Monstrous, inhuman creatures who inhabit the land of the dead, the Shinigami are Gods of Death who all own their own copy of the titular Death Note. The series starts when one Shinigami in particular gets bored with lazing around all day and decides to take a visit down to Earth.
Warning! Unmarked spoilers ahead!
- Alliance with an Abomination: Though humanoid abominations, some Shinigami can co-operate and be friendly with the humans who own their Death Note like Light and Ryuk. Though at the end he reminds Light that Evil Is Not a Toy.
- All There in the Manual: Any information on Shinigami that do not appear in the series or the movies comes from How To Read.
- Alternative Number System: The lifespan humans can see with Shinigami Eyes only appears in a number system recognisable to Shinigami and just looks like random numbers to a human.
- Blue-and-Orange Morality: Of course Shinigami have no problems killing humans or with humans dying. Shinigami take human lifespans for themselves. Why should they care about the human world beyond it being their food source? In fact if a Shinigami does care about a human, that means they "failed as a Shinigami", and that kills them on the spot.
- Bottomless Magazines: Their Death Notes can't run out of pages.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: All Shinigami have high-intelligence by nature. Even Ryuk, said to be one of the dumbest members of his race, is still smarter than even L and Light. However, due to their long lifespans they are all extremely lethargic, either spending their days sleeping or gambling. They're so incredibly lazy that even doing their jobs as gods of death — killing humans — often warrants mockery from fellow Shinigami for working too hard. And while they have no restrictions that force them to stay in the Shinigami Realm, they rarely ever travel to Earth. Ryuk and Rem are notable as being the only ones to willingly want to go, rather than simply being forced to in order to shadow whichever human picks up their Death Note.
- By the Eyes of the Blind: A Shinigami on Earth can only be seen or heard by humans who have touched his/her particular Death Note.
- Cute Monster Girl: Averted: all of the female Shinigami are just as grotesque in appearance as the males.
- Deadly Upgrade: Any Shinigami on Earth can offer a human the Shinigami Eyes, at the price of half of the human's lifespan.
- Deal with the Devil: Any deal made by a human with a Shinigami is going to end badly for the human every time. Is the death god offering you a Death Note to play with? You can be sure that the death god will write your name in his own notebook and steal your remaining years once he gets bored with you. Is he offering you Shinigami eyes so that you can use your death note without needing to find out your victims' names? Say goodbye to half your remaining lifespan. Hell, just finding a Death Note and giving it up without ever using it may well earn you an immediate death by the Shinigami just because you're boring for not playing his game. If you encounter a Death God at all, your only chance of not dying young is to be so impossibly beautiful that the Shinigami falls in love with you. At the very least, Shinigami are honest and up front about the price of what they offer.
- Death Is a Loser: While powerful and unable to be harmed by human means, most Shinigami are lazy and bored beings that only try to extend their lives and do nothing with the lifespans they've taken, some even dying because they forgot to do so. Ryuk is one of the few to be proactive, and they consider him strange for it.
- Death's Hourglass: Shinigami eyes allow them to see their victims' lifespans, though it's displayed in a mathematical formula only Shinigami can compute.
- G-Rated Drug: Ryuk mentions that Apples to Shinigami are like cigarettes and alcohol to humans.
- Humanoid Abomination: The majority of these gods of death are human-shaped.
- Intangibility: Although a Shinigami on Earth can temporarily become solid to manipulate objects.
- Jerkass Gods: While they're called gods, they're little more than immortal supernatural parasites who are for the most part infinitely selfish, and kill humans indiscriminately to feed on their lifespans to keep themselves perpetually alive. They don't answer prayers, they don't do anything positive for humans at all, and they only use their powers to advance themselves. In fact if they do anything to help a human, they are severely punished for going against their nature. They don't even do anything worthwhile with their infinite lives, they just play games among themselves and idly observe humanity. Whether or not they exist as a cosmic balancing force to keep humanity from growing out of control is never suggested or considered.
- Namedar: Shinigami eyes see humans' real names.
- Overarching Villain: They are by far the most recurring villains in the entire franchise. While they have a bizarre morality, they are a race of extra-dimensional beings who survive by killing humans to extend their own lives. They are gods of death who are the reason why the Kiras are rampant in the Death Note universe, the last of them being C-Kira from the Death Note One-Shot Special; why the notebooks titled Death Note exists, and why Light Yagami is, well... Kira. Their influence is so powerful that even Beyond Birthday, the Big Bad of the prequel novel Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Case, owns the eyes of these creatures.
