What Is Light Yagami’s IQ In Death Note?

    There are very few characters as complex as Light Yagami, and his IQ had little to do with it.

    A few months back, I did an article that compared the IQ of some basic protagonists to Light Yagami‘s and got superheated by it. Like, first of all, you don’t need to know Light’s IQ to know he could ratio almost every other copycat main character that came after him. Like, he’s the blueprint for that trope. But I can see why people were doing it. After all, Death Note was sort of the standard anime when it came to cunning characters and a serious plot.

    So, when you ask what Light Yagami’s IQ is, it’s kind of a loaded question. Light Yagami has a base IQ of 211, which already sets him as one of the smartest people in the franchise. He consistently got good grades, was an honor student, etc. But that’s the thing, it wasn’t his information retention that made him a cut above the rest, but his strategizing and exceptional attention to detail that almost got him out scot-free from being arrested as ‘Kira’ the murderer.

    I mean, there’s a reason why people keep coming back to Death Note and talking about it, even after a decade of its ending. The characters are just so well-written, with each of them having different motivations and morals that influence their actions. But most importantly, it doesn’t glorify the main characters like other anime in a similar vein. Yes, Light may have the highest IQ and have outsmarted everyone in his path, but that doesn’t mean he could keep doing it forever. Because in the end, cunning can only take you so far.

    And it’s when that ego becomes megalomania that a character becomes interesting. Will they fall or will they soar? I mean, the answer to that is what Death Note is. It’s why other ‘super cool’ protagonists in anime feel so bland when compared. Being clever doesn’t absolve you from faults. And that’s what we’ll explore in today’s Character Analysis with Light Yagami and how his IQ couldn’t save him from the one thing he should’ve watched out for most: Himself.

    Light Yagami: ‘Coolness’ Is Multi-Faceted

    Light Yagami Kira Death Note

    So, let’s first discuss how Light Yagami was not the protagonist of his series. Unlike characters like, say, Kiyotaka Ayanokoji from Classroom Of the Elite, he isn’t as flat-noted as to be coded like the hero while providing no nuance. Make no mistake, Death Note isn’t the story of a good guy falling from a pedestal. It’s a cautionary tale.

    Light Yagami is all of the things that other ‘edgy’ protagonists get to brag about with their high IQ and good looks. But where he differs from the mold is that he went off the deep path, properly. There was no ‘fear of corruption’, he was tainted the moment he got the power in his hands to decide the fate of others. Yes, he had good intentions, going after those who justice had evaded but even that line started to blur when he stopped going after criminals and had to clean up the mess he left behind.

    An Anti-Hero Without Redemption

    Light Yagami Kira Death Note

    Of course, he wrote it off as sacrificing a few for the ‘greater good’ of mankind. But it is that kind of justification that showed that Light Yagami’s IQ didn’t matter as much as his humanity. The moment he started justifying the deaths of those by his hand that wasn’t horrendous criminals, he was lost. There was nothing more to it, and his IQ couldn’t save him from the consequences of his actions.

    Does that mean he wasn’t an absolute genius to follow throughout the series? No, see that’s the thing: He was. Watching the to and from between him and L Lawliet is what made the show fun beyond the supernatural aspect. That battle of the wits is what made Death Note so unique at a time when Shonen anime was all the rage.

    So, when you see him go to the ‘Dark Side’, you expect a redemption arc. However, that’s the thing that Death Note did right because there was no saving Light. His IQ got him far, but it also became Light Yagami’s biggest weakness. Because he might’ve been smart enough to pull off the deceiving act once, but not always.

    But would that mean the way he bested L was a fluke? No, it just meant that in his panic he started slipping. After all the blood he had on his hands, it was going to come back to bite him. And no matter what good he did initially, the moment he wrote L’s name in the Death Note, it sealed his own fate.

    Why Light Yagami’s IQ Remains Unmatched To this Day:

    Light Yagami Kira Death Note

    However, just because he was caught, doesn’t deter from the fact that he was one of the most interesting characters to come out of mainstream anime at the time. Light Yagami’s IQ aside, it’s how he carried himself that is so different from the protagonists we see.

    And, let’s be honest, there are hints of his influence in characters like Ayanokoji. But whereas Light feels like a full-bodied character with faults, these other characters end up feeling like pale imitations. Light Yagami’s IQ is 211, which is already unheard of in anime. But even when a character is written with a higher IQ, it doesn’t end up meaning much because they don’t hold the same nuance. Like, their so-called ‘genius reputation’ doesn’t feel earned, the way it does with Light.

    You can write a character having a high IQ, but none of that matters if the enemies they are going against are shallow with cunning rivaled by 12-year-olds. With Death Note, the stakes were genuinely so high, that we didn’t need to know whether Light Yagami’s IQ could handle it. We demonstrated it, time and time again, with every plan and plot twist that unfolded. It’s why we don’t have any recent protagonist that comes even remotely close to being as complex as Light. Because the supporting cast was just as compelling and pushed Light constantly.

    In the end, Light Yagami didn’t survive. He died playing a game that would offer him salvation, finished by the same hubris that raised him above. And yet, I bet you he can still end any ‘smarter’ protagonist in a battle of the mind if it came to that.


    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi is a writer, licensed dentist and certified Uchiha fangirl. When she isn't doing root canals or listing down anime waifus, you can find her screeching about her favorite JRPGs across social media.

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