This was actually going to be an in-depth character analysis of how Yagami Light from Death Note and Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment were the bromance that was not to be.
Blame the impromptu renewed interest in Fullmetal Alchemist fanfics. There was one in particular that caught my eye, a one-shot written by NinjaSquirls back in 2007. It’s a poignant character exploration of Edward when he’s stranded in Munich (first series-verse, not Brotherhood) and in a moment of weakness, seeks out a Catholic priest hoping to find some reprise from his emotional wounds by confessing his sins. As an atheist, he has no idea where to start and when the priest asks if he’s at least familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins, he laughs bitterly, the irony of the statement not lost to him.
Digression aside, the fic (which can be found here) inspired this post, a listicle of sorts that discusses how Yagami Light, the villainous protagonist of Death Note, manages to touch on all seven deadly sins. Death Note owners may not go to hell, but one can imagine how Yagami Light would be a surefire candidate for any of the nine circles of under-worldly suffering as outlined by Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.
Though we’ll never know if any fruit was borne from the interesting bedroom arrangement that was necessitated from becoming handcuffed to each other 24/7 (headcanon says yes), lust isn’t quite the first sin you might peg Light down for. Though clearly portrayed as an object of womanly sexual desire (Misa-Misa insists on the universal beauty of those burning auburn eyes), Yagami Light’s affectation of his sexual drive is just a masquerade. But while lust is usually thought of as excessive sexual desire, it also can involve the obsessive desire for other things such as worldly goods, fame or power. And is Light power hungry?
This scene pretty much speaks for itself. Gluttony is the sin of excessive waste, overindulgence, and maliciously depriving others of material necessities. Though Light’s dangerously anorexic weight (according to the manga, he’s 5’10” and weighs 120 pounds, or 178 cm 54.4 kilograms for those from locales who are smart enough to use the metric system) suggests that maybe Light really needs those greasy carbs of dehydrated potato goodness, his indulgence in destructive sport a la writing criminals’ names down under the pretense of “studying” is pretty gluttonous. The average gluttonous person maliciously deprives others of their fair share of food and water. Kira deprives criminals of their share of life.
Yagami Light wants everything. He wants to be the god of the new world; to kill L; to eat his darned potato chips in peace. Personal gain is his game, however he may dress up his murderous actions. There’s some overlap with greed, gluttony and lust, as they’re sins centered on obsessive desire. The distinction with greed is that it’s applied to a very excessive drive to pursue material possessions. Crimes such as hoarding, theft, and manipulation of authority are associated with greed. And while Light isn’t exactly looking to become the richest man on earth, being a God with deep coffers and a lot of media influence certainly doesn’t hurt.
What makes the Death Note evil? It isn’t so much its ability to kill that makes it evil (a weapon isn’t inherently evil, though a case could be made for the Death Note since it’s a supernatural object), it’s how easily it does it. With just a few strokes of a ballpoint, a human life winks out of this plane of existence. The Death Note’s method of killing is so innocuous, so mundane, so magical that it distances the user from the emotional and moral repercussions of taking a life. Not that murder itself is good work to begin with (it isn’t), but lazy murder is even worse.
Under the facade of pleasant composure is an insanely angry person. Wrath is the root of murder and violence. It is the opposite of righteousness, and scorns law and justice. Intolerant of all world views and philosophies that don’t align with its own convoluted “justice”, wrath is ultimately self-serving. Described by Dante as “a love of justice perverted to revenge and spite,” wrath is narcissistic, destructive, and void of empathy. It also often masquerades around as self-righteousness. Light as Kira spends a lot of time proclaiming his anger at the world, but we all know it all started when a certain British genius detective outsmarted him via the Lind L Tailor incident…
Envy, like Lust, was a bit harder for me to pin down. Jealousy isn’t something that Light experiences often, simply because being insecure of himself would go against his enormous God-complex. He does bear a strong hatred for L as his opponent in their epic game of morality chess, and centers his goal on taking L down.
Is Light ever envious of L? It’s hard to say. He respects L (with condescension, of course) and considers him a worthy opponent to dispose of. The two of them are alike in so many ways and although the anime does a fantastic job of exploring the psychological mindsets of our two young geniuses, we never really get a ton of feedback on Light’s emotional feelings toward L, other than the standard “I-will-defeat-you-and-prove-Kira’s-justice-is-right.”
I will make a brief comment on one similarity that they share–their insanely high intellect isolates them emotionally from society. While Light’s learned to affect a social mask that is charismatic and friendly–in other words, trustworthiness–L seems to revel in his social isolation and flaunts his social awkwardness. And while L might not be particularly liked, he does have the respect of the most powerful people in the world, without ever having to go through the trouble of pretending to be a different person. Of course, this is now headcanon territory, but I think it’s relatively safe to draw the conclusion that L’s freedom of self-expression–of not having to maintain a performance–is a power that Light would covet. Or maybe it’s the fact that L can also get away with some pretty sketch interrogation methods without answering to the police.
Out of the seven sins, pride is the worst, and is known as the father of all sins. It arises from an excessive love of self and spurred on by a desire to be more important and a lack of regard for others. This self-love is self-destructive in nature, and according to Christian thought, extreme self-love was the ultimate sin because it was a feeling that spurned God. You can’t exactly love God if you love only yourself.
In less religious terms, pride leads to self-absorption and a lack of consideration for others. Which really fits Light like a glove. In fact, you can argue that the main seed of conflict that started the whole plot in Death Note was borne from an act of pride–a brilliant, bored genius who thought he could become a god.
It’s also hardly a coincidence that a clear parallel can be drawn between Light and Lucifer (which means “morning star” or “light-bringer” in Hebrew), the fallen angel who committed the first sin of pride (i.e. trying to overthrow God). Pride perverts even the most brilliant of lights (pun intended) and is most appropriately, the most prominent of Light’s many flaws.