"Heaven isn't full but the car park is. Since 1993 blessed souls have been driving around looking for a space."A character shuffles off the mortal coil to join the choir invisible. They travel through the Tunnel of Light and come out to find... a numbered ticket dispenser and a long line. Welcome to the Afterlife Bureaucracy. Many movies have shown the afterlife to be just an extension of the bureaucratic nightmare that plagues the living anytime they have any dealings with an official agency. Complete with "Now Serving XX (XXXXXXXXXXXXXX...)" signs, waiting rooms and obstructive bureaucrats. But if the departed hope to get their Final Reward, they had better make damn sure all the "i"s are dotted and the "t"s are crossed. Chinese mythology views heaven and the afterlife as a bureaucracy patterned on their own governmental systems (or was it the other way around?), and ruled over by the benevolent Jade Emperor, making this idea probably Older Than Feudalism, or older. May overlap with Hell of a Heaven or Mundane Afterlife. Do not confuse it with the video game series Dept. Heaven. May overlap with Don't Fear the Reaper. As a Death Trope, several if not all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
— Loads More Lies to Tell Small Kids
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Anime & Manga
- Hoozuki no Reitetsu is about the bureaucracy of (Buddhist) Hell. They even have paid holidays for their employees.
- YuYu Hakusho; in fact, Yusuke's first reaction is to ask "Is this the stock market?"
- Dragon Ball Z:
- King Yemma is in charge. And his desk is made of mahogany.
- Each world has a Guardian. The Guardians answer to the Kai of their galactic quadrant, who answers to the Grand Kai of their galaxy, who answers to the Supreme Kai of their universal quadrant, who answers to the Grand Supreme Kai of the entire universe. However, since the Grand Supreme Kai and 3 of the Supreme Kai have been taken out of existence altogether, the government which is now ruled by the relatively inexperienced Eastern Supreme Kai has been downsized. As he was never meant to watch over the universe as a whole, this is an adequate reason as to why the Earth's Special Forces almost never receive any divine help aside from King Kai.
- It is later revealed that the Grand Supreme Kai and 4 Kai are the 'Gods of Creation' and balanced by a 'God of Destruction,' who destroys old worlds and such so new ones can fomed. In the DBZ universe, (said to be the 7th Universe), that is Beerus. He is feared and respected. However, he has a mentor in Whis (who's job seems to be training and managing said Gods of Destruction), who has his own superior in Zen-O, the supreme ruler of the multiverse.
- Bleach: Soul Society is run this way, with authority from the (absentee) Soul King delegated to the (civilian) Central 46, which in turn commands the (military) Gotei 13. The bureaucracy has been in place for at least 1000 years and is just about as crusty and hide-bound as you'd expect. It's not an exaggeration to say that a good 75% of all the nonsense that goes down in Bleach is because of Soul Society being poorly governed. In the second half of the series, this is slowly changing as the Gotei becomes more open, and as Kyouraku makes reforms in the wake of Yamamoto's death.
- Saiyuki, being based on a classical Chinese novel, has an extensive version. Particularly of interest is Saiyuki Gaiden, set mostly in the heavenly realms and where most characters are Celestial Bureaucrats of one form or another.
- Descendants of Darkness is based upon this trope. The main characters are all dead people who serve as bureaucrats for the Afterlife Bureaucracy.
- Black Butler seems to have one too. This be an homage to Yami no Matsuei.
- Ah! My Goddess's Heaven is full of celestial sysadmins. The episode where Belldandy gets demon powers plays up this trope.
- Edaniel describes the afterlife like this in Bizenghast.
- The monsters of Slayers have one; all we really know about it is that Xellos, despite being more powerful than any of Shaburanigdo's lieutenants(he was apparently created specifically for The War of the Monster's Fall), ranks well below them.
- Hotori dies and finds the Japanese Heaven is like this in Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru.
- In Valerian, the celestial hierarchy based on planet Hypsis appears to be an extremely capitalist enterprise. Each pantheon's position in the hierarchy is determined by the gross national product of the planet it oversees, and it's possible for the enterprise to fail, which leads to stripping divinity and immortality from the pantheon's members, and banishing them to the infernal depths of the Point Central to work off their debts, as happened to one Mr. L.C.F. Sat. The members of the Earth's pantheon, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are a dilapidated business near collapse, and harassed by their colleagues over the Earthlings' habit of meddling with the affairs of others.
- The depiction of Hell and the Norse Afterlife seem to work this way in Ninja High School.
- In the Death Jr. series, Death is the CEO of the corporation that handles the afterlife. The bureaucracy happens later (endless queues of souls, reams of forms) when Bureaucracy, the fifth horseman of the apocalypse, tries to take over.
