firm_detective: (working)
Update (September 2011): I haven't touched this post in almost three years. I should probably, one day, move the elements of it that are still relevant to my other journal; until then, I'll just say that the L I played with this journal was a learning experience. Looking back, strictly at old tags, there are a few things I would do differently. One is that I think his dialogue got too stilted and formal in some threads because I didn't use enough contractions in his speech, and another is that I was timid about threading some things that he should not necessarily IC-ly have been as timid about. A third is that I wasn't satisfied with the 8-year-old version I attempted at all. :)

I thought it would be interesting to address some conclusions that I've come to about L, which will hopefully inform what goes on here. I update this as I understand new elements. It's long and rambly, but should be a very comprehensive guide to understanding where he's coming from.

(If you don't want to read observational analysis of the canon character, skip down to the stuff particular to this version. This has been TL,DR for some time now, so I might wind up splitting it into two posts... canon stuff and just-for-DNDR-stuff. Also, the last update was incomplete: I still need to write out what happened while he was at home in early January 2009, which he experienced as late October 2004 to late March or early April 2005.)

A note on characterization of L in RP and fanfic:

Over time, this is what I've noticed about characterization for L, regardless of the choices you make: (I may need to significantly rewrite this section in the future -- some notes, for now...)

First of all, the cardinal sin of L characterization is to make him stupid, particularly if you do so without a really good excuse.

This isn't to say he'll never have to choose between two undesirable situations -- but in that case, he'll think them through.

Beyond that, L has to be more than a random collection of quirks.

It's very tempting (though inaccurate) to play him as:

--- an inability to use contractions in speech
--- a tendency to spout mathematical probabilities
--- bad posture
--- bare feet
--- a weird style of sitting and holding things
--- an insatiable appetite for Desserts of the World
--- and a bunch of little fidgety mannerisms.

(My own problem has been a tendency to try to depict his "lost in thought" tone with a bunch of ellipses and dashes, which has its origins in the manga, but which I'm sure someone is going to spork any day now. Nowadays it's the same inability to use contractions.)

All of those things help with characterization, but they don't bring a character to life as a real person. All they do is give you a cardboard cutout that's recognizable as "L from Death Note" but who may be incapable of development if that's the totality of the "characterization."

So, when I make decisions, for better or for worse, I try to approach them by thinking of what sort of person he is. He's male, he's twenty-five, he has often avoided other people, he seems to like peace and quiet... and so on. Then I try to think of the reasons for some of these elements, then I select the reason that seems the most likely to me.

On any given day this may lead to good characterization or fail characterization -- either way, it's what helps me. So, for the handful of people who have told me that they like the way I write this character... that's what I do and how I do it.

Analysis of the canon character:

Order of Canon Precedence:

1. Manga
2. Anime
3. Another Note
4. Movies (not really "canon" unless you specifically want to discuss movie versions of the characters -- I don't).

Not considered at all in this analysis: Video games, L File No. 15 (those strips are clearly crack and in several places explicitly contradict stuff shown in the Death Note manga and anime, but I mention it here because I've seen people on some of the LJ communities using elements of them to discuss characterization of L).

A note about the L Change the World novelization: this short novel follows movie canon. However, while its premise is similar to that of the film of the same title, the plot and characters are not. L's characterization is pure fanservice -- highly idealized. The small Thai boy from the movie doesn't exist in the book.

It's probably best to consider it its own canon, separate from the anime and manga, with the two live-action films as backstory. That said, while I think L's behavior in it is mostly out-of-character, some people might fill in his backstory with the details included there; he never knew his parents, he keeps a safe house in Arizona, etc. The animanga canon "L thinks Misa is attractive" is amped up to "L has a massive crush on Misa and treasures memorabilia related to her." Etc.

Important aspects

- It's difficult to sort through the things Ohba has L saying and doing, and figure out what is true and what isn't. He's supposed to lie very easily, using it as a tool, so many of the statements he makes to others are suspect. For example, he continually claims to suspect Light at a much lower level than the actual one. Another issue is that he isn't a pathological or compulsive liar (one who can't help himself, or whose lies are grandiose); his lies always seem to have a specific goal or purpose, and their content is often as important as the fact that they're untrue. In other words, when noting that he's lying, I think it's also important to consider what he hopes to accomplish with that specific lie.

