It’s just as simple as writing down a name and waiting forty seconds? Maybe in the universe of Light and L that holds true to some extent, but let’s take the death note out of its comfort zone and see if it can tackle the behemoths of fiction.
What can the death note kill? Is there anything the death note can’t kill? What kind of limitations exist? If it’s taken out of its own universe, what kind of loopholes arise?
Let’s look at one of the most overpowered weapons in all of anime and put it to the test. We’ll be following the death note’s own set of rules and using logic and reason to come to our conclusions as to if the target can be killed or not. All 64 pages of the death note’s rules will be taken into consideration as we determine the extent of the death note’s killing potential.
To be honest though, the death note is a giant playground of assumptions. The Shinigami themselves, the gods who literally owned the notebook for eternity, still do not know the full scope of the death note. What does that say for humans like us, with only a short amount of time to figure out what it can or can’t kill? Even someone with the intellectual capacity of Light had to undergo some degree of trial-and-error, so we can’t say that we have definitive yes/no answers.
Just for the sake of clarity, let’s set the exact scene as follows.
Light Yagami sits at his desk in his room, reading up on the news. He sees in the news that many people have died at the hands of (insert name here). Seeing that this is unjust and cannot exist in his perfect world, Light pulls out his death note and writes down their name. He waits forty seconds. Do they die?
- The target does not know they are being targeted by the death note
- The target’s full name is broadcasted on the television
- Light has clear vision of the target’s face on the television
I’ll be looking at two possibilities:
- Light leaves it blank, and lets the natural heart-attack do the work
- Light specifies a specific method of death.
I’ll also be naming down the names that may spur a unique reaction from the death note. I won’t be naming the obvious answers where the target is sure to be dead. I won’t be making Light execute someone like Yukihira Soma. If there’s some question as to that person’s possibility of survival, I’ll cover it.
Without further ado, let’s begin the execution.
Naruto Uzumaki, Monkey D.Luffy, and Saitama
Naruto, Luffy, Saitama and almost everybody in these universes will most likely die to the death note.
This is because of the simple fact that despite being powerful, land-bending ninjas or pirates or superheroes, they are still fundamentally human. On page VI, it states that the specific scope of the conditions of death are not known: meaning that even the gods of death do not know the extent of killing potential the death note has. This means that throughout the eternity of death note usage, no human in the universe of death note has ever survived from having their name written down.
There are humans that reach the power level of gods, but they are not gods. They may be superhuman, but they are still human. As long as they have a beating heart, I say it’s fair game for the death note to take their lives.
The capacity for medical ninjutsu to undo heart attacks is unknown (maybe extremely talented medical specialists like Sakura or Tsunade could maybe undo the effects of a heart attack, but we can’t say for sure), but there’s another way: suicide.
On page X, the following statement is present:
” Suicide is a valid cause of death. Basically, all humans are thought to possess the ability to commit suicide. It is, therefore, not something unbelievable to think of.”
These fictional universes have plenty of dangerous techniques that can guarantee a kill if self-inflicted. If the order of the death note is “you must end your own life”, characters will likely use their strongest technique that can maximize the chances of them being dead. Sadly for them, a lot of ninjas, pirates and heroes have techniques that have EXCEPTIONAL killing potential. Some ninjas can level mountains and continents, so what’s to say they can’t kill themselves? The same goes for One Piece and it’s universe that’s chock full of heavy hitting attacks, and I’m not even going to ask the question of “what happens if Saitama punched himself at full power”.
Hidan and Kakuzu
I was specific to mention that almost everybody in these universes would die. These two are part of an exception.
To clarify, it is not because that they are immune to heart attacks (even though they are – Hidan is completely immune to dying and Kakuzu has five hearts; so if he gets a heart attack he can literally throw the heart away and use another one ). The suicide clause would still end them completely – Kakuzu can output more firepower than his hearts can handle probably handle and even though Hidan is supposedly immortal, Kishimoto did confirm that he can die from malnutrition.
They are both saved by the clause on page XXIX, where it states “You cannot kill humans at the age of 124 and over with the Death Note”. So after you reach a certain age threshold, you become immune to the effects of the death note.
