Of all the intriguing, well-written, and beloved-by-fans anime characters of the past twenty years, L from Death Note is near the top of the list for many anime and manga enthusiasts. He’s an obsessive genius detective with a mysterious backstory; his behavior and personality are charmingly strange; and he has that disheveled, unkempt, wild-haired style that most of us in the real world just can’t achieve without smelling awful and being told by strangers on the street to go get a job.
All that being said, L is not a perfect character. There are more than a few ridiculous aspects to his character that make absolutely no sense and leave us all scratching our heads in befuddlement.
10. Why L hides his identity from Interpol’s ICPO and the police
It makes sense that he would want his identity hidden from criminals, just like Spider-Man does, (this is proven when he uses Lind L Tailor as a decoy against Light and the Death Note) but if a PI wanted the police to trust them, or even legally work alongside them, they would have to disclose their identity to at least the men at the top. This is needlessly convoluted and only works narratively, to keep his identity hidden from the audience for the big reveal.
9. L's Love of Dark, Empty Rooms
Why, when he is first introduced, does he sit in a dark, empty room with hair covering his eyes? In the first few chapters, L is shrouded in mystery (to the audience and the rest of the show's characters), but his appearance and behavior when he is completely alone in his room is again only to keep him hidden from the audience. There isn't a person alive who behaves so covertly when they're completely alone; and it just serves to make him look a little too edgy. Of course, a lot of us enjoy mood lighting, and how he chooses to decorate his own space is his call, but L's initial representation as a dishevelled man in a big, dark, empty room with a computer on the floor, in the middle of a lot of nothing, is simply unbelievable. People only behave that way to impress the audience, and even L isn't smart enough to be aware that he's an animated character with an audience of 3D people.
8. L's Choice of Location
Why does L conduct the investigation from a hotel room at night, gathering a group of police agents together in a dramatically conspicuous manner? Surely this would draw far more unwanted attention after a while than him simply being holed up in the police headquarters, and the detectives going in and out as usual. Nobody ever looks twice at a police station, but a group of shady men going in and out of a hotel at odd hours, night after night, is going to have people talking. It makes no sense for L to make this decision.
7. L’s Sleep Deprivation
It’s clear from the show and manga that L barely sleeps. We see this from his constant intake of sugar and the bags under his eyes. And we can assume he doesn’t sleep because he’s always wired by all his thoughts and investigations. His brain is too active. But this quirk, while fun and intriguing, doesn’t make any sense when you consider sleep deprivation’s effects on the brain’s ability to function. Study after study has been done on the brain’s need for sleep in order to work at full capacity. L couldn’t be the genius he is on such a little amount of sleep. On top of that, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to risk reduced cognitive function; in fact, he should prioritize sleep.
6. Why L Squats Instead of Sits
This again is just an affectation; a quirky part of his design that makes fans warm to his charming strangeness. It suggests that he’s restless and always ready to move, to pounce, to leap into action. But in actual fact, it’s just not practical for someone who spends so long pondering and piecing together ideas and evidence. He mentions to Light in episode 10 that, were he to sit normally, his ‘deductive skills would be immediately reduced by roughly 40%’. But that, of course, makes no sense and isn’t expanded upon at all. His restless behavior, like his sleep deprivation, is a stupid hindrance and he’d probably get a lot more work and thinking done if he would relax a bit.
5. Why He’s So Dishevelled
Once more, this is part of his charm: he loves sugar, doesn’t sleep, always squats, and never wears shoes or neat clothes. His physical appearance is just one more quirk to endear the audience to him, like many a superhero or supervillain costume. But, honestly, this too isn’t practical. What if he needs to attend a meeting, or simply pop outside? In fact, even when he attends the university entrance exams to spy on Light in episode 9, he wears the same baggy, wrinkled clothes and, inexplicably, no shoes or socks. It makes no sense that he’s a (presumably) smelly hermit who only ever wears baggy sweaters and no shoes or socks. He’s an investigator who cannot, practically, do all of his investigating from his bedroom like a child on Reddit. L, you’re an adult. Get yourself a shirt and some shoes.
4. How is L so Good at Tennis and Fighting?
It’s totally reasonable that he’s a skilled tennis player or martial artist; anyone can be. But with his aforementioned sleep deprivation, terrible posture, and exclusive diet of sugary snacks, there’s no way that he would be able to play tennis with such accuracy, control, and power. The racket should vibrate right out of his shaking hands if he doesn’t simply get exhausted immediately after picking it up.
3. L’s Ethnicity and Language Abilities are Baffling
It’s a common trope in anime that characters who are not Japanese or have never studied Japanese, simply speak it as the plot demands. This is made even more confusing when dubs come into it. L, however, mentions having been raised in the UK for a few years, and his previous investigations before the story of Death Note took place in the US. And yet he is able to ace a university entrance exam in Japan (in Japanese) effortlessly. A lack of backstory and clearly explained ethnicity and nationality makes L’s language skills a convenience of plot rather than being tied to his genius. Chalk this up to being just another lazy anime trope, but it’s frustrating all the same.
2. The OCD of a Man With No OCD
When it comes to quirks, you can certainly have too much of a good thing. Take a look at any iconic character from comics and anime and you’ll see a single defining quirk that sticks in your mind (Heath Ledger’s Joker licking at his scarred mouth; Darth Vader’s slow, heavy breathing; Voldemort’s lack of a nose). But L already has his squatting, the bags under his eyes, and his love of sugar. He doesn’t also need to hold things in the manner of someone with OCD. In scene after scene, we see L pick up a cell phone, hold a sheet of paper, or prepare a cup of coffee with the very tips of his fingers, as though he is afraid of it. His mannerisms are indicative of someone with OCD, though he clearly shows no other signs of it. This makes no sense for his character or the plot and is there just to be quaint.
1. L’s Age is Far Too Vague
He is referred to constantly as a ‘man’ and talks about how he behaved when he was Light’s age, and yet his behavior and appearance is almost identical to that of Light, a 17-year-old. This is further complicated by his fame as a detective. It’s established before we even meet him that L is a global superstar in the detective world, but how could anyone so young be so accomplished, all while protecting their identity? We presume he went to university, but how did he have the time to do that and get famous? How old is he, exactly? He can’t be out of his twenties, and yet his car, connections, and resources are those of someone who has been working and building a legacy for decades. There is no way someone of his age (whatever that age actually is) could have done so much all while hiding their identity. His backstory is never truly revealed, and this means that he can be anything. But instead, L is everything. And that just makes no sense.