- I believe that we can take L's interior monologues at face value, unlike the things he says to others. (I will have to double-check, but I'm almost completely certain that the percentages that are closely associated with him in RP are not part of his interior monologue: mathematical analysis can be useful in his work, but it isn't how he frames a case to himself when he's solving it. Update 1 October 2008: I can find only a single instance of him saying a percentage to himself in the first few manga volumes; not far enough into my reread to state whether he uses them in the Yotsuba arc. He does use them once in Another Note... LOL paid fanfic.)

- It seems that the way he solves cases is to try to "tell himself a story" in which all the elements fit, and keep working with that story until it makes sense, considering and discarding alternative possibilities. Ohba stresses his creativity and logical leaps.

Examples of major lies in the series:

- I do not believe that L was ever the English junior tennis champion; if he had been, he wouldn't have told Light.

I think that he focused on Light fairly early in the investigation, looked into his background and the upcoming milestones of his life (high school graduation, college entrance), and tried to find some ground on which to engage him.

Tennis came up. While I don't think L was necessarily inexperienced in it (Near is the only kid at Wammy's who never seems to play outside), I believe that L spent a lot of time training between late December 2003 and the time of the tennis match, until he felt confident that he was good enough to at least offer a challenge... to a formerly very good player who probably hadn't even picked up a racket in three years.

There is a complete gap in the timeline in which we don't see what L is doing: from around the time of the Toudai entrance exam, to his introduction as Freshman Class Representative. This coincides exactly with when he could have been training. I'd have to double-check the manga, and I'm not sure how much Soichiro really knows about what's going on, but in the anime, on the day of the tennis match, Soichiro says to his boss (Kitamura, IIRC) that, far from hiding or not getting anything done, L is out there risking his life for the investigation. So the team knows he's been up to something, even if they don't know the specifics.

On the off chance that he ever was the English junior tennis champion, it was under a false name. But I doubt he would have had time as a teenager: he was clearly already working as L by that point.

- A more obvious lie: recognizing Misa from Eighteen Magazine and pretending to be a big fan. He recognized her because he had identified her as a suspect and was already planning to arrest her that day.

- Another obvious lie: that L ever, at any point, considers Light a friend. This one comes from Ohba, who says that L probably never likes Light much, and never stops believing that Light is Kira.

About those death scenes

There's a lot in the way Ep 25 is storyboarded that suggests what L is thinking, but in a decision made probably to contribute to the mood of the episode, L's interior monologue has mostly been silenced and we're left to guess what's going on in his head mostly from the composition of shots. (For example, a shot of his eye followed by a shot of Light, his face distorted by a glass step, with an innocent expression and red eyes; this clearly indicates how L is seeing him.) The general lack of information has caused this episode to be interpreted in many ways.

Lack of info is not the case in the relevant manga chapters, where the monologue is downright wordy and supports the concept that L spends the entire last few days of his life obsessing over ways to prove that Light is Kira. I think that's how we're meant to interpret the onscreen adaptation, too.

About that sequel chapter

A less-obvious lie: when L selected Near and Mello as possible sucessors, it was partly because of their hostile body language while all the other kids were interviewing him via webcam. He said in the interview that justice didn't matter to him: he was really more interested in cases as an interesting hobby, and would resort to trickery to solve them, because he just wanted to win.

This is true to some extent (clearly, he wants to win and will "fight dirty"), but I think he specifically said what he did about being completely disinterested in justice because he wanted to see who would react negatively to it. It does not jibe with his interior monologues on the topic. It does jibe with Near's first speech about him ("If you can't solve the puzzle, you're just a loser,") and Near's general dislike of L after that cam meeting (Near says that before that, he worshipped L). But I think the sequel chapter of the manga shows Near coming to an understanding of sorts, in the way he tries to "do what L would do," and how he realizes what that might be.

(Still working on this one, because it appears that HtR13 somewhat contradicts the sequel chapter. A lot of how it's interpreted depends, first of all, on how much you believe that Near did or did not like L, over time -- there are varying statements about it, and also on how you interpret the "nasty look" that Near and Mello had, and what "the meaning of despair" was that Near thought the other children learned. In other words, the chapter -- as it has been scanlated -- is annoyingly ambiguous.)

Update 10/1/08 - Worth noting that it's Obata who says Near doesn't like L very much. Possibly not Ohba's intention. (Am now finding that it's necessary to not just recall things said in interviews, but to recall which of the creators said them.)

Update January 2009 - More recent theory, to be expanded later: this is to weed out the kids who would suffer the burnout associated with Good Samaritan Syndrome if they assumed the role of L. In other words, anyone doing it for reasons of altruism alone will not have the psychological strength required for the job.

