From the first episode of Death Note, the main character ponders some crazy claims made in a notebook he finds. He eventually mutters to himself:

いたずらもここまで手が込んでくると まあまあかな

Literally speaking, this seems to mean something like:

As for whether this is also a prank, if up to here it's complicated, then "my, my".

But I'm pretty sure I'm not parsing right because it doesn't seem to quite make any sense. Is there a better way to translate this sentence (while keeping the Japanese translation as literal/close to the Japanese as possible)?

Ultimately, I'm assuming the sentence translates to something like:

If, up to here, this has just all been a complicated prank, then ... "my, my".

But I don't see how the sentence is quite conveying this, grammatically. (And as I side note I don't understand why も is being used after いたずら, instead of は).

2 Answers 2


There are several key issues here which I thought were interesting and may not be straightforward. I will give you a breakdown.

"even" I feel this も stresses the topic.

いたずらも: Even as a prank

  • くる

As @aguijonazo points out this くる is defined as (デジタル大辞泉(小学館)):

9 (補助動詞)動詞の連用形に接続助詞「て」が付いた形に付く。


  • 手が込んでくる

Therefore, here this phrase means "intricately/elaborately crafted/devised"

I would think of this と as "when" rather than "if".

  • まあまあ

means "not too bad"




(Even) as a prank, it is not bad when they put so much effort into it

  • 1
    This explanation is very good but I see this くる more in the neutral (i.e. not negative) sense of 事態が進行してある段階に至る as スーパー大辞林 on my phone puts it.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 3:46
  • I would have felt the sense of the speaker being affected by something negative if the verb were for something the prankster deliberately did such as ここまで手をかけてくると.
    – aguijonazo
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 3:54
  • @aguijonazo Hmm, I see. Let me chew it over a bit.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 3:54

The structure is


where the following conditional is inserted


The former means

Prank is okay as well.

and the latter

if (it is) contrived this much.

You should be able to see the meaning simply by combining these.

BTW Weblio does seem to say my, my is まあまあ, but I suppose it is in the sense of emphatic まあ (Wow). which seems consistent with "interjection An expression of surprise, incredulity, or pleasure."

The まあまあ here is so-so (#3)

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