It's all good drama nontheless. We get Gevanni's sleight of hand with Death Notes performed like a stage magician's prestige; that breath-taking instant of Light's confession; the chaos and the shooting; a divine madman's soliloquy on the subject of justice; and Near's finest hour in the coldest put-down to ever deaden a burgeoning reality.
Not to mention the revelation of Mell0's final heroism, as martyr to the cause (inadvertently taking Matt with him), being more meaningful than hitherto suspected; and the crawling disbelief of Light, as the Kira veneer is stripped from him and we're all reminded that Ryuk was only ever here for the lulz.
Then death - a flashing ghost of glowing L, if this is the anime over manga - and everyone leaves to resume normality in a world, where the given order has long since been shaken to the core. Global society now quickly recovering with a haste almost indecent enough to prove Kira right after all.
And everyone lived happily ever after.
So - Run it by Us Again - How Did Death Note End?! I Think We Missed a Bit...
Attempting to follow Near's proof and logic from confrontation to conclusion; not only of the moment, but the whole story supposedly unravelling in evidence that leads directly to Light's undignified demise.
I think everyone read or watched it again at least twice. I've lost count of forum posts with each new fandom victim meandering to say, 'Erm, sorry, but I don't quite get this.'
Thus follows the specific point where they tripped down yawning the plot-holes, now opening up like a minefield across the scene: What did Mello do again? How did Near know x, y, z? Is he psychic or something? And what the sweet proverbial was up with Mikami's bizarreness in behaviour generally and facial expressions definitely?
Everyone too busy worrying that they were the only one left confused to even touch upon the gore of that arterial blood-burst, so gloried in the anime as Mikami's dramatic turn at self-harm.
You know what I mean. We've all been there. Several detailed readings or stop-contemplate-start viewings on, some of us can even convince ourselves that the denunciation is sequential; all points supported with no great leaps of faith; and it all makes sense. Otherwise we've sat though 37 episodes/108 chapters of story that doesn't deliver at the final crescendo of all that build-up. Which can't be true, when the tale is widely deemed to be a - perhaps the - classic of the genre; wildly, unabashedly and unceasingly popular on a global scale.
So the doubt creeps in that it's us instead. We weren't genius enough to fully 'get' it. It's enough to pretend we did, then run with the points that were discerned and fitted perfectly in place.
The rest is simply fan-fiction.
Death Note Doesn't End at the Yellow Box
What follows is way too often dismissed as superlative; an epilogue to bring us all back down to Earth. While mischievously inserting doubt over whether Light really lost, when Kira worshippers still ritually congregate and believe.
But this, not Kira's Curtain, was what it was all leading up to. Tsugumi Ohba himself said, in How to Read - Death Note 13, that the vision of these scenes in Finis were what caused the spark of inspiration to flow through the rest of the Death Note narrative. All else he wrote was working back from this, no tacked on arcs post-L, nor leaping into the grave with Light. For all their game-changing grandeur, they were ultimately merely markers upon the narrative, pointing beyond themselves to now.
Pinging upon the sacred number of Defilements in Buddhism, Finis is chapter 108. It always would be. Ohba decided that one early on, and left the one-shot manga to follow unnumbered so not to alter the fact that Death Note has exactly 108 chapters. You can count them on your Mala Beads, if you want.
So what great facet is revealed to us here? That Light found divinity in the end? That the world without him simply returns to previous form: crime rate rising to pre-Kira levels; all else flowing back as if the last seven years had been erased, with even the same people in the streets, older, yet doing exactly the same things.
Light's endeavours, and even erstwhile existence, rendered meaningless in minute, subtle ways. Like the return of Yamamoto, last seen in cameo within the earliest Death Note chapters as Light Yagami's friend; now greeting Matsuda as his BFF, and off they go to the pub. Light's own mother never learning the truth of his loss. Told lies to cover up the reality as seen and shaped by her son. His place in the world, philosophy, perspective and pursuits all rendered Mu as his Kira ridden soul. All else come full circle and moved on like he was never there.
Nor is this the point of Finis. It just the fine detail in the background driving certain messages home; if we're charitable a coda of candles in the wind.
Matsuda's Theory is Not a Coda; It's the Final Piece in the Jigsaw Puzzle
Most readers agreeing, because we're too distracted by Light and all the lovely Easter eggs waving from the scenery. Plus we already feel like idiots for not quite 'getting' the Near exposee of Light in the Yellow Box Warehouse, and we're damned if we're going to be drawn into another long explanation posited by a traumatized idiot.