- The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael: Purgatory/limbo is a wasteland where the souls of the formerly living wait in line at the bank of a river guarded by demonic horsemen before receiving judgment by The Ferryman, who will take them to their final destination.
- Back in 1942, Fawcet Comics debuted Kid Eternity, a young hero who was the victim of the first celestial clerical error in two million years. After his grandfather’s boat is torpedoed by a German U-boat, he ends up in Eternity (the name for Heaven here) where he finds out he isn’t supposed to die for 75 years. Fortunately, this is a Celestial Bureaucracy that is big on restitution; they not only grant him life, but incredible super-powers (including the ability to summon both historic and fictional characters to aid him) and as further largesse, appoint the portly desk jockey (“Mr. Keeper”) who made the error to act as his partner. The duo fought crime and Those Wacky Nazis for about eight years, but Kid Eternity never had the Popularity Power he needed to be a hit, although he has had a few guest appearances since then. (And ironically, if he does indeed ever want to become A-list, he has to hurry; his 75-year reprieve is almost up!)
- The Haunted Mansion and the Hatbox Ghost Fan Verse has a reconstructed version of this trope. Though the ghost realm, worldwide, is a rather lawless mess, the Haunted Mansion itself has a bureaucracy through the Ghost Relations Department, and ghosts have to fill out all sorts of forms to be allowed to haunt the house permanently. The Ghost Host, a self-described stickler for paperwork, imposes it on the other spooks, much to their annoyance.
Films — Animated
- Hades' realm in the Disney version of Hercules approaches this: though the place where the afterlife go is a chaotic swirling pool of ghosts and goo, when the dead enter Hades, a little sign clicks in: "1000001 served."
- In the animated short film Heavenly Appeals, a reformed devil presents his appeals case to a guard angel at the gates of Heaven, only to be cruelly denied and have his documents thrown away. The angel further torments him by using a lever to make him bounce up and down on the stone platform he's sitting on, only to fall off his own cloud when he chokes on a donut. After hesitating, the devil saves the angel and they sit together on the cliff...and then the angel shoves the devil off. But the devil is saved when he grows a pair of angel wings and a halo off-screen, and joyfully enters the gates of Heaven, while the angel's wings disappear and he grows horns as he's cast down into Hell.
Films — Live-Action
- Beetlejuice. Staffed by the ghosts of people who committed suicide.
- Defending Your Life has an afterlife of prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, and a huge legal tangle.
- A Matter of Life and Death, known in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven.
- Here Comes Mr. Jordan features bungled soul reaping by an officious (psychopompous?) angel known only as 7013, as part of a rather airline-esque afterlife.
- In the 1946 Abbott and Costello ghost comedy, The Time of Their Lives, after the curse that prevents Patriot Horatio Prim (Lou Costello) from ascending to Heaven is lifted, he is still excluded — because Heaven is "Closed for Washington's Birthday."
- The Tooth Fairy: Not afterlife, but still (usually) invisible to humans.
- A Life Less Ordinary saw heaven as this, complete with archangels as harassed middle-managers.
- The Adjusters in The Adjustment Bureau are supernatural beings in charge of human destinies... and they dress like 50's office clerks and work in what appears to be a huge chancellery.
- Nick's introduction to the R.I.P.D. takes place in an office, outside of which are walls full of filing cabinets as far as the eyes can see.
- The Japanese film Afterlife is set in an Afterlife Antechamber where the newly-dead are put through a formal process to prepare them for eternity.
- The Jam Handy short Out of This World is about angel-like and demon-like characters who are actually file clerks who share an office tracking the sales numbers for bread salesmen. They perform a minor Job-like bet on a random bread salesman to see if he'll keep up good sales technique after somebody makes fun of him for it, simply out of boredom.
- Lemegeton Clavicula Salomonis, or Solomon's Key. This foundational text of Western occultism/magic presents a very complicated government of demons that can be summoned to do the magician's bidding. Dukes, Princes, Generals, Viceroys, and many others hold rank and administer specific functions in Hell.
- Les jeux sont faits (The Game is Up or The Chips Are Down depending on the translation) by Sartre, written in 1943.
- Tom Holt's Here Comes The Sun is entirely based on this trope. For example, a complaints form consists of a pure, 24-carat gold slab several acres in area, which is filled with so much bureaucratic crap that the actual complaint needs to be chiseled in microscopic writing in a millimetre-wide spot.
- Holt loves this one. In Paint Your Dragon, Hell is portrayed as a bureaucracy, and Chardonay is explicitly referred to as Management.
