

The manga is very detailed with their endeavors and if we add the light novels to that, we’ll have more than enough facts for our analysis. A brief overview of their achievements was already presented above, so we won’t be going over the facts again, but rather talking about their significance. On the one hand, we have Light, who is an academic genius and a character that excels in everything. He is the perfect everything and he has consistently proven to be one step ahead of everyone. Sure, you’d argue that he had the supernatural help of the Death Note, but nevertheless, Light was able to be a step ahead of even those who posed an actual threat and that wasn’t simply due to having the obvious advantage.

Sure, L was a puzzle for him, but he almost did defeat Near and that was not a result of the Death Note, but rather his own intelligence. He was able to outsmart even the most difficult of opponents, which is why he is such a dominant force in the intellectual sense.

But, on the other hand, L was his imperfect counterpart. He had so much experience that he understood the innate workings of human psychology and with a relatively limited set of data (when compared to Light, who knew about the Death Note, whereas L was in the dark for most of the time), he was able to work out practically everything. That is why L is such a powerful character, intellectually. He was able to work from the shadows and deduce everything he needed to uncover Kira’s identity, knowing how dangerous and difficult it was. This is where L’s superiority is proven, we think. He had a limited set of data to work with, and yet he was able to put Kira in a tight spot and would’ve certainly defeated him had it not been for the unfortunate circumstances that led to his death.

But, what he was able to do was haunt Kira even in death, as he left his successors, Near and Mello, to finish the job and Near was actually able to outwit Kira and put an end to his killing spree. All of this is, for us, enough proof that L is smarter than Light. He was able to work out more and basically defeat Kira with less information than Kira himself had. And we’re not sure that Kira would be able to do the same, as he wasn’t even able to outwit Near, although he had basically all the same data as him.


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The second group of facts is related to some out-of-universe information that we have. There are several pointers to us being true, but we only need one, and that is a statement by author Tsugumi Ōba, who simply confirmed that L was the smartest character in the whole series. The reason he gave was that it had to be like that because of the plot, but regardless of the reason, we have the author’s official confirmation that L is smarter than Light (and everyone else in the series, but this was obvious from the start). All discussion should stop there.

We are sorry, Light fans, but these are the facts as Tsugumi Ōba presented them and they have been well-corroborated and well-documented within the series itself. The difference is not major, and you could almost say that they are equally intelligent, but if we want to be as objective as possible, we can only affirm that L is the smarter of the two and that is – final.

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