Matsuda's always been so easy to dismiss. Particularly now, when we recently saw his gullibility writ large upon that shattering previous scene. His shock in the great Kira reveal caused such a meltdown that he's probably suffering PTSD or something now. Racked with guilt over Soichiro and so many dead; still obviously wrestling with the shock of knowing a third of his life was lived as a lie; his loyalty disabused in the most belittling, gut-wrenching way.
We don't need the ghost of L to whisper, 'Shut up, Matsuda! You idiot!' Because we're hardly listening anyway. It's just background noise finally shut down by Ide, tacitly approved by all lost in mourning for our mass murdering megalomaniac and his warped sense of justice.
Now echoed by Ide himself, as he decrees Kira's crimes terrible enough to warrant his summary execution - with an illegally wielded firearm (Matsuda was technically off-duty) and a Death God's intervention, in an out of the way warehouse, without charge, nor trial, judge and jury, and no right of appeal before instant death. Based upon evidence constructed from a self-confessed SPK sting, plus Near sounding so sure as he blithely divulged bits of the known coupled with conjecture, like it was the only way things could have played out.
His speech, on behalf of the prosecution in this kangaroo court condemnation of Kira, seemed utterly watertight. Yet Near was still able to reorder his version of events, to encompass the implications of Mello's intent in Takada's abduction, as Hal Lidner testified her impression of the same rather late in the day. It was an interpretation which cast a different hue upon the timeline, but delivered in confidence nontheless and received likewise from all who heard. Just as they'd accepted the prior telling too.
Maybe because they, like those bearing witness from our ringside seats in the fourth wall, couldn't truly follow it at the time.
But Near is a genius, so it must be true; and who cares why or how a Mafia man died? While Matt only turned up twelve panels ago, if he'd lived he probably wouldn't have amounted to much. We hardly knew him, so let him go - collateral damage in a war against a man too rotten to live in this world of safety and security, and justice.
Around this time in proceedings, it's normally behoven for babes or Fools to call out to say that the Emperor wears no clothes; or that in this Orwellian warehouse scenario it's getting difficult to call the pigs from the humans, humans from the pigs, nor tell the rationale of Kira from those arrayed extra-judicially against him.
Unfortunately the Fool Matsuda was in meltdown at the time, being dragged away by his friends; while the only child present was made judge and chief prosecutor at the same time. Needless to say, he won the day. Then watched Light Yagami die as a result; howling, without advocacy, nor anyone to ask whether Light was even sane enough at this point to understand what was happening to him. Or take the opportunity to arrest Kira, hold him safe, and learn what he knew about the Afterlife and eternity, and all those other things that philosophers, priests and ordinary people have pondered to distraction over every millennia of human sentience.
Instead all watched too, accepting the sense of prevailing 'rightness' in the air around Near. Who watched Kira die and kept the Death Notes.
Which was the actual point of the Yellow Box confrontation - to knock out the opposition and clear the decks ready to quietly seize power, when no-one else was looking. At least it is, if we're running with the gut instinct of Matsuda and some really quite compelling end game theories for Near in Death Note.
No Black and White in Light and Near - Matsuda Muses Upon Morality Post-Kira
For those not actually targeted by Kira, these streets had been safer under his horrific regime.
It's an unsettling notion that maybe, after all, they did crucify their Saviour. Yet sharing his concerns with Ide elicits a most telling reply:
Condemn Light Yagami's worldview, and his prospective Godhood with it, and survivors like Matsuda, Ide, Aizawa, Mogi and Near with his group all become war heroes. Able to feel pride in their past endeavours and self-respect for themselves. Their fallen - Soichiro, Ukita, L, Watari, Raye Penbar, Mello, Matt et al - become martyrs in a noble cause. The Glorious Dead of cenotaphs, remembered with honour and distinction.
Support Kira in memory and all that fails. Each become betrayers, of a friend and comrade, perhaps of a Messiah. Maybe even the destroyers of humanity itself; thieves of a genuine Utopian dream.
It was decided Kira was not right, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to grasp what they were fighting for in that bitter, seven year war. And madness beckons that way.
There's another point unsettling Matsuda, prickling at his conscience - just because they all decided (at the time and since) to stand against Light Yagami, why should that make them automatically pro-Near?
It's like there's only two sides about which to align oneself, and if one is demonstrably evil/insane/wrong, then the other by default is good/reasonable/right.
The entire Task Force appears to view Near as L's true successor, completely, absolutely and with all due trust. Their resources are placed at the Wammy boy's command.
