Have you ever heard anyone say that they stopped watching Death Note after the first half? Or that they tried out the second half and it ended up being a waste of time? If you've been paying attention to anime fandom, chances are high that the answer to those questions is yes. While this viewpoint is certainly common, there are actually some good reasons why the second half of Death Note is just as good as the first half, and should not be skipped over.
The second half introduces a wide range of new characters who inject new life into the series - from Mello to Mikami, there's a lot to think about in the second half. What's more, pre-existing characters like Matsuda and Soichiro get further character development. Kira's impact on society becomes clearer in the second half. Light's moral compass is utterly destroyed, and the stakes are higher than they've ever been. Whatever you're expecting from the second half, it's better than that.
It's not that the second half of Death Note is better than the first season - both have their pros and cons. It's also not that the second half is flawless - it has undeniable pacing issues, among other problems. But it deserves more credit than it gets from the anime fandom. If you skipped out on it before, this list is your cue to give it another chance.
Touta Matsuda, one of the youngest members of the Task Force, has always been an interesting figure. While he never wavers from his duty to find and take down Kira, he questions his views throughout the series - especially when the crime rate actually starts to decrease. Besides thinking that Kira might be on to something, Matsuda adores Light Yagami - he respects his brilliance and his status as Chief Yagami's son. Despite being one of the few people who buck the status quo, Matsuda is considered stupid and hapless by the rest of the team.
These two facts make Matsuda's ultimate rejection of Light even more dramatic. At the end of the second half, Matsuda comes to a decisive conclusion - Kira is a monster and that means Light Yagami is too. Despite his turmoil and devastation, Matsuda shoots Light in the hand to stop him from using the Death Note and then keeps shooting him until he's on the ground. In that moment, Matsuda loses control of his emotions, but he also saves his comrades' lives - proving himself to be more competent than anyone thought he could be. The only person calling him stupid anymore is Kira himself.
How does society respond when criminals are destroyed by supernatural forces? The first half of Death Note is so tightly focused on L and Light's intellectual rivalry that this is rarely depicted - and when it is, the changes seem to be positive ones, like the decreasing crime rate.
In the second season, we see Light's impact on society spiral out of control. Rather than having people genuinely respect his mission, or stop committing crimes to avoid his wrath, many people blindly worship him, often under the direction of Demegawa, a Sakura TV employee who is using Kira worship to increase ratings and make money. He's able to whip his viewers into a frenzy, encouraging them to take over the SPK headquarters. Near and his team are only able to escape by throwing money into the crowd. Light hasn't made society better by using the notebook - now, his image is used as an excuse for greed and violence. At this point, he's too wrapped up in his frantic attempts to get caught that his failure barely registers with him - but it does with the audience. It's a fascinating dynamic to watch.
Whether you were ecstatic to see Light finally bite the dust or devastated by his tragic fall from grace, it's hard to deny that his final moments are well done. When he's cornered, his true self comes out. He blurts out whatever random excuses he can think of, blames others for his actions, and to bargain for his life, before eventually screaming and crying like a terrified child.
While this is a far cry from the cool and composed version of himself who existed in the first half of the series, it's a fitting fall from grace. One of the most compelling things about Death Note is its depiction of Light's increasingly warped priorities. He stops caring about justice, or morals - in fact, he no longer even considers whether or not what he's doing is right. He's both bloated with power and petrified of being caught, and these things cause him to do terrible things that would disgust his younger self. Like the protagonist of an ancient Greek tragedy, Light is undone by his own hubris. It's not exactly fun to watch him fall apart, but his descent is both powerful and thought-provoking.
The first half of the series does a good job laying the ground work for Soichiro Yagami's character. He's a hardworking and dependable man who sometimes struggles to balance his family and his professional obligations. That difficulty increases tenfold after Mello kidnaps his daughter in the second half of the series. He has to decide whether to give Mello the Death Note and risk countless lives - or let Sayu remain a hostage. He chooses his child, but the difficulty he faces in making this decision is palpable. Later, he's able to make up for his professional failure by helping the Task Force get the Death Note back - but in the process, he loses his life.
Because Soichiro has the Shinigami Eyes, he can read most people's names and lifespans - except when it comes to people who possess a Death Note. Because Light doesn't currently own one, Soichiro is able to pass away believing that his child is innocent. Viewers, of course, known that Light is anything but. This moment is one of the most powerful in the whole series.