As a major component in Japanese religion and culture, shinigami are recognized as gods of death or death spirits that invite people towards death. Shinigami, both in folklore and anime, are represented as monsters, dark creatures, and even angels, bringing those past their time onto the next life.
In the following anime, we hope to provide you with a great list of shows and films that draw a heavy influence from shinigami legend. Either sticking with traditional lore or spicing it up with a modern twist, we hope you enjoy what we have to offer. Watch out now! These choices are killer!
10. Omishi Mahou Gekijou: Risky☆Safety
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 1999 – April 2000
Omishi Mahou Gekijou: Risky☆Safety is a story about three essential characters: Risky, Safety, and Moe Katsuragi. As an apprentice shinigami, Risky is still learning the death trade. Under the guidance of an apprentice angel called Safety, the two are magically joined together. Risky is eager to climb the ranks as a distinguished shinigami, desperately wanting to take the life of Moe, as shinigami hone in on individuals with low spirits, extreme unhappiness and who are deeply depressed. However, Risky’s efforts are halted because Safety somehow seems to lift Moe out of her sadness.
Risky and Safety are an interesting take on the concept of yin and yang, albeit with a twist. Occupying the same form, these two are counterpointed, realizing that death is not in the cards for Moe anytime soon. Collectively, Risky highlights the message that people often fall into dark moments, which appear impossible to come out of. Nonetheless, Safety comes into view after dark times, always there to offer optimism, a different perspective, and an overall new sense of hope. Something we fail to see during despair.
9. Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai. (So, I Can’t Play H!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2012 – September 2012
Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai. or So, I Can’t Play H! centers on the outrageous encounters of Ryosuke Kaga as he endures interactions with the fiery, smoking-hot Lisara Restole. Agreeing to let Lisara use some of his “mojo” to stay in this world, Ryosuke later discovers that doing this service was a grave mistake and that Lisara is no ordinary Shinigami. Unlike the average shinigami who draws victims toward death, Lisara wants something else…something more naughty. Feeding off Ryosuke’s lustful thoughts and habits, her list and demands are endless, making life for him all the more difficult. As the two move deeper into their working contract, their feelings and sense of self get lost along the way. In the end, will these two be able to help each other out?
Easily the silliest choice of shinigami anime, So, I Can’t Play H! is definitely an out-of-this-world , supernatural, ecchi rom-com series that boasts tons of amusing moments. A satisfying and enjoyable story to follow, this anime takes on a cheerful and carefree approach to shinigami folktales.
8. Kuro no Sumika: Chronus
- Aired: March 1, 2014
“Eventually, everyone dies.” No matter how much hope they are filled with, or how overflowing with happiness they may be, the grim reapers of fate take our loved ones away. And unfortunately, I am the only one who can see these grim reapers.”
Kuro no Sumika: Chronus is a film focusing on high school student Makoto Nakazono, who has a small dark secret. Ever since Makoto was a small boy, he was gifted with the ability to see grim reapers, taking souls from folks when their time is up. One day, a grim reaper approaches him, interrogating him. In response, Makoto tells him that whether or not he is a grim reaper, there isn’t anything he can do to change things, as nobody would listen or believe him. From that moment on, an ominous being finds a victim in Makoto’s dear friend, Kazuki Horiuchi.
In this movie, the shinigami are portrayed in their most common interpretation; supernatural beings that ferry souls into the afterlife. Watching Makoto navigate through life with this ability is both a blessing and a curse, in that he is able to see when someone is about to die, but can’t do anything about it. An even more unfortunate position for Makoto is that he is unable to divulge his secret, for fear of being labeled crazy. Although the shinigami are just doing their job, we can’t help but feel a sense of fury in their presence.