Yet to Matsuda's mind, Near never earned that. Moreover, there are a string of worrisome - potentially catastrophic - concerns which were never fully answered. They could well be swapping one egotistical and manipulative serial killer for another; making the same mistakes all over again. Unfortunately no-one appears ready nor willing to hear him out.
Does Tota Matsuda's Theory Reveal Death Note Truths as its Grand Manga Finale?
Whilst recalling that this was the chapter planned from the start - following one that was almost called Black Curtain (a Japanese euphemism for someone orchestrating events behind the scenes) - and that Tsugumi Ohba blatantly said that 'Near cheats', let's recap. These were the points of plot that Touta Matsuda was pondering:
Near Played Mello like a Puppet
Alternatively, as alumni of the same orphanage, Near might be expected to know Mello's real name, while also having a good mental picture of his face. Mello's move certainly benefited Near, while obviously having dire consequences for Mello himself.
Thus eliminating a challenger to his own glory right on the eve of Near's win over Kira, whilst also taking out the dangerous Takada, setting up Mikami, providing evidence that Light is Kira to throw into play AND testing possible conjecture of Near's own in the validity of his real/fake Death Note.
Five strikes in one foul swoop, if this one was true and Near really did manipulate Mello into his own martyrdom. (With an option on Matt too. Near had the means and that eliminated the next in line after Mello, once the second's heart was broken and finally, decisively he could be burned out of this deadly game of L's Succession.)
If Mello's abduction of Takada was orchestrated by Near via a Death Note, it would explain some of the more bizarre aspects and imagery surrounding Mello at this time.
For a start, the moment of possession would have come when Hal and Mello spoke on the line. She passes on Near's specific message, "Soon he'll bring things to a conclusion directly." And Mello answers, "He's going to make him write our names in the notebook directly." Just as Hal said, he knew.
The blond Wammy teen sits on a darkened throne, forearms draped across his thighs and hands dangling; head bowed listlessly beneath a cascading curtain of hair. Like a puppet awaiting his strings to be pulled; on a floor decked as a chessboard; surrounded by mannequins, aping the debris from a battle-field; and a white dust-cover behind him draped as an awaiting winding sheet or shroud.
If Mello's actions from now on are controlled by his puppet-master Near, then it accounts for his uncharacteristic lapse in judgement in the back of the truck. When Takada - known to use the Death Note and likely to have a snippet of it upon her person - is allowed to retain her underwear, and is even afforded a blanket for the sake of decency.
All the privacy she needed to extract the weapon to kill Mihael Keehl on Near's behalf. Just as planned.
Near Controlled and Killed Mikami
I'm not going to tackle this key aspect of Matsuda's theory about Near in the Death Note ending, because quite frankly Casuistor and Teruzuki have already done and completely owned that. Convinced me anyway.
Read their take on the matter over on Tumblr:
Matsuda’s Theory about Near’s Victory
All ur Death Notes Belong 2 Near
Near stated that Ryuk confirmed two false rules, with one of them being the burning of a Death God's notebook will causally kill its destroyer. Near then burned all of his accumulated Death Notes, in order to keep them from being used by any future Kira pretender.
However, no-one else was present for that conversation with the shinigami. Though they all heard it heralded in discussion within the Yellow Box Warehouse.
If Near possesses just one Death God's notebook, then he's currently an extremely powerful force to be reckoned with upon the world stage. He's had ample opportunity to assess its possibilities and to know its limitations. He's had Light, Misa, Mikami, Mello and a host of others test it out for him.
He has already used it to control the actions of others, supposing that Matsuda's theory is correct; and has killed several times for personal gain and achievement by cheating.
Nobody knows that he has it. He's not orchestrating a crusade as Light attempted to do. He's just got access to a remarkable level of personal power and influence, the eternal company of a Death God to discuss what's previously not been met in his philosophy.
Near's under the radar because nobody thought to check that he really did incinerate those books. A strange oversight to be made by police officers entrenched for years on this case.
Why is Near Staging a Reunion on the First Anniversary of Kira's Death?
Ide initially sees nothing strange in this. Aizawa agreed to send the staff. No immediate word from Mogi, though the assumption is compliance.
Only Matsuda wonders what game the Wammy boy is playing now. Though in this, at least, he does appear to persuade Ide that something strange is going on - a connection to what went before; what was previously arranged.
A touch of grace and we see the old Fool back. Matsuda grinning with a friend, too busy chatting, making plans to visit a bar tonight, to properly hear a word Near has to say anymore. The final word in Death Note - before the ritual coda of Kira cultists - is Near's admonishment to Matsuda, "Listen carefully!"