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Shinigami have been mentioned in Japanese literature for hundreds of years. The word is used to describe gods, spirits or supernatural beings that invite, take or guide humans toward death. And just as varied as the beings described by this term have been over the centuries, we can see a wide range of characters referred to as Shinigami in anime today.
Because of the variations in the types of Shinigami presented in anime, this list is based on the popularity of the characters. Their popularity may have been influenced by things like power and strength, but also things that make them unique and fun to watch, or in some cases, qualities they have that wouldn’t necessarily be expected from a Shinigami, like love. In some cases, one character will embrace several of these traits at once!
From strong, powerful, ass-kicking ones to sweet, kindhearted, love-sick ones. Today we bring you our top 10 anime Shinigami! There may even be some in here you didn’t know about!
10. Rinne Rokudou from Kyoukai no Rinne (RIN-NE)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
Rinne Rokudou is only part Shinigami, but because of a debt left to him by his ancestors, he must perform the duties of a Shinigami and help souls pass on to the afterlife. However, he is a high school student and after his grandfather died, he lives in an abandoned school building. With the help of his classmate and crush, Sakura, who can see ghosts, he helps lost souls, and fights his father’s group of fallen death gods, the Damashigami who are always up to no good.
Rinne is actually a sweet guy that was born into a difficult family situation and while he struggles with it a bit, he takes it on in stride. He’s also one of the Shinigami in our list who falls in love and even sacrifices the thing that is most important for him, money, when he spends ¥20,000 to replace Sakura’s Exorcism Hourglass which had expired and was causing her house to be filled with spirits .
Rinne is also quite skilled with his scythe and his hoop of judgement and can control a thousand bills with wind and direct him to a target. While not as tough as some of the other Shinigami on this list, Rinne is quite a memorable character, but then we couldn’t expect less from Rumiko Takahashi!
9. Takuto from Full Moon wo Sagashite (Searching for the Full Moon)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 2002 – March 2003
In Full Moon wo Sagashite, Shinigami are the souls of people who have committed suicide and collecting souls is their punishment. Takuto and Meroko are a Shinigami team and they are sent to Earth to take Mitsuki’s soul after she is diagnosed with a tumor. Being that Takuto shared Mitsuki’s dream of being a singer and had the same tumor when he was alive, he sympathizes with her and decides to help her fulfill her dream in the last year she has left.
Mitsuki is the tsundere cat-boy Shinigami on our list. He’s a bit rough around the edges but is easily swayed by his feelings towards Mitsuki and even shows jealousy when other men are involved. He goes out of his way to help her succeed as a singer and overcome the obstacles she faces, which gets him in trouble and even causes him to disappear for breaking the rules.
On top of all that, this love-struck, caring, selfless Shinigami wears a cat hat and turns into a cat plushie!
8. Botan from Yuu☆Yuu☆Hakusho (Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files)
- Episodes: 112
- Aired: October 1992 – January 1995
Botan is the Shinigami that guides the dead to the spirit world. When Yusuke Urameshi dies ahead of his time, she does all she can to help him return to his body. And when Yusuke becomes a spirit detective, Botan is her link to the spirit world and acts as his trainer, gives him his missions and detective tools and teaches him how to use them. Botan also uses her own abilities to help Yusuke and to fight if need be.
Botan is probably the happiest-go-luckiest of the Shinigami in our list. She’s dressed in pink, she’s constantly smiling and she’s sweet, bubbly, a bit clumsy and kind. While she’s not much of a fighter - though she’ll beat someone with her oar if she needs to - she is more of a teacher and a source of support not only for Yusuke but for Kuwabara, Hiei and Kurama when they form the team. Botan can fly, and use healing abilities that can slow down demonification and she can even read minds. We definitely wouldn’t mind this adorable Shinigami hanging around us!
7. Tsuzuki Asato from Descendants of Darkness (Yami no Matsuei)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2000 – December 2000
Tsuzuki Asato has been a Shinigami for 70 years. He is an investigator and is in charge of the Kyuushu region, where he must make sure the dead stay in their respective realm. He has a hard time keeping partners until he meets Hisoka who is young and stubborn and with whom he ends up bonding and forming a strong partnership. There is also a mystery to Tsuzuki’s death and his past in general which haunts him and influences the course of his life as a Shinigami.
Even though it is his job to kill overdue souls, Tsuzuki hates doing it because it saddens him. Despite having been around for about 100 years, most of which he’s worked as a death god, he’s sweet, caring and kind but goes into serious mode when it comes to protecting others.
He is also able to summon twelve shikigami which are spirits that aid him in battle, while the average Shinigami can only summon up to three. This all makes him the sweetest and most powerful Shinigami in Meifu and earns him a spot on our top 10!
6. Momo from Shinigami no Ballad (Momo, Girl God of Death)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: March 2006 – April 2006
Momo is a cute little girl with white hair, dressed in white. She’s sweet, gentle and very caring. Oh and she’s, you guessed it, a god of death. She carries with her a scythe, of course, and even a Shinigami ID card. She’s different from other Shinigami however. Besides leading souls to the other side, she helps them live fulfilling lives, makes sure they die without unfinished business or helps the already deceased communicate with the living in order to set things straight for both.
Another soft and gentle Shinigami, Momo devotes herself to easing the suffering of people whether they are dead already, going to die or somehow connected to a deceased person. She even finds herself crying for the dead because “they no longer can”. Momo is a unique kind of Shinigami, never having become numbed to human death and showing an unending love for all humans. More like an angel of death, she’d be a lovely Shinigami to have as a guide to the other side.