At work

- His dealings with criminals are not absolute. He recognizes talent, and may occasionally draft criminals who he could be turning in, after he judges their skills and their psychology. He cuts deals. He'll let a smaller fish go if it helps him get to a bigger fish. (Examples: Aiber, Wedy, and his request to the Japanese police that Second Kira be offered immunity in exchange for helping them -- it's denied, but even then, he wants to go for a lenient sentence.)

- Aiber and Wedy: to be specific, L seems to work with them because they're all interested in what they do for the same reason: the thrill of the game, interesting challenges, and so on.

- He doesn't seem overly concerned with what sentences criminals get once they're brought to justice. There's more to write on this another time.

(For the moment, as a note to myself: references to having Kira executed are mostly goading statements made directly to Kira, especially after the Lind L. Tailor killing. L's first "contact" with Kira consists of Light immediately, with little provocation except some namecalling, making an emotionally-charged and arrogant snap decision to "kill L." When talking about sentences for Kira and Second Kira at other points, he seems pretty personally disinterested, willing to leave it to the government.)

- He strongly believes in delegating tasks that require a level of expertise he lacks. There are also a number of "grunt work" tasks that don't interest him much; he presumably sees them as a waste of his time and skills. I don't know if this is a show of humility in the first case and arrogance in the second, or merely a case of someone having very astute and realistic self-knowledge.

- On the heels of this, [ profile] rinnakins pointed out to me that he's spoiled, and I believe she's right.

- I'm not sure if he's joking about how he knows how to pilot the helicopter. He certainly has some esoteric skills (pickpocketing, for example).

- It isn't necessarily true that he's used to living in hotel rooms (though I play him that way); Light points out that L has the investigation headquarters in a hotel room to avoid leaks that might happen if the headquarters were still in the NPA offices.

- Interpol: I think the room he's living in at the beginning of the story looks surprisingly barren because he's just arrived in Japan, and Watari, who would normally take care of that sort of thing, is busy dealing with Interpol and then the NPA. However, the meeting with Interpol is entirely fictionalized: we're told it takes place at a G8 Summit in late 2003, but the 2003 summit was in France (at Evian-les-Bains) in the summer. Interpol's HQ is in Lyon. Death Note seems to portray the Interpol meeting as taking place in Japan and L as already having traveled there, after identifying Kira's first kill and suspecting that's where the investigation will be based, but it's hard to tell.


- In spite of his diet and seeming inactivity, he's shown several times as being surprisingly wiry.

- His favorite food predominantly seems to be fruit; he also seems to like cake and ice cream, but not together. He drinks both coffee and tea. He does not necessarily over-sweeten them (in several cases where he dumps in quite a lot of sugar, he doesn't actually drink the beverage).

The sweets seem to come in more publicly around Chapter 28 (in v4), or Episode 12, where he eats a few chocolates out of a box while drinking tea (before that, he's shown eating ice cream cones with the rest of the team). His consumption of sweet foods seems to increase as his stress level rises, and there isn't any actual way to tell that he eats this sort of food exclusively or all the time.

(Incidentally, the live-action film version of L seems to have much more of a sweet tooth than the creators initially intended, with his doughnut kebab, his use of a lollipop to stir a hot beverage, and his packages of candy. Manga/anime L is only rarely shown eating candy.)

- Likewise, there's no indication that he "never sleeps" -- the one times when we know he stays up for days in a row are when he's watching the video feed from the Yagami household and when he's watching all the security footage from Aoyama. (Note to self to double-check and see if there's a third or fourth time.)

- I think he bathes (apparently, this has been a topic of hot debate). His hair is a mess, but it never looks dirty; it's always shiny. He probably just smells like soap, though... he wouldn't do much besides bathing, shaving, brushing his teeth, and getting a periodic haircut. We've seen him and his hair when he's claiming to be "depressed" -- it's droopier and less glossy.

(This element used to be in the "particular to this RPG" section, but I found a comment from Obata stating that he envisioned L as a "clean freak," and that's why he chose to have him handling items very delicately. Therefore, I think regular bathing and personal care can be considered canon. He sometimes makes a mess while he eats, but other than that, he looks like he takes care of himself... for instance, he's always clean-shaven. There's a possible argument that he doesn't need to shave, but that's unlikely for a dark-haired man at age 24.)