- C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters is one of the earliest English-language examples (though he acknowledges a 17th-century example in the prologue), featuring a Diabolical Bureaucracy (given the focus of the book, readers never learn what heaven is like). In this case, Hell's bureaucracy was created by taking what Lewis saw as good qualities, such as a sense of humor about oneself, and seeing what was left.
- The Dark Heavens series is based around ancient Chinese mythology, and hence contains numerous references to the celestial bureaucracy, with one character complaining about how much paperwork his quarter of heaven requires.
- Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, is built on this trope from start to finish.
- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson features the Bardo (the afterlife of Tibetan folklore), which, in reflection of the growing influence of China in the living world, is gradually taken over by the Chinese Celestial Bureaucracy.
- Inferno by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, which is a modern re-imagining of Dante's Inferno, is one big, strange bureaucracy whose motives the protagonist puzzles out during the course of the story.
- Eoin Colfer's The Wish List features Saint Peter griping about how computer programmers never get past the Pearly Gates, so he has to do all of his records manually. The staff of Hell dread being reassigned to somewhere even worse than they already are.
- Mark Twain's Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven includes a part where he lands in an alien heaven and has to deal with the bureaucracy to get to the heaven for Earth.
- Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series has one of these. Part of the new Death's personal problems with the system is that babies born of rape or incest are automatically set at the half-good half-bad line, meaning any stillborns or crib death babies are automatically sent to purgatory to become office accountants. (Until he fixes it.)
- In Journey to the West, there is even a list in the underworld dictating who goes there. Guess whose names Sun Wukong crosses off when he storms in.
- Robert A. Heinlein's JOBA Comedy Of Justice plays with this concept.
- The protagonist goes to heaven after being subjected to the torments of Job, only to discover that God and Satan are merely junior deities in a massive celestial hierarchy, playing games with their mortal "pawns" in a manner deliberately analogous to children playing with dolls. God is then punished for failing to provide his creations with fair and consistent rules.
- The Heaven that the protagonist reaches is run in this manner, with the various angels and saints acting as bureaucrats and civil servants.
- The Heaven associated with Earth in Stranger in a Strange Land resembles an office, with the angels discussing their projects and sports.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
- The Underworld in Percy Jackson and the Olympians is victim to this. There's a long wait for departed souls, and Charon really wants to have a pay-raise.
- Even the EZ-Death line is backed up in The Last Olympian. Those with special circumstances, which is everyone else, are put on the very slow Attendant On Duty lines.
- The Kushiel's Legacy novels give Chi'in people this version of the afterlife, since they are a stand-in for Chinese. But the very good people get to skip the bureaucracy.
- Andrei Belyanin:
- Heaven in Andrei Belyanin's My Wife Is a Witch duology is run by a bureaucracy. The protagonist's personal angel Ancifer has to file daily reports on his charge's activities. In the second book, it is revealed that Hell has decided to adopt a similar system, and his demon Farmason is not at all happy with all the deadlines and reports in triplicate.
- Belyanin's On-Call Demon novel has a similar premise. The protagonist is a demon named Abifasdon whose job involves collecting on the souls of people whose Deal with the Devil has expired (although, he still has to get an invitation to come in). His wife also works there but in the Temptation Department. She uses her demoness wiles to trick (usually) male clients into signing such deals. Usually, her clients will sign the deal for a night with her, which Abifasdon doesn't mind (sex with a human is meaningless to a demon). Abifasdon's best (and only) friend is an bodybuilding angel, whose job frequently requires him to kick Abifasdon's ass if the client whose soul Abifasdon has come to collect on has suddenly decided to repent or has connections "upstairs".
- Hell, in Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. This is apparently fairly recent, as the obstructive bureaucrat to end all obstructive bureaucrats who... "improved" things had only arrived in the mid-1800s. This is Played for Laughs, used to set up at least two impressive moments for Cabal, and one heartwarming scene (a rare thing, in that book).
- Michelle Scott's Lilith Straight Series depicts hell as an enormous office building with industrial, gray carpeting, flickering fluorescent lights, and labyrinthine hallways. The Devil is a Bad Boss whose Beleaguered Assistant is constantly buried under paperwork.
- This trope taken to its logical extreme perfectly describes the Auditors of Reality, who are essentially bureaucrats who oversee the minutiae of the Magical Underpinnings of Reality. Unfortunately for all sapient life, they despise anything resembling creativity or individuality, since it increases the amount of paperwork they have to do.
