When it comes to Death Note, there are many points of contention between different fans. For instance, was it really the right narrative choice to have L defeated and killed? Today, I'm looking at a different point of disagreement. I find that most people I talk to online and in person dislike Near. It’s usually not outright hatred, but simply a personal dislike for the character. There are several reasons for that explored below, along with my thoughts in response.
To start with, N is not L. This is one of the more emotional and sometimes subconscious reasons that people dislike Near. Some expected him to be more similar to L, either in behavior, thought patterns, or degree of charisma. The counter to this is to simply stop comparing them. Near is his own character, and a fine one. Perhaps Near is more arrogant than L, but he is also ironically less childish/ competitive in his ways of thinking. His skill as a detective remains to be seen, but there’s no rule saying Near must be the same caliber of detective as L. He is gifted in other areas. Near has little natural charisma, but it hardly matters since he still gets things done.
There are those who despise Near because of some idea they have that he “cheated” in order to beat Light. My answer to this would be that it’s strange to care about “cheating” at all considering that Light cheated, using the Shinigami Rem and fake Death Note rules, to beat L. Now, anyone can see that Near had things easier because of the help of Mello and the knowledge early on about Shinigami. How is that cheating, though? He simply had access to more information more quickly, and was able to believe in Shinigami more readily than L because of his personality.
Near’s personality and tendencies aren’t for everyone, and this leads many people to dislike him. He has an air that’s cold, quiet, and yet provocative. He seems disinterested most of the time, and can only be at his most productive when he has his creepy toys with him. Perhaps the story of Near and Mello strikes no cord or connection with you in any way. There’s nothing wrong with liking or not liking a character due to natural inclinations. So, I have no reason to counter-argue here. This is actually a pretty legitimate reason to just be interested in Near.
Let’s look at one last reason why there is widespread dissatisfaction with this character: N believes that beating Kira will mean that he surpassed L. Such is the common interpretation, anyway. Another way of looking at it is that beating Kira is only the first step in that direction. Near is younger than L and has a long time to potentially grow even smarter and more effective in his efforts than L. But whether or not he ever reaches that point, the audiences don't necessarily need to agree. L left successors because he wanted people to follow in his footsteps. Near and Mello can only find motivation in imagining themselves surpassing him. Whether or not they actually can is, well, up to opinion. I don't see why this difference in opinion would lead to hatred of a character.
Next will be examples of the importance of Near in Death Note. This might help people appreciate him a bit more. As simple as it sounds, someone needed to defeat Light. While Death Note is far from a simple show where "justice" always wins, it still ended with Kira's side losing. L's death was crucial in showing that life is unpredictable, and evil often emerges victorious. To balance it out, Death Note needed the message that it goes both ways. The side of pro-social values and free society comes out on top. Near is of utmost importance in this way.
Near and Mello together also show that teamwork doesn’t always lead to failure. Because Light teamed up with Mikami and made some slip-ups, he lost and was exposed as Kira. If he had kept working alone, he might have gone on ruling the world as Kira for even longer. However, it's the opposite with Near. If he hadn't been helped by Mello, he may never have managed to expose Light. Teamwork and partnering with others is just as unpredictable as working alone. So, this is another case where Near is important to the story.
Whether or not N "surpassed" L is up to interpretation, but we all know that L would have wanted Kira to be defeated. Near is part of L's legacy. That alone should earn him the respect of L fans. Of course, if you're in camp Kira, I suppose it may be only natural to hate Near. That attitude is generally called "being a sore loser." Instead of hating Near, appreciate him as his own character with value to the world and plot of Death Note. Thank you for reading.