The recent controversy over the bullshit Death Note whitewashing has caused me to crave the original version of Death Note, specifically the animated series. I will admit that while I am a fan of this anime, I have never actually finished it, thanks to L’s untimely death. To this day, I still don’t know much about how the show ends. Now, however, on top of my own desire to watch it again, my husband wants to watch it for the first time. So after many years I am set to finally finish this series, but it has been so long since I have watched this anime that upon beginning my re-watch, I immediately noticed things I missed the first time around. I still adore this anime and think it is extremely well done, but I couldn’t help but dislike the treatment of the character Naomi Misora.
Spoilers for Death Note below.
In Death Note, Naomi Misora is the fiancée of FBI agent Raye Penber and a former FBI agent herself. She was in fact one of the best FBI agents and worked with L on a case in Los Angeles. However, she gave up her career when she became engaged to Raye. There are many issues with how this is portrayed in the anime. In the anime, Raye has been following Light at L’s request and stops a bus jacking orchestrated by Light. When Naomi learns about how the bus jacker was immediately killed when he ran off the bus and was hit by a car, she points out that the circumstances seem both convenient and suspicious. Instead of listening to his future wife and former amazing FBI agent, Raye yells at her that she is no longer an agent and is going to be his wife, so she needs to stop acting like an agent. Yikes! The whole scene is so demeaning and disgusting it makes you wonder why Naomi even wants to marry a misogynistic man who is also not nearly as brilliant as she is.
While Naomi’s love for Raye and her anger at his murder at the hands of Kira are supposed to be the catalysts to her investigation of the elusive murderer Kira, we never really care about their relationship. At first, Raye seems like an interesting and sympathetic character who just happened to be investigating a really dangerous person, but when we later see him belittle Naomi, he instantly becomes less likeable. Series villain Light is an absolute ass and a terrible person, and though he is a great bad guy, I never actually liked him or sympathized with him. Because of this, I was always excited when anyone came close to figuring out that Light was Kira. So when Naomi points out that what happened on the bus was suspicious and Raye dismisses her and silences her, as an audience member you don’t only hate him but also become extremely frustrated with him. Naomi’s intelligence, drive, and insight helps you immediately connect with her, but after Raye showed his true colors in not appreciating her skills, I couldn’t help but be happy when he died. However, because their relationship was portrayed so poorly, it’s hard to understand why Naomi was so heartbroken over Raye’s death. Basically, you have to forget who Raye was as a person and just sympathize with the fact that Naomi lost someone she cares about while you cheer for her to find someone more worthy of her.
Naomi quickly figures out that whoever Raye showed his ID to the day of the bus jacking had to be Kira. She also figures out something that L and his associates have yet to realize—Kira can kill in other ways than just a heart attack. The first season of Death Note is basically one giant pissing match between L and Light, who are clearly two of the smartest people alive. Then in walks Naomi, who promptly figures nearly everything out in about two episodes. Light only lucks out that he ran into Naomi at the police station when he went to drop off clothes for his father, the chief of police, and hears her explain that she has vital information about Kira. He tries to gain her trust, but Naomi is still cautious. She refuses to give her real name and frightens Light more by revealing that she worked with L before. Despite Naomi’s intelligence, she eventually gives Light her name and he is able to kill her, but apparently that wasn’t the original plan.
Unfortunately, Naomi’s intelligence didn’t only cause problems with Raye, but with Death Note’s creator Tsugumi Ohba himself. Naomi figured out vital information about Kira before L did and even manages to outsmart Light for a little while. Light eventually lies and preys on Naomi’s emotions about Raye. Light claims that he is a part of the task force hunting Kira, like Raye was, and tells her that she’s smart and capable and talented and should be on the task force too. He says all he needs is Naomi’s ID and he can recommend that she be assigned to the task force to find Kira and get her revenge. Naomi gives up her ID and Light is then able to write her name in the Death Note, forcing her to commit suicide. Before the Death Note takes effect, Light reveals to Naomi that he is Kira and her eyes widen in horror before she is forced to kill herself. It’s an incredibly tragic and stupid moment. Naomi seems far too intelligent and important to be killed off so easily, and that was apparently the problem. According to the Death Note wiki page, the creator realized Naomi was too smart and figured everything out, which means that her presence messed up the rest of the story he had planned, so he killed her off. The wiki page states:
Naomi’s character was originally intended to have a larger role in the storyline which included investigating possible suspects for the Kira Case and expanded interaction with her fiancé. However, once Raye’s character was killed, author Tsugumi Ohba believed that having Naomi search for Kira was a “natural and interesting development” in the story. Within the cast of characters at the time Sayu Yagami was the only notable female. In adding Naomi, Ohba could finally have the “cool” female character he had always wanted. He initially planned for Naomi to have a long involvement in the story but underestimated the character’s deductive abilities. Because she was able to uncover crucial plot information “faster than…thought,” Ohba decided to end her character early or face complications with the story development later on. He described the storyline issue of Naomi as the greatest difficulty that he created for himself since the beginning of the series.
This is incredibly frustrating to me. So the author recognized that he needed female characters because the series was sorely lacking them, and so created Naomi to fill that role, only to have “underestimated” her detective skills and felt forced to kill her off because of them. I’m sorry? Do we live in a fantasy world where characters are actually living people? I’ll admit that as a character writer myself I often let the characters dictate and change the story. Still, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t change anything about the characters if I wanted. Naomi was born with great detective skills; Tsugumi Ohba wrote her with those skills. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Couldn’t she have been written as a little more skeptical about the scope of Kira’s powers or have her investigation drawn out for at least longer than two episodes? The worst thing to me is that not only is Naomi given a sexist fiancé and is killed off because she was more skilled than any of the male characters, but she is also shown as being manipulated by Kira through her emotions. So while the author was sad about killing her off, he still took the most sexist route to do it, showing Naomi as a “weak woman” who can be easily manipulated emotionally. The fact that Kira reveals himself right before taking control of her body and forcing her to kill herself even when she is moments away from the police station and hope is in reach is just the icing is on the terrible cake.
Naomi is one of the only notable female characters in Death Note aside from Misa Amane, but we sadly don’t get enough screen time with her and her character is punished for being smart. It’s remarkably unfair. Naomi could have both been a part of the investigation team and Raye’s fiancée. We could have seen more of her relationship with L and how her intelligence is what causes him to respect and trust her so much. Instead, sadly, what we get is a female character who is belittled, abused, then killed. It’s more than a little upsetting. As long as the live-action show is cavalierly erasing parts of the original show, I hope they consider erasing Raye and turning Naomi into a truly cool character who has more of a role in the main plot.