- Discworld's Hell - at least during Astfgl's stint as Demon King in Eric - is also portrayed as a literally soul-grinding bureaucracy, with the torment of pushing a rock up a hill being replaced by the greater torment of listening to the associated Health and Safety regulations, and the ancient ledgers being replaced by modern filing cabinets. While this does have the desired effect on the damned, the demons half to suffer it right along with them. When the demons finally have enough of all this they do what any bureaucracy would do in the situation - promote him to a position where he doesn't actually have any responsibility, and give him a very nice office and a speaking tube that doesn't connect to anyone.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's "Leaf by Niggle", the protagonist is a bit casual in preparing for his demise, so he is assigned to a sort of purgatory. After he learns to be better organized, the entities in charge send him on further.
- Implied in the earlier chapters of The Atomic Blood Stained Bus, and then shown outright when Garfield and Algernon go to the offices of the gods and deal with the receptionist and security angels.
- Journey to Chaos: The grim reapers of the Abyss are organized into ranks and governed by laws and customs. Their scythe is the symbol of their office. For instance, Reno Grade is a third class trainee reaper whose scythe is blood red while Modil Pera is a first class senior reaper and carries a sycthe with a gold blade.
- The Detective Inspector Chen series features a bureaucratic afterlife based on Chinese mythology.
- In Atharon, Avatars for different magical professions make one of these. Things get messy quickly whenever live mortals need to interact with them. Dead souls are ok, it's all in the days work for the Avatars.
- Dead Like Me features a character who gets turned into a grim reaper and joins the bureaucratic mess of being a psychopomp. One episode (the cut scene episode) explicitly lampshades this.
- The Underworld as depicted in The Middle Man is a giant office building with files in the back room and a Deadpan Snarker at the desk position.
- In an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, "The Tale of Station 109.1", the main character is mistaken for a dead person at their local Celestial Bureaucracy. The clerk there, played by Special Guest Gilbert Gottfried, tells him "I don't make mistakes! When I was alive, I worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles!"
- A Turkish series called Ruhsar plays with this: Essentially, the afterlife is mentioned (since the audience never sees anything beyond the "lobby") to adhere to the traditional standards Heaven and Hell. But they are both managed by a Celestial Bureaucracy. Some episodes revolved around the Bureaucratic nature of the afterlife such as the titular character working in a "Heaven Modernisation Committee" or having run-ins with the Obstructive Bureaucrat Angels after accidentally violating a regulation.
- An episode of Murder Most Horrid has The Grim Reaper complaining endlessly about this. They gave her a makeover because they thought she was too grim for modern customers.
- The heaven in Supernatural is like this, at least for the angels. And Zachariah can be one scary-ass careerist.
- Hell, under the Crowley regime, is also like this. It's just one long, shabby waiting line. He changed it to this because he noticed that too many people sent to Hell were masochists that were Too Kinky to Torture, but everybody hates waiting in line.
- Deliberately Invoked by the Ferengi in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; since the Ferengi Hat is being cunning, and placing wealth above all else (including family), this is how the Ferengi view whatever they have in place of heaven; and they strive to get to their Heaven (or, as they call it, The Divine Treasury). Basically, they believe that when a Ferengi dies, he meets the Blessed Exchequer, who reviews his life's finances. Those who have earned a profit in life get to enter the Divine Treasury to bid on a new life in front of the Celestial Auctioneers. Those who haven't are doomed to spend eternity in the Vault of Eternal Destitution.
- In Horrible Histories, the Stupid Deaths skits often reference an afterlife bureaucracy, for example Death talks about how big his workload was during the bubonic plague, or tells someone whose death he views as insufficiently interesting (or stupid) to "get back in the Boring Deaths line."
- The Promised Land comes off this way in Doctor Who. Characters who have (apparently) died in-story appear in a garden or a gleaming white hallway to give their statements to Missy or her assistant Seb.
- The Magicians: In a variant, the Underworld is a nice version of this trope, especially considering everything else is a Crapsack World. Dead souls find themselves in what looks like a pleasant hotel lobby, with friendly staff ready to help them make the transition as smoothly as possible, along with an orientation video from Hades and pamphlets promising newcomers that they're (probably) not going to Hell. There are miniature paradises filled with mundane things people might enjoy like bowling while they wait to be sorted into their final afterlives, and the only real rules are that souls without shades are quarantined, and you're not allowed to interact with other souls if you were culpable in their deaths.
- Part of the hard to follow plotline of Jethro Tull's 1973 Concept Album, "A Passion Play", concerns something of a Celestial Bureaucracy involving one "G. Oddie And Son" running Heaven as bureaucratic office managers. This theme would have been carried over into the next year's proposed film project which became the "WarChild" album.
- In the Hungarian song Penitencia by Zorán, the protagonist meets God, which is depicted as a job interview. He eventually fails and is sent back to Earth.
