Reproduced with permission from an essay originally, and fully, published at DEATH NOTES: an online source for Death Note Analysis and Discussion
(links at the end)
I've been thinking about the character Misa Amane a lot recently.
When we first met her in Death Note, and for awhile after that I admit I thought she was a cute girl. Flawed, yes, and irritatingly obsessed with Light, but she was certainly charming.
However, at a certain point in the manga I just felt like she crossed the line of what makes a person the least bit decent, and I rather despised her. When I overcame personal emotions about it (still in the process, at least), I really tried to analyze her character.
And I've come up with a resolution: Misa Amane is a bigger villain than Light, and more ethically corrupt than Light, L, Near and Mello.
The most important thing to note, and we've all noticed it - Misa freely gives up her individuality for Light's sake. Everything she does, she does for him. It is true that Misa believes that she owes something to Kira for killing her parents' murderer. But she takes this above and beyond. Once she sees him she is "in love", and therefore I'm inclined to assume that she's acting out of lust as much as admiration. She idealizes him and throws away everything else. Therefore she's putting her own dignity and humanity aside in favor of a boy. She even said that she was okay with being a pawn if she was doing it for him.
And on that note, like the 4 Geniuses, she is manipulative to boot. She's not as smart as they are, but she's not completely stupid either. First off, she clearly takes advantage of Rem. Rem is as innocent as a Shinigami could be in unconditionally loving the girl. But she is constantly spurned by Misa. At the very start of Misa's introduction, Rem tells Misa how a Shinigami dies, after making her promise not to tell. In Misa's first meeting with Light, she reveals the secret. Misa uses Rem even when her memory is wiped, to kill a man (an innocent man, if I remember right) in order to convince Higuchi that she's Kira. Rem ends up dying for Misa, and killing Watari and L along with herself. Granted there is a time gap between this scene and then part 2, but it bothered me always that we never saw her mourning Rem at all.
She completely disregards her friends. At the very start, on her first meeting with Light, she offers to kill her friend who helped her make the Kira tapes. And I think she would have done it without a second glance. Later on, it royally pissed me off when she was perfectly alright with killing L, too. She didn't even think about what it meant, it was simply that she wanted to remember his name for Light.
I would also like to mention that it's possible that Misa is responsible for more deaths than Light. I'm not certain about this, but I believe that Misa was the one with ownership of a Death Note and killing people from the time L died to Light's death...
DEATH NOTES is an invaluable resource for those who like a bit of academia in their reading of the Death Note manga. Largely inactive now, its archives nevertheless contain a rich bounty of timeless essays written during the period when Death Note was first coming to the attention of international audiences and readers. The site's essayists emanate from varying disciplines within the academe, with less formal - sometimes downright flippant - pieces interspersed for flavour.
The excerpt above was republished here with permission from DEATH NOTES' editor Jennifer Fu.