7. Kyoukai no Rinne (RIN-NE)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
From the same mind that brought us Inuyasha, Kyoukai no Rinne is a story that revolves around a young gal named Sakura Mamiya and a young human/spirit hybrid named Rinne Rokudou. When Sakura was a child, she inherited the ability to see supernatural entities, but concealed her power to avoid ridicule and criticism. As time has gone by, Sakura learned to live with and bear this skill. One day, she is reminded about her ability when Rinne Rokudou enters her class, demonstrating a similar sight for the supernatural. As a shinigami, Rinne is one that helps ferry souls and spirits into the afterlife, bringing them to their final resting place. While Sakura and Rinne become friends and collaborate their efforts, they present to us the exciting journey we must take from one plane of existence to the next.
A light-hearted, supernatural, rom-com, RIN-NE is definitely an enjoyable anime to watch. Rinne, with heritage from both the human and spirit world, really represents his roots with his appearance, school uniform and ceremonial haori, as well as his personality. Although his shinigami job description calls for him to get these lost spirits where they need to go A.S.A.P., Rinne, instead patiently guides them until they are certain they are ready. As Rinne shows a deep respect for his partner and friend Sakura, their relationship makes this anime a heartfelt series to experience.
6. Shinigami no Ballad. (Momo, Girl God of Death)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: March 2006 – April 2006
Shinigami no Ballad centers on the experiences of a shinigami named Momo. As the Girl God of Death, Momo’s job is to carry souls, taking the lives of those who wish to live, and those who wish to die. In six short episodes, we get to observe the tale of a pure white shinigami, whose hands are dirty with death, yet still remains very childlike.
A sweet and endearing anime, Shinigami no Ballad. offers viewers another perspective of the duties and responsibilities that come with being a god of death and reaping souls. Portraying calm themes and dainty animation, it also reflects on some heavy-hitting issues not normally discussed in anime, such as how to cope with the death of a loved one. Importantly, Momo comes to those who really need the help, reminding them to live life to the fullest, since no one is able to predict death as well as a shinigami.
5. Boogiepop wa Warawanai: Boogiepop Phantom (Boogiepop Phantom)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2000 – March 2000
Boogiepop wa Warawanai: Boogiepop Phantom or Boogiepop Phantom is a psychological, supernatural, mystery centering on events that follow a string of murders occurring five years prior that greatly affected the community. Once again, these similar events have resurfaced, thus impacting citizens anew. Whenever crime and disorder start to climb, rumors of a shinigami known as Boogiepop circulate, particularly among the students of Shinyo Academy. Dark and mysterious, not much is known about him except that he comes and takes you in the dark. Good or evil? That is something Nagi Karima will have to assess for all of us.
“I always feel like somebody's watching me.” Clouded by misconduct, villainy, and evil, Boogiepop Phantom’s story is the most complex on this list, presenting many elements and variables in the plotline. It offers accounts from many perspectives, bringing together the little pieces to make a whole. As high school students begin to disappear, all signs point to the eerie Boogiepop Phantom, as well as other supernatural entities that branch from this character. A challenging thriller thus far on our list, Boogiepop Phantom is one shinigami you do not want to encounter when things go south.
- Episodes: 366
- Aired: October 2004 – March 2012
Bleach is centered on the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, an average teenage boy with the ability to see ghosts. As Ichigo encounters an evil ghost known as a Hollow, he meets a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki, who unfortunately is harmed while trying to protect Ichigo and his family. In order to help rescue his family, Ichigo agrees to take on the role of Soul Reaper. With this responsibility, Ichigo, along with his friends, takes on the challenge of stopping the Hollows that have invaded his town. Furthermore, Ichigo discovers that the secrets and dangers of his town are not just confined to the threat of the Hollows.
In Bleach, shinigami are regarded as guardians for souls entering the process of transmigration. Possessing a great amount of spiritual and supernatural powers, the shinigami purify Hollows and guide Pluses, bringing these lost and tormented souls a sense of peace and closure. In order to save his family, Ichigo took on the powers of a shinigami, making his case a little different from the average shinigami, as Ichigo still remains a part of the human world instead of living in Soul Society.
