Top 10 Smartest Characters In Death Note: Ranked!

By Kanishma Ray / February 15, 2022

Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's Death Note is famed for its mind-games and the mad struggle for power. And though the focus has always been on Light Yagami and his sworn enemy L Lawliet, the series is also supported by a diverse cast of intelligent characters.

But what happens when you try to pick the top ten among them and pit them against each other? Who takes the title of the smartest, and who comes after? Read on to find out!

10. Shuichi Aizawa

Shuichi Aizawa from Death Note
Shuichi Aizawa

Though he's not the brightest character when compared to the characters on this list, Shuichi Aizawa deserves more credit for his name. After all, he was the first member of the Task Force to suspect Light Yagami, though he tried to convince himself he was wrong for the sake of Light's father.

Aizawa later suspected that Light and Takada were passing notes off-camera and marked the hotel note pads with small holes. When he checked later and found the marked notepads replaced, there was no doubt left. His quick thinking helped him confirm his suspicions, though unfortunately, he didn't stand a chance against Light.

9. Naomi Misora

Naomi Misora from Death Note
Naomi Misora

Naomi was a former FBI agent who assisted L during a Los Angeles BB case and was said to have been a "first-class" detective with remarkable skills. This was only further proved when she skillfully deduced that Kira must've been involved in the bus-jacking incident before Raye Penber's death.

Unfortunately, before she could get to L, Light manipulated her into revealing her name and killed her. Naomi might've acted more cautious around Light if she had not been emotionally distraught.

8. Halle Lidner

Halle Linder from Death Note
Halle Lidner

After her time as a Secret Service agent ended, Halle was selected to join Near's Special Provision for Kira (the SPK) unit. She was picked for her quick wits and ability to take swift action.

Amidst Near and Mello's competition to catch Kira, Halle managed to act as a double agent for both sides. She expertly spied on Mello without arousing his suspicion and assisted both of them on their hunt.

7. Teru Mikami

Teru Mikami from Death Note
Teru Mikami

When Light realized that Near was cornering him, he trusted Teru Mikami with Kira's mantle. Mikami, devoted to Kira, acted on Light's orders fervently, drawing suspicion to himself and away from the real Kira.

Though Light chose Mikami for his absolute faith in Kira's cause, his smarts came in handy time and time again. His fierce sense of justice characterized his intellect, though he wasn't above killing innocents if it served the greater good. During his time as Kira, Mikami made sure to fill at least one page a day — something even Light described as "obsessive."

6. Watari

Watari from Death Note

It's easy to undermine Watari as L's sidekick, but his skills extended past butling. Apart from being a skilled sharpshooter, Watari was L's most trusted companion. He assisted him in numerous cases and was the wall between L and the rest of the world.

Considering that he was the man who raised L and has been his spokesperson since the beginning, it's not hard to guess that Watari was a wise man himself. He might not have been a once-in-a-lifetime prodigy, but his intelligence surpassed most of the Task Force's.

5. Reiji Namikawa

Reiji Namikawa from Death Note
Reiji Namikawa

Not only was Reiji the most competent member of the Yotsuba group, but he was also incredibly charming. He held a lot of influence over the board of members, which was why both Light and L handpicked him to act as their spokesperson.

Namikawa was a Harvard Graduate and a professional Shogi champion. A clear example of his intelligence was when he tricked Light into revealing the Task Force's prime suspect and confirmed that Higuchi was the Kira they were targeting. Author Ohba Tsugumi also once commented on Reiji's wits. According to him, "Namikawa would've been successful even without Kira's help."

4. Mello

Mello from Death Note

Unlike his calm and calculating brother, Mello inherited L's tendencies to take drastic measures that forced the hand of his opponent. However, his inferiority complex often got in the way of logic, driving him to make irrational moves against his enemies.

But emotionally-fueled mistakes aside, Mello was brighter than most of the other characters in Death Note. His intellect earned him a place after Near (the fact that he hated), and in every conceivable way, Mello was just as capable of detective work as Near was.

Sadly, instead of focusing on his own strengths, Mello spent his time looking for ways to outdo Near. This eventually got him killed, though his death did play a pivotal role in Kira's capture.

3. Near

Near from Death Note

Near proclaimed himself L's true successor, and given the stats, it is hard to disagree. Out of all the detectives that hopped on the Kira Hunt, Near was the one who finally exposed Light and put an end to Kira.

Though he had considerable help from L and Mello, Near did not fail to flaunt his own detective skills during the investigation. He was the first to suspect that the fake L (created by Light) could be Kira.

Based on what we know about him, it's clear that Near falls short only against Light and L himself. But this isn't due to a lack of intelligence but rather a lack of initiative. He isn't particularly big on the idea of jeopardizing his safety, and if it weren't for Mello's boldness, Near might not have succeeded against Kira.

2. Light Yagami

Light Yagami from Death Note
Light Yagami

Light's obsessive ambition and sociopathic tendencies separate him from everyone on this list. Because even among the smartest people of his generation, Light Yagami reigned as a God for the longest time.

Ryuk admitted that Light was by far the most interesting (trans: smartest) human to have possessed a Death Note, specifically after Light discovered multiple loopholes and additional abilities that even the Shinigami didn't know of.

Essentially, the Death Note was an unused (but still loaded) nuke until it fell into Light's hands. His ability to utilize every resource made available to him and to orchestrate situations in his favor was a clear display of his genius.

Choosing to place Light at the second spot is a tough call, but for what it's worth, he's barely a few scores behind. In fact, some fans would argue that he ties for the position of number one.

1. L Lawliet

L from Death Note
L Lawliet

L was indisputably the most intelligent character on Death Note. His genius was nothing short of prodigious. He was the only detective who posed any real challenge to Kira, and if Light hadn't had the help of two Shinigamis, L might've even succeeded against him.

Though the difference between L and Light's intelligence wasn't stark, it's worth noting that the latter had a significant advantage in their battle. The Death Note was a supernatural weapon unknown to the modern world, and L had no clue of its existence or functions. Nevertheless, he managed to deduce a pretty accurate hypothesis and counter-played Light's plans on multiple occasions.

L also managed to infer Kira's rough location, and his two major weaknesses, within the first 15 minutes of the episode. Not to mention that he was the first person to suspect Light correctly.

Honestly, all of this makes it hard to argue that L isn't the smartest character on the show.

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