Death Note took the anime world by storm in 2006 with its polarizing story of good versus evil and the slow descent of series protagonist, Light Yagami, into the madness of becoming an egotistical "god". By 2007, Death Note concluded, leaving fans of the anime series saddened by its end but satisfied with the outcome of the characters involved in the main plot. Exactly one year later, Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad hit television screens everywhere and, in a short time, became one of the best television series of all time.
The similarities are striking when one compares Walter White's Heisenberg to Light Yagami's Kira and how they were quickly overtaken by their alter egos, unable to separate one side from the other. From an ever-growing ego and a superiority complex based on gaining more power by the day to their ideologies becoming more corrupt the further they invest in them, Kira and Heisenberg are very much alike.
Power Hungry Vs. God Complex
Light's Kira and Walter's Heisenberg share a similar beginning with the potential for power and the drive to obtain it. Light is a student who aspires for a better world and becomes bored with the mundane life of being the best at everything everyone around him seems to pale in comparison. When the Death Note falls into his possession, the lust for power grows ever so quickly, and the realization of his ability to change the world drives that motivation to high levels almost instantaneously. Heisenberg starts relatively the same after learning of the prestige of the drug-selling industry, specifically meth. Putting his brilliant mind to work, and with the help of a former student who has ample experience, Walter's need for cash quickly evolves into an endless appetite for running the industry.
Where the two drift apart is how far Light takes his thirst over what Walter achieves. While Walter understands his methods are illegal and wrong, his egocentric ideologies take over to the point that making money isn't enough. Walter's lack of control over his life is what sets him apart from Light, and the sudden urge to take ownership over the business and the area he operates within ultimately blinds him and ends up costing him his life.
Meanwhile, Light's mentality is instantly obstructed by his drive to make the world a better place. He makes it obvious that he believes his ways are correct and that he's doing the world a favor by ridding it of evil people. In taking the lives of criminals, Light fully assumes the position of a God among men, and the judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who gets in his way.
Social Impact Vs. Global Impact
Walter's impact only truly effects the area he lives, with the possibility of surrounding areas feeling an impact as a result. As Heisenberg, he operates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a known hot spot for drug trafficking. It's safe to assume that by introducing his product to the market, Heisenberg was adding to an already-existing problem at a small scale within an area already riddled with drug use. By taking over as the lead kingpin of his area, Heisenberg could control the quality of the product being distributed while keeping surrounding competitors off the grid, even through murder.
While Light's methods of murder were within the confines of Japan during the first half of Death Note, one mustn't forget about the malice and cruelty used in certain situations. While Raye Penber's death was a circumstance of getting away from the threat of potential capture, Light's toying with his fiancée, Naomi Misora, demonstrated the first true separation between Light's good on the world's criminal history and Kira's evil ways.
In part two, the viewer grows to understand that Kira's reach has hit worldwide, going from a total of 1,273 to an astounding 134,139. Receiving assistance from his girlfriend, Misa Amane, Light's sickening lust for power affected the globe, leading several highly-established countries to deploy secret task forces to take him down.
Light Yagami's Lack of a Redemption Arc
Heisenberg's stamp on his community was long felt, likely past the time of his death, but the attempt to redeem himself should be taken into consideration. Realizing his shortcomings and how far Heisenberg had strayed from his identity of Walter White, he quickly went to work to patch things up on all fronts. First, take care of his family and ensuring the capital he earned would fall into their possession. Then, he saves his former partner Jesse in a sacrificial act, taking down the neo-Nazis he briefly aligned with. While his redemption arc fell short, Walter showcased signs of regret and self-awareness and finally admitted to Skylar White, giving her the proper goodbye she deserved.
Light went down swinging and never attempted to atone for his sins. From ending the lives of people who surrounded him to using Misa's emotions to his advantage, Light never once believed his actions were wrong, or that he should be punished for his actions. Instead, he laughed when the truth was revealed, attempting to take down those who opposed him in his final moments. As he dragged himself away shortly before Ryuk wrote Light's name in his Death Note, Light died thinking he was the hero of his story. For these reasons, Light Yagami and Kira will always serve as the greater evil when compared to Walter White and Heisenberg.