- "The Afterlife" by Paul Simon
You got to fill out a form firstAnd then you wait in the line
Mythology and Religion
- Traditional Chinese religion.
- For starters, their head God is literally an Emperor (The Jade Emperor), and the afterlife is run like the Old Chinese Empire, with the Emperor, his courtiers, various ministries and their respective ministers handling various departments regarding celestial/mortal life, and governors (with the Mortal Chinese Emperor being governor of the Mortal world)
- This is primarily the reason why the Chinese believed the Emperor had the "Mandate of Heaven." Just as an Emperor would appoint a Governor, then probably the Jade Emperor mandated that the Mortal Emperor be governor of this world. Additionally, this too is why Chinese don't really put much stock in Royal Houses. Governorship of a Province in Imperial China was not hereditary, and therefore the Mortal Emperor's governorship of this world isn't either. Hence Heaven can withdraw the "Mandate." How do they know a mandate is withdrawn? By the simple matter of the Emperor being incompetent/corrupt, whereby it is the peasants' right to remove him, and replace him with either another noble house, a commoner, or even a foreign conquering barbarian as with the case of Kublai Khan and the Manchus.
- Everyone in the Jade Emperor's Afterlife Empire becomes the God of his associated job/responsibilities. The Jade Emperor's cook? God of the Kitchen. The Palace Guards? Gods of Guarding/Gates/doorways. Hell, if the Celestial Empire upgraded, some of The Jade Emperor's webmasters might be Gods of Webmastering or something.
- Mortals are often "hired" too. Some scholars believe Zao Jun (The Kitchen God) was an actual person in early Chinese history, possibly some chef with god-tier skills. The Ancient Chinese must have believed the Gods would want such a bloke to feed them.
- This is occasionally a cause of Odd Job Gods. For instance Guan Yu, a street vendor who rose to become a great general, became Guandi, god of war... and of bean curd sellers.
- The most prominent of the celestial bureaucrats was Wenchang Wang, the god of officials, examination candidates, and military officers. Students often prayed to him before taking one of the phenomenally hard Imperial Examinations, and religious philanthropists honored him by not wasting or misusing paper with writing on it. Additionally, Lord Wenchang is responsible for keeping the Cinnamon Ledger, on which everyone's deeds and the rewards/punishments due are recorded and changed accordingly.
- The Chinese Place of Judgement resembles an Ancient Chinese Court of Law/Justice, with Yen Lo as the Lord/God of Judgement. Funnily, depictions of judgement by the Imperial Chinese features Yen Lo, in traditional judge's attire, seated on a desk cluttered with paperwork. He is surrounded by supernatural bureaucrats, record-makers, plaintiffs, jury, and even demonic lictors (court of justice guards).
- The soul of the departed? Well, obviously the defendant, against a Mirror that plays instances of specific actions in his life. What's more, you get to have a supernatural lawyer! Who knows the laws of heaven, and unlike in most religions, you can argue your way out of a sentence in Chinese Hell. And Chinese Hell (as Heaven and Hell are one in the Chinese Afterlife) resembles, again, an Old Chinese torture chamber/prison, whereby you serve your (exceedingly brutal) punishment for a given amount of time (not unlike the mortal penal system), and then you're released either in the afterlife or you get reborn.
- In China it's a common custom to burn offerings known as Hell Bank Notes. They're meant for the deceased to spend in the afterlife.
- It's also amusing to note that a number of Chinese and Indian near-death experiences include being informed by clerks that there has been a "clerical error" and "someone else with your name was supposed to die today."
- In The Aeneid Aeneas travels through the underworld to Elysium, where he finds his father, Anchises — who is numbering souls on a tablet. So he's pretty much got a clipboard and is taking the names of everyone in Heaven.
- The Bible:
- Most variations of Heaven found in the Abrahamic Religions have shades of this trope, despite there being little to no definite proof of this found in the major Holy writings. Most famous would be the Christian image of St. Peter and the Pearly Gates, sitting at a high desk and letting people in based on the information in some great book. God or Jesus will sometimes fill this role. As well, God did give Moses the Ten Commandments (as well as many other laws and rules) while on that mountaintop...
- The biblical Book of Revelation claims that at the End of the World, all humanity are gathered to be judged, and "the books were opened" (sounds like accounting) and "the Book of Life was opened", and all those whose names aren't in the latter are chucked in the Lake of Fire. No mention of pearly gates or St. Peter, though.
