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L Lawliet, commonly referred to by his alias "L", is considered the world's greatest detective, and he takes on the Kira investigation in the first arc. In the anime, L is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in the Japanese version and Alessandro Juliani in the English version.
His date of birth is Halloween of 1979, making him 25 when he dies on November 5, 2004. His height and weight are 179cm/50kg (5'10"/110lbs.), which would have meant he was severely underweight. It is implied that L was a former resident of Wammy's House, one of Watari's orphanages, as well as a safe haven and educational facility specifically for intellectually-gifted children. Therefore, similar to Near and Mello, L's abilities were discovered while living there, and he is most likely an orphan.
L, who also uses the aliases Hideki Ryuga, Ryuzaki, Eraldo Coil, and Deneuve, the latter two for which he has developed reputations as the second- and third-best detectives in the world, is quite secretive and only communicates with the world through his assistant Watari. He never shows his face to the world, instead representing himself with a capital L in Old English 5 Font. After meeting the Kira investigation team, he requests that the task force refer to him as Ryuzaki for discretion. Even the Kira investigation team never learns his true name.
His disheveled and languid appearance masks his great powers of deduction and insight. He tends to second-guess everything he is presented with, and is extremely meticulous and analytical. He has several quirks such as preferring to crouch rather than sit, eating only sweet foods like desserts and fruits, and holding items very delicately. L stayed in England for five years, and during that time he was the champion in tennis for the England Junior Cup. L also secretly assumes the identities of the world's second and third best detectives, (Eraldo Coil and Deneuve respectively) a fact he and the Kira Investigation Team members keep to themselves.
L suspects early in the investigation that Light Yagami is Kira, but can not obtain any concrete evidence. In several situations, Light's seems to be proven innocent by the circumstances, but L remains skeptical. If Light were Kira, the case would be solved, and L has trouble letting go of this simple and complete solution.
Because of his initial suspicions of Light, L decides to join To-Oh University, the university that Light attends, using the name of Hideki Ryuga for investigative purposes. After L introduces himself as Ryuga, Light does not attempt to kill him since the name is conspicuously fake. Also, he has no way to know at the time whether the person is the real L or a proxy acting under orders. Light also reasons that L would have already introduced himself to Light's father earlier, and thus that if he somehow killed L, he would be easily uncovered as Kira. Light also fears that if he wrote Hideki Ryuga into the Death Note, that the face of the pop singer from which the alias was derived would enter his head, and would be killed by accident, which would lead L to the obvious conclusion that Light is Kira.
Although L can not shake the conclusion that Light is the first Kira, Light is the only person L had ever identified or connected with, and he openly stated on one occasion that even though it would hurt his pride to admit that he has been wrong, he hopes that he would be. Despite Kira being L's opponent, at the core, Light and L share many traits, including extraordinary intelligence and strong opinions of what constitutes true justice. Furthermore, L can easily present his conclusions publicly at any time, and with his reputation, is taken seriously. In Chapter 58, Light tricks Rem into killing L for his own personal gain, making her believe that she must kill him for the sake of Misa's life. L's last sight before death is Light triumphantly smiling over his defeated rival, and in his last moment L confirms to himself that Light is the first Kira.
In chapter 38 of the manga, L suggests that even though he eats only sweet foods, he remains underweight because the brain uses the most calories of any organ in the body. He also says that if he sits normally, his reasoning ability would drop 40%.
In the anime's finale, an apparition of L appears before the dying Light, who closes his eyes in the same fashion L does in the 25th episode.
As there is no time delay between the first and second films, the second film begins soon before L supposedly dies. L retains many of the same characteristics seen in the original series. At the end of the first film, L eats potato chips in front of Light; Light had used a potato chip sack to hide a four hundred dollar mini LCD television from security cameras while L filmed his room.
Unlike the manga and anime, in the second film, his original "death", caused by Rem writing his name in her Death Note, does not take effect, as L had written his own name in Misa's Death Note earlier. It is his self-sacrifice that allows himself stay alive for a longer duration (as he supposed Kira would kill him on that day), and allows the investigation team to apprehend Light. After Ryuk kills Light, Ryuk offers L the Death Note. L refuses, and Ryuk, saying that L is "no fun", leaves.
Twenty-three days after writing his name in the Death Note, and after burning all the remaining Death Notes and having a conversation with Soichiro, L dies peacefully while eating a chocolate bar, with a picture of Watari lying right beside him. He is portrayed by Ken'ichi Matsuyama, who also voices Jealous in the anime.