- I'm very curious about the comment that goes something like, "That's normal for a seventeen-year-old boy... I was into some weird things when I was that age...." (The fact that I've seen it translated three different ways doesn't help.)

- Don't even get me started on the Asperger Syndrome topic. There's no way on earth that he's meant to be read as having it: the inability to read nonverbal cues from others would have kept him from working as a detective, and he lacks anything resembling the characteristic speech issues or "restricted and repetetive interests and behavior." Furthermore: he's dextrous, he can act, and so on.

He really doesn't have any of the symptoms strongly identified with the disorder, and most of the "diagnoses" I've seen involve significant confirmation bias. Poor social skills are par for the course for people as smart as him. (Of course, others can choose to play him this way if it floats their boat, but I have a strong belief that this interpretation is very far from canon.)

- I had a recent discussion with another RPer who contacted me about potentially joining their game. Ultimately I decided that I didn't have the time, but the conversation was still interesting and productive. One of the things that was said in it, pretty much right off the bat, was that this other RPer thought that L is "clearly crazy, and probably not very functional outside of solving his cases." This threw me for a loop, because for a few minutes, I wondered where that interpretation was coming from.

Then I remembered. The idea that L is insane comes largely from the anime, and that, largely from the infamous "bells" line. The thing is, it doesn't exist in the manga, which means it wasn't part of the initial character concept.

Even in the anime, what we have is not "L is crazy; this line proves it!" but "L says one thing, in one scene, which makes him sound a little off; however, he has very obviously set the scene up as a 'sneak attack' confrontation, and his odd statement drives the scene." That interpretation doesn't preclude mental illness; it's just all we can say if we take the scene at face value.

I don't personally think that L has any major disorders. His deviousness and calculation make it unlikely, and I think that trying to pathologize his traits makes him less interesting. Someone can be super-intelligent, awkward, and callous without necessarily being "sociopathic," "insane," "austistic" or whatever; in fact, if they're super-intelligent, awkwardness is likely to follow, and callousness is also a distinct possibility. It's normal for high IQs and certain personality types. (More on this, I hope, another time.)

- The take on the character in Death Note: Another Note seems to indicate a nicer person than the one in the manga or the anime, whose bastardry is more immediately apparent.

- I don't agree with what appears to be "the yaoi-obsessed fangirl interpretation" of the whole "movie theater" scene in the first Rewrite special (which is that L is masturbating in the movie theater just before meeting Light there). It's so unprofessional as to be out-of-character, and not in line with pretty much any of the rest of his depicted behavior.

(That said, there's nothing wrong with being a yaoi-obsessed fangirl, some of my best friends, etc. -- only that I've noticed that the people who defend that interpretation of the scene are all doing it from that vantage point and not a characterization-related one.)

- Over on this post at [ profile] i_rp_dn, Saulie (who has written some of the best DN fic I've read, definitely the best L in a DN fic) said:

& speaking of L, L is what he is: a creature of intuition and analysis & kind of an asshole. He has a taste for victory but more for challenge--not unlike Light, to whom he's extremely similar, except that he lacks Light's naivete & enthusiasm for morality. L is hungry for something else, too, but God knows what & he doesn't believe in God.

I think that's a really good encapsulation, except that I would describe L and Light as parallels -- foils for each other -- rather than as similar, per se. There are similarities, but they serve to set off the differences.

Big in Japan

I think it's important, when attempting to analyze L as a character, particularly in terms of how "weird" he is or isn't, to remember that he was initially created for a Japanese audience.

There are things that he does that would definitely seem odd or rude to Japanese people, for very specific cultural reasons, that wouldn't really cause an American or European to blink an eye. For example, he doesn't greet the NPA task force with anything resembling proper Japanese manners -- the average non-Japanese person may recognize his greeting as rude, but probably won't realize how incredibly rude it actually was.

(In fact, it's my opinion that L would seem eccentric to most Americans, but not robot-alien-level weird in the way in which he's sometimes depicted in fanfic. I think the most off-putting thing about him would probably be his messy eating; his wealth would excuse most of the rest.)

Dating, sex, and relationships

- I don't think there is really any believable romance in Death Note, aside from Misa's obsession and Soichiro and Sachiko's marriage. 

I feel that it is difficult to engage L in a romantic plot (yaoi or het, either way) and remain in character. So, personally, I really don't ship him with anyone. Maybe cake.

(Actually, the only non-canon ship in DN that I can kind of see working for the canon characters is "Misa/Matsuda, if Misa got over her obsession with Light.")

