There are many reasons why audiences are drawn to anime. The medium is able to tell incredibly diverse stories and also explore some quite unconventional topics. Anime will often have regular individuals intermingle with supernatural entities or even variations on classical deities.
There are lots of ways to explore such material, but the concept of Shinigami is something that consumes many series. Shinigami are also known as death bringers, and they show up in many different forms across anime. These death spirits guide humans towards death and the afterlife, either peacefully or with force. Whether as friends, foes, or something in between, Shinigami are all over a ton of different anime shows.
Updated on September 22, 2022 by Daniel Kurland: With all of the endless creativity that’s on display in anime, it should perhaps come as no surprise that plenty of series shine a light on supernatural executioners who love to deal death. Shinigami are feared individuals who often serve essential, esteemed purposes in their respective anime universes. Shinigami can appear as foreboding figures or masquerade as playful presences. It’s never safe to make assumptions when it comes to Shinigami, but some of this select class are a cut above the rest, both figuratively and literally.
15 Takuto Is A Shinigami Who Cares About Catharsis
Full Moon o Sagashite
Full Moon o Sagashite applies a somber approach to Shinigami, which results in more a slice-of-life character study than an action-driven journey to collect souls. The anime’s melancholy world presents Shinigami as those who have taken their own lives and must now reap souls as punishment.
Takuto is a new Shinigami tasked with taking the soul of Mitsuki, a budding singer who’s been diagnosed with a tumor. This fate hits close to home for Takuto, who tries to help Mituski accomplish her goal during her final year alive. Accordingly, Takuto isn’t the most fearsome Shinigami, especially in his trademark cat ears.
14 Komachi Onozuka Is A Shinigami Slacker Story
Memories of Phantasm
While technically a fan-made OVA series, Memories of Phantasm pulls from a popular series of video games that are rich with Shinigami of all shapes and sizes. Komachi Onozuka is likely not the first Shinigami that gets called in to collect spirits, but she’s become one of the series’ most celebrated characters.
Komachi is a perpetual slacker, and while she’s saddled with intense Shinigami responsibilities, she’s more than content to simply discuss death and hang out instead of assembling souls for her boss, Sikieiki. Komachi’s incorrigible attitude is hard to deny and a fun change of pace for a Shinigami.
13 Rinne Rokudo Comes From A Long Line Of Shinigami
Rumiko Takahashi is arguably most popular for her formative shonen series, Ranma ½ and InuYasha, but she’s also responsible for a short-lived Shinigami epic, Rin-ne. In Rin-ne, Rinne Rokudo becomes burdened with the debt of Shinigami duty because of his father’s misgivings, but he slowly forms an affinity for exorcism and helping souls find solace.
Rinne’s mission becomes much easier thanks to the help of Sakura Mamiya, who’s gifted with the ability to see spirits. Rinne lacks the aggression of other Shinigami in anime, but still takes down the intimidating Death Gods.
12 Lisara Restall Is A Tsundere Shinigami Temptation
So, I Can’t Play H!
Based upon a light novel series of the same name, So, I Can’t Play H! is a 12-episode celebration of emotions and exorcism. The hormonal Ryosuke Kaga engages in a misguided contract with Lisara Restall, a cocky girl who also happens to be a prestigious Shinigami.
Lisara uses Ryosuke’s lecherous spirit to power her Grim Reaper duties and there’s electric chemistry between the two, as much as she may not like to admit it. Lisara’s Shinigami skills also frequently bring fire to her scary scythe, which definitely leaves an impression.
11 Zarame Is A Short Shinigami Sidekick With Lots Of Style
Zombie-Loan is an entertaining subversion of Shinigami staples that doesn’t get enough love. Most of the characters in the anime bring something new to the genre, and Zarame is no exception. Zarame can magically generate a scythe at will and has a disturbing design where his entire body–save his left eye–is covered in bandages.
This would strike fear in most enemies, except for the fact that Zarame is restricted to a “super deformed chibi” state as a result of losing his core. This turns him into a Shinigami mascot of sorts, despite the power that he continues to possess.
10 Decim Must Determine An Eternity Through A Simple Game
Death Parade is an eloquent character study that largely operates like an anthology series. Each episode examines the lives of two new lost souls that are forced into competition with each other, all overseen by the mysterious and aloof Decim.
What makes Death Parade so unique is that these individuals must engage in innocuous recreational activities like billiards or darts to determine the fate of their souls. Decim is the stoic bartender that observes these competitions, but he’s become disaffected and numb to his role until he recently experiences an epiphany about his purpose.
9 Botan Becomes The Beating Heart Of The Shonen Anime
Yu Yu Hakusho
Yu Yu Hakusho is a foundational shonen anime series from the ’90s that makes good use of Shinigami, but doesn’t make them the focal point of the series. Yusuke Urameshi is a teenage delinquent who meets an unexpected end. Botan, the anime’s resident Shinigami, intervenes to give him a renewed purpose.