- Pass the Popcorn: The Shinigami have taken an interest in the show Ryuk started with Light.
- Perpetual-Motion Monster: Among them, there isn't a necessity for eating or sleeping. They can be killed through other means, though.
- Punch-Clock Villain: It really is only their duty to take humans' lives, and they only truly qualify as "evil" insofar as the occasional decision to kill a human earlier than intended - and doing so to save another will sponatenously cause their deaths.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: Inverted. Though the question of if and how they reproduce is never addressed, the Shinigami do have men and women. Despite this, most give no outward visual indicator of their sex at all.
- Random Power Ranking: All of the known Shinigami are ranked from 1 to 13 (with the exception of the Shinigami King who doesn't have a rank). This could be subverted in that Ryuk is two levels below Rem, yet is shown to be more cunning and manipulative than her, not to mention he ends up outliving her. (Possibly it's more a measure of social standing than power?)
Misa's Shinigami, who is highly protective of her, bringing Gelus's Death Note to her after his death and generally watching out for her. Rem forces Light to enact a Memory Gambit to save Misa when she gets caught, and haunts Higuchi while this is being done. Misa surprises her by coming to be interviewed at Yotsuba for an advertising gig as part of L's plan to local the Yotsuba Kira, and Rem takes the opportunity to reveal herself to Misa and tell her what's going on. Later, Rem follows the Death Note back to Taskforce Headquarters when L captures Higuchi and Light regains ownership of the Note. There, Light tricks her into killing L and Watari in order to save Misa; and although she realizes what he has done, she goes along with it, choosing willingly to die to keep Misa safe.
- Accent Adaptation: The anime dub gives her a vaguely Caribbean accent.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: She is portrayed as a much more beautiful character in the musical adaptation, to the point of her looking almost like a goddess.
- Affably Evil: As long as Misa's safety isn't in danger, she doesn't seem terribly threatening toward people. Although, the only humans she's interacted with have somehow been a potential cause of harm to Misa...
- Beast and Beauty: The Beast to Misa's Beauty. Misa is the first and only human Rem regards highly and she's willing to disregard shinigami law for her sake. Tragically subverted in that Misa doesn't appear to care that much about her and lets Light manipulate her as he pleases.
- Creepy Monotone: Her voice in the anime.
- Dark Is Not Evil: While amoral herself, she genuinely cares about Misa and is disgusted by Higuchi. Word of God states that she's "a good person."
- The Dulcinea Effect: She sees Misa once and develops feelings for her so intense that she journeys to the human realm to give her Gelus's notebook.
- Ethereal White Dress: In the musical adaptation, she wears white robes◊ and she's a Shinigami.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: She'll do anything for Misa.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Due to Blue-and-Orange Morality that comes with being a shinigami, she exhibits few qualms with Misa murdering people, as well as murder being committed for her sake. That said, she does gently rebuke Misa for not using the notebook properly and suggests that she use it more for herself and not gratuitously. She also has a great distaste for the way the Yotsuba group use the Death Note; in particular, she's repulsed by Higuchi's greedy and obsessive nature.
- Facial Markings: Rem has purple markings across her face.
- Female Monster Surprise: Light mistakes Rem for a male, though she identifies as female.
- Gender Flip: She is portrayed as a male Shinigami in the live action films.
- Hellish Pupils: Rem's pupils are thin reptilian slits, giving her face a very serpentine feature.
- Heroic Sacrifice: She ends up killing herself so Misa won't be found out as the Second Kira.
- Horrible Judge of Character: "Now that I think about it, Light may be as pure as you, Misa."
- Humans Are Bastards: In her opinion, "humans are such ugly creatures."
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: See Love Martyr, Mama Bear and Unwitting Pawn.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: As Light notes, she is firmly on Misa's side and will take action on her behalf.
- Love Epiphany: In The Musical, she finally realizes she understands love, and is in fact in love with Misa, right after Misa gives up her memories of Rem and the Death Note. It's heartbreaking, but she gets one hell of a song out of it, titled "When Love Comes."
- Love Martyr: Rem cares deeply for Misa and is even willing to die for her. Misa doesn't care.
- Mama Bear: She is very protective of Misa. Considering that Misa had recently lost her mother (she tells Light that her parents were murdered a year ago) around the time Rem showed up, it's not too inconceivable that Rem took up that role for her. Although Rem obeys Misa and follows her lead, she is also shown treating Misa as a daughter, up to and including willingly sacrificing herself for Misa's safety.
