Shinigami (死神, literally "kami (God) of death") is a term originally used in Japan to refer to psychopomp gods, i.e., personifications of Death, such as the Grim Reaper of European traditions. Unlike the Grim Reaper, the shinigami is not just a stereotypical representation. He is featured in many Japanese fictions.

The translation "god of Death" is not very appropriate, and we will prefer the term "psychopomp". Since there can be several shinigami, their role cannot be compared to that of, for example, the gods Izanami or Hades.

Other Japanese deities of Death

The following deities, although associated with Death, are not called shinigami:

  • Enma (閻魔), Enma-ō (閻魔王) or Enma-daiō (閻魔大王): imported from Buddhism, his origin is the Lord of Death Yama of Hinduism. He judges those who go to heaven (Nirvāna) or hell.
  • Izanami : A Shinto goddess, wife of Izanagi.

Shinigami Fictional characters

Various characters have been named shinigami in Japanese popular culture. There is no clear definition of their role or appearance, however, their job is generally to guide souls to the realm of the dead.

Some of the fictions in which they can be found:

  • Assassination Classroom: the shinigami is considered the best killer in the world with more than 1,000 victims, the first one is now the professor Koro, the second one is his former student;
  • Black Butler: a shinigami is a former human being who committed suicide and is therefore condemned to take the lives of mortals according to a list that tells them who will/should die. Once the life of a human being is taken by a shinigami, a movie lantern comes out of the human being's chest and is stored directly in the shinigami library. Their weapons are sharp objects, most of which are directly related to gardening tools such as a chainsaw or a lawnmower. The shinigami have yellow-green eyes and are all short-sighted;
  • Bleach : a shinigami is a soul warrior whose goal is to protect the living from evil spirits called Hollows and to guide the dead to their world, the Soul Society. They use a zanpakuto, a soul-slicing sword to fight, appease the spirits and guide them to heaven or hell;
  • Dakara boku wa H ga dekinai : Lisara Restall is a shinigami who is looking for a special being;
  • Darker Than Black : the hero, Hei, a contractor known to be cursed, is nicknamed the "black shinigami";
  • Death Note: the shinigami of Death Note are creatures whose purpose is to take life from humans to keep themselves alive, the purpose of their existence is generally to kill humans. Each human being killed by a shinigami will bring it the life time left to the human in question. To kill, a shinigami uses a Death Note, in which he writes the name and the circumstances of the death of the chosen person;
  • Dragon Ball: where the shinigami are employees of Enma, the head of purgatory, in charge of calming the dead in hell or guiding souls to heaven/hard or training with Master Kaio depending on their specialty;
  • 86: Eighty-Six : Shinei Nouzen, leader of the Spearhead squadron, is called The Reaper, in the original shinigami version;
  • Fairy Tail: Shinigami is one of the enemy characters (full name: Shinigami Eligoal), he belongs to the Eisen Wald guild, an underground guild. The nickname Shinigami is due to the fact that he only takes missions based on assassination;
  • Full Moon wo Sagashite : a shinigami is a soul who has committed a serious mistake during his life (for example : committing suicide). Its memory is erased and the spirit is condemned to perform good deeds to redeem its faults with the strictest prohibition to try to remember its past;
  • Gosick: the main character, Kazuya Kujō, is nicknamed the "black shinigami" by the students of his academy;
  • Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro: in episode 66 Kitaro faces a "shinigami" who has come to harvest souls;
  • New Mobile Report Gundam Wing : here, it is the nickname of Duo Maxwell, the assassin of the team;
  • Gyaatoruzu ;
  • Ippo ;
  • Hellsing : the character Walter C. Dornez is nicknamed the "god of death" (shinigami in original version);
  • Inu-Yasha;
  • Inukami;
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn: during the War of the Rainbow Representatives, in which each Arcobaleno fights with a team in order to lift the curse that imprisons him in a baby's body, Flan mistakes the Vindice envoys for shinigami;
  • Descendants of Darkness (Yami no matsuei);
  • Nabari no Ou : Yoite is nicknamed like this because he can kill a person with kira (ninja technique which uses the life of the user to kill or save a person by acting on the qì) ;
  • Naruto: the shinigami is summoned thanks to the technique of imprisonment of the dead, the soul of the summoner is condemned to suffer with the soul of the sealed being; trapped in his stomach are: the first four Hokage, the arms of Orochimaru and the yin part of the chakra of the nine-tailed fox demon. They are also evoked by Obito Uchiwa when he is healed by Madara Uchiwa. Seeing that he should have died crushed by rocks and that Madara has a scythe, Obito thinks he is a shinigami;
  • Omishi Magical Theater: Risky Safety ;
  • Pandora Hearts : Black Rabbit fights them at the beginning of the series ; the shinigami (purple reapers) are the Baskervilles who want to send Oz Bezarius to another dimension called the Abyss;
  • Rin Hojo : character of the season 5 of the series Initial D nicknamed the shinigami ;
  • Saint Seiya: Thanatos;
  • Shinigami (rakugo);
  • Shinigami-kun;
  • Shinigami-kun no Oshigoto ;
  • Shinigami no Ballad: the main character is a shinigami that only people on the verge of death can see. She collects the souls of living beings;
  • Soul Eater : the Shinigami Master is the director of the Shibusen meisters school and Death the Kid is the son of the Shinigami Master;
  • Touhou Project: Komachi Onozuka is a shinigami who tends to ask people if they plan to commit suicide;
  • Yû Yû Hakusho;
  • Zombie Loan;
  • Kyoukai no Rinne: The story is based on Rinne Rokudou, a half-shinigami.
  • Undertaker Riddle.
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