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Shinigami

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Shinigami (死神, literally "death god" or "God of Death") is a term to describe the personification of death in Japanese modern culture.

Today shinigami frequently appear in original Japanese works of fiction (anime and manga most often). However, Shinigami may also be used more loosely to refer to any death deity.

The following are Japanese death deities but are usually not referred to as shinigami:

  • Enma ( -o, -daio), also known as Yama, is a Buddhist deity who judges the dead with either reward or punishment in Jigoku (the afterlife).
  • Izanami is a goddess in Shintoism, wife of Izanagi. Izanami is a goddess of creation who later became a goddess of death.


Art/Fiction

The Shinigami Ryuk and Rem in DeathNote

Perhaps the first appearance of shinigami in Japan was in a rakugo play titled Shinigami. It is thought that this play was based on the Italian opera Crispino e la Comare, which was in turn based on Der Gevatter Tod, a German fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm.

Shinigami characters often appear in modern Japanese popular culture. These characters are typically employed as psychopomps, bringing deceased souls to the world of the dead. Shinigami appear in the following fictional works:

  • In Soul Eater, shinigami are people with spirit companions who turn into soul devouring weapons. The shinigami's work is to catch 99 evil souls and 1 witch's soul so that the soul companion can become a death weapon. However, if the final caught soul is not that of a witch, but rather of someone with powers similar to one, then the shinigami who made this mistake must start over by catching 99 souls again.
  • In Bleach, shinigami (Soul Reapers in English translations) govern the flow of spirits in the living and spirit world. Their duties include sending normal human souls to the Soul Society and purifying Hollows, human ghosts who lose their sanity and become soul-devouring monsters. In Bleach, they are portrayed as humans who have been born in the Soul Society or died in the living world and subsequently joined an academy for Soul Reapers. While performing their duties, they appear as humans wearing a black kimono & hakama along with a white nagajuban (under-kimono) and obi (kimono sash), with their zanpakuto (spiritual sword, usually in the form of a katana) at their hip in the same style as a samurai.
  • In Death Note, shinigami live in their own world, writing names in their notebooks to extend their own lives (and thereby killing the person whose name was written). The only ways for a shinigami to die are if a shinigami runs out of time by not writing names in their notebooks, or if they kill someone to extend the life span of a human out of affection, as seen by Gelus's death for Misa Amane, or if they get the maximum penalty in not following the rules set for the shinigami.
  • In Descendants of Darkness, the main characters are shinigami who work in a place called Meifu; their job is to make sure that everything goes well when human souls die and are reborn.
  • In Nephilim (manga), one of the main characters, Abel, is a shinigami. She is part of the race of people called Nephilim. They are rumored to possess unimaginable beauty at night, and are said to be shape-shifters/gender-benders.
  • In Full Moon o Sagashite, shinigami ensure that a person dies at the moment they are fated to die by interfering with circumstances and events that would cause a death earlier or later than fate deems; they then act as a psychopomp. These shinigami were once people who committed suicide and now must collect souls as punishment.
  • In The World Ends With You, Neku Sakuraba and his friends must win a week-long "Shinigami Game" administrated by a group calling themselves Shinigami under the threat of being removed from existence. The Shinigami use a stylized skull and crossbones as their insignia. The english version of the game refers to them as "Reapers".
  • A shinigami character appears in Shigeru Mizuki's comic series Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro and Kappa no Sanpei. He has a skull-like head and likes watermelon.
  • In the Murder Princess manga, the character Dominikov is a shinigami.
  • In Naruto, the shinigami is a monster-like deity clad in a flowing white robe which can be invoked using a technique known as the Dead Demon Consuming Seal.
  • In Omishi Magical Theater: Risky Safety, shinigami resemble small, cute versions of Death, and try to convince their victims to commit suicide. The title character, Risky, is a shinigami who attempts to use a miniature scythe to send the female protagonist to the land of the dead.
  • In Ballad of a Shinigami, the main character is a shinigami whose job is to collect the souls of people at the moment of their death. However, she attempts to make a positive impact on the lives of the people who encounter death.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei games and their Persona spinoffs, a shinigami class of demons includes many death-related gods borrowed from mythology, such as Chernobog, Persephone, Ankou, Hades, Mot, and Thanatos.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, the character Botan and other shinigami are represented as kimono-wearing girls that ride on oars. These girls guide departed souls to the Spirit World (Reikai), where they are judged by the deity Koenma.
  • In Zombie-Loan the main character, Michiru Kita, has what is called "Shinigami Eyes". These allow her to see a faint ring around a person's neck, when this ring becomes completely black that person's death is near or that person is a zombie.
  • In Princess Mononoke the Shishigami (The Forest Spirit which resembles a great stag during day) turned into a Shinigami when his head was cut off. It resembled a humanoid made of tar-like liquid that towered over the forest and trees, killing anything that touched it.
  • In The Dark One Saga, a horror tetralogy. Shinigami watch over a person their entire life, serving the dual purpose of guiding them to limbo once deceased, as well as being a guardian angel.
  • In Dragon Warrior II and a clear data file of Dragon Warrior Monsters, the evil priest Hargon wishes to summon a shinigami named Sidoh (called Malroth in the original NES version of Dragon Warrior II). It is unknown whether or not Hargon wants Sidoh to help him rule the world, or destroy it.

Characters associated with death are also commonly named or nicknamed "Shinigami":

  • In Rozen Maiden, Suigintou's medium(Megu Kakizaki) prays to Shinigami-sama in the episode where they first meet.
  • In the Akumajo Dracula/Castlevania series (video games), a character named "Shinigami" (Death in the US games) is a loyal servant to Dracula, working to hasten his master's revival and assisting him in creating a world of darkness.
  • At least three characters from the multiple Gundam universes are called "Shinigami" as a nickname. These include, Kyral Mekirel from G Gundam, Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing, and Terry Sanders Jr. from Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team.
  • In the manga Hellsing, character Walter Dornez, has the nickname "Shinigami".
  • The protagonist of the anime Darker Than Black, codename Hei, is known by the nickname "Black Shinigami" for his skills at killing opponents during a war in South America ten years prior.
  • In the manga Zombie Powder, the main character, Gamma Akutabi, is nicknamed the "black-armed shinigami", referring to the black armor he has grafted to one of his arms.
  • A character in the Klonoa games goes by "Shinigami Guntz" from his job as a mercenary. Most of his moves has 'Shinigami' in front of them.
  • In the Japanese manga "Shinigami Lovers" the character Sei is a shinigami who is chained to Mika's soul by the Thantos Lovers chains.
  • In the manga "As the Death God Dictates" by Mimori Ao the main character Ayumi is told she had one month left to live by the shinigami Shiro.


Sources

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