This doesn't mean that I'm not willing to RP those plotlines, just that I struggle to find ways to make them work while staying IC.

Apart from that, I don't think he really has time for relationships; they are antithetical to his lifestyle, and he probably wouldn't be much fun to date. He's a workaholic who moves around a lot.

I also feel that he probably wouldn't have a problem feigning interest in someone, yaoi or het, up to and including a physical relationship, if he thought it would help him solve his case. This is suggested both through character analysis AND through the fact that he asks Amnesia!Light to do the same thing with Misa, and seems surprised and disappointed that Light rejects the idea. I think that has to do with "a test" -- Kira wouldn't have a problem with the manipulation -- but also to do with what L is willing to do to win. (I also think that, while he would do it himself if he had to, he'd probably rather have someone else do it.)

Therefore, if yaoi is the rule of the day, and involves a relationship with Light that begins during Light's confinement, I think seme is more believable for L. Light would only be involved with him during that period, and Light is not very seme at that time.

Things particular to this L, based on the above, or what I think is most likely based on other canonical information:

Interpersonal relationships: He doesn't have many, but there are several people you mess with at your peril:
--- Hurt [ profile] misamisal, and he will fuck your shit up hard; he's in love with her, or what qualifies as love for him (given that he's an emotionally-inexperienced control freak).
--- Mess with [ profile] emo_raito, and you will find yourself feeling equally unfortunate; this is "his" Light Yagami, and in spite of their tense interactions, he still sees himself as responsible for his suspect-in-custody (hint: if something happens to Light in the Mansion, L won't be able to bring him to justice in the real world). While I still think that he would have some proprietary feelings towards this character, particularly related to his inability to pin guilt in the Kira case on him as much as he deserved, the player wanted to drop the character, and at this writing (1/2009) it has been months since he's made more than the occasional cameo appearance.
--- He generally tries to behave in a calm, kindly, avuncular manner to any children in the Mansion, although he doesn't appreciate being put into any position where he has to babysit them.
--- Enmities: He's a pretty good judge of body language, evasiveness, and so on. If a version of Light is actively Kira, he will probably suss it out quickly (Kira!Light and innocent!Light each have very specific physicalities, and he's seen concrete examples of both). In general, if a character is evil (or mentally unstable in a way that isn't harmless), he will probably suss it out and dislike them.

(I used to keep a list of characters he especially liked and disliked, but so many players have cycled in and out of DNDR, and I am less active there than I used to be, that it became difficult to keep the list current.)

- Why is he shipped? Initially, to drive a plot. For various reasons (timing issues, mostly) the plot became unworkable, by which point a breakup would have been OOC for both him and [ profile] misamisal; also, we found that we liked the pairing a lot and decided to let it develop.

The idea is that he is normally a fairly self-contained individual, but the absence of meaningful work to do made him more open to other distratctions. He has expanded his personal bubble to include his girlfriend. He's not the most emotionally-available person in the world, and tends to be more controlling than not, but does mean well.

Although he is mostly kind to her, I try really hard not to let it go into woobification. His involvement in a romantic relationship doesn't change his behavior towards anyone but his girlfriend. If elements of the relationship are dragged into the open (other than the fact of its existence and certain things that follow from that, like his protectiveness and possessiveness), he tends to feel that his privacy has been violated.

Taking away the whole yaoi angle but still considering the seme thing, he's a little bit controlling, in a protective way rather than an abusive one, and often on the dominant side in bed.

(One of these days I'll add a section to this post called "How to ship your L IC-ly," although it will irritate people because A - many think it can't be done, and B - a number of others have done it in an OOC way and might take it personally. Basically: One ship. Monogamous. Control freak. The relationship can be experimental or devoted, but some major trust has to be involved. Either way, if it ends, he considers it a failed experiment and declares himself Single For Life. He will not be ~a changed man~; he will be L with a girlfriend or boyfriend. This is only my take, and only applicable to canon-ish versions.)


- If you meet him, he rarely shakes hands. This doesn't mean that he dislikes you, or that he likes you; he's extremely selective about touching other people, and about who touches him.

- He almost never laughs out loud, or smiles an unguarded smile that reaches his eyes. This doesn't mean that his smaller smiles are fake: some are, some aren't. He laughs a lot -- many things are amusing to him -- but his laughs are dry, controlled little chuckles, snorts, "ha!"s and "heh."s that are often interrupted by his next sentence.

- In general, he is rarely performative of his emotions, though there are a few circumstances where he will let his guard down.

