Recently, there has been heavy discussion about symbolism in the stories that we have read in class. I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about symbolism in one of the most popular anime series of all time in the U.S. and Japan: Death Note.
In Death Note, there is a Shinigami (God of Death) named Ryuuk who follows around the main character (Light Yagami) and gave him a Death Note (A notebook that all Shinigami have. Any human's name who is written in it dies in 40 seconds of a heart attack unless otherwise specified in the Death Note after their name.)Light Yagami is the main character and an anti-hero who has his own idea of justice by killing criminals, and later on, generally whoever stands in his way. He is careful to hide his identity, and everyone generally refers to the mysterious murderer as "Kira." L is the world's best detective and the main character who opposes Light throughout the story, by attacking him psychologically. For example, L first had a publically announced global news broadcast where he put a prisoner on Death Row with the nameplate of his name by him on the screen. He then has the criminal claim to be L and give a provoking speech that belittles "Kira." (L has yet to reveal his true identity or face to anybody at this point in the story) Light is provoked and kills him with the Death Note. L later reveals that he only broadcasted that TV program in a certain region of Japan, so he immediately finds out Kira's general location. He also figures out from this that Light/Kira needs a name and a face in order to kill. L's and Light's ideas of justice are very different.Justice has many underlying meanings. If there was a poll asking all the people on the planet "what is right and what is wrong?" the majority will probably say something similar to what is stated in the 10 Commandments. L says that Kira has a childish concept of right and wrong. (although this is primarily to provoke him)In the series, before Light has Rem (another Shinigami that Light gains control over by endangering a human that it cares about) kill L, L receives premonitions of his death in images and dreams. In the same way, Jesus prophesied that He would be betrayed and killed. Jesus also washed the feet of his disciples, including Judas, just before Judas betrayed Him. L actually washed Light's feet after their conversation in the rain about lying. Clearly, L is representative of Jesus Christ in this series.
There are many other symbolic things and events that occur in Death Note, but one of the symbols that stands out the most, and one of my personal favorites, are apples. Apples can have a lot of different meanings depending on the context. They can represent knowledge, luxury, happiness, or death. In Greek mythology, Hera received an apple as a gift of fertility upon her engagement to Zeus. Apples were the first symbol of temptation and "Original Sin." According to the bible, if someone ate the forbidden fruit, they would become smarter and their eyes would forever see the world in a different way.
Ryuuk (the Shinigami/Death God) didn't care about the human world at first. But he had a liking to apples for some reason, and as he stuffed himself with apples throughout the story, he slowly developed feelings for humans and saw the world in a different way, just like when Adam and Eve came into a new conscious by eating the forbidden fruit.