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L Lawliet widely known by the letter L, is a fictional character in the manga series Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.
Considered the world's greatest detective, he lives in secrecy. During the story, he acts as the main antagonist to Light Yagami, otherwise known as the mass-murderer "Kira". However, his popularity as a character inspired the release of a spin-off live-action film L: Change the World and a novel adaption of said film where he is the main protagonist.
The character of L is voiced by Kappei Yamaguchi in the anime, and portrayed by Kenichi Matsuyama in the films Death Note, Death Note: The Last Name and L: Change the World. He is dubbed by Alessandro Juliani across the English-language media. Since his introduction in the series, L's character has been praised by several manga and anime reviewers.
Publications from manga and anime have commented on L's character. Tom S. Pepirium of IGN describes L as "the coolest, most well developed character in anime today". Pepirium said that the "excellent translation" is responsible for L being a "success" in the English-language dub of Death Note. Anime News Network's Theron Martin found that the mental duels between L and Light are appealing to viewers of the series due to how each attempts to discover the identity of the other while at the same time wanting to hide their own. The Hyper staff and Mania Entertainment's Julie Rosato agreed with Martin, with the latter commenting that L's and Light's rivalry as one of the best parts from the series to the point of being something "unique" in a manga. Although PopCultureShock writer Carlos Alexandre also praised their rivalry, he still found L to be "too smart" noting that "some careful listening and application of critical thinking will make apparent the holes in L’s supposedly superhuman logic, holes that simply, given L’s character, should not be there". While reviewing the manga's third volume, Rosato concludes the article by saying that L "wins this volume; he really drove it forward" due to how close he gets to Light in such little time, which makes Light lose his temper after meeting him despite how calm he normally is. Pepirium adds that Alessandro Juliani, L's voice actor, portrays his slurping and gulping sweets as "somehow non-irritating". Theron Martin has also repeatedly praised Juliani's work, noting that he "captures the eccentric brilliance of L".
Kitty Sensei of OtakuZone had her opinions of the portrayal of L in the first film published in The Star, a Malaysian newspaper. In it Kitty Sensei said that Matsuyama's portrayal of L is "outstanding". She said that he accurately depicted L's characteristics "from the way he squats to the way he grasps objects". Peperium described L's voice in the English dubbed version as "low monotone, while inspired by the original Japanese actor, sounds like a man deep in thought, a master detective on the hunt". Christy Lee S.W. of The Star said that Matsuyama's portrayal of L in the second film is "the most intriguing" and that the characteristics, including the looks, expressions, and movements makes Matsuyama as L "a joy to watch".
Matsuyama described L and Light as having "such unique characters that they’re impossible to understand" and that "the inside of L’s head remains a mystery" to him. Matsuyama said that L and Light are "extremely" alike in that they have "very strong sense of justice". Popular reception to Matsuyama's portrayal of L led to the creation of the spinoff L: Change the WorLd.