- In Islam, every part of sentient being's (djinns are included) afterlife is managed by angels. For instance, every single human have two angels sitting on their shoulder to write their piety and sin. After the Kiamat (End of the World) we will be in purgatory, where they have to go through several trials which those angels's reports will make the trials either easier or harder. Afterward, the report will be publicly announced on the gathering people and judged how long they're going to hell. Yes, everyone's going to hell at first, in which the angels, not Satan, will torture them based on the sin. After the sin had spent, the human will be removed from hell and gain eternity in heaven, with angels who tortured them become steadfast companions and servants.
- In Egyptian Mythology, in order to gain a eternal life in the paradise, there's are a huge number of prerequisites to fill, as you need to be mummified, prayed to, have a tomb with a name and food tribute made by your loved ones just to be judged, in which you need to have an unimpeachable life to avoid have your soul eaten by a chimera, and after that, there's still a very long and dangerous journey to reach the paradise.
- In gnostic works, the Archons are pretty much this, being heavenly agents with a complex hierarchy that deal with the souls after they die. Unfortunately, they eat said souls. The Aeons are also a complex hierarchy, but they don't deal with the souls that manage to transcend the Archons.
- The central premise of Old Harry's Game, a workplace comedy set in Fire and Brimstone Hell. Heaven is apparently even more of a mess from what is seen in-story, since Satan is slightly less of a Pointy-Haired Boss than God.
- In The Odyssey of Runyon Jones by Norman Corwin, a nine-year old boy traverses the cosmos, pleading with its various department heads for info concerning his dead dog who has been sent to "Curgatory."
- Exalted includes a Celestial Bureaucracy, and player characters may be part of it. However, it differs from most examples of the Trope in that, while it runs Creation (the mortal world), it has little to do with the afterlife of mortals beyond filing the requisite paperwork to ensure the process of their Reincarnation goes smoothly (assuming that mortals don't have some strong attachment to their former lives, since actual lingering ghosts don't fall under the Celestial Bureaucracy's jurisdiction, which turns out to be a pretty significant crack to fall through).
The Celestial Order, as it's called, also has a bit of a problem with unemployment. This is partly a holdover from a time when Creation had been subjected to a series of cataclysms, and thus Heaven shut their doors to prevent the massive influx of gods whose jobs and homes in the mortal world had been destroyed. When it turned out Creation had survived after all, Heaven was also left with the difficult task of working with and around the Spirit Courts, local unions formed by gods and elementals who realised that they had been written off by the higher ups.
- The pantheon of Kara-tur, the Forgotten Realms' fantasy counterpart to East Asia, is actually called the Celestial Bureaucracy.
- In Nomine features a form of bureaucracy for both Heaven and Hell. Heaven is ruled by the Seraphim Council, and also has Dominic's angels running around checking for heresy. Hell has Asmodeus's demons enforcing the rules of "The Game", but cheating is often encouraged.
- It's been said of the setting that both Heaven and Hell are feudal bureaucracies, but the Devil is, quite literally, in the details.
- Scion has a game extension dealing with the Celestial Bureaucracy. The main Chinese gods are featured and may be chosen as parents of the player characters.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The Nine Hells have Infernal Bureaucracy, and they sort out the damned dead who arrives in their place. It's also run like a marketing firm: if you're a devil, the more souls you damn to hell, the higher you rise in the bureaucracy. Lesser devils have a quota to fill, and are frequently hired out to powerful already-damned humans. Devils fear demotion more than they fear oblivion - oblivion is at least peaceful, while demotion is humiliating and agonizingly paifnul. You can even try to win your soul back if you made a Deal with the Devil - there are specific procedures for this. All in all, the sourcebook that details this sounds like it's written as a satire of mega-corporations.
- Feng Shui has the traditional Chinese Hells, and it mentions in one sourcebook that the evil imperial eunuch sorcerers of 69 AD are trying to contact and bribe the eunuchs of the Heavenly Court. They haven't succeeded yet, and they think it's probably because they haven't come up with a big enough bribe.
- In Pathfinder, this is the Boneyard, a cemetery like plane where the goddess of death Pharasma sits in judgement of the recently dead, and sends them onwards to the appropriate afterlife. The lines are quite long, but the whole thing is efficiently managed by the Psychopomps, True Neutral outsiders who run the place and handle the paperwork. Why all this is necessary is uncertain, as Pharasma is also the goddess of prophesy, and supposedly knows the ultimate fate of every soul anyway.
- In Jadeclaw Zhōngguó, being not merely a Fantasy Counterpart Culture but even sharing a name with China, believes in a celestial bureaucracy. And one of the sample characters is a dragon who was fired from his job in the weather department for sleeping on the job and causing a flood, as shown in this◊ comic◊.