Botan is an example of a gracious and empathetic Shinigami rather than one of the many aggressive reapers that are present in other anime. Botan largely stays by the sidelines as Yusuke’s journey intensifies, but she remains an important part of the anime.
8 Shinigami Treat Soul Reaping Like A Boring Day Job
Descendants Of Darkness
Descendants of Darkness is kind of like if The Office were about Shinigami, or if Dead Like Me was turned into an anime series. Descendants of Darkness is full of Shinigami, but it looks at death and soul reaping as a monotonous job rather than as a terrifying experience or thrilling battle.
Tsuzuki Asato is a highly skilled Shinigami, but he has lost his passion as his position becomes increasingly filled with paperwork. Asato receives a new partner and finds a new passion for his work and it’s a very unique angle on the world of Shinigami.
7 Momo Must Avoid Corruption
Momo, Girl God of Death
Momo, Girl God of Death offers an interesting take on Shinigami since it tells the same story as many of these other anime, but Momo resonates because of the unique perspective that’s fundamental to the anime.
Momo is new to the Shinigami business and the anime looks at if a path that’s full of death and soul reaping will take away Momo’s innocence and harden her into someone different. Momo, Girl God of Death is a quick watch with only six episodes, but it says a lot in that time and digs into a softer side of Shinigami.
6 Rory Mercury Is A Confusing Combination Of Adorable & Deadly
There are plenty of anime that play against expectations and show that it’s important to not judge a book by its cover. GATE’s resident Shinigami, Rory Mercury the Reaper, is a perfect example of how big trouble can come in a small package.
Rory looks like an innocent girl, but she’s an immortal demigoddess with super strength. Her mighty scythe that makes swift work of those that get in her way. Rory can regenerate any damage that she takes and her high intellect makes her able to brilliantly strategize her way out of most situations.
5 Boogiepop Holds A Whole City Hostage To Their Own Fear
The Boogiepop franchise has been around since the ’90s. Although it’s remained dormant for years, it always returns for a new adaptation, much like the central character Boogiepop. Boogiepop Phantom looks at a Shinigami with a mythic status that surrounds her sporadic appearances that result in chaos and fear.
Boogiepop terrorizes the most beautiful and privileged high school students and forces them to prematurely confront their mortality. Boogiepop Phantom works because its titular Shinigami functions more like a mysterious serial killer than an impartial deity.
4 Death Keeps Balance In Order As Shinigami Wage War Against The Kishin
Shinigami are central to Soul Eater’s plot, and it extrapolates the idea into a shonen context. Soul Eater is full of Meisters and living weapons that operate as a duo to absorb souls into their Death Scythes before the evil kishin forces improperly claim them.
Those that train at the Death Weapon Meister Academy all have exceptional strength, but at the head of it all is Death itself, a Death God Shinigami. Soul Eater subverts Shinigami lore in some exciting ways and fleshes out the concept to be something bigger and more complicated.
3 Grell Is A Loose Cannon Who Is Beyond Reason
Black Butler applies a curious twist to Shinigami conventions with the precarious pact that Ciel Phantomhive and Sebastian Michaelis enter into together. Sebastian might be the most prominent Shinigami, but Grell is Black Butler’s most vicious death bringer.
Grell blatantly disregards Shinigami rules in favor of his own violent compulsions. He has a hunger for death that goes unmatched. The fact that he transforms his death scythe into a chainsaw so that he can administer a more visceral punishment should be enough proof of Grell’s twisted nature.
2 Soul Reapers Must Make Shinigami Work A Constant Part Of Their Lives
Bleach has over 350 episodes of Ichigo Kurosaki’s mission to prove himself as a powerful Soul Reaper. Bleach turns Shinigami into a more common role and sets Ichigo on a dangerous adventure where he takes out the evil Hollow spirits that threaten the innocent.
Ichigo becomes a deadly Shinigami, but Bleach looks at how this responsibility can also be a burden and how it takes over his life. There are stronger Soul Reapers in the series, like the founders of the Shinigami Academy, but Ichigo makes the biggest impact.
1 Ryuk Has Become Anime’s Most Iconic Shinigami
Death Note is an acclaimed anime series that grapples with complex ideas and disturbing visuals. Death Note’s premise revolves around a powerful notebook that gives its owner the power to take lives by writing down names in the tome.
This book is tied to a Shinigami, which in the case of Light Yagami’s Death Note, is Ryuk. Ryuk pushes the whole Death Note scenario on humanity because he’s bored with his responsibilities as a Shinigami. He’s a powerful character, but he ultimately resigns himself to a supporting position.
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