- He has been sleeping a lot more at The Mansion than he might in canon, for a few reasons.
--- Nobody is delivering a constant supply of caffeine and sugar to him, and his body has adapted.
--- At this writing, he's getting laid pretty regularly; it's natural for the hormonal rush to knock a man out. He has made comments to his girlfriend attributing it to how she helps him sleep, but is aware that it's physiological more than emotional, in spite of what he lets her think.
--- It's also possible that the lighting conditions in this place are a contributing factor... it's rare to see real day or night.

- I've given him a soft spot for orphans, and street kids who might as well be orphans; he feels lucky not to have been homeless or destitute. He has more money than he knows what to do with, but entitled behavior outside of an investigation irritates him.

- He has to be somewhat more truthful in the DNDR Mansion than he would be otherwise: he has found since coming there that everyone knows his business anyway, that most people there will quickly reveal it to anyone who doesn't, and so on. Lying the way he normally would is useless in this situation, and he's enough of a strategist to give it up.

Update: the above was mostly about information related to the Kira case. However, I still think that the lying has to be handled strategically: just doing it "because L lies" doesn't really work in this setting.

In canon, most of his outright lies are directed at Light (the biggest whopper is "You're my first-ever friend"). Most of his lies to the rest of the team are sins of omission: not telling them he's having them investigated by FBI agents, not telling them he's set up funds in case they have any financial trouble, and so on.

- In general, he is uncomfortable with the concept of other Ls being around. He does not feel negatively towards them, but he has quietly shied away from encounters with them and is seldom happy to see them.

(The reasoning for this? His experience with B, and statements in Another Note that suggest that L imitators were found and always punished harshly. I think that he'd feel, in a room full of doubles, as if he were in a room full of imitators, some of whom might be like B. Rationally, though, he'd know this wasn't the case, so he wouldn't refuse to talk to other Ls. His attitude towards them generally improves as he spends time with a given analogue.)

- I don't know if I've been doing this from the beginning, but I try hard to give him a British frame of reference with regard to product names, etc. So, if he needs to take medication for a headache, he takes Paracetamol/Panadol, not Acetaminophen/Tylenol. Bruises get Nurofen rather than Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen is still correct, though). Colds get Lemsip, not Theraflu, and Night Nurse, not NyQuil.

- On the occasion of age-reversal (to eight), he didn't turn out as calculating as I wanted him to be; he wound up more enthusiastic than I'd planned, and more eager to please adults, less manipulative. His voice was an attempt at a younger, slightly more vulnerable Adrian Mole with hints at a dark side.

That's Entertainment: Leisure time

- I don't believe that a canonical L has any interest in pop culture whatsoever, except the things he needs to know to stay current. For example, he would know who a famous actress is, and what she looks like, but he probably hasn't seen any of her movies.

- I also don't think he reads for pleasure. He could -- he's just not interested; he's too busy. He's more likely to scan news sources and police reports, or find some puzzle or other to solve, or try to pick up some skill that he thinks might be useful. Most published puzzles probably aren't that much of a challenge to him, though... I could see him having a quiet sideline in *creating* puzzles for publication.

([ profile] undrwo, who has a well-written L, [ profile] ijk_mno, who is very bookish in comparison to mine, thinks that he probably reads on planes, but I kind of thought that would be a time when he'd scour newspapers and maybe do some writing of his own. So that's what I went with. Neither is a bad interpretation.)

Update: because the mansion setting affords a lot of day-to-day leisure time, he has become a reader. Sometimes he reads things I think might interest him; other times he reads things like Mann's The Magic Mountain because of the parallels between the hero's situation (living in a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps for many years with a variety of eccentric characters, having a difficult time getting clearance to leave, and falling in love with another patient) and his own.

- That said, since Firm-Detective's Light is a music-obsessed emo kid, I thought it would be entertaining to give this L a favorite band, too. I figured that, because he was a child/teen in England in the late 80s and early 90s, he might like New Order. He doesn't listen to much other music, but "True Faith" is his favorite song. He also really likes "Ceremony." He appreciates The Cure but has not paid as much attention to them; he likes the song "Close to Me."

Other than that, if he listens to music at all, it will mostly be certain string pieces -- moody and passionate, but ultimately not distracting. (I think he would like this Bach cello suite that was famously used in Blood Plus, but it would be something that he heard being played when he was a child... Watari would have given him the cd. See also this video for an amazing interpretation with no anime tie-ins.) Classic jazz might be an option, too.

