Death Note: Was Ryuk Smarter Than Light?

By Kanishma Ray / February 4, 2022

Picture this: A young man unwittingly finds himself in a Shinigami's presence and starts a slow descent into madness. Wouldn't the Shinigami have something to do with it?

After all, It hardly seems possible that Ryuk, an ancient god of death, wouldn't be capable of tricking a young human boy. There's a good possibility that everything Light did was under Ryuk's manipulation. Or maybe he wasn't aware of the subtle influence the Shinigami imposed on him.

It's only natural to wonder how much of Kira was Ryuk. Was Ryuk, by any chance, smarter than Light?

Was Ryuk Smarter Than Light?

Ryuk from Death Note

Ryuk wasn't smarter than Light; he wasn't even among Death Note's top ten most intelligent characters. Light managed to manipulate Ryuk on multiple occasions and often tricked him into doing his bidding. Even if you considered the Shinigami smart, it's hard to deny that he was nothing extraordinary, much less a competitor to Light.

Since he was a God, most of us expected Ryuk to be a secret evil genius, but that assumption didn't last long. Often, Ryuk's behavior was childish and pet-like. During their time together, Ryuk inadvertently obeyed Light's wishes and wasn't much different from a curious audience.

The only thing that made Ryuk formidable was his Death Note, but apart from it, the Shinigami didn't have a lot going on.

What Did Ryuk Think Of Light? Did He Care About Light?

Ryuk constantly praised Light for his intelligence and said he was the most interesting human to have ever possessed the Death Note, but he didn't care about him.

It's important to remember that Ryuk's primary motivation was entertainment. He didn't do anything to make things easier for Light — instead, he often withheld crucial information from him to make things more interesting.

To him, Light was a cure for boredom. And it didn't matter if he agreed that Light was a genius; he wouldn't interfere and hand him victory.

The minute Ryuk felt that Light had lost and that he would no longer be entertaining, he wrote his name in the Death Note. The Shinigami expressed no remorse, even though Light had begged him to help.

"Well, Light, it looks like you've lost ... If they put you in prison, who knows when you'll die? And I don't want to lie around, waiting. So it's all over. You'll die here. It was good while it lasted. We eased each other's boredom for quite a while. Well, Light, it's been interesting."

— Ryuk's last words to Light.

Ryuk Writing Light's Name On His Death Note
Ryuk Writing Light's Name On His Death Note

In his defense, Light would've sacrificed Ryuk without much hesitation. Neither of them was emotionally attached to the other, and though Ryuk generally liked Light, it was an unspoken understanding that their relationship was only symbiotic.

Was Ryuk The Real Villain Of Death Note?

Though Light Yagami played the role of the primary antagonist, Ryuk was the perpetrator that ensued all the chaos. Without him, Light would've never come across the Death Note and might've lived a successful and accomplished life. L wouldn't have died, and most importantly, Light might have retained his innocence and belief in the law.

Does that make Ryuk the villain, though? Not necessarily.

Ryuk's involvement might've been the catalyst that triggered the events of Death Note, but he wasn't directly responsible for any of them. He never nudged Light to create Kira and remained on the sidelines, observing. Everything Light did after he found the notebook was his sole responsibility, which means that Ryuk isn't the real villain in Death Note.

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