- Meaningful Name: "Res", in Latin, is a feminine noun meaning 'thing,' like a tool to be used. An accusative is when something is happening to it. The accusative for Res? Rem.
- So she's "the thing that things happen to".
- Also R.E.M. is the state when the mind is dreaming, which goes along well with Rem's idealized notions of love and sacrifice.
- It may also be derived from the Christian and Islamic angel Remiel, whose name means Compassion of God.
- Moral Myopia: She is extremely protective of Misa, but she never says a word about the people Misa kills. Justified in that she is a god of death who herself must kill to stay alive and that she comes to view most humans as "such ugly creatures."
- More Than Mind Control: "You want Misa to be happy, right?"
- My Master, Right or Wrong: She's on Misa's side, no matter what.
- She's a Man in Japan: Inverted. Confusingly, the film adaptation gave her a male voice while the anime gave her a female one; she also has a female voice in the TV drama. The manga bounces a little on this, with Light using male pronouns for her from time to time. Rem herself says in the English manga, "I'm female" and Ryuk refers to her as one.
- Also, the Latin noun "res" from which her name may be derived is a feminine noun. Which can refer to both masculine and feminine things.
- The Smart Gal: Though she is frequently tricked by Light and L she is the smartest of the Shinigami who get any screen time and knows the Rules of the Death Note much better than say Ryuk or Shidoh as Light notes when asking Ryuk to clarify some of the rules in the second arc:
- Spared by the Adaptation: She doesn't die in the TV drama, as Mikami is the one to kill L instead.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: She's a Shinigami and she has golden eyes.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Completely averted; there is nothing a human can see about Rem's appearance that betrays her gender, although it may be different to other Shinigami.
- Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Dying for love is so tragic and beautiful...
- Token Good Teammate: To Team Kira.
- Unwitting Pawn: Light manipulates her into saving Misa (thus ensuring her own death) by killing L and Watari. Double Subverted in that she figures out exactly what it is Light wants her to do, how he's getting her to do it, and what will happen if she does, yet she does it anyway out of her love for Misa.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: This is a trait unique to the musical version of Rem. At the start, she expresses confusion and even disdain for "this thing [humans] call love." After her experiences with Misa, she realizes that she finally gets it.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Combined with Mystical White Hair. She's got like anime style purple-white hair and is a magical Death God.
A lazy, whiny shinigami and the original owner of Light's first Death Note (before it was "liberated" by Ryuk). Causes trouble for Light's plans when he comes to retrieve his notebook.
- Adaptational Heroism: Sort of. Arma, his counterpart for Death Note: Light Up the New World is a heroic figure, acting as a foil to Ryuk and Shien's alliance.
- Adapted Out: Of the first two live-action films, though he does appear in Light up the New World, albeit not as the real thing, and does appear as the real thing in the novelization.
- Affably Evil: He may be a Shinigami, with a bizarre appearance typical by their standards, but he's actually a bit of a goofball in terms of personality and is rather forgetful.
- Butt-Monkey: A lot doesn't go right for Sidoh. Ryuk stealing his Death Note was just the beginning.
- Cape Wings: Like many Shinigami he has a large pair of wings, and in his case they wrap around his body like a cape.
- Combat Tentacles: He doesn't actually have them, but his long-fingered sticklike arms are so long and thin that they appear like this.
- Death by Adaptation: His film counterpart Arma dies. However, it is implied that his original self will die anyway for violating the laws of the gods of death.
- Death Is a Loser: Considered a loser among the Shinigami, being a goofball almost running out of life because he lost his notebook.
- The Ditz: He is even dumber than Ryuk (who is considered pretty dumb among the Shinigami).
- Even Evil Has Standards: "What's with this [Mello] guy? He's human but he's scary..."
- Shooting Superman: When Sidoh first reveals himself to the mafia who have taken possession of his Death Note, a few of them unsurprisingly blaze away at him. Being a Shinigami, it does absolutely nothing, of course.
- The Slacker: Like many Shinigami he was really slacking off writing down names so he needed to find his notebook soon or he was going to die.
- Spell My Name with an "S": English media writes and pronounces the character's name as Sidoh, an error which is present even in the Japanese, as it's the spelling used in Volume 9 of the tankobon. But in Japanese How to Read 13, largely considered canonical, the character's name is spelled Shidoh, which is likely the intended name.
- Stalker Without a Crush: In "Father", he briefly follows Ryuk around, trying to get his notebook back.