3. Soul Eater
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: April 2008 – March 2009
Soul Eater takes place in a world where people have the ability to turn into weapons and are paired with individuals called meisters who wield them. The Death Weapon Meister Academy, or the DWMA for short, is a school dedicated to teaching these youngsters and was founded by the one and only, Death. This academy educates its students in fighting against the forces of evil called kishin who tyrannically devour the souls of humans. As meister and weapon learn to combat the kishin, they collect every soul after completing their task, absorbing them into a death scythe. As the duo of meister and weapon traverses on their quest, they combat kishin and various evils in order to achieve peace and normalcy in Death City.
In this anime, Death a.k.a. Shinigami-sama is a Death God, a major component to the story, whose duty is to preserve the natural order of things. Eight centuries ago, Death was the leader of a group called the Eight Shinigami Legion after the Demon Weapon race was created. After some success, his own son, Asura who later became the first kishin, betrayed Shinigami-sama. With immortal characteristic as well, Asura was sealed away. In this circumstance, Shinigami-sama created the DWMA, recruiting and preventing the rise of other kishin. As an authority for peace and preservation, Shinigami-sama comes swiftly for those who disturb harmony.
2. Full Moon wo Sagashite (Searching for the Full Moon)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 2002- March 2003
Full Moon wo Sagashite (Searching for the Full Moon) follows the story of a girl named Mitsuki Kouyama, who recently separated from her dear friend, Eichi Sakurai, when he moved to America. With a sense of regret for not being able to tell him how she feels, she moves forward with the promise of fulfilling their dreams: Mitsuki as a singer and Eichi as an astronomer. Although burdened with a condition that affects her singing, Mitsuki nonetheless believes she can accomplish her dream. One day, Mitsuki is startled by some life-altering news as two shinigami, Meroki Yui and Takuto Kira, bring her an unfortunate announcement. Having only a year left to live, Mitsuki and the shinigami duo work as hard as they can to make her a professional singer before time runs out.
Alright, we’re going to say it… #YOLO! Together as the “Green Onion Ramen”, lol, Meroki and Takuto are a fun-loving shinigami duo that do the opposite of bringing death into Mitsuki’s life. When we think of shinigami, we often conjure up images of beings that are dark and evil with selfish motives. However, with this light-hearted anime, Meroki and Takuto bring substance and meaning to Mitsuki’s shortened life. Making sure that Mitsuki becomes a professional singer, Meroki and Takuto push her closer to her dreams, allowing her end to appear more welcoming and accomplished.
1. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 – June 2007
The popular anime Death Note follows Light Yagami, a high school student, who one day stumbles upon a Death Note. This Death Note is a notebook enhanced with magical, yet evil power. It was dropped by a shinigami named Ryuk who made his way into the world of the living because he got bored. The notebook’s instructions state the power of the Death Note is invoked once an individual’s name is written down on a page, marking them for death. Additionally, the Death Note can also include fine details e.g., time, date, and how the individual will meet their demise. As an unenthused guy, Light’s intelligent and clever nature is masked. Wanting to find purpose in life, he uses the Death Note as a means to condemn the bad guys to keep them from committing any more harm. Channeling this new ambition, Light discovers his sense of worth in the world.
Death Note shines a huge spotlight onto shinigami legend, with Ryuk as one of the more popularized shinigami out there. In an attempt to escape boredom, Ryuk twists what he does onto humanity, drawing out the most sinister thoughts that a person can pray on, vengeance. As each criminal is written closer to death in this notebook, what Light believes to be justice is no more than a silly, twisted game for Ryuk.
We hope you enjoyed our recommendations for top 10 shinigami anime! If you haven’t already, make sure to check out all of these great titles! Additionally, take a look at the article similarly titled, which highlights several other notable shinigami in anime!
As this article comes just in time for our favorite spooky holiday, these choices are extra scary, feeling that our eyes are playing tricks on us, especially when it’s dark or when we are alone! Starring in your worst fears and nightmares, shinigami folklore isn’t something that can be easily shaken off, as legends of their existence are ingrained into many cultures! From this assessment, let us know if we’ve missed any other great shinigami anime by commenting below! See ya!