- Jade Empire, being set in a fantastic equivalent of Imperial China, has its own Celestial Bureaucracy which is played for comic effect. In one instance, a minor god assigned by the bureaucracy to tabulate the karmic effects of the player's actions appears to him/her, in order to complain about all the work you've caused him to have to do.
- In fact he was overwhelmed and demoted to finance, where he now tries to show his superiors how efficient he is by acting as your private store. He overcharges you though, mostly because he's still bitter.
- He's not the only member of the Celestial Bureaucracy helping you out. Far from it. Turns out Mad Scientist Kang the Mad is the minor inventor's deity Lord Lao who was slumming it on Earth with a case of amnesia.
- Black Whirlwind apparently has an entire department dedicated to recording all his karmic disruptions. And so do you, after the aforementioned minor god's disruption.
- Not to mention that the whole problem of the game started when the Brothers Sun defeated and imprisoned the deity in charge of rain...who also was in charge of escorting the dead to their rest. Yes, it saved the Empire in the short term. In the long term? Nice job breaking it.
- The standard game over in King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.
- Afterlife is entirely based off this concept - The player has to plan out both heaven and hell to be, respectively, as pleasant and torturous as they can be. The game includes workforce management (angels and demons), bank loans (the currency is pennies from heaven, with the banks of heaven and hell offering different terms), placing development zones (for the seven deadly sins), and a dry, worldly demon in a business suit as one of your advisors.
- The main character of Grim Fandango is an employee at the Department of Death, which guides souls to the afterlife. It's a post-mortem travel agency.
- What we see of Hell in Guacamelee! is a huge law firm called "Devil's Advocates", full of accountants and motivational posters. Of course the Devil's office is at the top of the building.
- Touhou loves this trope. At one point, hell's budget is dangerously in the red, and so it opens up stands in the world of the living in an attempt to balance the books.
- Hell itself has the rather amusing title of "The Ministry of Right and Wrong" and they publish guidebooks.
- The celestial realm of Dept. Heaven is, ironically enough, one of these; from the glimpses the players get over the series, it is a strictly hierarchy-based realm controlled by a small council who are the gods' proxies, particularly in Riviera, where the gods are in absentia. And thanks to the series' villain, the system is corrupt as all get-out, too.
- In Beyond Atlantis, while traveling in ancient China the player enters Hell to acquire an item, discovering it is a bureaucracy run by bored demons. The lost souls of those who died trying to cut through the red tape still wander the area.
- In The Legend of Kyrandia III: Malcolm's Revenge, Malcolm arrives in the lobby of such a bureaucracy and is made to wait in line behind a Captain Ersatz of Elvis Presley before he is able to progress to Hell.
- In Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Hell looks like a regular office building with cubicles and the like. It can be assumed that bureaucracy is also implemented there.
- The Underwhere in Super Paper Mario. The demons here are referred to as D-Men, wear business suits, and are constantly concerned about keeping everything on schedule.
- Death in the Dark Waters fan campaign for Neverwinter Nights 2 is portrayed as a long-suffering bureaucrat who forgives your in-game deaths because he's too busy with paperwork to bother processing you into the afterlife.
- The Romance Game 10 Days with My Devil has human death and reincarnation managed by demons, responsible for making sure that humans meet their fated deaths and that their souls are transported to heaven, and angels, who cleanse the souls of dead humans and reincarnate them into new lives. The two races are each ruled by a king and keep track of the fates of humans using an electronic database.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV has the player, on dying in battle, arriving at the shore of the Styx... to find that Charon is so far behind on the paperwork that it will take uncountable eons before he gets to the front of the line. It's gotten so bad that Charon now actively requests bribes so that souls can return to the living world and keep him from having to file a report on yet another soul. (He even lets you put one resurrection on a tab, though as soon as you can pay he'll take it out of your pocket.)
- The Order of the Stick. This being a Dungeons & Dragons-based world, Death Is Cheap for adventurers (they get raised pretty regularly), so there are "fast track" procedures for repeat customers.
- Said "fast track" is a literal Revolving Door.
- The part of the afterlife where the more numerous recent dead who worship the Southern Gods go on death has a long line. Although that was after a pretty major battle.
- The Lawful Good afterlife (and possibly other afterlifes) is up a mountain, but the line to get in is in a different astral "place" depending on who you worshiped. It's like they've turned Heaven into the DMV...
- Somewhat unusually for this trope, and despite the Deva's insistence on doing things by the book (see the trope picture), she's actually quite easygoing on Roy instead of being Lawful Stupid about it.
- The evil afterlife seems more corporation-styled, with the Three Fiends acting like they're running a start-up company (which, in a way, they do) and worrying about the presentation they have to give to the "lower-downs" and how they haven't had time to clear their inbox all week. Cut to a huge inbox being filled with deceased evil people, including some of the soldiers the heroes are busy killing.