5. Grell Sutcliff from Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2008 – March 2009
Grell is Madam Red’s mild-mannered, nervous butler and is pushed around and stomped over by his mistress. However, this meek attitude is all an act. In reality, Grell is a grim reaper and is wilder, and crazier than the murderous Madam Red herself. He is sadistic, flirtatious, very feminine and has a thing for Sebastian. Grell also has no regard for human life and he completely disregards the Grim Reaper rules, simply enjoying killing and satisfying his bloodlust.
Grell is probably the most twisted Shinigami in our list. He has a sharp tongue and an obsession with blood and killing and he is insanely interested in human suffering and especially watching evil people’s pasts and the way they lived their lives when he cut them in half and their lives pass before their eyes. One of the best things about Grell is his flamboyance and his over-the-top personality.
He’s also not above telling Sebastian what he’d like to do with him in private. Oh and did I mention he had his scythe converted into a chainsaw because “scythes are too old fashioned”?. An insane, sadistic diva Shinigami, Grell is incredibly fun to watch. As one of the top favorite characters of the series, he just had to make an appearance on our list!
4. Death from Soul Eater
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: April 2008 – March 2009
Death or (Shinigami in Japanese) is THE god of death and he is in charge of maintaining world order. He was forced to seal his first son Asura because he betrayed him and bound him under the Death Weapon Meister Academy he’s the headmaster of, where weapon meisters train to become Shinigami and their weapons train to become worthy scythes.
Death possesses the largest soul in the series and has, as expected, a large amount of Shinigami power. He is able to use Kishin-hunt, an attack which allows him to override immortality, thus defeating powerful enemies. He can teleport, transform, resonate with various weapons besides his very powerful Death Scythe. He’s highly intelligent and his soul is linked to Death City in its entirety which allows him to transform and control the city to his whim.
For as incredibly powerful as Death is, he is also very kind, optimistic, acts silly and even changed his mask to avoid frightening kids. But he is not over punishing or delivering Shinigami Chops to those who break the rules, as the students and staff are well aware. Lord Death is one well rounded Shinigami!
3. Rory Mercury from GATE (Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Rory Mercury is a demigoddess and an Apostle of Emroy who is the god of war, violence and death. She is also known as Rory the Reaper, or Shinigami Rory in Japanese, as she will swiftly slaughter all who oppose her with her giant axe. She becomes interested in the Japanese military convoy and joins Itami and company in their adventures. She’s quick to assist the JSDF in battle and, much like Lelei and Tuka, gives special support to Itami who she seems to have feelings for.
Like most Shinigami, Rory is immortal; she has super human strength that allows her to wield her huge halberd, which she is incredibly skilled at. She can recover and regenerate quickly and she’s very intelligent, shown by the fact that she learned Japanese fast and well enough to shut a politician up when being questioned at the Japanese Diet. She’s an adorable little girl in gothic Lolita clothes who kicks ass with a giant axe and she’s not afraid to pursue a booty call when the urge strikes.
2. Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryuusai from Bleach
- Episodes: 366
- Aired: October 2004 – March 2012
Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryuusai is the founder of the Shinigami Academy, the Captain-Commander of the Gotei 13, and wields Ryuujin Jakka, the oldest and most powerful fire Zenpakuto. Ryuujin Jakka is usually sealed as his cane and when its Shikai is released, it is so strong, the release of spiritual pressure can be felt for miles across Soul Society. According to Genryuusai, his Bankais special ability is so powerful it can destroy everything in Soul Society, even himself.
He is so strong, wise and confident in his abilities he rarely shows any sign of surprise or distress and is usually seen in a very calm state with his eyes closed and looking like a regular old man. That is until he bares his chest in a battle and you realize he’s one ripped old man! Genryuusai is so loyal to Soul Society he is willing to sacrifice himself and the rest of the captains for it.
He has also personally trained some of the strongest captains and kept peace and order as Captain-Commander in Soul Society for over 1000 years, which he claims is because no other Shinigami has rivaled him in strength. Being undefeated for so long and leading something like the Gotei 13 and Soul Society, we couldn’t leave good old Genryuusai out!
1. Ryuk from Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
Ryuk is a shinigami who is bored with nothing to do in the death god realm. Each Shinigami owns a Death Note in which they write the name of those who must die and how they should die. In his boredom, Ryuk writes instructions on the back of a Death Note and drops it to Earth just to see what happens. Light Yagami picks up the book and decides to use it to rid the world of evil and injustice and so Ryuk starts following him around for entertainment as Light makes use of the Death Note.
We couldn’t have a list without good old Ryuk. He is most certainly one of the most popular and well-known Shinigami out there. He’s a twisted devil-may-care type of Shinigami who is truly only looking for a way to keep himself entertained. He finds the dark sides and quirks of humans infinitely interesting and enjoys observing their struggles and desperation.
He’s also very blunt an honest as when he tells Light “You actually thought you were chosen because you’re so smart or something? Don’t be so vain”. It’s as fun to watch Ryuk being himself as it was for him to watch Light use the Death Note!
In some of these anime being a Shinigami is a gift, in some it’s merely the way things are and in others it is more of a curse. The realms they exist in are completely different; from needing detectives as in Descendants of Darkness and YuYu Hakusho, or being realms with an internal struggle like in Bleach and Sould Eater. And of course, everything in between.
We also have a wide variety of types of Shinigami, mostly kind-hearted ones, some extremely powerful, and some just with a big heart. Some hate their job ending human lives, and then there are the dark ones who enjoy watching humans suffer or enjoy their job way too much.
Picking the Top 10 Shinigami of all time was not an easy task, but this is our list. What would your list look like?
Thank you for stopping by and remember to leave your comments below!