- This Is Gonna Suck: In as many words, when realizing his notebook is missing in the human world.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: In the end, he gets a Death Note so he can go on living.
- Subverted perhaps because when he returns to his realm, he will have to face the deadly consequences of killing humans WITHOUT a Death Note. Although he did have a full list of the Shinigami rules he consulted before doing anything potentially dangerous for him, so he'll probably get off, since he was only enabling someone else to kill them rather than doing it himself.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Mello introduces him to chocolate bars.
The original owner of Misa's notebook, who sacrificed himself to save Misa.
- 13 Is Unlucky: The Rank 13 Shinigami. He has no friends and dies in his first appearance.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He has the grotesque appearance common to all the shinigami, but his one and only scene has him willingly dying to save Misa's life.
- The Dulcinea Effect: He sacrificed his life to save a girl he had never even met in person.
- Heroic Sacrifice: For Misa.
- Love Martyr: He literally gave his life for Misa, who didn't even know he'd done it, or even who Gelus was. When she learns of it later, she doesn't seem to care about his sacrifice.
- Meaningful Name: "Jealous." In the manga, he's even spelled "Jealous".
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: So, Gelus, you saved a young girl from being murdered by a deranged stalker? Bravo! Oh, but you'll die for this heroic act since it's literally against your species' nature to save a human's life.
- Remake Cameo: His Japanese voice actor previously played L in the live action adaptation.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Even though it's against the rules for a shinigami to extend someone's life, he uses his notebook to save Misa from a demented stalker who would have killed her. Then again, considering how Rem claimed to be one of the few Shinigami who knew how to kill another one (and Ryuk apparently didn't know) it's likely this isn't so much a rule as a fact of nature that most Shinigami are unaware of.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Japanese media spells his name as Jealous, English calls it "Gelus." The latter appears to be preferred by the fans, especially since many of the Japanese romaji spellings are truly bizarre.
- Stalker with a Crush: He was deeply in love with Misa and watched her constantly from the shinigami realm, despite never having even spoken to her, to the point of willingly and knowingly giving his life to save hers. Ironically, he did this by stopping a human stalker from murdering her. That said, it's pretty clear Gelus was harmless, and would never have hurt Misa.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: He shows up for about three minutes in the anime, if that, so really, all we know about him is he loved Misa. His death is still heartbreaking, though.
This jeweled skeleton is the Shinigami Realms adviser, who knows the rules well.
- Gem-Encrusted: His body appears to be made of gold, or gold plated, and covered in small gemstones.
- Gold Makes Everything Shiny: His body is either gold or gold plated.
- Nothing but Skulls: He sits on a throne of skulls.
- Odd Name Out: His middle name 'Justin' stands out as one of the most normal names in the series.
- SkeleBot 9000: In the 2020 one-shot, he's got some mechanical parts.
A high-ranking female Shinigami.
- Puny Earthlings: She has no interest in the human realm.
- She's a Man in Japan: Inverted.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Her name was originally spelled out in English as "Dalill Guillortha" in the Japanese version of How To Read 13.
- Scary Impractical Armor: She likes metal accessories
- Un Evil Laugh: She is said to have a goofy laugh.
- Weakened by the Light: Downplayed. She dislikes bright places.
Another denizen of the Shinigami realm.
- Fish People: He has webbed feet.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He spends all his time gambling with Gukku.
- Mummy: He's wrapped in bandages.
A female Shinigami with a spotted body that kind of looks like Jabba the Hutt. She likes humidity and dislikes dryness.
An antelope-headed Shinigami. A friend of Ryuk's that watches his exploits in the human world. He likes gambling but he's not very good at it.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He spends all his time gambling with Deridoveley.
A minor Shinigami character that expresses interest in the human world and what Ryuk is doing.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Looks to have a giant eye embedded in his chest.
- Fur and Loathing: He wears fur hides. How to Read 13 says he likes "soft things."
- The Grotesque: Even compared to other Shinigami.
- Spell My Name with an "S": His name is spelled as "Zerhogie" in the Japanese edition of How To Read 13.
Another Shinigami mentioned in How To Read 13.
- Humanoid Alien: Hes vaguely insectoid in appearance with boar-like tusks.
A female Shinigami. Shes very violent and not very smart.
The highest ranking Shinigami, Nu resembles a rock covered with eyes. Only the King is more powerful than she is. She likes repentance and dislikes sound.
Tropes associated with Nu:
- Eldritch Abomination: By far the strangest-looking shinigami. The fact that she doesn't possess any other visible body parts aside from eyes can lead one to wonder how she writes or communicates.