The immortal Hidan surely meets this prerequisite, and considering that Kakuzu mentions that he fought the first Hokage, he surely does as well. These two, and possibly the older characters in these animes ( Zetsu, Kureha, Madara) would get off scotch free from the death note regardless of the specification of the death note.
On the other end of the spectrum, the rules also state that it cannot kill humans less than 780 days old – so you need to be older than 2 years and 30 days old to be affected – although I don’t know any threatening people that are under the age of 2.
Son Goku and Superman
“Any human whose name is written in this note will die”.
That’s the first rule in the death note – and ironically – the most stipulating when it’s taken into different universes.
The key word is human. Any human can fall victim to the death note – even humans that stand among gods like Saitama. He has a beating human heart, and thus his life is under the power of the death note.
Goku and Superman, however, cannot be killed. Even assuming that the scope of the death note doesn’t discriminate power levels, Goku and Superman would still not die – for the simple reason that they are not human. They are humanoid aliens. They share human features, like two arms, two eyes and a functioning brain, but they are fundamentally inhuman – they are Saiyan and Kryptonians with different biological systems.
This is, once again, not to say that a heart attack won’t kill them. Even writing suicide won’t kill them – because the death note does not apply to them. Writing their names down on the death note would just be a waste of paper.
This also applies to animals and personified items. The death note is the bane of all humans, but humans only. The death note wouldn’t be able to affect Pokemon like Pikachu, Magical animals like Happy or…sponges like Spongebob.
So the Death note can kill Saitama but not Spongebob Squarepants? Yes. That is correct.
Son Gohan and Nina Tucker
Here, we are starting to get to the confusing people who may or may not die. The loopholes in the death note are most prominent here – though to be fair the death note was never meant to be applicable to universes like these.
We have Son Gohan and Nina Tucker, both of which are special in the fact that they are only half human. In the case of Gohan, he is only half human and half Saiyan, and as heartbreaking it is to say, Nina Tucker is also half human and half dog.
Would they die at the hands of the death note?
Clearly, there is no clear statement. If the death note says “Any full human whose name is written in the note will die”, there’s no argument about it, but that distinction isn’t necessary for death note’s universe. There are only full humans. So what happens? Does the humanity within these characters qualify them for death, or do their other inhuman qualities grant them immunity from the death note?
There is no right or wrong answer – but I think that they’d be disqualified from the death note. Even though they are part human – they are also part inhuman. In other words, no matter how you cut it, they aren’t 100% human.
So, what, does the death note only work at half power? Of course not – it either works in full effect or not at all. The laws in the death note are excellent at asserting absolutes – hence it’s 64 pages of rules.
Because they aren’t fully human, it would be a bit unfair to lump them together with other humans like Naruto or Saitama. Naruto and Saitama follow all the rules of the death note, qualifying for death. However, since in the case of Gohan and Nina there’s a bit of uncertainty in the rule, there’s no way that the note can be applied to them. After all, the note never accounted for their existence, so it shouldn’t have power over them.
You could also argue the other end of the spectrum that the little part of humanity in them WOULD qualify them for death, but I personally disagree. Once again, there’s no right or wrong answer.
Here, we have what I think is one of the most interesting interactions between the death note and its target. Here we have Ichigo Kurosaki, and at face value, he ticks all the boxes. He’s fully human, he’s not over 124 years old, he’s not younger than 2 and he’s fully capable of having a heart attack or committing suicide. There’s just one issue, though:
He’s a shinigami.
In the same way that Ryuk is a god of death, so is Ichigo in his own universe. Although their methods of doing so differ greatly and the specifics of their job are basically nothing alike – they share a common role. They have the unique ability to bridge the gap between life and death. Thus, they are Shinigami.
It was confirmed in the show that Shinigami cannot be killed when Light asked about the possibility of killing Rem. Because Ichigo has the title of “shinigami” under his belt, he would be disqualified for the death note – especially since nowhere in the note does it specify what counts as a shinigami. So, even though Ichigo does initially qualify, his status as a shinigami would save him. This is, though, assuming that the shinigami that Ryuk is and the shinigami that Ichigo is falls in the same bracket.
In the death note world, there is no heaven or hell. There is mu (nothingness). Humans that die go to nothingness.
In the Bleach world, there is soul society. Humans that die in the human world are recreated as reiatsu into soul society, where they live out another life before passing and being reincarnated into the human world as somebody else (the spirit cycle).
