There is a general consensus in the Death Note fandom that the second half of the story isn’t as strong as the first.
In fact, I would be so bold as to call it dull.
But why did the cult classic lose its spark after the manga’s shocking turning point?
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
I think it’s because, compared to L, Near was a boring character.
L was an interesting character, not just because he was intelligent, but because he had a fun personality.
He was funny.
One of my favourite scenes is from Chapter 32 where L steals Misa’s phone, but in the process he touches her butt, but feigns innocence in a witty way. Just look at that facial expression in the second panel.
Then he goes onto to troll Light, knowing he would use Misa to find out his real name in order to kill him. His expression in the third panel is priceless.
In contrast, Near doesn’t have any humorous moments. All the comedy after the time skip comes from either Ryuk or Matsuda.
It was easy to sympathize with L.
The whole reason L failed to capture Light was that he began to see them as friends. It was hard for him to believe that his first friend was the bad guy he had been chasing after, and I think he didn’t want to bring Light to justice because it would mean he would lose his one and only friend.
On the other hand, we never see Near pining after anything except bringing Kira to justice. Mello is a more sympathetic character in this respect because we see his desire to beat Near.
We feel for Mello because he is an underdog, and for L for finally finding that one friend. But Near seems to have no weakness or soft spot we can empathize with.
Near was L’s copy cat
Because L was such a unique character, it was a delight to have someone new to observe as Death Note progressed. His mannerisms, speech patterns, intelligence and eating habits were interesting because there had never been a character before who processed them. He was a breath of fresh air to the literary world.
In contrast, Near’s habits were an exact copy of L’s – apart from his love of toys; Mello seems to have inherited L’s sweet tooth. The main difference is that Near is less quirky. It was a disappointment to get someone so similar to L, yet so much less interesting after L’s death.
The story line for Death Note also got a little more complicated and confusing in the second half, which might contribute to that lack of spark after L’s death. There was tension in the air as the series began to wind down, but there were a lot of new characters and a lot of stalling for time. The tension built very slowly since most of the plot focused on the members of Light’s team as they started to have doubts.
But I think that lack of spark was lost because L’s shoes were filled with someone with a lot less substance. A lot of the plot problems could have perhaps been solved by having a new interesting rival for Light, rather than the flat, emotionless character we got in the form of Near.