Many of you are probably thinking right now, “Light Yagami isn’t a hero!” Well that depends on your definition of a hero and if you believe there is such a thing as a deeply immoral hero.
Light Yagami is the genius main character of the anime Death Note. In the first episode, he receives a mysterious notebook called the Death Note which allows him to kill anyone whose name is written in it. After a bit of experimentation, he decides to use the notebook to rid the world of all evildoers and become the god of a new world. He is eventually given the title of Kira.
In other words, he’s quite a humble guy.
Light’s descent into immorality is slow but steady. At first he’s killing criminals. Then he moves on to anyone who opposes him, such as FBI investigators, then it spirals out of control from there. Yet, in the end, Light justifies his actions by claiming he has made the world a better place. Crime drops significantly, all wars end.
Light is a heroic figure in that he puts aside all distractions to pursue a vision to improve the world. He is an idealist, yet his methods fall more under the pessimism of thinkers such as Hobbes.
Hobbes argued that most people are basically monsters who require an absolute power to keep them in line and prevent their lives from being “brutish, nasty, and short.” Hobbes’ ideas were used by absolute monarchs across Europe in the 18th century to justify their power. Light Yagami rules like an absolute monarch, creating a society of fear where people “behave” only because of the fear of Light’s judgement.
This is where we can begin to see why Light is an immoral hero, aka a villain. Light is so prideful he believes he has the right to judge the entire world. He is so certain of his “intelligence” and “righteousness” that he is unable to see how rotten and wicked he is.
A moral hero stands beside other people and recognizes his or her faults. A villain fills themselves up with pride and stands above others. Both the villain and the hero perform actions at times that could be called heroic.
A character like Light Yagami is so blind that they believe themselves to be the pinnacle of righteousness. Few people set out to be a villain, and even the most vile of individuals believe themselves to be righteous.
A true hero is one that recognizes their own flaws and stands with humility not with pride.