So it depends on 2 things – which universe’s law is being conformed to and which state Ichigo is being killed in.
If Ichigo somehow ends up in death note’s universe – if he’s dead, he’s dead. There’s no spirit cycle, no soul society and no rebirth. If Ichigo were killed in his human form, he’d die and be sent to Mu. If he were in his shinigami form, the laws of the death note grant him immunity.
If Light went to Ichigo’s universe – Soul society exists and not Mu. Ichigo can die in human form and it wouldn’t really matter considering how many times he’s been to soul society and rescued from death.
Madara Uchiha and Krillin
I’ve already briefly mentioned Madara earlier, but I’m bringing him up again because he still presents a problem that the death note doesn’t already address. Does the death note work on people who have already died?
Madara Uchiha was brought back by the Edo Tensei technique, and although in the Edo-Tensei form he was undead, he was revived properly and regained his human features when he used the Rinne-Tensei. Thus, Madara lived, died, and then was revived.
Krillin is in a similar boat. He is a human from dragon ball, and he has died no less than three times (four if you include GT, and five if you include the alternate android timeline) at the hands of Tambourine, Frieza and Majin Buu. He was brought back to live all these times, and regained his human body and beating heart.
Would the death note apply to these people?
Let’s look at the death note’s purpose for a second. The death note is essentially a notebook used by Shinigami to end human lives in order to extend their own. If Krillin were set to live until 80 and Ryuk wrote that he was to die at 60, Ryuk’s lifespan would be extended by 20 years.
Why is this relevant?
Because of rule on page XV = “When the same name is written in two or more death notes, the note which was used first will take effect, regardless of time and death”
The universe of Death Note runs on a very reasonable assumption that humans can only die once. Therefore, once their names are put in the death note, their names cannot be re-written on any other death notes (and I assume the same notebook too), because the note which was used first will take effect.
Now, all that we need to consider now is the time that the notebook was used in effect – before or after their reincarnation.
If the notebook was used in a manner such as “Krillin is to die by the hands of Tambourine with a kick to the neck”, then that’s it. Upon Krillin’s first resurrection, Krillin would be completely immune to the death note’s effects.
In fact, with that argument – everybody in the world of Dragon Ball would be immune to the death note – they would die once by the notebook, be brought back by Shenron and then be immune to the death note since their names have already been written.
It’s a similar case with Madara Uchiha – although resurrection from death isn’t as common a thing in Naruto. If the death note specifically entails Madara’s death at the hands of a natural cause at the age of whatever, then he would be immune to the death note upon his resurrection in the fourth ninja war. If he died naturally, was brought back to life, and then was killed by the death note, he could be brought back through Edo-Tensei or Rinne-Tensei (even though it’s not at all easy to pull off, the doors to return to life are wide open)
This is, of course, assuming that humans can be pulled back from Mu using the wishes of the dragon balls or the Jutsu of the Edo/Rinne Tensei. The dragon balls are built to grant one wish, and assuming that wish is an absolute, pulling someone out of Mu shouldn’t be out of the picture. Although I can’t say I’m as confident in the case of simple Jutsu, the fact that people from Naruto have come back from death demonstrates a dimension that Death Note’s universe doesn’t account for.
Many argue that the Death Note is fiction’s greatest weapon. And with the ability to kill anybody with only a name and a face, it’s a hard to argue against that testimony.
However, despite being the strongest weapon in Death Note’s universe, taking it out of it’s intended context brings out some unexpected loopholes. To be fair though, these aren’t things that the rules of the death note need to address at all – it’s not needed in their universe. The death note was built around the universe of Light and L, and incredible tactical mind games. It wasn’t meant to be taken out of that universe and applied into other universes where resurrection is commonplace, aliens roam the cities and shinigami take souls with swords.
Since the death note never really considered these rules, it’s not really fair at all for me to cement all of these guesses as absolutes. The death note might kill Gohan, it might not. The death note may even kill Ichigo, regardless of his form. Sadly, we’ll never see the answers to these questions – the death note is meant to shine in its own universe where its brilliance can stir up the greatest geniuses in its human universe.
This has been An Idiot’s Guide to the Death Note’s Killing Potential – but hey, don’t take my word for it. I’m just some idiot.