Out and about

I also think that he very occasionally goes out and walks around. It's not that he hides in a room all the time, it's that L is never seen as L, or introduced to any other investigators he works with, before he gets involved in the Kira case. This is not to say that he really wants to be out and around, just that it's reasonable to assume that he leaves the house now and then. He has no problem doing it at To-oh University, so it's clearly not new for him.

I'm really not sure how "canonical" we can see Death Note: Another Note as being, but in that story, he shows up in beaten-up shoes, the same ones he wears elsewhere, suggesting two things.

One is what I'm already saying (that he really has no problems walking around now and then as a "private citizen" around people who have no idea who he is); the other is that those shoes have seen some use, though I wouldn't be surprised if he's had them since he was fifteen or sixteen years old. Anyway, Mello also describes him as "a very active and aggressive individual" (rather than "an armchair detective" or "a computer detective").

In other words, I think he enjoys and takes advantage of his anonymity -- when he has time.

In DNDR: Some of the other players have chosen to emphasize his inquisitiveness, with regard to the Mansion. I've chosen to emphasize his wariness. I can see the value of both portrayals.

However, for me it feels more IC for him to avoid "stunt rooms that might mess with his head" as much as possible, so you will rarely, if ever, find him in a room that -- for example -- turns him into a superhero or genderswaps him.

This is changing over time, as rooms trick him into entering (often by being disguised as kitchens), and as he has more interpersonal connections.

How did he get the nickname "Bitchy"?

My take on the character was initially a little bit bitchier than the canon version, because I figure that the Emo version of Light probably really gets on his nerves.

However, he also feels protective of Emo Light, as far as not wanting a suspect to die in his custody. Therefore, he occasionally lies to Light, mostly to try to perk him up. (An example of this: there was an exchange to the effect of "Hey, Light, stop being so depressed, chances are I won't ever find any proof that you're Kira and you'll be able to go free." He was telling himself that he was lying because he felt that Light might try to kill himself. At the time, though, L had just been shaken by something that happened to him in the Truth Room: a humiliating revelation he never wanted to make.)

Nowadays, he isn't really so "bitchy" (until crossed, anyway); mostly that now refers to his tendency to be sarcastic. I have to admit that a characterization challenge for me is not to let his voice get too infected with any of the following: the Tenth Doctor, Dr. Venture, Benjamin Linus. Once in a while I catch myself giving him a line that would have been more appropriate for one -- or all -- of them. Those times tend to be him at his bitchiest.

Family history

I wrote some family history for the profile page, but it was long enough to seem inappropriate there.

--- His mother was half-English (her father), half-Japanese (her mother) -- a product of WWII.
--- His paternal grandparents were both half-Russian and half-French; his Russian great-grandparents escaped the Revolution and lived in Paris in the 1920s, eventually marrying French nationals; their Russo-French children married in France just following WWII.
--- His mother met his father in Paris in the early 1970s and dropped out of University (where she was a Philosophy major) to be with him... ah, young bohemians.
--- His father worked for a scientific publisher at the time of his death.
--- His mother was writing her dissertation when she died, and liked Bertrand Russell.
--- His mother's pet name for him as a child was "my Eller Feller."
--- His mother and father died in a house fire (caused by electrical problems) in 1985 or so, and he doesn't remember them very well, unless he's age-reversed to when he met Watari or before. (However, although he was rescued from the fire by a neighbor, he retained a deep fear of dying in a fire for much of the rest of his early childhood.)

He investigated all this because he became curious when he was younger; then he destroyed all the remaining records. He knows that being an orphan is difficult for many, but after a little while in "the system," he was brought into a situation that was ideal for him, so he's never had much of a complex about it. Nor has he retained the fear of fire.

[Incidentally, I freely admit that the "his parents died in a fire!" scenario is epic fail: let that be a lesson to those who invent backstory randomly because they're bored and want an excuse to jump into a thread (ahem). I needed to give him a childhood fear, and I went with being trapped in a fire. Now I'm stuck with it, and the attendant self-loathing, for approximately ever.]

Miscellaneous personal history

- Another small "personal history" thing that has been established: he hurt his ankle when he was 17. The injury was bad enough to require a course of narcotic painkillers. He disliked the side effects of the medication: it nauseated him and made him sleepy.