- Extra Eyes: Her upper body at least is covered in them.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Specifically, all over her body.
- The Faceless: Her head is just an amorphous shape. The only part of her that could be recognisable is that two eyes of a similar size are placed where a human's eyes would be.
- Loud of War: She dislikes sound, despite not having any ears.
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Despite appearing on the spine art of the final volume, as well as the beginning of the anime's second Title Sequence, Nu has never been featured at any point in the story, art or tie-ins.
"The Old Man," The King of the Shinigami Realm, the one who issues the Shinigami their marching orders, and the highest ranked Shinigami of them all.
- The Caligula: He can be bribed with addictive substances (apples in his case) and makes up rules with a death penalty if somebody agitates him, showing that for all his power, he's quite petulant.
- Comically Small Bribe: During the main story, he refuses to give out new Death Notes to Shinigami after seeing what Ryuk does. In the bonus chapter 109, however, he changes his mind and will give anyone a new Note for the price of... two apples from Earth.
- Dimension Lord: He rules the Shinigami realm.
- The Dreaded: Even some of the other Shinigami are afraid of him.
- Eldritch Abomination: If his figure's any indication, his form is anything but humanoid, as opposed to the rest of the shinigami.
- Evil Old Folks: In the novelization of Light Up the New World, he talks in a style distinctive of old people. Ryuk often refers to him as "The Old Man" rather than his actual title.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Although never seen in person, he casts a shadow over the world of Death Note, having created the MacGuffins in the first place. Indeed, he was the one who gave Ryuk another notebook that allowed him to kick off the entire story to begin with.
- In the 2020 one-shot he's agitated by the thought of humans pawning Death Notes and decrees that any human who engages in a Death Note-related transaction will die of a heart attack, thus keeping the new Kira from reaping the benefits of his master plan.
- The Grim Reaper: As the ruler of a society of death gods, this is his ultimate role in the story.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: He's never shown in the manga or anime. The toy pictured above finally revealed his appearance.
- Obvious Rule Patch: To prevent more cases like Minoru from happening again, The King writes a new rule that prevents any further Death Notes from being sold by humans in their world — by killing both the buyer and seller in the transaction for accepting either the money or the notebook.
- Skull for a Head: Within another, much larger skull.
- Spanner in the Works: In the 2020 one-shot he adds a penalty against exchanging the Death Note for money shortly after the new protagonist has just committed the act. The result is said protagonist dies of a heart attack before he can enjoy his new wealth.
- Time Abyss: Implied. The other Shinigami refer to him as "The Old Man." Keep in mind that these are beings who can live indefinitely as long as they remember to write down a name every once in a while.
- Top God: He's the king of the Shinigami, though it isn't clear which variation of this trope he falls under.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The artist of the series even admitted he initially didn't want to design the King because he was too nervous.
An unnamed Shinigami who appeared in the movie Relight: Visions of a God, where he was searching the Shinigami Realm for Ryuk. He is violent and impetuous, making demands of the other Shinigami. He is very interested in the human world and bored with the Shinigami realm. He bribes Ryuk with apples to hear his story of the time he spent in the human world but leaves before he finishes it. Physically the Shinigami is a skeleton with spiky brown hair and wears a tattered suit, a red tie headband and a grey bookbag, and he walks with a limp. This and the dialogue at the end of the movie strongly hints that he is a Reincarnation of Light Yagami.
- The Bad Guy Wins: If he really is Light, nothing would be able to stop Kira if he decided to try again (now that he's a literal god).
- Cast as a Mask: To make the special's (supposed) Twist Ending more surprising and jarring, he and Light are voiced by different actors.
- Deity of Human Origin: He's this if he really was Light, since he'd be a human who became a death god upon death.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Trope picture.
- Here We Go Again!: The Shinigami heads down to the human world to alleviate his boredom for a while.
- I Never Told You My Name: One of the biggest pieces of evidence supporting the idea that this Shinigami is actually Light is that he somehow knows of Ryuk's taste for apples without anyone having told him.
- Preemptive "Shut Up": When searching for Ryuk the other Shinigami try to give him the runaround. "Shut up and answer my question!"
- The Unreveal: While he is implied to be Light from the story Ryuk tells, he never flat-out says so at all, and the only hint we are given comes from Ryuk.
- Wham Line: Said to him by Ryuk, possibly revealing his true identity:Ryuk: Wouldn't you agree, Light?
- Subverted, as the director clarified Ryuk was talking about Light in passing.