- Misfile is based around a filing error within the celestial bureaucracy that genderswaps a boy and erases the past two years of another girl; the human world has been altered to accommodate the change and they are the only ones who remember how their lives should be.
- Irregular Webcomic! features a hierarchy of Deaths, who are periodically demoted, promoted, or fired by the Head Death. Each one is in charge of a particular cause of death, such as Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, Choking On A Giant Frog, and Being Wrestled To Death By Steve Irwin. One memorable storyline involved all of the Deaths going on strike.
- Rhapsodies has the Department of Minor Nuisances, which is in charge of things like missing combs and traffic lights. Though when they are behind on various accounts they may resort to drastic measures.
- The Art Of Monsters has a bureaucratic heaven based on Chinese mythology. One of the characters is hauled in front of a tribunal for her misdeeds, while another gets given a job in a celestial library and afancy hat.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja plays with this; purgatory is an infinite diner where-in the dead must eat dishes symbolizing/made-from each of their sins before they can move on to the next (as yet unseen) stage of the afterlife. The real kicker? There's only one waiter in the whole place so the service is just terrible.
- White Dark Life inverts this, Hell is the Bureaucracy, Though it's still a horrible place for sinners.
- The angels in Holy Bibble have offices, councils, rules, etc...
- Housepets! is said to have a celestial bureaucracy when Pete is tried for altering Joel/King's fate by turning him from a human into a dog. The eventual charge was "complicating matters in the celestial bureaucracy."
- The forces of cosmic evil are this in 8-Bit Theater. At one point Black Mage's patron mentions that having him take over Hell is an unacceptable form of apocalypse because there's just way too much paperwork.
Black Mage: Evil has middle management?
Unnamed Evil God/"Darko, Dark God of the Dark": Are you kidding? That's all we are.
- Angel Moxie: The realm of the Higher Authority, which the characters answer to, turns out to work like this. Appeals to the Authority are handled by a receptionist who manifests as a squirrel.
- The web novel A Trickster's Tale featured a "Department of Classifications" in Part 14. The protagonist, realizing this appears to be the processing hub for the afterlife, asks the clerk why it's so empty.'
- In CollegeHumor's "God's Boss Craig", God is not in charge of heaven. He has a boss named Craig.
- The animation Mortys is about The Grim Reaper (who happens to be a woman) being buried in the paperwork of administering the dead people. Her son wants her to use computers to be more effective.
- In Eek! The Cat, cats have life cards to show how many lives they have left. Eek was once tricked into taking the file of a bad cat and got sent to hell. Once the mistake got fixed, he regained all his lives.
- There's a bit of this in Garfield: His 9 Lives. After losing his ninth, last life (in the future; modern-day Garfield is life eight), Garfield and Odie come before God, and Garfield successfully argues that his last death was unfair. God then asks which life he was on.
Garfield: You mean... you don't keep track?
God: Normally I do, but our computers are on the blink right now.
- Garfield then claims it was his first life, wrangling a full nine more lives for both him and Odie.
- However, there are hints that Heaven doesn't actually work like that, and God's just making up an excuse to show favoritism.
- The original pitch of Jimmy Two-Shoes stated the reason why Jimmy was in Miseryville in the first place was because an administrative error got him sent there. Whether or not this is still the case is currently unknown.
- In the "Shroud of Wally" episode of Dilbert, Dilbert is briefly killed and discovers that the afterlife is identical to his cubicle at work. Naturally, his engineer coworkers have one major concern:
Alice: You're telling me that the afterlife is a stinking CUBICLE?
Dilbert: I'm just telling you what I saw.
Loud Howard: How fast was the Internet connection?
Dilbert: I don't even know if it had an Internet connection.
Wally: Well, this raises many troubling questions about the Afterlife. First, how do you get your software upgraded?
Wally: I guess it was just the one question.
- In the American Dad! episode "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever", Stan dies and is sent to Heaven, where he demands a "Second Chance" at life. This process, it turns out, requires a courthouse trial, with Angels using victories in cases to decide their hierarchy. Stan winds up with Michelle, who hasn't ever won a single case, and thus, lacks even angelic wings.
- The Tom and Jerry cartoon Heavenly Puss depicts the entrance to Tom's heaven as a gate before the Heavenly Express train. Cats that have just died wait in line before being admitted by the gatekeeper. Tom tries to sneak past, only to be told that he can only ride the train if Jerry signs a Certificate of Forgiveness first. Tom is given just one hour to go back to Earth and persuade Jerry to sign the document. Of course, it turns out it was All Just a Dream