The Good and Evil Room

DNDR has a room that splits characters into dualistic/Manichaean personalities: one has all the "positive" elements of the character's psyche; the other is "negative"; the two can interact with each other and the good and evil elements of other characters. L's traits in that room:

GOOD (in cadetblue) - more tactful, friendlier, more concerned with justice, more overtly caring, moral but will lie or break own code if the reason is good enough, intelligent, loving (to misa - genuine emotional attachment), second-guesses himself, shy, not passive -- but willing to let things be. Nicer than canon!L -- less manipulative.

EVIL (in darkred) - openly contemptuous, amoral, speaks his mind more, also lies, callous (no empathy), calculating, competitive, aggressive, arrogant, using misa for sex and information. Not shy, just cold. Will use and discard others. Like canon!L but with NO ethical strictures or humility or inner goodness.

One day maybe I'll get around to setting it up in a table.


I studied it when I was younger; it works for me for occasional post titles.

Being manipulative?

It's taken me a while to really understand how I could play this element of his personality. As of mid-May, 2008, he's at a point where he habitually tells half-truths for his own reasons, even to people he likes. The difficulty in playing this is that I don't think he's a skilled social engineer, just a very good, relatively frequent liar. It would be easy to go too far with it. He would say that he's just keeping his cards close to his chest, or something along those lines.

In this thread, he has just become involved with misamisal (a Misa who is smarter than the canon one, has lost any allegiance to Light, and who has given L enough information to save his life, if he ever gets back to his own universe).

I should begin by saying that he might not have gotten into the relationship if he were not more bored than he's been since he can remember, and he wouldn't have pursued her if she hadn't both given him the information that she did, which jibes completely with his own waylaid investigation, and told him very clearly that she was interested in him.

That said, he's been genuinely attracted to her since he met her, and he's not faking his emotions at all.

They have returned to his room in the Mansion after running into "his" B in the bar. B behaved, predictably, like a creepy stalker; the encounter was worrying enough that Misa is spending the night in L's room, something that has never happened before. He lies to or manipulates her at least five times in the course of the thread, though his intentions are never negative... mostly, he just wants her on his side.

What exactly does he do?

He knows that she's strongly sympathetic to animals and children, so he makes a point of emphasizing the Quarter Queen murder, the only one of B's victims who wasn't an adult. If he were not being manipulative, he would only have told her that there were three victims, and would never have told her the bludgeoning detail. He has many reasons for this one, probably excusable.

He tells her he "doesn't have much to do" with the way Wammy's House has become an "L-factory" full of "hero-worshipping" kids; this is not true. (People shouldn't know this IC, but he'll always claim to have much less say in that situation than he actually has. However, what he says about doing what he can for the kids is also true.) Why? Because it's nobody's business, and he anticipates negative responses.

He tells her, vaguely, that "This is why [he doesn't] have personal attachments," and allows her to believe that he means, "Because it might make others unsafe." What he actually means is, "Because it would give people tools to use against me, and might make me unsafe." This is not to say that he doesn't care about her or her safety, only that his past habit of not getting close to people was not altruistic in any way.

There are several more minor things:

--- He never had any intention of sleeping on the sofa, but he wanted her to feel that she's in control of the relationship's pace. Also, he lets it slip that, until getting into this relationship, he's been bored ("now, I feel like I have nothing but time").

--- When talking about "people who have something wrong with them," he says, "You don't strike me as one of them, exactly"; "Exactly" is a veiled reference to her stint as the Second Kira.

--- Finally, in this comment, he sounds "innocently curious," but that's a calculation on his part; his question is intended to confirm what he already suspects.

--- He also seems rather detached after she falls asleep, don't you think? Yet it's more out of compartmentalization than disinterest.

Also, I'm a little bit disappointed that nobody has yet noticed that the mood on every single one of his private entries (written posts) or interior monologues (thought posts) is "hungry." ;)


On another note, a mun in another game described her character's conversation with one of my other Ls in the following way:

It is really fucking funny. It's all "INQUIRY MINDGAMES CREEPY PRYING SUDDENCAKEATTACK FRENCHNESS MORE CAKE". Awesome. Tres awesome.

I was like, "I think you just described L in a nutshell."

(On the other hand, another nutshell description, from F!S: That is L from Death Note. He's supposed to be this super mysterious genius independent detective who sometimes allows the police to consult him on cases which interest him. He also has really silly posture and eats a lot of candy, but everyone still fangirls him anyway.

My weak protest: "Um, he only eats a lot of candy in the live-action versions... it's more of a generalized sweet tooth with a lot of fruit in the manga and anime...." :\ )


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May 2012

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